"Oh sleep! It is a gentle thing, beloved from pole to pole," British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." And, I might add, place to place. There's something special about bedding down where Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and Thomas Edison slept or catching 40 winks where the pillows once cradled the noggins of presidents and peacemakers.
In California, you can rest where these "rock stars" dozed off at numerous hotels that have reached or are flirting with the century mark. In a state where age can be considered a liability and destruction may be only a quake or a wildfire away, that's saying something. Here are some of our favorite grande dames of a certain age:
Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
On April 18, 1906, the day of the great San Francisco earthquake, instead of opening as scheduled, the Fairmont initially became a command center as fire broke out after the earth stopped moving — and before the fire reached the Fairmont. Its Corinthian marble columns withstood the quake, but the interior burned.
It began ruling Nob Hill when it opened for guests on April 18, 1907.
This centenarian is known for high-tech amenities such as flat-screen TVs, MP3 docking stations and Wi-Fi, hospitality and complimentary homemade chicken soup for guests "under the weather." The Fairmont has 591 guest rooms, including 62 suites.
Fairmont San Francisco, 950 Mason St., San Francisco; (866) 540-4491, http://www.fairmont.com/sanfrancisco. Rooms start at $249 plus tax. Special rates can be found in November and December. Small dogs are welcome (fees apply). The hotel offers a Pampered Pooch Package as well as a doggie mini-bar.
Palace Hotel, San Francisco
By the time the Palace turned 31, Oscar Wilde and presidents Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant had slept at the original Palace Hotel (which opened in 1875). Actress Sarah Bernhardt checked in with her baby tiger.
Opera great Enrico Caruso was in the Palace when the earthquake struck in 1906. Although quake damage was minimal, fire gutted the interior so the owners demolished the building and started over.
The new Palace opened in December 1909.
Winston Churchill, Amelia Earhart, Mark Twain and Sean Penn have slumbered here. President Woodrow Wilson courted congressional support for the Treaty of Versailles in the Garden Court (known for its stained-glass dome and Austrian crystal chandeliers).
In 1989, the hotel closed for a 27-month renovation to restore its original grandeur. Subsequent updates added a fitness center, flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi.
The Palace, 2 New Montgomery St., San Francisco; (415) 512-1111, http://www.sfpalace.com. It has 518 guest rooms and 34 suites. Guest rooms start at $599 a night. Pets are welcome ($100 cleaning fee except for service dogs).
The Paso Robles Inn
Hot springs gave rise to Paso Robles. When the three-story El Paso de Robles Hotel opened in 1891, it boasted large, airy guest rooms, 32 individual bathrooms and a 20-by-40-foot hot springs plunge bath.
After the hotel's original structure burned in 1940, new owners rebuilt and renamed the hotel. The Paso Robles Inn opened in 1942 with a main building and nine bungalow units. It features 98 nonsmoking guest rooms, some of which include personal hot springs mineral spa tubs. Several wineries and championship golf courses are nearby.
Paso Robles Inn, 1103 Spring St., Paso Robles; (866) 321-1828, http://www.pasoroblesinn.com. Rooms start at $129 a night. Lower rates may be found from November through March (off-season). By mid-2011, the inn plans to welcome dogs.
US Grant Hotel, San Diego
More than a dozen commanders in chief have checked into this hotel, including Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and both George Bushes. The hotel has also tucked in Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, Anthony Hopkins and Christina Aguilera.
The 11-story Empire-style neoclassical hotel, built by Ulysses Grant Jr. to honor his father, Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th U.S. president, opened Oct. 15, 1910, in downtown San Diego.
In 2003, the hotel was closed for a $58-million makeover. It reopened in November 2006 as part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts' Luxury Collection. The Grant has 270 guestrooms, including 47 suites.
US Grant Hotel, 326 Broadway, San Diego; (866) 716-8136, http://www.usgrant.net. Rooms start at $199 a night. Through Dec. 31, for $448 (before tax), guests can upgrade to a suite and receive breakfast for two under the 100th anniversary offer (promo code: GAN).
The Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows, Beverly Hills
Elizabeth Taylor spent six of her eight honeymoons in the Presidential Bungalow (Bungalow 5) of the Pink Palace on Sunset Boulevard.
When it opened May 12, 1912, the Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows was a white stucco Mission Revival style building (it wasn't painted pink until 1948) with a terra-cotta-colored roof, nestled on 12 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, surrounded by bean fields. The burg of Beverly Hills sprouted up around it.
El Jardin Restaurant was renamed the Polo Lounge in 1941 to honor Will Rogers and other celebrity polo players who partied at the hotel after polo matches in the bean fields. Its reputation for Hollywood wheeling, dealing and drinking grew.
In 1992, the hotel underwent a 2½-year, $100-million-plus renovation to restore and update the hotel's 204 guestrooms and suites and 21 bungalows. Amenities include a competition-size swimming pool, La Prairie Spa, a fitness center and high-speed Internet access.
Two new Presidential Bungalows, with 5,500 square feet of space, will debut in February or March. Rates will be $9,000-$12,000 a night.
Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 276-2251, http://www.beverlyhillshotel.com. Rooms start at $475 a night; bungalows start at $580. The hotel's Canine Connoisseur Program provides custom-made doggie beds and in-room doggie cookies. (Owners pay a $200 nonrefundable cleaning fee.)