The Normandy Inn - Known as the Manazanita Inn in Flaming Tree
Nestled in the heart of Carmel, California resides a quaint and picturesque inn, with French country-style architecture and brick and stone walkways leading to and around guest rooms and gingerbread-like cottages. Normandy pink geraniums and other colorful flowers dot the spaces here and there, and Phyllis A. Whitney chose this charming location to be her home base while visiting the area in search of settings for Flaming Tree. Later, the Normandy Inn on Ocean Avenue would also find its way into her book disguised as the Manzanita Inn.
The Manzanita presented its peaked roofs and half-timbered facade to Ocean Avenue, and wandered back in a series of rustic galleries, courtyards, and balconies that was endlessly fascinating and bewildering.
Built in 1924 by Carmel architect Robert Stanton and his wife Virginia, the Normandy Inn was designed to reflect their concept of gracious living. Virginia Stanton was a skilled hostess, having served as Party Editor for House Beautiful magazine from 1949 to 1964. In the 1960s, she authored several books on the art of home entertaining and also toured the country giving lectures on the subject. For a time in our history, she was considered one of the nation's foremost party experts. With such a reputation, it is no wonder that Phyllis chose to adapt the Stantons' inn for use in Flaming Tree. By the time Phyllis visited in 1983, the inn was being run by the Stantons' son Michael who met with Phyllis and likely gave her a tour of the premises. Just a few years later, possession of the inn was passed from the Stanton family to Max Hoseit, the inn's current owner and innkeeper.
My sister, a long-time resident of California, joined me on my trip, and like Phyllis did so many years ago, we decided to stay at the Normandy Inn. I was most interested in checking out the cottages. In Flaming Tree, Kelsey Stewart visits her Aunt Elaine (who owns the inn) and is given a room on the second floor of her aunt's cottage. Kelsey's guestroom has windows that overlook an unusual oak tree while also presenting a distant and limited view of the ocean. To find out if such a cottage existed when Phyllis visited the inn, I used a map of the inn to compare the layout of the cottages to the description of Aunt Elaine's cottage, and was able to narrow the location to two possibilities –- either cottage room 203 or cottage room 207. Although both rooms were booked for guests set to arrive later in the day, the manager of the inn, Sandra Backinger, generously allowed us to visit each room, and it was in room 203 that we found the best views of an oak tree in the courtyard below.
The cottage was on two levels, and her upstairs windows looked out upon a fantastically gnarled oak tree that was nothing like the tall oaks back home. Its roots had pushed up the cement on the sidewalk, and its limbs looped upon themselves in strange contortions, like something out of Edgar Allan Poe.
Could the tree in this photograph be the "gnarled oak" beneath Kelsey's window? Since there are other, more twisted oaks on the property, it is possible that Phyllis figuratively transplanted another tree to this garden area for use in her book. However, this is the tree in the courtyard that is visible from the window in cottage room 203.
Both cottage rooms had been redecorated in the years since Phyllis visited, however each one retained its shuttered windows just as described in the book.
|Hinged shutters had shaded the room from the afternoon sun, and when she had folded them open to the breeze, she could glimpse the ocean only a few blocks away..."|
If you like, you can view more photographs of this cottage and its interior.
To give you a glimpse into how the Normandy Inn probably looked when Phyllis visited in 1983, here is a brochure of the inn from her collection, although none of the photographs are of the interior of the cottage rooms. You can click on the page on the left to view a larger version of the front of the brochure. For the page on the right, you can click the individual photographs and text blocks to view larger pictures from the brochure.
Today the Normandy Inn consists of 45 rooms, suites, and cottages, plus three additional family style cottages. Hidden among the gardens is a lovely terraced swimming pool that invites relaxation. At times, the resident cat-on-duty named Mr. Tuffy can be seen prowling about the premises.
For our visit to the inn, my sister and I stayed in a guestroom suite in the main part of the building which was comfortably laid out with a kitchenette, sitting room (with a pull-out sofa), bedroom, and bathroom. The Normandy Inn is just a few blocks from Ocean Beach and is surrounded by Carmel's famous art galleries, shops, and restaurants. It is also a short drive to other popular destinations such as the 17-Mile Drive and the Pebble Beach Golf Course. So, before embarking on our day trips, we took advantage of the inn's daily continental breakfasts. In the evenings, we relaxed with some tea or a bit of sherry provided in the comfortable lobby of the inn. We had a very nice visit and would consider staying at the inn again when we return to Carmel.
I owe thanks to Sandra Backinger for taking time from her busy schedule to meet with us to provide a brief history of the inn and to bring us to see the cottage rooms. If you choose to visit the Normandy Inn, please let Sandra and her friendly staff know that you learned about the inn from The Official PHYLLIS A. WHITNEY Web site and Flaming Tree.
And if you visit the inn, perhaps you can solve a mystery for me...
When we visited the inn, we did not know the number of the room in which Phyllis stayed during her visit in 1983. However, after returning home, I discovered the lodging receipt from her stay at the Normandy Inn. On the receipt was the number 310. There is a room 310 at the inn, and although it is not a cottage room, a map of the inn shows that the room is located across the street from the cottages. It is also possible that a view from a window in this room may have sparked Phyllis' imagination into using one of the cottages in her book. From the room, it is likely that Phyllis would have been able to see the massive gnarled oak tree in front of the cottage housing room 203 (you can see this tree in the first photograph on this page). So, if you visit the inn before I have the opportunity to return, and you can investigate this room for me, write and let me know what you discover! This photograph from Phyllis' collection may also provide a clue. Is this a photograph of room 310?
Next, visit the mystical Nepenthe.
-- Philip Tyo, Founder and Webmaster of The Official PHYLLIS A. WHITNEY Web site