LANGLOIS After last summers 2,000-mile romantic bed and breakfast tour of Oregon, my wife and I decided to try something a little closer to home for our anniversary in June.
While there are wonderful B&Bs in the Brookings area, its not exactly a getaway if you stay where you live.
Besides, our guidebook, The Best Places to Kiss in the Northwest, doesnt rate anything south of Gold Beach. I think thats a mistake, but we were looking to get at least that far away anyway.
Instead of awarding stars, the book ranks lodging, restaurants and natural settings by lips, with four lips having the most romantic potential.
The Floras Lake House ranked two-and-a-half lips, but after our stay, wed rank it higher: three lips at least.
The bed and breakfast and Floras Lake Windsurfing rentals and lessons are owned by Liz and Will Brady. Both businesses adjoin Boice-Cope County Park.
The Bradys run the windsurfing business, while their B&B is managed by Pat and Bruce Stannard.
We found all four to be friendly, helpful, informative and unobtrusive when you want them to be.
The house was designed as a B&B with four guest rooms and a living room-dining area. The extremely tasteful decor varies from room to room. It avoids that overstuffed fru-fru look without being stark.
Every room has large windows, virtually glass walls, that face the manicured grounds, lake and ocean.
The rooms are exceptionally clean, and are well-stocked with plenty of extra towels, blankets, and yes, dear readers, toilet paper.
Maybe it was because of our anniversary, but the room was also supplied with fresh flowers and a bottle of Spanish champagne. The continental breakfast even included fresh pancakes.
We enjoyed our stay, wouldnt hesitate to recommend the Floras Lake House to others, felt it ranked well against the best B&Bs in Oregon, and even considered it a pretty good value at $135 a night.
So why wouldnt we, or the authors of our guidebook, give it four lips? For all the attention to detail, it fell down on a few basics.
All those windows generate a tremendous amount of heat from the afternoon sun, even with the blinds closed.
Each room has only one window that opens for ventilation, and in only two rooms do those open on the cooler side of the house.
Our room did finally cool off sometime before dawn, but the open window meant being serenaded by barking dogs from the neighborhood and campground.
We had no hope of using the fireplace, and fireplace rooms cost $30 extra. There was no air-conditioning.
Yet, even in the summer, the bed was covered with a thermal blanket, a heavy quilt, and another heavy blanket. There were plenty of extra blankets in the bathroom.
Im guessing the emphasis on heat over cold derived from a basic difference between us and our hosts.
All four of them are athletic, without an ounce of body-fat between them. We, frankly, are couch-potatoes and do have, well, at least an ounce of natural insulation.
They, and their windsurfer guests, spend a lot of time in cold water. We dont need to warm up after a long day on the lake.
It shouldnt come down to whether guests like hot or cold, however. The best hosts anticipate varying needs and do whatever it takes to make every guest comfortable.
Ive said it before and Ill say it again: every B&B needs air-conditioning. The best places weve stayed at have it. The owners of the others told us they dont need it where they are located. We were told that once in the Willamette Valley in August.
That might just be a difference in philosophy, but some of the other omissions at the Floras Lake House were puzzling.
Instead of facial tissue, there was a basket of cotton balls. Great for removing makeup maybe, but dont try to blow your nose in one.
Instead of shampoo, there was a little bottle of body wash. The label made it sound like bubble-bath. I wasnt about to try it on what little is left of my hair.
The room was remarkably clean compared with most places, but an experienced innkeeper like myself could find the odd cobweb or dust patch that most guests wouldnt notice. And one of the only two reading lamps in the room didnt work.
For breakfast, I would have appreciated a choice in juices, or maybe some cereal without oats or raisins. Im allergic to both.
Honestly, except for the heat thing, those are all quibbles, but getting them right is the difference between a good lodging experience and a perfect one.
Although our hosts recommended The Wheelhouse in Bandon for dinner, wed already made reservations at Harps-on the-Bay, which ranked two-and-a-half lips in our guidebook.
We werent disappointed. The service was attentive, the view of crabbers on the bay great and the music romantic.
The lightly battered halibut and chicken French was superb, the artichoke pizza salad truly original, and the chocolate-cappuccino-fudgecake to die for. It was a bit pricey, but worth it.
Our hosts said The Wheelhouse now has one of Harps cooks, and is even better.
Another good choice in the area is the creative cuisine at Paulas Bistro in Port Orford. Rosemary-chicken ravioli in gorganzola sauce may sound strange, but it really works.
As for the best spots to kiss, our guidebook gave three stars to Face Rock Wayside in Bandon.
The beach below the wayside is studded with spectacular rock monoliths. The wayside above offers great views of Face Rock, which according to Indian legend is a princess gazing skyward to avoid the advances of a sea god.
We found most of the parking lot, however, filled with diesel-dually pickups that seniors drove to the wayside to walk their poodles. Nothing wrong with that, but its not really romantic, unless youre a poodle of the opposite sex.
We chose instead to drive back to Floras Lake and walk out to the beach there.
The old bridge over the New River is out, so until a new one is built, hikers must cross the small stream on a raft to reach the beach. It turned out to be a lot of fun.
The beach along Floras Lake and to the south has been closed to protect snowy plover nests, but you can walk north almost all the way to Bandon, so there is no lack of sand.
Alone on a vast beach, surrounded by a glorious sunset, we gave the setting two pairs of lips: ours.
Another trail leads south from Floras Lake about four miles to Blacklock Point.
Catching on to the couch-potato thing, our hosts suggested a shorter route out to the point from Cape Blanco State Airport.
What they considered to be a short stroll turned out to be a four-mile round trip through a mosquito-infested swamp that would have given Balboa pause.
It turns out the hiking limit of a person who spends all his time in county meetings, or sitting in front of a computer writing about them, is about two miles.
Worse yet, the view from Blacklock Point is about the same as the one from the end of Cape Blanco, which you can drive to.
I was tempted to call search and rescue, but I would have had to hike back to the car anyway to do so. Besides, I would have had to write up the article about my own rescue.
I later learned our hosts like to jog out to the point, the long way. Given the vast difference between us and them, I guess we had a pretty good time at the Floras Lake House. Trust me, athletic-types will like it even more.
Call (541) 348-2573 for information and a warm welcome.