BARNSTABLE -- Did you hear the one about the novice innkeepers who didn't know the code to turn off their fire alarm when the fire chief showed up?
Patricia Martin and Vince Toreno, who bought Ashley Manor a year and a half ago, were discussing the fun and foibles of their new venture, finishing each other's sentences, taking turns layering on humorous details.
Their banter is a pleasant accompaniment to gourmet breakfasts served in the sunny dining room, which is the oldest part of the inn, dating to 1699. Toreno is the chef, and he impressed us with his ''muffin pan eggs," baked eggs wrapped in thin pieces of ham and dusted with parmesan and oregano on English muffins. We also enjoyed fresh fruit, yogurt, and cranberry pie with raspberry sauce. Toreno said later that he learned to cook from his mother.
Separated from Route 6A by a tall hedge and a broad front lawn, the inn is striking with high, steep gables. The interior is elegant without being frilly.
In the parlor, green-and-burgundy-striped love seats face each other in front of a large wood-burning fireplace. Traditional Cape Cod shutters complete the spare look. The library features brown leather club chairs, dark wood tables, and nautical wall decor. An assortment of cordials is set out in crystal decanters Martin has collected over the years.
We stayed in the Ashley Suite, overlooking the snow-covered backyard and gardens. It had a queen-size, four-poster bed and a pleasant sitting area with two recliners in front of the wood-burning fireplace. Hidden in a corner armoire were a television, wine glasses and a corkscrew, cheese tray and knife, and a mini-refrigerator stocked with bottled water. There was a coffeemaker in one corner and a decanter of sherry on top of a pretty stenciled bureau. A roomy closet held robes and extra pillows. Chocolates on the nightstand were an unexpected treat.
The bathroom was good-sized, with a walk-in shower for two and a double whirlpool bath, a hair dryer, and the inn's own brand of toiletries. Our only complaint was that it was noticeably chillier than the rest of the suite.
Michele and Gene Doherty of Revere, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary, found the chairs in front of the fireplace in King George's Suite a perfect spot to relax. Of our hosts, Michele Doherty said, ''They couldn't be any nicer."
Toreno and Martin may be new to innkeeping, but they know how to make guests feel comfortable and welcome. When showing us to our room, Toreno explained every detail, even warning us that because the suite is the farthest from the water heater, we should give the shower a moment to warm up.
When we sat down in the empty parlor on Saturday afternoon, Toreno suddenly materialized to light the fire; a few minutes later Martin was moving a floor lamp to shed more light on my husband's sudoku puzzle. When I mentioned at breakfast that we'd like to look at a local paper, Martin disappeared and returned with two. And when Michele Doherty asked Toreno for the recipe for his cranberry pie, he had it waiting for her, along with a bottle of raspberry sauce, at checkout.
Summer visitors to Ashley Manor can eat breakfast on the brick terrace, play tennis on the inn's court, or just enjoy the 2-acre property.
Contact Ellen Albanese at email@example.com.