Books I've read

Sandra's book montage

The Catcher in the Rye
The Great Gatsby
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
Little Women
A Tale of Two Cities
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Lovely Bones
The Secret Life of Bees
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Da Vinci Code
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Hobbit
The Golden Compass
Pride and Prejudice
The Time Traveler's Wife
Jane Eyre
The Notebook

Sandra's favorite books »

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A whale of a time

You will be glad to know that this is my penultimate entry about my holiday.

I've never been on a Whale Watching cruise so this seemed like a good time to give it a go.  The weather-forecast for Saturday was for rain showers all day and because it seemed unlikely this would disturb the whales it seemed like a good idea. 

The trip lasts for three hours.  It takes a hour to get to Jeffreys Ledge where the feeding is so rich for the whales that they can practically guarantee you will see something.  You spend an hour there and then an hour to get back.  Not bad!

This is one of my woefully inadequate pictures of the whales.  There were probably only one or two  hump-backs but they did pop up number of times for us on both sides of the boat so we had to go running backwards and forwards.  It was cold and wet but I have to tell you there is something magical about seeing them out there in the ocean, free to do whatever they want that any amount of Shamu shows at Sea World just can't match!  The good thing about the whale cruises from Boston is the choices seem to be the New England Aquarium (more of this later) or Boston Harbor Cruises who join up with the Whale Center of New England so you not only get guides who know what they are talking about, you are helping with their research and hopefully some of the cost.  I just wish I was a better photographer to have captured something amazing (and yes, it only occurred to me later that I could have used the video function).

 So back to Boston, feeling a bit cold and damp although the weather was getting slightly better.  I did have the most delicious lunch when we go back.  Lobster bisque in a metal cauldron - the best I have ever tasted (OK, probably the most expensive I have ever had) but ooh it was lovely.  I had, temporarily forgotten I was in America so I thought a bowl of soup might be fairly small and ordered a main course as well.  Silly me, the cauldron would have been big enough on its own but my next course - a crab cake on a roll was also absolutely gorgeous although absolutely no need for the roll!  The Chart House is right on the wharf where the whale cruises (and harbour cruises) go from and was so lovely and walm and welcoming (picture below).  It is a chain restaurant and I realised, once I knew it was a chain, that I have been to the one in Alexandria, Virginia (where the food was also good and the restaurant lovely and cool on a really hot day).  I would recommend it to you:

I hadn't really thought about visiting the aquarium again but it seemed like a good thing to do (to me and half of Boston I think) on a still rainy afternoon.  I try to avoid anything a bit ugh in aquariums or zoos so I hurried past the piranhas, didn't even look where the octopus was and really kept an eye out for any sharks.  It worked pretty well and I contented myself with the three types of penguin: Emperor, Rock-hopper and Little Blue, the fur seals and the giant sea turtle.  It was really crowded in there but warm and the penguins are adorable (and live until they are about thirty, much longer than in the wild).  Whilst watching the seals I did think about the whales and all the space they had - not sure that the seals are having such a good time.

The next day was grey and drizzly again so I changed my plans and went to the Museum of Fine Arts (again with a large proportion of Boston!)  Last time I was there they were building the Art of the Americas wing and I was a bit miffed to pay $20 to see Monets etc.when I could see them for free at the National Gallery in London.  This time the galleries were finished & I have to say they are really well done.  In addition Dale Chihuly had an exhibition.

I don't know how I found out about Chihuly but I really admire his beautiful glass art.  The exhibition wasn't too crowded so there was plenty of opportunity to take photos (it was fine as long as you didn't use flash) so I'll just give you an idea of his work:

This is a boat full of (what looked to me like) glass sweets.  It sits on a highly polished black surface so you have that wonderful reflection underneath.

The Art of the Americas wing was also beautiful. It starts with the earliest American tribes on the ground floor, works its way up through colonial times including some beautiful samplers and over-mantel embroideries, through the nineteenth century and up to the present day. As well as pictures they had some beautiful silver pieces, some room sets and some lovely Tiffany windows. I think it is a really great place to go for a few hours and they have a lovely cafe right by the American wing where I had a delicious peach and goats cheese flatbread (!) and a nice conversation with the lady sitting next to me.

Then it was over to Harvard Square on the T and one of my most favourite shops in the whole world - The Coop.  It's basically the student store for Harvard but it has the most lovely book shop, full of academic and more popular novels.  I've spent many an hour here trying to look intelligent.  Of course I bought a couple of books and then went to see Curious George, a lovely children's book shop across the road but it was closed & I read in The Boston Globe that it is experiencing financial difficulties.  So then it was back to the hotel for me. 

This picture to the left is from an earlier walk around the Harvard campus.  It shows the entrance to Adams House which is where some of the 'upperclassmen' live.  All of those houses were absolutely lovely.

So just one more entry to go on the holiday and then back to normal.


To get to the Wharf for the whale and other cruises take the blue line on the T to Aquarium and you are right there.  This stop is also, surprise, surprise, the best one for the Aquarium.

You have the details for the Chart House and the cafe in the Museum above.  The Aquarium/Harbour area isn't that far from Faneuil Hall, you could walk in about 10 minutes, which is full of restaurants of all prices and there is a Legal Sea Foods directly opposite the Aquarium which does lovely fried clams (yes, truly).  Look out for the big fish outside!

The T will also take you almost directly outside the Museum of Fine Arts - take the green line to Museum and you are just across the road.

And the very helpfully named stop for Harvard is Harvard.  This is on the red line.  There is a good way to remember the lines - the red line is named for Harvard Crimson (their colour), the blue line goes to the harbour (or maybe officially it's for the airport?) and the green line I think is in honour of the 'emerald necklace of parks' but it also runs near Boston Common and Public Gardens.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Lovely book I read yesterday

A much shorter post (and not about my holiday you'll be pleased to know!).

As a respite after American Pastoral I read one of my holiday books yesterday - The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen.  It was absolutely lovely: really easy to read; engaging characters and a nice gentle twist at the end.

I really recommend it but with a warning - you'll have to like magical realism i.e. wallpaper changing with someone's mood otherwise I think you might find it a little twee.

I will update on my reading soon - far more interesting to many than my holiday I'm sure but I just wanted to share this.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

From Dukes to revolutionaries

Thanks for sticking with me so far!

We'd had a few rumbles of thunder in the night but I woke up to the local news saying there had been a mini-tornado in Providence - very exciting.

The point of my trip to Newport was to visit Rough Point, Doris Duke's old home.   I had hoped to be able to walk there but having discovered it was three miles from the hotel and on a day when it was going to be around 90 degrees farenheit and humid I thought it was the better part of valour to take a taxi.  I had booked the 9.45 a.m. tour but it seemed no-one else had or indeed the 10.00 a.m. tour so I sat in the porch (for the slightly cooler air) reading Pride & Prejudice.  I'm sure Elizabeth Bennet would have approved!  When it became obvious no-one else was coming they treated me to a private tour of the house and I really enjoyed it.  The house is very much as Doris Duke left it and I have to say other than changing her predominantly purple and mother-of-pearl bedroom I could have moved in right away.  The house was originally built by a Vanderbilt and modelled on an English mansion (or an American's idea of an English stately home/country estate) and was extended by Doris's parents.  It has some lovely furniture in it - mainly European and you could easily imagine yourself living and entertaining there - well I could.  It was lovely to be able to ask anything about any of the rooms and the guide was so kind although any time something was British he kept saying 'But you'll know more about this than me" and I have to confess I generally didn't, including the coats of arms of all the barons who signed Magna Carta (featuring in one of the windows).   Unfortunately it was so humid that by the time we had finished in the house I couldn't summon up the enthusiasm to walk around the grounds.  Instead I walked along Bellevue Avenue (where many of the mansions are) to meet the trolley that would take me back into town.

Newport is an amazing place - many of the 'robber barons' built their 'summer cottages' there and spent a few weeks per year in a house which would have cost a fortune to build.  This was, of course, the era before income tax!  One of the things I find interesting about the houses is how close they all are to the main road & the only thing I can conclude from that is that they were there to be seen - if you've got it flaunt it.  Last time I visited Newport I went to the Breakers and Rosecliff (which was used in The Great Gatsby).  The Breakers is absolutely amazing, so over the top and Rosecliff is another mansion where I thought, yeah I could live here.  Anyway, some photographs of Newport to whet your appetite:

Gates at Belcourt

Belcourt - this is through the gates, see what I mean about how close to the road the mansion is.
The Breakers
The loggia at The Breakers
The Isaac Bell House (this was an early mansion & much less elaborate as you can see)
Private mansion from the street (it was quite secretive no signs, lots of cars so I like to think something quite exciting was going on inside!)
More of the secret house from the street
Door at Rosecliff

This was another private home (from 2011) - I have a feeling it may have been for sale but I didn't enquire about the price!!!

Luckily the trolley came along after I had been walking for about 10 minutes and so I was able to get a ride into Newport centre along Thames Street (not pronounced in the English style but Thaymz - I remembered just in time).  I was now running out of time before my bus back to Boston so I just had a look in a couple of shops, including the very beautiful Newport Historical Society shop.  If you are ever in Newport on a hot, humid day it's worth going in here for the air-conditioning alone and it does have beautiful things to buy.  Then I had lunch in The Barking Crab - a really lovely lobster (do you see a pattern emerging) pasta in a scampi sauce which I managed to splatter all over my front.  Luckily a lot came off with a little soap and water.  Then it was a 10 minute walk uphill back to the hotel (it was REALLY hot now), collect the bags and wait for the taxi back to the Visitor Information Centre and the bus to Boston.

I was back in Boston by about 4 p.m.  Much as I loved Rough Point I'm not sure it was worth such a short detour but I did it and sitting in the air-conditioned bus on Thursday afternoon listening to my music and looking out of the window was probably a lot more pleasant than tramping round Boston where the temperatures where expected to hit 100 degrees fahrenheit and be very humid.  (I think it actually maxed in the high nineties).  Needless to say when I left the air-conditioned paradise of the bus and South Station the heat hit me like opening the oven door but I'm glad to say a taxi was waiting and took me back, in air-conditioned bliss, to the Copley Plaza where they were nice enough to put me back in that lovely room (and with a lovely, big bath for my tired feet!)

I had a habit this holiday of turning onto a film or programme about 20 minutes in and probably watching until nearly the end and so I continued to do that this evening, accompanied by the gentle rumble of thunder.  The thunder was my friend though as I knew it was going to get cooler and a lot less humid the next day so I smiled into the darkness (it was dark around 6 p.m. mid June) and started reading Beloved in the bath.  

The next day heralded another adventure.  I have been looking into going to Marblehead for at least my last three visits to Boston.  I've visited Salem before and that was quite easy, going once by commuter train and once by ferry.  Marblehead, although very close to Salem, doesn't have the same options and I was going to have to get the ordinary MBTA bus.  If you look at guidebooks they don't seem very enthusiastic about how good the buses are for tourists but if you look at the MBTA timetables there is a pretty regular service.  I had also looked at the Marblehead Visitor Information and printed off a map which would take me on a walking tour of the main sites - great.  Only it was difficult to marry up the map and the bus stops as mentioned on the MBTA site.  Nevertheless, and in the spirit of all those who have conquered the American frontier, I took the T to Haymarket and even more daringly got on the bus whose route I didn't even have printed.  Marblehead on the front was all I had to go on, OK it was a pretty good clue.  I felt I wasn't getting off to a very good start when the driver got annoyed with me for wanting to pay cash - even though I had the right money I seemed to be taking too long to put the dollar bills in the machine (perhaps they should have coins like us then!).  But I found a seat that didn't seem to bother anyone and clutching the map in my hand put on my music and watched out of the window.

There is a suburb (?) of Boston called Wonderland which is close to the airport and, in a children's literature kind of way, it was very exciting to go through it, although I saw no rabbit holes or young ladies in blue dresses.  The journey was OK until we got to Lynn when eventually we seemed to be on the coast road so that the houses got nicer and there was a bit of ocean on the right.  I was starting to get nervous at this point because the stops seemed to flash past quicker and quicker and to bear no relation to that piece of paper I was gripping.  The houses got bigger and it seemed to me we must be in Marblehead.  There was a group of shops and two young girls got off there, I was tempted to follow but decided I would wait until everyone got off.  Luckily that was the right decision - there was a stop called Marblehead Centre, not marked on either my timetable or the visitor map and we all had to get off there because a tree had come down on the next part of the route.  It was actually the perfect stop for me because the Visitor Information Bureau at the start of the walk was just across the road - what had I worried about!  There was also a nice looking Starbucks and I was getting quite addicted to Carmel Frappucinos by this point (apologies to anyone offended by Starbucks or the desecration of coffee) and hadn't eaten any breakfast I seeming joined most of Marblehead's adult population and had a few minutes to prepare for my tour.

The Marblehead Chamber of Commerce has created an audio guide to the tour which you can download and then switch to your iPhone via iTunes - only I couldn't, so I was delighted that the lady in the booth was able to give me a map with more information on it and point me in the right direction.

 Marblehead is a beautiful town as you will hopefully see in the following photographs.  Like many of the towns along the North Shore it was a fishing port and it's claim to fame is that it was 'the birthplace of the American navy'.  I knew I was in for another day of revolutionary history but that's what you get in these here parts.  Marblehead went through a tough period in the 20th century but is now a very affluent dormitory town for Boston and a place for summer homes and for sailing.  I took a couple of pictures of the harbour and you'll see the number of yachts.  On the left is a mailbox which seemed to show the key attributes of Marblehead - on the top left is a building called Abbot Hall.  It's claim to fame is that it is the home of a picture called 'The Spirit of '76' which is very famous but I have to admit to not going to see - I'm British!  A lot of the houses were originally built for fishermen but they must have been massively extended over the years or there were some pretty wealthy
fishermen out there!


 The building above is known as the Town House and is used for town meetings etc.  It's on an island in the middle of a busy road - well it has been there since 1727!

This house is supposed to have been altered to allow the Marquis de Lafayette to get his coach round the corner.  It was actually for a much less exciting reason but I can't remember why.

I stopped off from the tour to visit the Jeremiah Lee mansion (above).  Even though it looks like stone it is actually wood which is, like in Nantucket, painted to look more sturdy.  Again I was lucky enough to have the tour to myself.  I really enjoyed it - it probably took about 30 - 45 minutes and there were some interesting things to see inside, including the original handpainted wall-paper.  One set of the wall-paper is particularly interesting because although the flowers etc. have been drawn on they haven't actually been painted and the people in Marblehead don't know if that was done on purpose or what?  I don't think I have seen that before.  I was particularly pleased that the tiles round the fireplace in one of the downstairs rooms were from Liverpool - I must see if there is anything about Liverpool Pottery in the new museum (I think there is a small exhibit in the Maritime Museum). 

 I hope you can tell that I really enjoyed my day in Marblehead and now that I knew where the bus went from it was easy to tget back here and enjoy my journey back, through Wonderland, and into the city.  And I have to tell you I (or rather my feet) were very glad of that sofa and bath tonight!

Next - I get up close (OK, closish) with friends of Shamu and my holiday takes a cultural turn.


Details of the hotel in Newport were in the last entry.

The bus back from Newport to Boston cost about $29 and took around two hours - traffic once you are just outside Boston is pretty bad.  I used Peter Pan buses again (see below for link).  They have about three buses a day and the waiting area in Newport is clean and light.

Because of the heat I took a taxi from South Station to the hotel.  The taxis wait right outside - there is a rank.  If it wasn't so hot I would have taken the T because the T station is part of South Station so very easy to use.

You can reach Marblehead using the normal MBTA buses routes 441/442.  The fare was $3.50 each way but I might have been able to get a discount if I had told the driver I had a Charlie Ticket and I think you can use a Charlie Card to pay the fare.

There were plenty of restaurants in Marblehead but I had lunch at The Landing which is right on the harbour (sorry the website doesn't seem to be working to link but the address is  I thought it was more like a nice pub than a restaurant but the food was good and the prices were reasonable (although this was lunchtime).

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Nantucket to Newport (or my perfect island to Rhode Island)

Nantucket in the sunshine - absolute bliss. This is the view from the balcony (OK balcony/walkway) outside my room:

Treated myself to breakfast in the hotel restaurant - absolutely delicious french toast and the best thing was the beautiful pastries they served in a silver bucket (of the sandcastle variety).   The hotel had kindly booked a tour for me with Gail's Tours.  She is a sixth (I think) generation Nantucketer and she certainly knows the island.  We seemed to go through all of the main streets of Nantucket town and to the old mill:

Then out to the Sankaty lighthouse:

Where we saw the effects of sea erosion on the cliffs.  Some of the houses are being moved back away from the cliffs but there are still houses being built right on the edge of the cliffs (if you think about the pictures of cliff erosion on the British coast it is very similar).  Apparently the island will be reclaimed by the sea within 200 years according to the museum - so if you are thinking of buying a home there bear this in mind.  It means I have earmarked a maximum of $10 million for our holiday home - when we win the lottery!

After that we went on to 'Sconset and the tiny little homes which are covered in wild roses slightly later in June - it was still very pretty. On the way back, as we drove across the centre of the island (I think it's 30 miles long) we saw a very entertaining sight - a house had been cut in half and was being moved by lorry to its new location:

I'm sorry, I wasn't sitting in the best part of the van for the great pictures but we had to pull over to let the two parts of the house, the cable, the telephone, the electricity vans etc. go past.  It was amazing to see and obviously made easier by the fact that the houses are all made of wood so you can just saw them in half!

The tour was great and I think in about 1 hour 45 minutes we saw pretty much all of the major sights on the island.  Gail is a great guide and really knows her stuff.  If you do go to the island, particularly if you don't have your own transport I think this is a really good thing to do.

It was really hot by the time we got back (OK, really hot to me) about early 80s degrees farenheit so probably around 28 degrees C (I know you're saying I have no conception of what really hot is!) and as prices seemed much of a muchness across the town I walked back from the harbour and had lunch in the hotel - yummy shrimp salad with a delicious lavender honey dressing & a chance to cool down.

Being a glutton for punishment I then went out again to see if there were any walking tours available.  The Historic House tour seemed really interesting and, whilst I was concerned that we would be walking around about 2 p.m. on a hot (to me) afternoon I was promised we would be inside the houses for most of the time so that was fine.  We visited two - the Hadwen House:

This is me being a bit arty (or trying to) so if you'd like a better idea of the Hadwen House have a look here.  We had a look in the two principal rooms which you can see through the virtual tours on the web-site.  This was built really to outdo William Hadwen's brothers-in-law who had brick houses built for them across the street (pictures to follow later).  Although it looks like it is made of stone it is, like most of the other houses on the island, made of wood and then made to look like stone.  It was very interesting & William Hadwen sounds like a most philanthropic gentleman!

After that we walked a couple of streets across to a much smaller house - the Macy-Christian house on Liberty Street.  This is a pre-revolutionary house that was re-furbished in a colonial style in the mid twentieth century (apparently that was then fashionable) and given to the Nantucket Historical Association with all of its colonial revival furnishings.  I'm sorry I didn't take any pictures of it but it was a typical clapboard house & I will publish a couple of pictures of those later.

Our final stop on the Historic Houses tour was a sneak preview of a house that will be open in a couple of weeks - Greater Light.  An old cow shed that was converted into an artist's studio and home by two wealthy sisters from Nantucket.  We were allowed a peep into the main room and it was amazing even though we were only seeing the bare shell of the room.  The sisters found materials such as wrought iron balconies and included them inside the house - I was really sorry it wasn't finished as I'm sure it will be amazing and well worth the visit.  This is a picture of the back garden (again not finished) -hopefully you can see the amazing wrought iron screens attached to the back wall:

The best part about the tour was, without a doubt, our guide - she was so enthusiastic and so lovely and so excited about Greater Light.  If all of the guides are like her then I can do nothing other than absolutely insist you take one of the walking tours if you are ever lucky enough to set foot on this island.

Desperate to get out of the heat I headed to the Whaling museum.  I can't say that I am hugely interested in the whaling industry but it's what Nantucket (and a lot of the rest of the New England coast) was about and where the wealth came from.  The museum is really interesting however with lots of interactive materials and I was lucky enough to see the preview of the new film they will be showing about Nantucket from 3 July.  I'll just share some of the pictures with you:

Sign outside the Whaling Museum

Part of the whole whale skeleton inside the museum
Time for some souvenir shopping (yay!) but I have to warn you that Nantucket ain't cheap.  They have only one 'chain store' on the island and the people weren't particularly happy about that.  If I now tell you that the chain store is Ralph Lauren you get an idea of just how much the islanders want to conserve things as they are now.  I was able to buy my Mum some chocolate covered cranberries in this beautiful tin from a lovely old-fashioned chocolate shop (amazing smell) and I treated myself to a Nantucket Lightship Basket.  I've attached the link from the shop I got mine from so you can see just how beautiful and varied the baskets are.  I'm really glad that I was on a strict cash only budget because if I'd allowed myself to use a credit card I think I would now be desperately looking for a job to try and pay off that bill. 

The next morning I was up early to take a walk around the town before it got to hot (even on Nantucket it was supposed to head towards 90 degrees farenheit so I suppose mid- 30s).  I took some pictures of the houses I liked best and will share a few with you:

Post for hitching your horse or carriage

Main Street Nantucket

The shingles on the side of this house are newly added - they go the silvery colour due to the sea and air.  On Nantucket it only takes about 2 years for that to happen.

After the walk and mad photograph taking it was time to head back to the hotel for a cool drink & then leave for the ferry.

It was lovely to be on the ferry on such a hot day - Nantucket Sound was incredibly calm so it was just the wind once we got past the breakwater.  We arrived in Hyannis exactly one hour later and then I think I jumped a number of queues to get into a taxi (well I did only have about 40 minutes before the bus) back to the transportation centre.

I was now on a Peter Pan (no Tinkerbell I'm afraid) bus to Newport, Rhode Island.  To do this trip for Hyannis involves changing at Fall River, MA (I feel very American naming the states as well as the places).  Fall River was once a major centre of manufacturing because of the river and the fast flowing waters to create electricity for the textile mills.  I have a feeling the Barretts had mills in Fall Rive in Love Story and that Jenny suggests Oliver's family exploited her ancestors there (we've been missing books too long in these entries).   It is also famous as the place where Lizzie Borden murdered her parents as commemorated in a skipping-rope rhyme:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
Unfortunately the bus stop is just opposite East Borden Place and around the corner from the Lizzie Borden guesthouse so I was very glad my 30 minutes there were in brilliant sunshine rather than dark or miserable conditions.  I'm such a wuss!

Then it was on to Newport and I love this part of the journey - pretty Rhode Island villages and nice houses.  You arrive at the Visitor Information Centre aand that's where the taxis are so it was out of the bus, into a taxi and on to the Viking hotel.

I was thrilled when they told me they had upgraded me to a suite, with a sea view, but when I got up there the bathroom was the size of a postage stamp and no bath!  And I looked out of both windows and all I could see where the hotels opposite and the park (I wonder if he thought it was a different suite?).  Anyway the bedroom was very nice and it was only one night so I ordered lobster roll on room service, switched the television on and put my feet up!

Well, thank you for getting to the end of this mammoth (or feels like) entry.  I've added some practicalities below and next entry will be about Newport and Marblehead.


Just a few more pictures of the White Elephant to try and tempt you:

Looking into my room from the walkway (with my chairs & table)

My room was top left in the central section.  Although the restaurant was below I didn't hear any noise.

Ferry details are in the entry above.  The taxis are waiting at the ferries to take you to the airport or to the transportation centre.

I used Peter Pan to get from Hyannis to Newport.  There are about 3 buses per day and it cost about $26 one way for an adult.  Of course if you had a car you could just drive from Hyannis to Newport in a couple of hours I would think.

In 2009 I went to Newport overnight again but travelled there from Providence, the state capital of Rhode Island and well worth a day if you were travelling around New England.  I mention this because I had one of the best bargains I've ever had in the US.  I took the regular bus from Providence to Newport, it cost me $1.75 and the journey took about an hour.  The bus was pretty empty most of the way and it was so lovely through these beautiful old villages and past ponds - a great way to spend an hour!

Taxis come to the Visitor Information Centre and there are people in the Peter Pan office or the centre itself (before about 5.30 p.m.) who will help you if there isn't one there.  It cost me about $8 to go the 10 minutes or so uphill to the hotel.

I chose the Viking because I wanted to be fairly central in Newport.  It is currently being renovated downstairs and will, I think, be a nice hotel.  There is loads of choice though and I just wanted to share with you a couple of pictures of the hotel I stayed at in 2009.  It's called The Chanler at Cliff Walk and is at the start of the Cliff Walk and close to the mansions.  It wasn't cheap but it was just beautiful:

On the landing, just outside my room
View out of the window - can't beat that!