The Apple Lane Inn is a little Victorian bed and breakfast in Aptos, near Santa Cruz. It came up at the end of a search that was both winding and satisfying. It was one of those experiences where I go in thinking I want X, Y, and Z, until I find out that I can also get A and B and T and L. And in looking at places with L, I find out about Q. And I realize that after all that, what I really want is Q.

This happens a lot when I look at new appliances or phone plans. I go in thinking I'll get a cheap printer that can just do good photos, and come out wanting a printer that does double-sided, and photos, and weird kinds of paper, and runs on hydroelectric power generated by a small hamster, and is made of gold-wrapped chocolate, and the whole search falls apart. But this time, it all came together like magic. At first, I was just looking at places to stay in the Monterey area that were under $150/night, and I discovered that for that price at this time of year I could get hotels that would not just serve breakfast but also fresh-baked cookies and then wine and cheese at night, that had clawfoot tubs, that had fireplaces.... I decided what I really wanted was a fireplace. Then I found the ones with four-poster beds and figured out that what I really wanted was to sleep in a four-poster bed. So I asked Google for hotels with four-poster beds in the Monterey area...

...and I found one with a four-poster bed AND GOATS.

That's right, goats. Goats and chickens and a horse and an apple orchard, according to various reviews. Sure it was forty-five minutes from Monterey, but: goats. No fresh-baked cookies, but a good breakfast. Pets welcomed, not that I wanted to bring any; a fireplace in the parlor, although not in the rooms. And each room was different. There's the Pineapple Room; pineapples were a symbol of prosperity, generosity, and welcome in the Victorian United States, and this room has pineapple stencils and great big carved pineapples on each post of the four-poster bed.

No canopy on that bed though, and no bathtub. We were all ready to get Uncle Chester's room, which does have a four-poster with a canopy - and a pressed tin ceiling. It used to be the bathroom, and (as they explained), it was common to put pressed tin over bathroom ceilings in Victorian times so that the plaster of the ceiling would not soften and fall in on you. But despite its bathroomular past, it now just has a shower... and its neighbor, the Blossom Room, has a clawfoot tub.

Giant Victorian-deep clawfoot tubs definitely edge out the four-poster. I wouldn't have traded all four posts for a clawfoot tub, but the Blossom Room has a fascinating half-canopy bed. Instead of four posts, it has a headboard which rises up and curves halfway over the bed. Like a convertible. My girlfriend and I decided that we would certainly trade two posts' worth of canopy for one massive clawfoot tub. When we arrived, we discovered what a bargain that trade was. The bathroom attached to our room had not only a marble sink and a clawfoot tub big enough for two, but also a window seat, fainting couch, and skylight. That bathroom could have slept a few extra people!

Every part of the inn is like this: full of quirky and lavish Victorian touches. Instead of a dresser, our room had a huge oak sideboard with (as the room guide proudly told us) 22 beveled mirrors set into it. Along with the soaps and shampoos, the bathtub sat next to a tall glass bottle of bright blue unscented bubble bath. In the parlor, at all times, sat a tiny table with a decanter of cream sherry and a ring of delicate tiny glasses. If we had been staying longer than one night, we could have played around with the harp, mandolin, and mbira in the parlor, played Snap with the old deck of playing cards that they thoughtfully placed in our sideboard, or begged them to put a roll of music in the player piano].

There are modern touches too: a television, VCR, and basket of movies; a table full of wacky board games from the only slightly more recent past; an old-fashioned but working radio; a refrigerator with free sodas and space for guests' food. And near the refrigerator, fixings for making tea and coffee at any time... along with an old-timey porcelain washbasin and jar of pearl-handled hat-pins. It is the perfect environment for a long stay, really: who knew more about indoor amusements than the Victorians?

Sadly, we were only staying one night. We did not have time to listen to the wireless in front of a roaring fire or enjoy evening refreshments with our fellow visitors. Before we left, we did get to meet them over breakfast. The distinctive features of the inn and its separate rooms provided easy icebreakers, as did the adorable feather-eared daschund staying downstairs. The table was set with china and silver-plated flatware; the innkeeper, Victor, kept popping in and out to fill these with orange juice, water, milk, cream, coffee, tea, cereal, omelettes, quiche, sliced and freshly-baked muffins, and sausage patties. It was nothing like the stiff and dull continental breakfasts I'm used to.

Afterward, we all split up, sadly, to pack our things. My girlfriend and I said goodbye to the clawfoot tub, the gorgeous tree-soaked views, the furniture. But we weren't quite done with the Apple Lane Inn. On our way out, we toured the grounds and found two swings, a golden pheasant (with a bench conveniently positioned in front of its cage for hours of fascinated viewing), a beautiful chestnut horse, a soft white rabbit, and a very friendly goat that ate out of my hand. We weren't about to leave without tracking those goats down! Apparently one had been in our very room once, had somehow climbed onto the second-story roof and through a window into what used to be a "small scary closet" and was now our massive bathroom. If we had had time for a real tour, we might have met more of these furry and feathered folks, including the peacock who was calling out to us invisibly from somewhere among the trees.
6265 Soquel Drive, Aptos, CA 95003
831-475-6868 or 800-649-8988

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