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by Scott Bridges
Beginning in 1876 as a two-story adobe guesthouse, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in historic downtown Riverside, approximately 55 miles east of Los Angeles, now occupies an entire city block that encompasses 320,000 square-feet.
I made the short trek out the 60 Freeway to the 91 interchange recently to get my first glimpse of the hotel as it celebrated its 110th anniversary. I had not expected such grandeur. The mission-style structure is the crowning jewel of a charming downtown. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a State of California Historic Landmark, and is a member of Historic Hotels of America.
Tours of the property are available through the Mission Inn Foundation, which operates the on-property museum. Docents are available to give 75-minute presentations of the history behind the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. While touring the property, I careened back and forth between being educated and awed.
More than $7 million of antiques and artifacts adorn the hotel. The museum displays an extensive collection of artifacts from around the world, including Craftsman period furniture, 16th and early 20th century paintings and Far Eastern historical pieces.
In 1903, original owner Frank Miller began to expand the original facilities, a process that took more than three decades to complete, and which incorporates design elements from across the southwestern U.S. and the Mediterranean, with a particular influence from the California missions. It incorporated the work of notable California architects like Arthur Benton, Myron Hunt and G. Stanley Wilson, whose work blended several architectural elements, such as flying buttresses, domes, a bell tower, clock towers, interior courtyards and patios, a five-story open-air rotunda and a circular wrought-iron staircase.
In December 1992, the hotel reopened after a seven-year, $55 million renovation. Today, under the guidance of owner Duane R. Roberts, the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa includes 238 guest rooms, including 27 suites. The property also contains 20,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, 5,000 square-feet of outdoor courtyard space, an outdoor swimming pool and two wedding chapels.
Over the years, the Inn has hosted numerous dignitaries, including five acting presidents. It was the site of Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s honeymoon, and has been the site of countless weddings, including both Bette Davis’ and Richard and Pat Nixon’s. On-property staff coordinates weddings large and small at the ornate St. Cecilia Chapel and the breathtaking St. Francis of Assisi Chapel.
With some $17 million in renovations over the last five years, every room has been revamped, and all feature distinct architectural details like domed ceilings, wrought-iron balconies, tile floors, stained glass windows or carved pillars.
The hotel features pampering, restorative and wellness treatments at Kelly’s Spa, a luxurious, serene European-style spa. The 7,000 square foot spa has a dozen treatment rooms, a pair of spa villas and a nail salon. It offers a variety of variety of therapeutic massage and revitalizing treatments, as well as soaking tubs, outdoor patio.
There is also an outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi, as well as a fitness center. In addition, there are recreational activities nearby including tennis, golf, shopping and wine tasting.
The Inn featuers several dining options, none more impressive than Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, the Inland Empire’s only AAA Four-Diamond restaurant. It recently earned the Golden Bacus Award for outstanding wine selections. Duane’s embraces a farm-to-table philosophy and features a menu that includes many small plates and shareable dishes.
Duane’s steaks are a reminder of why human beings took up meat-eating in the first place. The Porterhouse and the Filet Mignon Oscar are worthy of song. And the scallops are the size of hockey pucks and practically melt on the fork. Furthermore, the lobster bisque is so rich and creamy with chunks of lobster meat strewn throughout, it is like liquid love.
And for dessert, nothing beats the chocolate soufflé with Grand Marnier and whipped cream. It’s proof of a devil. But for something heavenly, there’s Kelly’s apple pie — a small, full pie made with Guinness-soaked Granny Smiths.
54 Degrees at Duane’s: This interactive wine bar accompanies Duane’s, and offers an eclectic menu of wines and small bites in an upbeat, sophisticated setting. Impressively, there are more than 450 wines on the list and upwards of 7,000 bottles from around the world located in and under the restaurant (the catacombs beneath the Inn are the stuff of legend). There are an incredible 32 wines by the glass, and even by the 1.5-ounce and 3.2-ounce pour.
A handful of other restaurants offer something for every appetite. And for your sweet tooth, there’s Casey’s Cupcakes, winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Casey Reinhardt’s confection boutique is reminiscent of a Parisian café, and features glass cases full of colorfully decorated cupcakes, each topped with Casey’s signature chocolate medallion.
Having lived in Southern California most of my life, I now consider it a travesty that I had never taken the opportunity to visit Riverside until now. I found its downtown to be an oasis of culture in the midst of a suburb-spotted desert. And the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is the city’s finest attraction.
A trip to Taiwan
Not bound by such limitations Taiwan is where one experiences spectacular modes of transport; a high-speed train, dangling cable cars and ornate boats.
Hotel Amba where we spend our first night in Taipei requires special mention, for its location and character. A very casual ambience and club like atmosphere, wrought iron chairs and bookracks decorate its dining area.
Go down the elevator and you emerge outside a MAC store, right at the most happening intersection of Ximending, the mother of all night markets. It’s so lively, bustling, dynamic and vibrant, even a non-shopper like me doesn’t want the night to end.
Second Rejection for Hotel Cape Charles
Glass balcony walls at Hotel Cape Charles lend a modern look not in keeping with the Town’s historic character, says the Historic District Review Board.
By DORIE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Historic District Review Board on November 20 rejected for the second time the balcony treatment at the newly renovated Hotel Cape Charles. The hotel is operating on a temporary occupancy certificate, and the Town will not grant a permanent certificate until the hotel meets the historic standards.
Board chairman Russ Dunton said the Board’s decision is final, and that the developer can either change the balconies to conform to the original approved plan or appeal the Board’s decision to Town Council. “Town Council is bound by the Historic District Guidelines just as we are,” he added.
Dunton emphasized that the Board did not want to be unreasonable. He also acknowledged that the developer had spent a lot of money on the building, and that many people like its modern look. “But it’s our job to make sure that historic properties in town maintain their character,” he said.
The Board did make some concessions to the building’s modern alterations: They allowed the glass on the third floor in place of a railing, and they accepted the modern light fixtures. They also agreed to overlook the developer’s failure to install decorative wrought iron on the ground floor as originally promised. But the Board could not accept the glass balconies on the second floor.
The issue was first raised when developer David Gammino attended the Board’s September 18 meeting and apologized for not sticking to the original plan as approved by the Board. At the time, Gammino blamed “a rapidly changing business plan” for not keeping the Town informed about architectural changes. At first, he intended only to do “a light remodel” of the old, defunct hotel.
But, “we came to the conclusion that reopening the hotel in its existing configuration would be a disservice to the Town of Cape Charles and limit the hotel’s demographic appeal,” he wrote. That’s when the budget soared from $500,000 for updates to over $2 million for a major overhaul.
In 2006, when the building was known as Cape Charles Hotel, owner Richard Wagner completed a renovation and received over $2 million historic tax credits. The hotel later went bankrupt and was sold after being stripped of its hardware and fixtures. Gammino bought the building – in complete disrepair — from the bank for $500,000. He did not request any historic tax credits.
The original plans submitted by Gammino, and approved by the Board, called for wrought-iron railings, and that is what the Board wants now.
At the September meeting, Gammino argued that wrought iron would ruin the look of the building as well as add tremendous expense. The glass panels had cost $60,000. “We don’t have the money to make that kind of change. We are $800,000 over budget already,” he said.
Gammino ultimately agreed to have his architect submit a revision, and that’s what the Board reviewed last week. The proposed modification was to add a wooden rail around the perimeter of each section of glass on the second-floor balconies.
That didn’t satisfy the Board. They want both vertical and horizontal railings, to offset the current open aspect of clear glass.
Cape Charles Town Planner Tom Bonadeo suggested that installing half a dozen black aluminum railings like these sold at Lowe’s could solve the problem at Hotel Cape Charles.
Town Planner Tom Bonadeo said that he looked on the Internet and found aluminum railings at Lowe’s for $66 for a six-foot section. Only six sections of railing would be needed, which would be a low-cost fix, he said.
In other business, the Board accepted plans for bathrooms at the southeast corner of Central Park. The restrooms were designed by California architectural firm Green Cottage to complement the sewer pumping station on the northeast corner of the park.
A $37,000 contract has been approved for Q S Construction to do the work. The building will feature tube skylights in place of windows. The bathrooms will not be heated and will be closed during the winter.
The Board approved the historic rehabilitation plans submitted for the house at 4 Tazewell Avenue. The plans were previously approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, making the house eligible for tax credits.
Chairman Dutton told the Wave that the Board does not try to second-guess the state DHR, which has very strict standards for historic rehabilitation.
11 rue des Ecoles
Set in a classic 1860s Haussmannian building with its golden stone façade and wrought iron balconies, the Familia is not for those after cutting-edge design, but cosy charm in rooms with carved cherrywood bedheads and graceful toile de jouy fabrics.
Get the Luxury Honeymoon You Deserve in Vanuatu at Villa 25
Villa 25 have been catering for honeymooners ever since the beautiful wrought-iron gates to the exclusive settlement of Dream Cove opened. Located on its own private beach, this is the ultimate setting for a luxury villa in glorious Vanuatu. Honeymooners will be welcomed to one of the three gracious villas which were designed by the award-winning architect, Pierre du Toit to maximise the privacy of each individual villa and magnificent views of the sea. As privacy is of paramount importance when on honeymoon, these villas are just perfect for that very reason.
There is a pool-side Iowana (gathering place) just a few metres from the water’s edge, providing a heavenly location for Pacific-style entertaining and relaxation at Vanuatu Villa 25. The architecturally designed Vanuatu villas are sympathetic to the local environment with steep pitched shingle roofs, solid block construction and attractive louvered joinery. The configuration of the three villas, adjacent to the shimmering waters of the sheltered beach in an exclusive gated location is perfect.
Only five minutes’ drive from Port Vila’s bustling shops, food markets and exciting fusion of French, Pacific and Asian restaurants, honeymooners can take their pick of dining out or purchasing their own fresh fish, vegetables, organic beef, French cheeses and exotic fruits and take them back to cook in the cooking facilities in their Vanuatu accommodation.
Or, if they prefer, it can be arranged for Villa 25’s chef to prepare a gourmet meal, adding the convenience of inexpensive entertaining to their stay.
Villa 25 has a residential manager who will look after guests’ every need and provide local knowledge on everything from supermarkets to snorkelling, car hire, shopping and the glorious sunsets. Some of the best snorkelling in Vanuatu is right outside the door but some keen divers may wish to go further afield and Villa 25’s manager will give them directions to the wide range of idyllic reef and wreck dive sites, many only minutes off Villa 25’s beach. Kayaks and paddle boards are also available to guests.
There are plenty of options for sport, reef and big game fishing, at Villa 25. The Port Vila Golf & Country Club has a great 18 hole course just 15 minutes from the Villa 25 gated complex. There are so many great things for honeymooners to do or they may prefer to lie beside the pool and work on their tan.