"All this, and Heaven too."
We spent a weekend getaway on the occasion of our twenty-fifth anniversary at this bed and breakfast in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, with hosts George and Katie Hoy. It was the weekend of our lives and in many ways it was even more magical than our wedding and honeymoon 25 years earlier.
Getting There - The adventure begins.
The drive from the expressway is actually short and not terribly remote (map), but it is nonetheless a transport back through time in slow motion. Interspersed among newer homes and developments are the enduring relics of bygone eras: barns and farmhouses, many now home to cottage businesses. With each new discovery the evidence grew that this was going to be an amazing adventure.
A small sign at the side of the road points out the lane that leads to a simple white farmhouse sitting patiently in the late afternoon sun. Having not thought to ask if we should knock, afterall it is a private home, we decided to tap on the glass. Nothing. So we knocked on the door; but still no one answered. Trying the knob the door clicked open, so we leaned inside and called out "Hello?" Immediately footsteps were heard popping overhead and shortly George burst into the entry hall.
After handshakes and introductions, he suggested unwinding from our drive and led the way to a comfortably decorated period living room. We chatted over tall glasses of the best-tasting ice water and after several minutes were joined by Katie who was brought up to speed in short order. Together they led us to our room where they offered a few instructions and withdrew. Not until the drive home three days later would we discover what neither of them ever mentioned: we had arrived 30 minutes before they opened and George had been dispatched to distract us until Katie and her helper put the finishing touches on the room. The brochures we were taking home for friends plainly stated: "Arrivals after 4:01 p.m." We knew with certainty that we had arrived around 3:30.
Our Room - "I think we're alone."
The inn has both suites and double rooms. Our room was the Simon Perkins, one of the doubles. Like every room throughout the house, it was furnished in Ohio antiques and decorated in keeping with 1850's sensibilities. There were coordinated full-size four-poster bedsteads fitted with modern bedding and made up with down comforters and antique "Ohio Star" quilts. Sleeping comfortably was not a problem; however, prying ourselves out of bed every morning was. In addition to a chest of drawers and wardrobe, the room boasted a writing table with chair, a blanket box as a window seat and all of the lighting had been converted to electric. In a departure from the 1850's theme our room had a private modern bath instead of a chamber pot and basin.
George and Katie are the models of pampering innkeeping which means they anticipate their guests' needs as well as make them feel comfortable and at home. In our room was a tray holding an insulated silver pitcher filled with ice water, glasses, and a small assortment of locally-made mints and "buckeyes" (candies). Not only did this convey a welcome but it also meant we did not need to settle for warm bathroom faucet water in the middle of the night. Our room was also stocked with a small collection of quality books from light classics to local authors. On the bed lay two other books: one was a binder of information and emergency procedures, as well as local data and events including directions and maps. The second book was a journal where guests could write down their impressions, compliments and suggestions. (PS: It was also fun to read the entries of previous guests and reflections on their stay.)
Environs - "What do you want to do?"
While frequently guests are partaking in a nearby activity or event, it is possible - and common - for guests to come to the inn to do nothing. That is, nothing except napping, or sitting in the porch swing, or reading, or walking over to the falls, or even helping to feed the chickens. Chickens? Yes, the inn has its own brood of chickens which supply the eggs for the breakfasts (vegetarians can be accommodated - just ask). However, I am not fond of dealing with roosters so we passed on the chicken feeding.
Wanting a blend of both, time to do nothing and time to sample the local culture, we had selected this bed and breakfast because of its proximity to nature and history, as well as railroading, bike trails and golf. If you are thinking we spent our entire weekend rushing around, think again. The only pre-arranged activity was the ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad because it was the first run of the season and guaranteed to sell out; that and we did bring our own bikes. The rest of the weekend we operated on the whim-system; as in on a whim we took two long lazy bike rides down different sections of the towpath trail, and on a whim we explored the Canal Visitors Center, and on a whim we just hung around the inn, and on yet another whim we hiked to the falls using the hand-whittled walking sticks kept on the front porch.
We did have one morning of separate activities because my husband likes to sample local golf courses, but I don't golf and he didn't want to abandon me for 5 hours. The solution presented itself in the morning paper's notice for a quilt expo being held at the Hale Farm and Village. So I spent the morning drooling over 19th century quilts and he accepted the challenge of "the back nine" at Brandywine Country Club. It was the perfect compromise.
Breakfast - "Did I actually say I wasn't hungry?"
According to George they see a lot of liars at their breakfast table; people, who on the phone swore they just needed coffee and a roll, but actually wolf down every last Pecan Waffle and crumb of Raspberry Pecan Coffee Cake on the Lazy Susan. We had the pleasure of three breakfasts and one Sunday Brunch. But for the Hoys, the purpose of breakfast is greater that just filling their guests' stomachs; the breakfast experience is about community and the sharing of ideas and experiences as well as good food in gracious surroundings. It is also a part of the commitment they say they made before ever accepting the first visitors in 1988: "No guest would ever leave hungry."
We can attest to the fulfillment of that vow as over the course of our stay we were filled with delicious handmade food, a sense of peaceful refreshment, clean country air, warm hospitality, stimulating conversation with gracious hosts and fellow guests which has stayed with us for a long time. But it feels about time for a booster treatment soon.
Disclaimer: Our visit was in 1999, so if you visit the inn in the future your experience may reveal changes from the above descriptions.
This is my entry in Scribbit's May Write-Away Contest.