Fayetteville, West Virginia
On a plateau above New River Gorge National River park, Fayetteville is an adult's all-natural playground. In the last decade, a wave of adrenaline junkies has come to the southern West Virginia town for work (mostly as river rafting guides) and opted to stay for good. "There aren't many towns in the U.S. where you can walk out your front door and recreate in so many ways," says Kenny Parker, a transplant from nearby Blacksburg, Va. "There's world-class white-water rafting, some of the best rock climbing around, and excellent mountain biking." Parker and fellow rock climber Gene Kistler co-own Water Stone Outdoors, an outfitter that specializes in climbing gear (101 E. Wiseman Ave., 304/574-2425).
Sharon Rynard also divides her time between the outdoors and her indoor business. A painter and printmaker from Indianapolis, Rynard moved to Fayetteville 10 years ago to be a river guide. These days, she's also a climbing guide, ski patroller, and owner of Studio B Gallery & Gifts (101 S. Court St., 304/574-9100). "Why would anyone stick with just one thing in a place where there's so much to do?" she asks.
Fayetteville's nerve center is Cathedral Café (134 S. Court St., 304/574-0202). A deconsecrated Methodist church--stained-glass windows and all--it's where locals meet to sip coffee, catch up on river reports, and check e-mail. The restaurant is owned by Wendy Bayes and her husband, Rick, who met in Fayetteville as river guides nearly 15 years ago and thought running a café would be a good way to put down roots after their daughter was born. Bayes hasn't given up her thirst for adventure, though. She still makes time to go out on the river and hike nearby trails: "You never have to grow up. It's like Neverland."
Once a rowdy copper mining town, Bisbee--in the Mule Mountain range, 90 miles southeast of Tucson--still attracts a fair share of misfits and folks on the fringe. "Bisbee is for people who don't like the ordinary," says longtime resident Cynthia Conroy, a dog trainer. One prime example is Reed Booth, a.k.a. the Killer Bee Guy. Booth removes swarms of killer bees from wherever he finds them, collects their honey, and sells it at his downtown store, Killer Bee Honey (15 Main St., 520/432-2938, eight-ounce jar $6). Then there's Greg--no last name--who has trained his pets to stand in a pyramid: bird atop cat atop dog. (Sometimes, there's a mouse, too.) Greg can regularly be seen parading his menagerie around. Stylish amenities are slowly joining Bisbee's oddities. On the first Monday night of each month, the Prickly Pear Cafe has a themed meal and movie night. To accompany the 1998 film Run Lola Run, they served bratwurst and sauerkraut (105 Main St., 520/432-7337, movie night dinner $8). Behind the café is the Old Bisbee Wine Merchant; both are co-owned by partners Ryan White and O'Neil McGean. "We came for a visit and fell in love with Bisbee," says White. And at the Shady Dell, nine restored 1950s trailers, a yacht, and an old bus constitute the town's hippest motel (1 Douglas Rd., 520/432-3567, theshadydell.com, from $45). Since Bisbee sits in a narrow gap in the mountains, staircases often double as streets. To fully understand what makes the place so special, Conroy suggests standing at the top of the stairs and just . . . listening. "Normal sounds take on a musical tone," she says.
Jeff and Mary Stai experienced their first Mayberry moment eight years ago, while paying a weekend visit to this high Sierras town. Picnicking in a park with a river running through it, the Stais stared in surprise as a boy ambled out from the woods. "He was barefoot and carrying a fishing pole over his shoulder, with fresh-caught fish," Jeff Stai says. "We said to ourselves, 'We've got to keep an eye on this town.' " Five years later, the Stais uprooted from their home in Orange County and transplanted themselves to Murphys, three hours east of San Francisco. They bought a home and started Twisted Oak Winery, one of a dozen wineries within a three-mile radius of downtown (350 Main St., 209/736-9080). Murphys has been drawing new residents at a rate unrivaled since the mid-1800s, when it was founded by prospecting brothers Dan and John Murphy. At that time, fortunes in gold were hauled out of the hills. But Murphys' current commodity is its quality of life. "People here are most concerned with friendships and community," says Jennifer Wren Stoicheff, who left behind her Bay Area catering business to move to Murphys. She founded Alchemy Market and Wine Bar, a gourmet emporium and restaurant (191 Main St., 209/728-0700, smoked turkey sandwich with jalepeño chutney $10). "They don't care what you do for a living, or what kind of car you drive. And everyone seems to know everyone else's kids." The elm-shaded Main Street retains time-capsule touches, such as the Gold Rush-era Murphys Hotel, where Mark Twain and President Ulysses S. Grant each stayed (457 Main St., 209/728-3444, murphyshotel.com, from $49). New housing developments on the edge of town are an indication that fresh crops of urban exiles are on the horizon. In the meantime, Murphys continues to offer more of those Mayberry moments--the doctor who makes house calls, the barista who knows exactly how each local takes his cup of coffee. "Murphys has that small-town sensibility in the truest sense," says Stoicheff.
It'd be easy to breeze through Barnard--before you know it, you've passed right by the general store and post office and left town limits. But it's worth stopping awhile. Barnard, just northwest of White River Junction in central Vermont, has a remarkably rich food scene. photo from Barnard Inn website Will Dodson, a San Francisco-based chef, took over the Barnard Inn Restaurant in 2000. "Sonoma and Napa Valley were way out of my price range," says Dodson. A family member found the Inn listed in The New York Times. "I came out, toured the area, and fell in love with it," says Dodson. "If you were stalled on the side of the road, the first person passing by would stop." The chef, his wife Corinne and their blended family now run the restaurant with a small staff. photo from Bernard General Store website The 19th-century Barnard General Store is owned by the Barnard Community Trust, the non-profit that was formed in order to "Restore the Store" when it went out of business in 2012. The store is not only the place to pick up groceries, but also serves breakfast and lunch. On the weekends order one of their famous pancakes such as mint chocolate chip, lemon blueberry or banana caramel. The General Store is also the go-to spot for a cup of coffee any day of the week and watch the sunrise across the street at the lakefront park. photo from the Fan House website The Fan House Bed and Breakfast is run by Sara Widness who comes to inn keeping after a career in international public relations. With working with so many clients Sara has perfected her art of delivering the finest in service and accommodation. Enjoy the surrounding beauty of nature while enjoying the luxury of this B&B. Fan House has several suites/bedrooms available each with their own bathroom. Nightly rates begin at $185 but increase during the fall foliage season mid September to late October. For more information and things to do visit the Community of Barnard site.
Secret Hotels of Cornwall
Primrose Valley Hotel, St. Ives Outside the front door lies a jumble of buckets and spades, brightly colored wet suits, and children's neoprene swimming socks. Just inside, a window ledge is crowded with wedding portraits, baby pictures, and some shots of then-shaggy-haired owners Andrew and Sue Biss taken in the early '90s. "We're slightly embarrassed of those," Andrew says. He needn't be: Primrose Valley is the kind of family-friendly place that lets it all hang out--stylishly. Since buying the Edwardian villa in 2001, the Bisses have ripped up old carpet to reveal hardwood floors, and they've nixed heavy antiques in favor of contemporary oak tables and soft Italian leather chairs. There's a full-service bar and a kitchen where the Bisses and Sue's mother, Rose, whip up full English breakfasts and picnic lunches using local ingredients. The 10 bedrooms come with private baths and vary in size. Four have ocean views--two from covered balconies. Primrose Valley is in a residential cul-de-sac just across a set of raised railroad tracks from crescent-shaped Porthminster Beach. As the hotel's website advertises, it's "bed to beach in under a minute." The nearby town of St. Ives--a five-minute walk--has been an artists' enclave since the 19th century (J.M.W. Turner, James McNeill Whistler, and Barbara Hepworth all lived here at one time or another). Its narrow cobblestone streets are home to galleries, studios, and an outpost of London's Tate collections. 011-44/173-679-4939, primroseonline.co.uk, doubles from $140, includes breakfast. Old Coastguard Hotel, Mousehole As its name implies, the Old Coastguard Hotel is a former lookout for the Coast Guard, and as such, it has the best ocean views in the harbor town of Mousehole (pronounced mau-zel). Picture windows look out on the bay in many rooms, which are decorated simply in a contemporary style, with beech and pine furniture and beige and brown fabrics. Of the 23 rooms, eight are in the Lodge, a newer annex down the hill. At the hotel's award-winning restaurant, the catch of the day (brought straight to the kitchen from the fish market at nearby Newlyn Harbour) is jazzed up with Thai spices, tangy salsas, and saffron. Not far from Land's End, the westernmost point in mainland England, Mousehole is a wonderfully typical fishing village--and an old one: Part of its south quay dates from the 14th century. The little cove is surrounded by shops, pubs, and tearooms. A walkway traces the coastline from the harbor, and passes right by the stone steps leading to the Old Coastguard's back garden gate. When the tide is out, large boulders are revealed just below the path. Guests bask on the sunbaked rocks, while children check out the natural tide pools, their long-handled fishnets at the ready. 011-44/173-673-1222, oldcoastguardhotel.co.uk, doubles from $158, includes breakfast. Trehellas House, Bodmin Built in 1740, Trehellas House has served as an inn, farmhouse, private home, even a courthouse. Some of its history is evident in the courtroom suite, where there's a cut-glass chandelier, a wood-burning fireplace, and a large bed that rests on what was formerly the judge's dais. (Another remnant of the past is the friendly resident ghost, Mr. Lobb, a farmer who owned Trehellas House 200 years ago.) The 10 other rooms have a comfortable country feel, with patchwork quilts, floral curtains, and iron beds. They're scattered throughout the main building and in a coach house annex across the gravel driveway. The restaurant, in one of the oldest and most striking parts of the building, still has the original slate floor, low-beamed ceilings, and a fireplace that's lit on cold nights. Trehellas House is a good base for garden tours. The hotel grounds are planted with soft grasses, flowering shrubs, and heathers. A stone patio is dotted with deck chairs and potted plants, and there's a large swimming pool--an unusual feature for a historic inn. The property backs onto the Pencarrow estate, a Georgian home with 50 acres to explore. Also nearby is Lanhydrock House, with extensive gardens of its own and a kitchen that would make Martha Stewart swoon: There are separate larders for fish and meat and a marble-countered dairy to keep puddings cool. The hugely popular Eden Project--with two enormous biomes that contain plants from around the world--is a 15-minute drive away. 011-44/120-872-700, trehellashouse.co.uk, doubles from $136, includes breakfast. Trevalsa Court Country House Hotel, Mevagissey German expats Klaus Wagner and Matthias Mainka have spent the last seven years creating a sumptuous pre-WWII atmosphere at Trevalsa Court, formerly a family home that dates from 1937. They've obsessed over every detail, down to the door handles. The 13 rooms are furnished with Lloyd Loom woven chairs, and the moss-green walls are decorated with black-and-white art. In the main sitting room, light streams through mullioned windows, lemons are piled high in a silver bowl, roses float in a shallow vase, and glossy art books in English, German, and French are stacked on the coffee tables. Dinner is served in the oak-paneled dining room, where tables are set with candles and white tablecloths and windows frame the sea. The German chef, Achim Dreher, sneaks Swiss-German influences into his menus with favorites like apple strudel and potato dumplings filled with prunes. Wagner and Mainka planted the garden with spiky palms, camellias, and flowering bulbs that bloom at different times of the year. "It definitely looks like a Cornish seaside garden," Wagner says. "But you also see palm trees and things to remind you that you're on holiday." Several pairs of Adirondack chairs on the lawn face the sea, and a path at the end of the garden leads to secluded, and highly swimmable, Polstreath Beach. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, a massive garden restoration project, are two miles away. 011-44/172-684-2468, cornwall-hotel.net, doubles from $158, includes breakfast. Mill House Inn, Trebarwith In a small wooded valley at the bottom of a steep road, this 18th-century former corn mill looks higgledy-piggledy, with roofs and windows at all different levels. A young crowd whiles away time on slouchy sofas in the reception area, waitresses crack jokes in the dining room ("If you don't eat that garnish, we'll use it again for your main course"), and a few friendly dogs lie at their masters' feet on the bar's original flagstone floor. Visitors feel less like hotel guests than locals who've popped down to the pub for a pint. Make that gastropub: The restaurant attracts diners from around Cornwall with locally sourced seafood and meats. Weather permitting, weekly barbecues with live music are held on the terrace. Upstairs in the nine bedrooms, the thick, whitewashed stone walls are unadorned, setting off the dark wood of the headboards and desks. All rooms have pretty views of the gardens; on a clear day you can just spy the sea from No. 6 and No. 9. The village of Tintagel, three miles away, is home to the remains of a castle said to have been owned by King Arthur. And Trebarwith Strand Beach is a half a mile down the road. 011-44/184-077-0200, themillhouseinn.co.uk, doubles from $140, includes breakfast. Mount Haven Hotel, Penzance Orange Trevillion was drawn to Penzance, at the end of Cornwall, because of the town's proximity to St. Michael's Mount, an ancient craggy island that looks a lot like a lopsided volcano. "It's a sacred place," says Trevillion, an eccentric with carrot-colored hair (of course) who believes that four of the Earth's energy lines come together here. Formerly the site of a Benedictine priory and rumored to have once been home to a giant, the island got its name when a fisherman claimed to have seen the Archangel Michael there many years ago. Trevillion and her partners bought Mount Haven in 2001. They knocked down walls and reconfigured the old coach house to maximize views of St. Michael's Mount and the ocean. Most of the 18 rooms look out on the water. They have a distinctly Asian feel, with silk bedspreads and throw pillows covered in embroidered fabrics from Trevillion's frequent trips to India. (Room 6 is the quietest, away from both the front desk and the terrace.) Even the restaurant--where many dishes are flavored with curry and lemongrass--has views of the Mount from one end. But the best seats are on the terrace: You can see the island rising steeply out of the water, a medieval castle on its tippy-top. (Owned by the National Trust, the castle is open to the public.) At low tide, when people stroll across a granite causeway to visit, it appears as if they're walking on water. Beyond Mounts Bay and Penzance--the city made famous by Gilbert and Sullivan--is Land's End. 011-44/173-671-0249, mounthaven.co.uk, doubles from $147, includes breakfast. Rick Stein's Café, Padstow British celebrity chef Rick Stein has created a dining empire in Padstow over the last 30 years, turning a once-sleepy fishing village into a destination for foodies. "I've lived here since the '70s and love its sense of timelessness--a little peace and tranquillity in a madly rushing world," says Stein. The narrow, winding streets of the town radiate out from the harbor, and visitors who wander amid the shops and restaurants will inevitably find themselves outside one of Stein's many establishments: The Seafood Restaurant, St. Petroc's Bistro, Padstow Seafood School, Stein's Deli, Stein's Patisserie, Stein's Fish & Chips, and Rick Stein's Café. Dinner at the Café is the most affordable way to experience Stein's way with seafood. The menu changes seasonally but may include entrées like whole deviled mackerel with a tomato and onion salad or deep-fried plaice with tartar sauce. Like any good host, Stein, having fed his guests, puts them up for the night, in four locations around town (The Seafood Restaurant, St. Petroc's Hotel, St. Edmund's House, and Rick Stein's Café). The three rooms above the Café are snug but comfortable. Stein's wife and business partner, Jill, designed the French-accented interiors: wrought-iron beds blanketed in white matelassé; toile and gingham fabrics on the windows and pillows; and ornamental fireplaces. Breakfast is served in the Café and features hearty fare such as bacon sandwiches on homemade bread and parmesan-and-smoked-haddock omelettes. Avoid visiting Padstow in high season (June, July, and August) and during school holidays, when the village turns into a giant tourist scrum. And no matter what time of year you go, be sure to make dinner reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment. 011-44/184-153-2700, rickstein.com, doubles from $149, includes breakfast. Watergate Bay Hotel, Watergate Bay The 70-room Watergate Bay Hotel is in a prime location on the cliffs above a wide, sandy beach. Over the years--and after many renovations, including a recent revamp of the guest rooms--the Victorian hotel has morphed into a full-service resort, popular with young surfers who come year-round from all over England. The main building houses a contemporary glass-fronted restaurant and bar, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a small spa, a billiards room, and a playroom. A short, sloping driveway just beyond the parking lot leads to the water's edge and to the second part of the complex, which includes a funky beach bar where reggae is almost always playing. It's the perfect spot for a casual lunch--salads, sandwiches, ice-cold beer--especially if you can snag one of the window tables with views of bobbing surfers. In summer, a grill is rolled out to the walkway next to the beach so folks can order burgers without washing the sand from their feet. Naked Chef Jamie Oliver's newest restaurant, Fifteen Cornwall, is slated to open next month above the beach bar. Also in the same building is the Extreme Academy, which offers rentals and lessons for surfing and a bunch of sports most people have never heard of (waveskiing, kite-landboarding, traction kiting). The city of Newquay--a popular spot for destination bachelor and bachelorette parties--is a few minutes down the coast. Skip it and have a sunset drink on the terrace at Watergate Bay, or head 20 minutes north to Padstow. 011-44/163-786-0543, watergatebayhotel.co.uk, doubles from $158, includes breakfast. Cornwall: When to go and how to get there A four- or five-hour drive from London, Cornwall gets very crowded and very expensive in high season, generally from June through August. We've listed prices for mid-season (April-May, September-October), which is quieter and therefore much more pleasant. You'll need a car to get around. Rent a small one, because once you leave the motorways, Cornish roads are extremely narrow. They're often lined with high hedgerows and have no shoulders. You can also make the trip by train or plane. Low-cost carrier Ryanair flies daily from London Stansted to Newquay (011-353/1-249-7791, ryanair.com, from $28 each way). Air Southwest has four flights a day from London Gatwick to both Newquay and Plymouth, in Devon (011-44/870-241-8202, airsouthwest.com, from $51 each way). Express trains run from London's Paddington Station to Plymouth and take about four hours (no phone, thetrainline.com, from $54 each way).