Charming bed & breakfasts close to home

By Bill Morton

By Bill Morton

On Travel

I don’t know about you, but my travel plans typically take on a decidedly local flavor when summer hits the Pacific Northwest. Carl Sandburg’s old line?“Wake me up about half past May” is poetry and truth to this born-and-bred Puget Sounder. There isn’t a better time to stay near home than from the middle of June to the middle of September.

Having said that, let me cull my favorite Northwest getaways for those of us who get itchy feet, but don’t want to get on an airplane this summer. Here is my list of four top-end B&B favorites. All are well worth the summer drives.

The Farm on Grays River B&B: Spanking new and country fresh, this outstanding B&B in the lightly-traveled southwestern corner of Washington is guaranteed to erase worry lines for anyone who stays a night or two. Georg (short for Georgene) and Bob Scott are longtime B&B gurus. They opened Bombay House on Bainbridge Island more than 25 years ago. After living in San Miguel de Allende, in the artistic Colonial Circle of old Mexico for a decade, Georg and Bob have brought their love of Mexico to one of the most bucolic farms in the Northwest.

Guests stay in the newly-built “bunkhouse” and can enjoy morning coffee on a big deck looking off into the pastoral fields of the Grays River Valley. Solace for sore eyes. Just two miles off the Columbia River and a half-mile off State Route 4 between Longview and the Long Beach coastal peninsula, the farm sits on the Columbia River flyway and is a birder paradise. Nearby Skamokawa is where visitors rent kayaks for nature tours along the Columbia and its many sloughs and rivulets.

Lewis and Clark buffs will love this area. Two hundred years ago this fall, the “Corps of Discovery” expedition hunted deer and elk in the Grays River area and spent two weeks camped along its shoreline during a typically-rainy November. History buffs also will make the two-mile trip to the last remaining covered wooden bridge in the state, built more than a century ago. The area is great for biking.

But my favorite reason for making this four-hour drive to Grays River is Georg and Bob. Bob loves animals, and a flock of several dozen sheep graze the farm. But the area is so peaceful, guests need not count sheep to get a good night’s sleep. Another fascinating part of the farm is the coterie of hens, roosters and muscovy ducks — no two the same color or even the same breed. The breakfast eggs, then, are minutes fresh, and no two are the same shape or even color in the shell.

Perhaps the best reason to book a room has nothing to do with the room. Georg is a world-traveled design maven, and her San Miguel de Allende art-design gallery was famous throughout Mexico, with an outlet in Manhattan. These days, Georg sells her Mexican finds in her Country Barn down at Grays River. Her silver, pottery, weavings, brass-work, wood-carvings, and forged candelabras are special because they are one-of-a-kind pieces. Amazingly, the prices of these imported objects d’art are below those in the galleries of Puerto Vallarta or Los Cabos. Georg knows the great Mexican artists, and gets priority when she places a custom order.

Mostly, Georg and Bob Scott are natural-born B&B hosts who know when people want a little conversation and when they want to soak in the peace and quiet of their farm. The price of $90 a night makes this B&B a really good value. Contact: or 360-465-2227.

A Touch of Europe B&B: If you’ve enjoyed the experience of a pensione or a gasthuse in Germany, you’ll love this Yakima B&B. The name hints at the essence of Erika and Jim Cenci’s surprising gifts of hospitality.

But let me start at the beginning. I became addicted to travel while stationed as a U.S. Army lieutenant in Germany 30 years ago. From beer halls to cordon blue dining rooms, I tasted it all and loved every second of it

Jim and Erika have brought that wonderful Europe of 100 years ago to Washington, and nowhere does it feel more right, or taste better than at their Yakima B&B.

Erika’s mom ran one of the great dining establishments of Berlin, and Erika is certainly as gifted in culinary arts as any executive chef east of the Cascades. She has a cooking television show and is working on her second cookbook.

When you book your B&B reservation, you’ll be asked if you would enjoy having dinner as well. Book it! Erika will build her three-, four- or five-course dinners around whatever wine you’ll plan to bring, and there’s no corkage fee! The entree choices are numerous: rack of lamb, pheasant under glass, salmon, trout, venison, elk, rabbit or duck. Erika does it all and the appetizers, soups, salads, sides, and desserts are all hers, too.

Jim’s role is “Herr Ober,” the black-tied, white shirted waiter who knows what you want before you do, and explains each course with care, but is never overbearing. Dinners are by candlelight, of course.

The Cenci’s mansion. a magnificent, tree-shaded Victorian with three guest suites, is on the National Historic Register. The house once belonged to one of Washington’s earliest female legislators who hosted President Teddy Roosevelt 100 years ago when he visited Yakima to elk hunt. Each guest room has been perfected — from fresh fruit and fine chocolates to super soft linens and bathrobes for lounging after a day of wine touring.

With Yakima wine and Erika’s dinners, guests are guaranteed pleasant dreams. A good night’s sleep is important because breakfasts here are another exercise in the very best of Europe. The lightest homemade baked sweets, the freshest eggs in Eastern Washington, and delights like broiled grapefruit will make you want to book extra nights. Forget Europe this year, go to Yakima instead.

Bonus: The Cencis accept dinner guests on a space-available basis, even if they don’t book a room at the B&B. So if you are anywhere near Yakima, this is the best place to enjoy a regal repast for 100 miles in any direction. Contact the B&B toll-free at 888-438-7073, or send an e-mail to

Run of the River Inn and Refuge: Monty and Karen Turner have crafted a jewel of a small inn on the banks of Icicle Creek just a mile outside of Leavenworth, and a million miles away from the rush and bustle. Run of the River is advertised as a refuge, and in this case, “refuge” is not hyperbole.

I’ve seen deer, herons, ospreys, and squirrels on-site, and visiting black bears are said to be common. The best black bear story involves some guests who were visited by a black bear while enjoying the hot tub spa under the stars one summer evening.

Run of the River may be Washington’s most luxurious B&B inn. The rooms are spacious, and come with massive rustic beds, lounge chairs, ample decks — and binoculars, a nice touch. The Turners’ decorative touches are everywhere, from the river rock-accented baths and showers to the antique fishing poles and American Flyer bicycles to the good books, perfect for idle thumbing

Run of the River packages lots of outside activities from cross country skiing, showshoeing, downhill schussing, and sleigh rides in the winter to river running and golfing in the warmer months. Just two hours from Seattle, this peaceful inn suits me fine. Call toll-free 800-438-7073 or the inn’s Web site at

Durlacher Hof B&B: I’m not a skier, but then, neither are the majority of visitors to Whistler. Summer guests go for the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, the boating, fishing, mountain biking, or simply to soak in the Alpine ambiance.

And speaking of Alpine, Peter and Erika Durlacher hail from southern Austria and have operated this top-notch Austrian B&B for more than 15 years. Just a mile up the road from Whistler Village, Durlacher Hof is a million miles away from the tour bus crush of popular Whistler

The Durlachers built their authentic Tirolian resort lodge from the ground up, importing hardware and windows and even oven ranges from across the Atlantic. From the characteristic colorful paintings on the white stucco exterior to the flowered decks and window boxes and alpen evergreen trees, the Durlacher pensione doesn’t overlook a thing. Taking off your shoes on the built-in benches of the entry hall and sliding into your imported, boiled wool, padded Haplinger slippers tells it all. This B&B is homey.

For information: Call toll free at 877-932-1924 or e-mail at