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Welcome to the hotel california

by Monique Louis

On a dark desert highway, the cool wind in my hair. Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air. Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night—OK, it wasn’t a dark desert highway, more of a friendly and bright Baja street. The wind at the time was cool, although it wasn’t in my hair cause I had my hair was up in a ponytail. There were definitely no colitas involved since a gram of which will earn you a couple of months in jail. And I don’t remember seeing any shimmering lights although I did see a traffic light (the only one in the entire Todos Santos area in fact). No heaviness of head and dimness of sight was experienced, but I definitely wanted to stop, not just for a night, but for an entire week at the famed Hotel California in Todos Santos, Baja California.

Time and time again, several circumstances have proven that the popularity of urban legends benefits local tourism greatly. In Europe for instance, there are plenty of supposedly haunted castles, dungeons and cathedrals that have been a permanent feature on tour maps because of their interesting histories and the intriguing beliefs and rumors that surround them. In Baja California, Mexico however, there is located a little hotel known to millions and millions of people all over the world because of a very popular song. The band who popularized this song was no less than the rock icon the Eagles and the song was known to everyone as Hotel California.

Although I wasn’t even born yet during the time Hotel California was first performed and released by Don Henley and fellow band members, the song has retained its appeal and popularity up until the twenty-first century. I have come across a past copy of the Rolling Stones magazine where it was said that Hotel California was one of the fifty greatest songs of all time (it ranked number 49 I think). I have always loved the song and it is a permanent track in my iPod now. So when I read an article in the Internet mentioning the real Hotel California in Baja which supposedly inspired this all time favorite song of mine, I decided to invite some friends to come and spend a week there with me.

It was rumored that Don Henley was staying in Hotel California in Todos Santos when he wrote the very eerie yet very enchanting song that was entitled after the name of the hotel. So I expected to arrive at an old-looking and dark building that stands in the middle of the desert by itself. I had in mind a structure that resembled one of those dilapidated wooden motels, something like the one in Psycho, with a sombre looking sign, peeling paint work with a noticeable aura of mystery and gloom. You could then understand my surprise when we arrived at a very pleasant and bright looking hotel with a sign at the facade bearing the words Hotel California.

There were plants and flowers in profusion everywhere. And inside, the halls and the eleven hotel rooms display bright vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, violets and blues. We were informed that the hotel California was salvaged from further ruin and eventually renovated by John Stewart and his charming wife Debbie. There were gently sloping archways and brightly colored windows everywhere one looks, and the decorations were perfect for a Mexican hotel. There were also no mirrors on the ceilings (thankfully!) and we were not served champagne on ice unlike the lyrics of the song. It was also fortunate for us that we booked a room in the hotel more than a month in advance because there were plenty of tourists and vacationers eager to check in at the famous Hotel California.

One of my favorite features of the Hotel California, Todos Santos are no doubt the Hotel California Bar and La Coronela Restaurante. The food in the hotel restaurant is beyond description, all fresh and delicious and unique. And the hotel bar was stocked with plenty of spirits and drinks to choose from, including wine and pink champagne. Ha! We also tried dancing to remember and dancing to forget in the bar which was especially lively and crowded during Friday and Saturday nights. It was fun joking around the very friendly hotel staff. We would sometimes address the hotel manager as captain and the lobby receptionist as night man and they were quick to go along with the jokes.

The entire stay was an enjoyable and wonderful experience and during the time when we were checking out of Hotel California, my friends and I kept singing, “You can check out every time you like, but I don’t want to leave”.

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