I used to have this little writing fantasy--I have a charming writing cottage in a serene wooded setting where a brook babbles nearby and birds twitter in the trees. The cottage is furnished with one of those cozy armchairs you can really sink into with a good book, a built-in bookcase, a writing desk, my laptop computer, and a steaming pot of coffee. It's a cottage to which I can retreat everyday and pound out the next Great American Novel (or in my case, picture book or Young Adult fiction) for hours on end until the words blur on the page.
Recently, I have discovered a delightful bed and breakfast inn that has come closest to this fantasy than anything I've encountered. The Old Crocker Inn in Northern California was a perfect location for the self-imposed writers' retreat my friend, and fellow writing group member, Gretchen, and I embarked upon. Set in the hills a mere 10 mins. from the small town of Cloverdale, the 5 acre property used to be part of a 560-acre ranch belonging to Charles Crocker, founder of the Central Pacific Railroad.
The main lodge houses eight rooms, the lobby and library, kitchen, and a large, airy dining room with French doors opening to the outdoors. Wicker settees, chairs, and tables are tucked cozily into corners of the wraparound porch--perfect for lounging, reading, writing, or just contemplating. My favorite writing spot was a round table on the porch with a commanding view of the valley. The surrounding trees made me feel as if I was in a tree house. There was no brook close enough to babble audibly, but Sunday morning, the high-pitched chirps and twitters of birds punctuated the air.
I stayed in the Golden Spike room, located in a separate cottage a few steps from the main lodge. The decor's subdued tones of gold and olive complemented the rich wood panelling, and I had to resist a strong urge to immediately crawl under the fluffy duvet of the Queen bed, curl up, and not emerge till Spring--I was here to write, after all. It was mid-October, and even though the evenings were cooler, it wasn't cold enough to have the gas fireplace on for long--the heat it threw enticed me to sink back into the pillows with images of fancy Belgian chocolates swimming in my head (I'm here to write! I'm here to write!) More's the pity! What better atmosphere to write in than by a roaring fire-or the illusion of one? However, in the adjacent bathroom, a whirlpool tub did invite me to take my first bath in about eight years--with fragrant bath salts, no less. Ahhh, this was heaven!
In the dining room, coffee and tea was available all day for guests, along with a plate of munchies (the day we arrived it was chocolate chip cookies, the next it was a scrumptious banana chocolate chip bundt cake.) The three course breakfast on Sunday morning (included in the cost of our stay) was just as delicious, led by a plate of cranberry scones, followed by breakfast quiche and ending with a shishkabob of fresh fruit--enough food to fuel us for a good day of writing. Host, Tony Babb, kindly offered Gretchen and I the use of the inn's grounds for our writing pleasure, long past the check out time of 11:00 am., an opportunity we seized upon, scribbling and pounding away on our keyboards till 5 pm.
All in all, it was a very productive weekend for us, and had us already planning for our next "retreat", which no doubt will be back here at the Old Crocker Inn.