“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.”
— Francis Bacon
Imagine sitting in a 100-year-old patio courtyard surrounded by vibrant red bougainvillea twining and twirling around static iron balconies. You look up and see a Della Robbia-style Madonna and Child plaque on a high Moorish-type wall with a thousand intricate curves. Red Spanish tile walkways show slight dips from a hundred years of footfall. Twittering birds flit to a fountain trickling small streams of water to separate basins. Does this sound like a peaceful, somewhat exotic destination? Does it make you want to reach for your passport and be whisked off to Spain or Morocco?
Even though this courtyard with its terra-cotta tones resembles a captivating destination like Spain, it is right here in Southern California – Riverside to be exact. For me it is reminiscent of a trip to Spain. Others might be taken back to a time in Morocco or Italy – but most will probably just revel in the immediate beauty of this historic hotel called the Mission Inn.
One of the joys of traveling is to be transported to a world that is inspiring and beautiful… and will serve to awaken the senses. A visit to the Mission Inn will do just that.
This National Historic Landmark has inspired many a dignitary. Ten U.S. presidents have visited, including President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat, who were married at the Mission Inn. President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy spent their wedding night at the hotel. In 1926, Crown Prince Gustavus and Princess Louise of Sweden were guests.
The Mission Inn is close enough for lunch, and distant enough for an overnight stay. Built in “Mission Revival” style, the hotel has had various construction phases, but the first wing was completed by Frank Miller in 1903, over a 100 years ago.
This architectural showpiece is furnished with priceless treasures and unique objects that Miller collected during his world travels. He amassed a staggering amount of bells, 400 of which can be found on the grounds of the inn. Tiffany stained glass windows, Chinese vases and various architectural accoutrements unite in a delightful array of the eclectic – like a small-scale Hearst Castle.
Guests are free to wander most of the property and discover a myriad of architectural wonders – a Spanish-style chapel, fountains, reflecting pools, intricately fashioned doors and colorful tiled roofs. Like the Hearst Castle, there is something fascinating around every corner.
Dining at the Spanish Patio restaurant is a delightful and satisfying experience. Beauty is everywhere, and it’s almost enough to distract you from your fantastic feast – almost. The lunch buffet is inviting with a counter laden with such delicacies as fresh salmon, flat iron steak and a marvelously crisp cheddar lavosh. The savory choices vary daily, but the dessert table remains fairly constant. That is where guests find a stunning array of petit fours and tea cakes – with chocolate or without – but always fresh.
In the guest rooms differences abound. This is not a uniform hotel – it is marvelously eclectic. Our room led to a communal patio area overlooking the pool where at night we could look down on the vine-covered arch with bells in lighted niches. Out the room’s back window a bell tower was in perfect view. The bells rang melodically and were not at all intrusive. The guest room was comfortable and sparkling.
A visit to the Mission Inn will awaken your senses to appreciate this oasis in the midst of a bustling world – this place where art, architecture, fine food and delicious scents intermingle beautifully.
The Mission Inn is located at 3649 Mission Inn Avenue in Riverside, Calif. For room reservations please call (951) 784-0300. Reservations are recommended for the Spanish Patio Lunch Buffet, please call (951) 784-0300. Lunch Buffet hours are Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.