Michigan Bed & Breakfast Inns are Great, Veterans Say

Need proof that bed and breakfast inns offer a better way to stay? Learn from the veterans and active-duty soldiers who stayed for free last week at Lake to Lake B&B-member inns across Michigan. Many were first-time B&B guests.

Upon their departure from East Tawas Junction Bed and Breakfast Inn, all four couples proclaimed the stay “beyond our expectations” and “the best Veterans’ Day ever.” Maybe the compliments had something to do with the colorful gift-wrapped welcome baskets donated by the East Tawas business district, the complimentary movie theater tickets, the discounted steakhouse dinner, the comfort of in-room fireplaces — or the fact the innkeeper Leigh Mott extended their free stay a second night.

Or maybe it was the camaraderie. “The lively breakast conversation would have gone on for hours had we not interrupted it to have some fun with photo shoots,” Leigh said.

At Munro House B&B and Spa in Jonesville, tears filled the eyes of a Vietnam vet as he said, “No one has ever been this good to me on Veterans Day.” The B&B hosted veterans from the Cold War, Vietnam and Desert Storm. Only one of the six couples had ever experienced B&B hospitality before.

In Fenwick’s At Willow Pond B&B, two disabled Vietnam vets and their wives gathered in front of the fire after dinner, munched on fresh-baked gingersnap cookies and talked as if they had all known each other for years instead of hours. One of the women, experiencing her first time at a B&B, kept exclaiming just how welcoming the innkeepers were and how much she felt at home, comfortable and pampered. The other women replied, “That’s what it’s like when you stay at a bed and breakfast.”

At Prairieside Suites Luxury B&B in Grandville, Carol, guest and wife of a Vietnam vet, said she definitely could “feel the love” the innkeepers put into the place.  Another of the three Carols staying there on the same Veteran’s Eve night couldn’t say enough about the inn’s attention to detail in providing a “luxurious” guest experience, including, red, white and blue bouquets in guest rooms and common areas.

TO COMMEMORATE VETERANS DAY 2010, 33 Lake to Lake-member inns donated one or more one-night stays and otherwise gave the red-white-and-blue-carpet treatment to those who have served our country. The B&B’s for Vets thank-you program was launched in West Virginia in 2008 and went international in 2010.

Their first time out, Michigan Lake to Lake inns did it up big.

Bay View Terrace Inn in Petoskey made 22 rooms available, motivated by the innkeepers’ patriotism. Mo Rave was an Air force officer. His wife’s father, uncle, brother and brother-in-law all served their country.

Victoria Resort Bed and Breakfast in South Haven originally planned to donate one room. But when word of the program spread and the calls kept coming, the owner decided to include all the first-floor rooms.

In Fremont, Paula and Lou Meeuwenberg donated both rooms at The Sheridan House, their lakefront B&B, as well as five hot-tub suites at the in-town Harrington Inn, where Lou is general manager and part owner. Paula made hors d’ouevres for an evening reception, to which some local veterans were also invited. One WWII vet arrived in his vintage 1940s Jeep, complete with retrofitted garage door opener.  An active-duty Marine Corps major, in her 13th year as an Adjutant/Legal Officer, was so fascinated by the 88-year-old’s stories and insights, they continued their conversation over breakfast at a local eatery the next morning.

SINCE BREAKFAST IS HALF the equation of a B&B, what did Lake to Lake-member inns serve their honored guests? Signature favorites were standard fare.

White Swan Inn, Whitehall: Fresh strawberries and pineapple topped with lemon yogurt, a baked farmhouse omelet and an upside-down blueberry coffee cake were capped off with great table conversation.

Munro House, Jonesville: Lori’s Secret Recipe Belgian Waffles along with any-style eggs plus fruit, juice, bacon, toast and coffee were a hit. All 12 guests were served 20 plated, made-to-order breakfast dishes.

Victoria Resort, South Haven: Sausage and egg souffle was the mouthwatering main entree. (By the way, prospective B&B goers who are wary of sitting down at one big dining table will appreciate Victoria Resort’s tables for two. Couples can choose to socialize or to focus on each other.)

Everywhere, breakfast tables celebrated the country’s colors.

An active-duty Marine and a retired Air Force Vietnam veteran and their ladies sat down at Historic Webster House in Bay City to a red, white and blue breakfast. Star-shaped French toast was stacked with layers of whipped cream cheese, blueberries and strawberries and topped with raspberry sauce.

At The Gables Bed and Breakfast in Cheboygan, scarlet and navy napkins tied with patriotic ribbons alternated around the breakfast table. Patriotic bunting hung from the front porch and a local florist donated lovely arrangements for each guest room. At breakfast, the five veterans — Air Force, Army and Navy — were joined by a local WWII vet who brought and distributed framed proclamations in their honor from Cheboygan’s major. A local pastor whose son is serving in Oman led the group in prayer.

Gables owner Judy Churchill summed up the feeling shared by many Lake to Lake members: “This was the most rewarding experience I have ever had as an innkeeper. Although most of our veterans had never stayed at a B&B before, they all said they would love to come back. The notes left in the journals were loving and thankful.

“They arrived as strangers, but left as friends,”  Judy said. “None of them could believe we were doing this for free. I told them it was nothing compared to what they did to keep us free!”

Many Lake to Lake-member inns offer specials and packages to veterans and/or active duty soldiers. Check here to see if any are being offered now.