A BOOKLOVER'S DREAM

November 28, 2001 12:00 am
The hotel sits above the ocean. ().
The hotel sits above the ocean. ().

Books are my passion, so its no surprise I found the Sylvia Beach Hotel, a coastal bed and breakfast for booklovers, irresistible.

The Sylvia Beach is a four-story oceanfront hotel in the historic Nye Beach section of Newport. Built around 1910, it was originally known as the New Cliff House and later, the Hotel Gilmore.

Present owners Goody Cable and Sally Ford rescued the hotel from abuse and neglect. After several years of major repairs and renovation, they reopened the Newport landmark in 1987, adding a restaurant, library and gift shop.

Imagine all your favorite ingredients for a good read nestled into cozy seaside lodgings.

The owners renamed the hotel in tribute to Sylvia Beach, owner of the Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company in the 1920s and 30s.

Beach was a literary patron who befriended many famous writers of the time, including Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot and Thornton Wilder. She even published James Joyces controversial novel Ulysses.

Each of the 20 rooms in the hotel is decorated in honor of a well-known author. That infamous Cat in the Hat cavorts in the Dr. Seuss room and a faux pendulum casts a spell should guests choose to sleep with Edgar Allen Poe. Most of the rooms have an ocean view and three are oceanfront.

My husband Ted and I chose the Agatha Christie room. It dripped with clues.

Mysterious quotes adorned the walls (The dying woman could only mutter, The window, Nurse, the window. from Murder in Mesopotamia, 1936) and someone had stabbed the fringed lampshade with a hatpin.

An ancient volume titled On Poisons sat heavily on the bedside table and the shelves groaned under the weight of what looked to be thumping good reads, as one of my book catalogs calls stories you cant put down.

I half expected Hercule Poirot to turn down the covers.

In the morning, we enjoyed coffee set out for early risers while we watched fishermen chug north to check their crabpots. Then it was off for some fresh air before breakfast.

We remembered pictures of the rock formation called Jump Off Joe from the book Oregon Then & Now and walked to where it used to be on the beach. In the early 20th century, the sandstone arch resembled a womans shoe. Now its almost eroded away.

Back at the hotel, a hearty breakfast was taking shape in the appropriately named Tables of Content dining room. For starters, coffee, tea, juice, melon slices, fruit, granola and bitesize pastries appeared on a buffet table. Sherlock Holmes wouldve pawned his pipe for a second piece of the blackberry coffeecake.

The main course was equally tasty. We enjoyed a southwestern jalapeno egg casserole the first morning and apple-walnut pancakes with spicy sausages the second.

Well fortified, we set off to explore the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Yaquina Head.

Passages of the Deep, the 200-foot undersea tunnel that replaced Keiko the killer whale, is as close to swimming with Pacific halibut, leopard sharks and bat rays as most of us are going to get. It was fascinating.

Will he get me? a small boy asked in a quivering voice as a toothy wolf eel peered at him from a dark cavern.

Other personal favorites included puffins at the seabird aviary, the hypnotic jellyfish aquarium and the framed 1,000 origami cranes schoolchildren folded with good wishes for Keiko.

At Yaquina Head, we visited the lighthouse and a quarry thats undergone transformation into a wheelchair-accessible tidepool area. We also explored the interpretive center where I was intrigued with the reproduction of a lighthouse library box. We ended the days adventures

with a hike to the rumbling Cobble Beach where the sound of waves receding over a zillion round rocks was beach music indeed.

Starved as usual, we arrived back at the hotel in time for dinner.

Unlike most bed and breakfast inns, the Sylvia Beach serves an evening meal daily. Hotel staff post the menu in the morning and reservations are a must for the fixed-price, family style dinner. Non-overnight guests are also welcome to reserve a place at the table.

Ted chose the Cornish game hen, I opted for salmon and we shared a cheese tart, bread, salad, creamy orzo and stir fried veggies with our tablemates. Hemingway definitely didnt corner the market on moveable feasts.

Between the appetizer and the entree, Cable ministered to our spirits as well, merrily leading us all outside to watch the Mir space station pass overhead on its final journey to Earth.

Over dinner, Cable, a storyteller in her own right, also taught us to play Two truths and a lie, a storytelling game in which a player reveals the true and the not-so-true about himself. Other players try to guess which is which.

Before long, diners professed acquaintance with NBA basketball players, serial murderers and Rose Festival princesses was spread thicker than chocolate frosting on the orange dessert cake. Theres a picture of my husband dressed as a woman in the upstairs hall took the prize for the most curious of all.

Theres no doubt about it, the Sylvia Beach Hotel is a thumping good read from start to finish.

Call (541) 265-5428 or visit http:// www.sylviabeachhotel.com for information.