February 2006 Issue
Isn't It Romantic
Ever since Cupid took that first archery lesson, Februray has been linked to romance. It's the perfect month for couples to get away and enjoy a change of scenery and each other's company at a cozy inn or B&B. The amenities are provided. All you nee
Felix Winternitz, Linda Feagler
A chance to reconnect
Ian and Yvonne Martin know a thing or two about romance. Twenty years ago, while Ian was recuperating from an auto accident that almost cost him his life, the couple re-evaluated their relationship and decided to make some changes.
"We took a serious look at our lives and said that we just didn't spend enough time together," Yvonne recalls. "We were ready to get out of the rat race." The fact that both were in high-stress jobs (she was a financial analyst, he worked in corporate account management) didn't make it easy to steal moments for themselves.
A quick getaway to a Key West, Florida, guest house in 1989 provided the inspiration - and the answer.
Three years later, the Martins left their native Canada, moved to Danville, Ohio, and became innkeepers. Their mission at The White Oak Inn? To make sure couples get plenty of R and R, as well as the opportunity to reconnect with each other.
The experience they've created, agree Yvonne and Ian - who will celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary in May - is tailor-made for two.
"We've found that our guests want a place where they can nest and do nothing," Yvonne explains. "We want to give them that - absolute togetherness."
The inn, which dates back to 1918, reflects a simpler time without skimping on luxury. Situated on a picturesque sandstone gorge bluff overlooking the Kokosing River, it was built in the Arts and Crafts style, constructed from red and white oak timbers milled on the property and decorated in soothing shades of burgundy, navy, green and cream. Each of the seven spacious guest rooms inside contains Victorian antiques and mission furniture, king- or queen-sized beds and panoramic views of the 14-acre countryside of sycamore, basswood, red maple and green ash. (The chamber pots are for decoration only: All rooms have a private bath.) The inn's luxurious ground-floor room, with its woodburning fireplace and whirlpool tub for two, was made for a romantic rendezvous.
Outside, three guest houses offer beamed cathedral ceilings and fireplaces. Two log-cabin cottages, which Ian built three years ago, feature fireplaces; two-person whirlpool tubs; snack centers with microwaves, sinks and coffeemakers; televisions - sans cable - and DVD players. (The inn, however, offers TV-free tranquility.)
"Other than clothing, guests really don't need to bring anything and really don't need to worry about anything. It's all here," Ian says "We take good care of them."
The ambiance comes complete with sumptuous breakfasts and dinners intimately served via picnic basket to a guest room or in candlelit elegance in the inn's dining room. Mornings begin with Yvonne's Southwest brunch casserole and freshly baked muffins (at this time of year, they're cranberry-orange or pumpkin raisin). Depending on the day or mood, four-course nightly repasts feature such specialties of the house as salmon with mango salsa, roast Cornish game hens and three-cheese pasta. For dessert, guests can try one of Yvonne's sinfully rich chocolate concoctions (a favorite is a chocolate pate made with Grand Marnier), and oatmeal chocolate chip walnut cookies. (Repeated requests for recipes prompted the couple to publish Cinnamon Mornings, Chocolate Nights: The White Oak Inn Cookbook, available for $15.95.)
When it comes to imbibing, nothing harder than sparkling cider is served, but guests may bring their favorite liquid refreshment.
The Martins offer themed packages year-round. Valentines Weekends February 10-11 and 17-18 feature something chocolate at every meal, along with roses and Belgian truffles to take home. Cost is $355 to $515 per couple, depending on the accommodation selected.
It's clear guests appreciate the hospitality. Many a marriage proposal has been offered on bended knee at the base of the stone wall out back, and diamond rings have been delivered on dessert plates.
"One couple even named their baby after Ian," Yvonne says with a smile.
The White Oak Inn, 29683 Walhonding Rd., Danville; 877/908-5923, www.whiteoakinn.com.
Roscoe Village, 381 Hill St., Coshocton. 740/622-9310. www.roscoevillage.com. This 19th-century canal town is filled with specialty shops stocked with books, soaps, candles and more.
Raven's Glenn Winery, 56183 Co. Rd. 143, West Lafayette, 740/545-1000. www.ravensglenn.com. The award-winning winery is known for its Raven Rouge red and Sweet Sonnet white.
Somewhere in time
Traversing the winding road leading to Hannah's House Bed & Breakfast parallels the opening chapter of many a 19th-century romance novel - the ones in which characters travel by horse and carriage through narrow groves of maple, walnut and cherry, ready for the adventure awaiting them at the manor house ahead.
Although 21st-century visitors to this B&B, located in Holmes County, rely on swifter forms of horsepower, reminders of a different age prevail: Hannah's House is located in the heart of Amish Country, where horse and buggy share the road with SUV, children attend one-room schoolhouses, and farming is done much the way great-great-grandfather did it.
The house complements the countryside in a contemporary way. Although it's Victorian through and through - from the leaded glass door to the light fixtures resembling gas lanterns, the home dates only to 1994, when Jim and Robyn Schrock built it as the family homestead. When Jim's job as a minister took him to Missouri two years later, his brother John and John's wife Wanda took ownership and turned it into a bed and breakfast.
In keeping with Jim's vocation, two of the five guest rooms are named after Biblical characters: David's Room, with its stately queen-size cherry four-poster bed and gas fireplace topped by a marble mantle; and Hannah's Room, the epitome of femininity with floral bedspread, wallpaper and window treatments. The Queen's Room brings a touch of summer to the winter landscape with its white wicker furniture.
"We love Victorian architecture and were determined to carry the theme throughout the house," says Wanda, who canvassed antiques stores throughout Ohio for the perfect pieces, including the buffet cupboard in the foyer and formal dining table for 10.
Hannah's House also offers two sweet suites, each with Jacuzzi for two. Apartment-sized, Joy's Secret Suite contains a full-size kitchen, breakfast nook and sitting room. The Master's Suite features a cozy reading room.
When weather permits, guests are lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of the back-yard waterfall, a favorite spot for summer wedding photos to be snapped.
All rooms have private baths, telephones, satellite TV with movie channels and sparkling cider. (Guests can bring their own bit of the bubbly.) Rates range from $105 to $195 per couple per night.
Before heading out to explore the B&B's environs, guests are invited to partake of a hearty breakfast of baked French toast filled with pecans and brown sugar, cream cheese strudel and the specialty drink of the house - a frozen fruit slush made of pineapple, bananas and orange juice.
Hannah's House Bed & Breakfast, 5410 Co. Rd. 201, Berlin; 800/329-9434.
SchÃ¶nheits Day Spa & Salon, 5336 Co. Rd. 201, Millersburg, 330/893-3101. Banish the midwinter blues with a peppermint sea twist body wrap, Swedish massage or cleansing facial, just three of the indulgences offered. Packages with lunch are also available.
Schrock's Amish Farm & Village, 4363 St. Rte. 39, Berlin, 330/893-3232. Gramma Fannie's Quilt Barn and the Berlin Antique Mall are two of the attractions at this popular destination that offers visitors a slice of life, Amish style.
Comfort and joy. That's what Oxford's White Garden Inn is all about.
That, and pure romance. "The inn is a fantastic romantic getaway. It's quiet and very spacious, so couples can remain as private as they want to be," observes John Alexander, who opened this bed-and-breakfast in the late 1990s along with his wife, Linda. (The structure, built in Victorian style with a hint of Cape Cod, may look vintage, but it was actually constructed in 1998.)
Catering to the romantic traveler as well as parents of Miami University students - the campus is only a few miles away from the B&B - the inn sets a lofty standard for itself. "You arrive as a traveler and leave as a friend," says John.
The house encompasses some 9,000 square feet and includes five bedrooms (all with private baths), each decked out in a garden theme: "Iva's Garden Room," which overlooks the inn's namesake, an all-white garden with gazebo; "Sunshine Room" with yellow decor and pink accents; "Periwinkle Room" with a huge brass bed and antique oak pieces; "Autumn Rose" with an antique mahogany four-poster bed; and finally, the "Queen Anne Suite," a 700-square-foot bedroom featuring a cozy fireplace and 20-foot-high cathedral ceiling (famous faces who've stayed here include actress Geena Davis).
Each room features picturesque windows, and soft terrycloth robes are hung in each bath for every guest's comfort. Wear one as you stroll down to a breakfast of stuffed French toast, quiche, blueberry pancakes, souffle or Southwestern egg casserole, all served at the six-foot circular glass-top table in the dining room.
Common areas include the structure's wraparound veranda, gazebo, and the property's five acres that boast multiple gardens. The Alexanders encourage visitors to roam the surrounding countryside, a rustic setting surrounded by woods. Or take a trip into the quaint college town of Oxford, which offers shops, restaurants, bookstores and coffee houses.
Rates range from $85 to $159, and the guesthouse accepts credit cards. The inn is totally nonsmoking, and children 12 and over are accepted.
"We keep a journal in every room," notes John. Guests are welcome to read the notations from guests past. "We get some really wonderful entries."
One poetic excerpt from the journal in the Iva's Garden room:
"Life goes through Iva's Garden,
winding in and out through the years,
of seasons that change,
we live through the years,
we live through the seasons."
The White Garden Inn, 6194 Brown Rd., Oxford; 513/524-5827 or 800/324-4925. www.whitegardeninn.com.
Hueston Woods State Park and Nature Preserve, 6301 Park Office Rd., College Corner, 513/523-6347. Just a few minutes away is Hueston Woods State Park, with 3,600 acres of hiking trails, a beach at Acton Lake, bridle trails, bike rentals and boat rentals. Bird-watchers will encounter an astounding variety of birds - some 150 species, at last count.
The Miami University Art Museum, 801 S. Patterson Ave., Oxford, 513/529-2232. The Miami University Art Museum, built in 1978, houses five galleries of changing exhibitions and a permanent collection of 16,000 artworks. Admission is free. Hours are Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 12-5 p.m.
Kona Bistro, 31 W. High St., Oxford, 513/523-0686; The Governors Room at the Alexander House, 22 N. College Ave., Oxford, 513/523-1200. For a truly romantic meal, the White Garden's proprietors point to two restaurants located just a few minutes away from the inn, The Governors Room and Kona Bistro cafe. Kona Bistro is known for its barbecued pork chops with sweet potatoes, spicy jambalaya and vegetarian dishes. The Governors Room promises "gracious dining" and features gourmet selections such as lobster.