LENOX -- Even the birds love Brook Farm Inn . As we walked up the steps onto the front porch of the pretty beige Victorian, we noticed a nest in the eaves. And as we passed through the library, we saw red-bellied and downy woodpeckers hovering around bird feeders just outside the dining room window. Their finch friends soon joined in.
We needed an escape from summer in the city, and we found it here in the Berkshires, in an 1882 bed-and-breakfast run by Phil and Linda Halpern, just about the friendliest innkeepers we've met. "Tea is at four," said Phil, as he showed us to our room upstairs. Each of the 15 guest rooms has a name: Ours was The Gilded Age , and it had a claw-foot bathtub, an 11-foot ceiling , and a working fireplace ( we used the ceiling fan instead).
The rooms are designed with Victorian touches such as vintage floral wallpaper, swags and sconces, and our bed had a crocheted canopy. And what was this on the mantel? Two cordial glasses of sherry and a hand-written note with our names on it: "Welcome to Brook Farm Inn! Linda and Phil." Inside, were "things you'd like to know:" Tea and scones served at 4 every afternoon. Early morning coffee in the kitchen at 7:30. Breakfast between 8:30 and 10. The guest pantry's always open with hot water, ice, mini-refrigerators, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.
They forgot to mention the sugar cookies. The pantry happened to be just across the hall from us, so we stashed our wine in a refrigerator and helped ourselves to a couple of cookies from the jar, washing them down with our sherry.
Once upon a time, Phil was a candy broker in New Jersey, Linda a school librarian. Seven years ago, when their youngest child graduated from college, they decided to head north to live out their dream of running an inn.
In their earlier jobs, a large amount of organization and tact was required -- for difficult customers or children. These traits have stood the couple well in running a B & B. The desk in the foyer has neat stacks of brochures and maps. A shelf holds books of menus from nearby restaurants. The Halperns themselves are happy to recommend places and draw maps of how to get there. I'd forgotten to charge my cellphone before I left home. Phil produced a charger that fit. An amateur magician, he even showed us a couple of card and coin tricks at breakfast. ("We're a full-service inn," quipped Linda.)
If you'd rather stay inside than explore, there are shelves of games and books. In the library, chess is set up on one table, decks of cards on another. Periodically, the couple hosts poetry weekends, with readings and workshops. Browse the ample poetry section in their library, then retreat to the cushioned window seat. The library is also where tea is served, in antique china cups and saucers of various patterns. The homemade scones were soft and crumbly and delicious.
We wandered out back, where there's a heated pool. The surrounding gardens are lush and beautiful, and the shaded tables make a great place to read or drink a glass of wine. Four years ago, the Halperns added a carriage house in the back, with three guest rooms that have king beds, sofas and sitting areas, TVs with DVD players, mini-refrigerators, and bathrooms with large whirlpool tubs. The upstairs suite includes a separate living room and private deck overlooking the pool.
We brought our wine out -- along with wine glasses and a handy corkscrew from the guest pantry -- and headed for the green wicker chairs on the front porch, framed by hanging ferns, while we figured out our next move. The Halperns had recommended the Church Street Cafe in Lenox, which was very good, and Spice in Pittsfield, which was even better. (Sit on the patio at Church Street, and on the couches in the back room at Spice, which offers great bar food.)
But their best recommendation was the Chocolate Springs Café , named one of the top 10 artisanal chocolatiers in the country by Saveur Magazine . It's in a little strip mall on the highway, but once you step inside, it's a quiet, cozy place to have a killer cup of hot chocolate, or nibble on some of Joshua Needleman 's beautifully hand-crafted bonbons.
We arose early and, using the Halperns' biking book, did the Lenox-Stockbridge loop, 16 miles if you don't get lost . We made it back for breakfast, served buffet-style: blintzes and muffins, toast and bagels, granola and cereals, yogurt and fresh fruit. Phil's coffee was delicious with a hint of hazelnut and cinnamon.
The inn is located near Tanglewood, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, The Mount (Edith Wharton's spectacular home and gardens ), and downtown Lenox. We were sorry to leave such a hospitable and relaxing spot. But we'll be back in the winter to use that fireplace in our room, to read some Emily Dickinson from the poetry shelf, and to savor another cup of Phil's great coffee.
Bella English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.