Saturday was National Coffee Day. To celebrate this, and Second Daughter’s successful Mary Kay kick off party, we spontaneously drove down to Casey’s Cupcakes at the Mission Inn. It was close to 7pm before we even hit the road. But after the Mary Kay party, we were all dressed up with otherwise no place to go.
I put in My Soundtrack, which is great for roadtrips. A few miles down the freeway, and Elisa squealed as The Partridge Family began to play. “Oh my gosh! I LOVE this song!” I quickly told her the story of how David Cassidy sang to me. We hadn’t even arrived at the Inn yet, and already we were laughing at great memories.
Dot and Elisa chatted throughout the drive, sang along, and took many photos. We each had our iPhones, and since we were all together, our photo albums are similar, if not identical.
Elisa had never been to the Inn before. Dot and I find great joy in introducing others to Our Favorite Place. While our intent was only to walk around and grab a cup o’ Joe at Casey’s Cupcakes, as usual it turned into so much more.
We began by parking a block away. Seems a lot of other people also were inspired to visit the Inn.
It was perfect walking weather. The humidity was low, the temperature was mild. At every corner we could smell either coffee or garlic.
The low-lit neon signs signaled that most stores along the path were closed. All except the Mission Galleria: a four-story consignment store filled with antiques and wonderful treasures. This was our first stop, where The Dots tried on nearly every hat they could find, and a few for me too.
When we realized the clock was ticking, we meandered back across the avenue and strolled the short distance to Casey’s. Detouring first, of course, through the halls of the Inn just in time to visit Napoleon and Josephine. Napoleon was quite friendly, but Josephine was feeling a little shy.
There’s a corner where the Spa, the entrance to the gift shop, and one open-air pathway all connect. It is my favorite corner. Just standing there, surrounded by old brick and mosaics is a visual endorphin. Then the scent of fresh eucalyptus oils greets your nostrils, immediately soothing any stress still being held in the body. Just a short moment of standing there with eyes closed is all that’s needed to be transported away from the busyness of the world, and have a truly individual experience.
After this, we finally made it to Casey’s Cupcakes. The outdoor tables were vacant, which made it easy for us to get comfortable and enjoy our treats.
Of course, having heard about the exceptional Tiramisu at the Bella Trattoria next door, we stepped over for a second dessert. Since Dot isn’t a fan of coffee and had just eaten her sweet treat, she opted for a steaming bowl of Creamy Tomato Soup. The menu was so enticing, that Elisa and I followed her lead and shared both a bowl of Minestrone soup, and a Tiramisu.
After indulging our tastebuds, we meandered past the door leading to the Rotunda. Unfortunately, it’s closed to the public. Dot had jaunted to the nearest restroom, leaving Elisa and I to drool when a gentleman came up and used his key-card to unlock the door. I joked, “Oh, look! He has a magic card!” He turned and smiled. He told us that part of the Inn is generally off-limits… but if we promised not to jump over the railings, he’d let us in. Elisa and I tried to assure him we would behave, but our girlish giggles gave us away. He held the door open for us, and introduced himself. “If anyone stops you,” he said, “You tell ‘em, Tony sent ya. Tell ‘em I said it was okay.” To which I promised him, “You are so going to be named in my Blog!” So here you are, Tony. Thank you! Dot scurried up, and we ventured into the Magic Door.
We spent nearly half an hour climbing level after level of the Rotunda, photographing every angle and entrance. It was ethereal. Like being thrown back in time.
We found ourselves on Author’s Row overlooking the Reception Area. A wedding had taken place, and people were celebrating! There in the corner, we saw Tony! He was busy making sure everyone was having a wonderful time. We walked around the level, showing Elisa the doors to Ann Rice’s room, the Herb Garden, and other sights on the Fourth Floor. Then we took the elevator down and found ourselves mistakenly led to in front of the Chapel. We were unwitting party crashers, who quickly found our way back to where we were supposed to be.
Strolling through the Main Lobby, we stopped at the Front Desk to ask general questions about the Inn, about rates and reservations.
Dot’s 18th birthday is in six weeks. Can you imagine what she might be wanting?
Yet again, Tony walked by with a wave and a smile. Yet again, we giggled. It must be a prerequisite for employment at the Inn to be good looking. I mean… really good looking. Just sayin’…
After we took up enough of Chris’s time with questions and “What If’s”, Dot was thirsty enough to warrant us walking the short distance to the Presidential Lounge. The music of two wedding receptions nearby mixed with the sounds of the Piano Bar. Elisa and I opted to enjoy an Adult Beverage. As she first delivered bottled water to Dot waiting outside the Lounge, the Bartender made my night. He couldn’t figure out my relationship with Elisa. I had called her “Girlfriend” a few minutes earlier. We were both spunky and outgoing. Finally he pointed in her missing direction and asked, “Sister?” I laughed and said, “Daughter.” He was honestly astonished.
I know bartenders get paid to flirt and make conversation. But this was honest astonishment. And it felt great. Then I asked him to make a virgin drink for my underage daughter waiting in the Lobby. Her Shirley Temple was On The House.
Yeah. I’m so going back there again.
The Presidential Lounge is a wonderful experience. Small, intimate, upscale. You needn’t be a guest of the Inn to enter. It feels like a higher class of CHEERS. And the entrances lead right into the Main Lobby. So even though Dot was sitting at a table in the Lobby, it took less than five minutes for us to rejoin her, drinks in hand. The Inn welcomes guests to stroll with their beverages; making it an even nicer experience. We weren’t limited to a corner barstool. We could sit, walk, talk, and enjoy. Which we did.
Then we strolled outside yet again. The streets are lit with low yellow-ambient lighting, and light strings in the trees. It’s not garish or bright or modern. “Strolling” is the perfect word. We weren’t in any rush to get anywhere. We ambled and danced our way up and down Orange Street.
A band was playing at a corner bar, and we stopped just long enough to enjoy the music. And the pick-up lines. “Hey, girls! The party’s over here!” “Where ya going?” I pointed to Dot and yelled, “Underage! But thank you for asking!” Elisa fits right between us. Old enough to go out with adults, young enough to keep my teenager company and not feel like a babysitter. Of course, that’s what Family is. We blend well. Period.
Then it was time to get home.
We only showed Elisa the tip of the iceberg. In a few weeks, we’ll be back. Maybe on a Saturday morning. To experience the University Photography Museum. The Pizza Parlor. The Farmer’s Market.
Or maybe we’ll just save our money and give Dot the Birthday of a Lifetime. After all, isn’t that what Family is for?
If you get there before we do, tell Tony we said hi. And we’ll be back.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!
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Destination: Mission Inn, Riverside, CA