Staying at a bed and breakfast should be like going to stay at the home you wish you had. A good innkeeper dotes on you like your parents, but without the guilt and judgement. Usually, the choice of where to lodge on vacation is utilitarian. You choose a hotel that meets your budget and location requirements. Choosing to stay at a B&B, though, requires a different mindset. The B&B is the vacation.
B&Bs are designed for couples. You could stay at one as a single, and I have, but the stay loses its snugly coziness. When you stay with your special someone, you can lay on the overstuffed couch in front of a real fireplace, head on his or her lap, reading thick books together. You can sit at a humble breakfast table enjoying your cold peach soup and apple pie french toast while holding hands and planning the day’s adventures.
A Michigan October is a wonderful time to visit a B&B. If you wait until the middle of the month and travel only four hours north of metro Detroit, you can experience what makes the state a marvel. The highways pass through canopies of leaves turned a rusty version of the warm rainbow colors. A rise in the highway might offer a glimpse of vast forests splashed with color. Get off the highways and on to the state and county roads and you’ll experience tunnels of color and dappled light. You’ll drive by lakes, deep green and cold, hiding amongst the trees. Beckoning roadside vendors offer pumpkins, apples, and deer-hunting sized bags of carrots.
Recently, my wife and I made a return visit to The Inn at Crooked Lake. Unlike our previous stay when the breezes were warm and the trees lush and green, this visit was on a weekend of chilled air and blushing, thinning trees. We made the five-hour trip on a Friday, mostly avoiding the interstates. Knowing that the rooms have no televisions, we brought books and music.
The inn, as most B&Bs probably are, is a converted house. The front and half of the north side are framed by a covered porch with wicker chairs and pots of geraniums and mums. Crooked Lake is across the road. From the inn, you can see the manicured lawn of a small park sporting a constantly running drinking fountain. Dominating the lawn is a monument to a dead county official. Constructed of stone and concrete and homeplate-shaped, the monument rises four feet from the grass.
Each sunrise and sunset, my wife and I relished a beautiful performance of nature’s delights. Past the park and beyond the lake are rolling, forested hills splashed with Michigan autumn colors. Each sunrise, while lounging on a porch chair sipping from heavy mugs of steaming tea and coffee, we watched a thick fog slowly dissipate from the lake across the road, revealing the icy green and blue water and the silhouetted hills. Each sunset, while we savored a delicious dessert set out by the innkeeper, the slowly goldening light deepened the colors of the hills, lending them the look of a Seurat painting.
With sunsets now occurring before 7 p.m., we returned early to the inn from our daily jaunts. We requested 9 a.m. breakfasts so we could have an easy start to the day after an 8 a.m. sunrise. This gave us considerable time to appreciate our chosen B&B. The Inn at Crooked Lake only has five rooms, four on the second floor and one on the first. During each of our two visits, we were fortunate that only one other room, that on the first floor, was occupied, leaving us the sole proprietors of the second floor. The innkeeper retires to her house next door.
According to the innkeeper, a guest once remarked that “there are no right angles in this house.” To which she replied, “you wouldn’t have any right angles either if you were over a hundred years old.” Otherwise, the house shows no sign of such age. The common area floors, walls, and ceilings are covered with rich, high gloss, dark coffee cream brown pine boards. The breakfast area tables and chairs and the living room couch, love seat, and coffee table are of heavy wood. In contrast, the living room seat and couch are covered with thick, overstuffed cushions and piled with plush pillows.
Fire, one of the ancient fundamental elements of nature, brightens and warms the house during the day and at night. The breakfast area is awash in the fire of the sun’s morning light through large, many-paned windows. At night, a fireplace in the breakfast area and another in the living room throw their soft flickering glow on the walls.
Each evening, a different dessert is set out for guests. Our first night, my wife and I cuddled together on the fire-warmed sofa with a plate of Honeycrisp apple slices and Havarti and blue cheese wedges. The next night, we enjoyed brownies. I brought a book of short ghost stories written in the 19th century and my wife read a romance novel, coincidentally set in the same century. While we noshed on our treats, the night outside grew so dark that if it weren’t for the occasional car, one could imagine the windows had been painted black. (An excellent environment for ghost stories!)
A two-night weekend at a B&B needn’t be expensive. Our weekend cost only $206, including sumptuous breakfasts and decadent desserts. I would recommend either a small B&B or one with nooks into which you and your loved one can disappear for a few hours. Choose a location that feels isolated at night–you’re not taking a B&B vacation to go clubbing. You may even find a wonderful B&B less than an hour from your house, providing a getaway without the potentially stressful drive. Do it sporadically so it stays special, but definitely do it.