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Staying at The Beau Fleuve Bed and Breakfast Inn: Good food, good conversation

On November 28, 2007

A couple of months back all I knew about Buffalo, New York was that in the nineties the Bills played in the Super Bowl so many times it seemed like they were the home team.  A random newspaper article about a boathouse being built in Buffalo this year from plans conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright changed that myopic view, although it wasn’t until I actually went to Buffalo and stayed there that the beauty, architectural richness and lively local culture were fully brought home to me.

Driving into the city in the dark of a Friday night, I had little trouble finding the B&B I’d quickly selected after a brief internet search.  I had chosen it entirely based on the pictures on its website of the house’s stained glass windows.  I first stayed in a B&B in England and quickly became a fan of this sort of accommodation: a generally less expensive lodging that – for me – gives a more authentic feel for a place particularly during a short visit.  The Beau Fleuve takes this basic concept but adds the distinctive touch of the home’s owners for almost twenty years, Rik and Ramona Whitaker.

The Beau Fleuve Bed and Breakfast Inn
The guest entrance is on the driveway side.

The Inn offers a few touches not seen in B&Bs with which I’m familiar:  robes, a fully stocked refrigerator and snack area upstairs, toiletries in the bath but it is around the breakfast table where the Beau Fleuve truly stands apart.  In most B&Bs you have a selection of simple foods which are served to each set of guests at individual tables, restaurant style; at the BF the guests sit together around a large dining table and are served a mostly predetermined meal (exceptions are cheerfully made upon request).  Both mornings the food Ramona cooked was on par with the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten:  fruit, yogurt, coffee, tea, juice, wonderful little fresh baked muffins with orange icing, followed by waffles one morning and a quiche like frittata the next.  The food was served in courses by Rik who kept a watchful eye on empty plates and cups.  A by product of this wonderful food shared around a common table was something I’m not generally too keen to do:  talk with strangers before ten in the morning.  After a little warming up to the idea though, the conversation shared around the breakfast table became one of my favorite memories of the trip and I’m sure that’s just what Rik and Ramona had in mind.

One couple appeared at the table both mornings.  The wife had Italian roots and shared stories of a B&B her relatives run in Italy.  Her husband began the meal quietly but soon joined in with an exceptional breadth of scientific knowledge that flowed easily into the conversation.  Our company that first morning also included a young man who was a journalist in the Middle East and his friend who spent her summer doing environmental work in the wilds of Canada including a memorable close encounter with a bear.  The final member of our first morning breakfast brigade was a British woman now residing in Canada; she had a Julie Christie profile and an impressive command of a wide range of subjects from art to psychology and beyond.  The second morning she, the journalist and the environmentalist were replaced by a young man from Buffalo and his wife.  They now live in Washington, D.C. where he is the principal of a charter school.  Listening to the two of them talk about the tremendous challenges faced by urban youth and their educators was both humbling and inspiring.  The conversation around both morning tables made you want to rip into the day and explore the unexpected treasures of Buffalo.

One of the first of these treasures lay on the upstairs landing of Beau Fleuve where the morning light flooded through the home’s original stained glass windows – a most fitting sight on a day that would begin with a trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s first residential commission:  The Martin House.

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