"Experience the art of our bed-and-breakfast, where it's never just room and bored"

illustration: Gregory Christie

Each sentence of the following reconstituted "brochure" is taken verbatim from an actual guidebook or from a Web site for one of 55 bed-and-breakfasts nationwide. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The Ravenscroft is a truly unique inn amid the country's largest concentration of furniture showrooms. Hosts Vann and Linda Bartle are likely to welcome guests wearing turn-of-the-century costumes. Their 13-year-old daughter, Naomi, frequently delights guests with her classical piano pieces. ARTIST IN RESIDENCE!

The Ravenscroft can sleep six people (it helps if you are very good friends). Our claim to fame is the unique customized stenciling in each room and our "early attic" décor. But it's the bric-a-brac that sets the tone. The cozy sitting room and dining area in the main house contain trophy birds and mammals, many of which Linda has stuffed.

In each bedchamber, you will find a Victorian nightgown and an old-fashioned sleep-shirt laid out for a lullaby night. The bed and table linens are hand-pressed and smell as if they've been dried on a line in the Alps.

In every way your hosts try to transport guests back 100 years to a gentler era where people cared about each other. Authentic Civil War music playing in the background brings this historic time to life. Guests will be involved in hands-on demonstrations involving cannons, muskets, and uniforms on a daily rotation.

Restoration, of course, is constant. The second renovation stage has resulted in a two-level addition, decorated with the assistance of an artist who has "an idea a minute." You can actually observe creek life through a glass coffee table in the sitting room. Though few of us today would want to live day to day with the rigors of pioneer life, we can still savor a sample of it, thanks to the Bartles.

The front yard has been landscaped in a manner so that no maintenance is required. Although the Bartles no longer keep pigs, horses, or chickens, you'll be entertained by several friendly cats and a herd of visiting javelinas (sticks are provided in order to keep these somewhat stinky wild pigs from poking their noses into your business). Joy reigns. Observe your being relax and expand. Pause. Our dogs will greet you.

Guests staying on the upper floors might be startled by the sight of "Chili Bean," a star bovine on the rodeo circuit who died of natural causes.

Here's good news for guests: Some of what you see is for sale. Linda gives a fascinating tour, which can last as long as two hours (can last much longer).

ROOMS The Egyptian Room is designed to make a couple feel like Antony and Cleopatra camping out in the desert. Guests remove shoes upon entering. The bathroom door is a life-size statue of King Tut, opened by tugging his beard, and the bathroom itself resembles the inside of a pyramid. The innkeepers try to maintain a romantic atmosphere that is not suitable for young children.

Aunt Myrtle's Bedroom was originally the dining room. You will enjoy the same hospitality experienced by thousands of guests, including Lady Bird Johnson, Alex Haley, George Bush's staff, congressmen, senators, and Fabio.

Uncle Frank's Room, found on the first floor, has easy access to the dining room and invites you to get to know Uncle Frank through pictures and memorabilia.

The Harley Room is decorated with motorcycle memorabilia. Its tin roof and rain make a great combination. Just like Nature, this room holds its own little wonders.

The Athena Wise Artisan is a carpeted room that says, "I'm glad you're here. I've created a relaxing place just for you."

The Paint Brush Room, at $65 per night, is an experience, not just a room.

In the neighboring yellow three-story 1864 mansion, mere whimsy gives way to flat-out fantasy. The three guest rooms are named the Carousel (merry-go-round appointments), Reflections (mirrors), and Iowa State (masculine). The slate-floor tavern beyond the dining room has a working fireplace and is reputedly where James Michener wrote the outline for Chesapeake.

The hot tub is in a wonderful historic setting, with an eclectic monogrammed towel collection. Don't forget to check out the framed hatchet hanging on the kitchen wall. It was found in a closet during a 1948 renovation; police have determined it was not the murder weapon.

Enjoy Vann's "mouthwatering" breakfast that has a touch of gourmet (sometimes there is a little brandy or orange liqueur in the product). You may then look forward to Linda's breakfast, each one an edible adventure! "Our own sausage." Everything is garnished.

"Have we died and gone to Heaven?"—S.K., Reston, Va.
"We have been made so welcome—sorry to leave."—The Cones, Yorkshire, England.