If you’re a literature lover, allow me to introduce you to the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon (a two-and-a-half-hour scenic drive from Portland). A quiet place on the Pacific coast, this 20-room inn sits atop a bluff right above the surf and offers a cozy, fun literary getaway for readers and writers. Each of the Sylvia Beach hotel’s rooms are decorated with mementos of famous authors—from Jane Austen to Alice Walker to Dr. Seuss.
If you can set aside your book or the manuscript of your magnum opus while staying at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, you can enjoy strolling on the beach or taking a (chilly!) dip in the ocean. You can also explore the artsy, historic Nye Beach neighborhood with its lovely mix of bookstores, cafés, bistros, galleries and the Yaquina Art Center.
Ken and I stayed in the Sylvia Beach Hotel 30 years ago, and we stayed in the Tennessee Williams Room called “Stella!” (a famous line from A Streetcar Named Desire). Its double bed was draped with mosquito netting ala Night of the Iguana. (The Stella room has since been converted to another author.) On another trip to Oregon’s central coast for whale watching, we stopped by to see how the hotel was faring. As always, its literary theme is as whimsical as ever.
The Virginia Woolf Room offers an ocean view and faces “To the Lighthouse,” although in this case it’s to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. You can have A Room of One’s Own and write at the 1930s-style desk—or share the queen-size bed with someone special. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Room contains Jazz Era furnishings, including a writing desk and a framed poster from the 1949 film of The Great Gatsby, starring Alan Ladd as Jay Gatsby. You can also indulge your inner child in the Dr. Seuss room, decorated in homage to One Fish, Two Fish; The Cat in the Hat, and other genius works for kids.
The Sylvia Beach Hotel is truly a retreat for readers, writers, and visitors who want to rest, restore, and read. There are no TVs, radios, telephones or Wi-Fi at the Sylvia Beach, but who needs them there are books and journals tucked into every nook and cranny? The rooms aren’t grandiose, but what they lack in space, they make up for in literary spirit.
Tables of Content Dining Room
Meals are a time to be social at the Sylvia Beach—even if you keep your nose in a good book during the rest of your stay. Breakfast is included in the room rate, and guests sit at tables of eight in the “Tables of Content” dining room. (I think group tables are a great, no-stress way to get to know other literature lovers!)
Dinner, which is served at 7:00 p.m. each night, is another chance to enjoy pleasant conversation with a bookish bent. The food is served family style (with a choice of four entrees) and the evening’s icebreaker is game of Two Truths and a Lie. Essentially, you introduce yourself to those at your table with two biographical facts and one whopper of a fib! Then your fellow gourmands guess what part of your tale is a lie. Coming up with a lie gets your creative juices flowing, and when I played, it was fun recalling unlikely trivia from my past.
Rooms at the Sylvia Beach
All the hotel’s rooms are themed according to an author. Here’s a sampling:
Classics: Rooms directly over the surf with fireplaces and decks. They include Agatha Christie, Chez Colette, and Mark Twain.
Best Sellers: These rooms have an ocean view with panoramas of the coast and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. In this category are rooms devoted to Jane Austen, Alice Walker, Amy Tan, Dr. Seuss, John Steinbeck, Emily Dickinson, Ken Kesey, Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Lincoln Steffens, and Virginia Woolf.
Novels: These rooms have no ocean view, but they’re still cozy and fun. Here you’ll find Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, and Jules Verne.
Who Was Sylvia Beach?
In case you were wondering if this ocean-overlook hotel was named for a beach called “Sylvia,” let me put your questions to rest. Sylvia Beach was an expatriate American who dominated the literary scene in Paris between WWI and WWII with her English-language bookstore and lending library, Shakespeare and Company. James Joyce fans will recognize Sylvia Beach as the publisher of the Irish author’s famous book, Ulysses (1922).
COVID-19 Update: The Sylvia Beach Hotel and Tables of Content Restaurant is open on a limited-occupancy basis. The staff is committed to the health and safety of guests, diners, and staff and therefore requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all guests ages 12 and older.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor
Originally posted on May 15, 2010
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