Walter Mencken 11:31 a.m., Feb. 1
An Early Morning Surprise at the Julian Gold Rush Hotel
The weekend before last, I took a rare vacation. Well, I did end up working and, technically, I’m writing this post, so it was, at best, a working vacation or, at worst, a testament to my inability to give myself a break. At any rate, the site I chose for this pseudo escape was Julian.
I’ve always enjoyed how free of big city stressors that not-so-far-away town is and, reading accounts of recent Julian jaunts from fellow Reader contributors Ian Pike and Elizabeth Salaam had me jonesing for some time in our county’s Big Apple.
A lifelong San Diegan, I’ve been to Julian what feels like hundreds of times. Yet, until this last trip, I’d never stayed there overnight. I’ve always wanted to, though. Who wouldn’t want to fall asleep in such a serene place and awaken to the smell of fresh baked apple everything?
Many were the times I’d walk down the stretch of Main Street the Julian Gold Rush Hotel calls home, gaze at the old, charming building, and wonder what it would be like to stay there. Now I know, first-hand, it’s a lovely place that’s like walking into a time capsule.
From the lobby with its late 1800s motif and wood-burning stove (which came in handy that snowy weekend), to the parlor where people gather for tea and cider each afternoon, to my intimate (i.e., small) room with a vintage vanity instead of a laptop-ready desk and a slightly rickety wardrobe in place of a TV-stuffed armoire, it’s as much a delightful departure as the town its named after.
It was all that I expected…and more. What I didn’t know when making my reservation was that it’s actually a bed and breakfast (a return to the hotel’s website confirms I’m either blind or in serious need of a vacation since the words “bed and breakfast” are right in their logo). Upon arrival, I was told the most important meal of the day would be served starting at 8 a.m.
The next morning, I trudged through snow to the parlor, where the rest of the hotel’s residents were chatting away and digging into something that I couldn’t identify from a distance, but knew from the smell, was something I wanted. Minutes later, I had a fresh bowl of granola and a personal-size pitcher of milk in front of me. I love breakfast, but rarely eat it. As it was, I’d spent the previous evening eating way too much barbecue at the Bailey Wood-Pit Barbecue (the subject of my upcoming column in next week's issue of the Reader).
I took a bite small bite and, though I’d only meant to make enough of a dent not to offend, enjoyed it enough that I ended up polishing most of it off. It was a good thing I saved room, because after that, I was served a plate of thick-cut French toast topped with sugar-plumped Julian apples letting off a pheromone-like scent that drew me in. I was one minute and exactly halfway through that lovely dish when the cook came by to inform us she'd have some locally baked scones the next morning. As if that weren't enough, treats procured from local bakeries were included with afternoon tea. Nice bonus, but what stands out most vividly is that breakfast.
It was one of those great tasting meals that’s made all the better by the fact it’s so unexpected. Being a food writer, food doesn’t surprise me all that much, but this thoughtful, home-like hotel offering was the type of amenity that’s worth talking about and will keep me coming back on future trips. Only bad things about surprises like that...no camera!
The Julian Hotel is located at 2032 Main Street.