Inspired vision has always been nurtured by the grandeur of Yosemite. After motor car access to Yosemite Valley was made possible in the early 1920s, George Mather, first director of the National Park Service, ordered the construction of a first-class hotel in the park. His plan was to cater to society’s growing love affair with the automobile. The Ahwahnee opened in July, 1927.
Today, the Ahwahnee is considered by many to be the finest hotel in the national park system. Hallmarks of its design include massive amounts of granite, steel and concrete, with surprisingly little wood, to reduce vulnerability to fire. The scale is grand, with an interior décor “that would be that of a quiet, luxurious country home.” Mosaics, room-banding stencils, and medallions, most of Native American derivation, are plentiful in the decor.
The dining room is spectacular, at nearly half a football field in length, with seven immense windows, and a 34-foot high ceiling of exposed beams. With a short wait for a
table, I went to the outside patio of the Ahwahnee Bar and enjoyed a Talisker single malt Scotch whisky. Dinner in the grand room began with a roasted pear and gorgonzola tart, with caramelized cipollini, and tossed cress with basil olive oil. The aroma and taste of the roasted pear tart determined that my whisky be Glenfiddich 12. My entrée, by Chef Percy Whatley, was a perfectly prepared and served grilled Brandt Farms beef filet mignon, with crispy sweetbreads, horseradish mashed potatoes and broccoli raabe and béarnaise. Dessert was a Macallan 18 while listening to the resident pianist playing Cole Porter, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and a touch of John Williams on one of two Steinway grand pianos. Sound sleep ensued!
Day Three: a dash down CA 99 and I-5 to home and reality.