Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge
Casa De Sueños
America's original settlement, established decades before Jamestown and Plymouth colonies, past site of important civil rights protests, and graced with the "original" fountain of youth, St. Augustine, Florida, is a rich combination of colorful history and charming kitsch. A few dozen of its historic homes have been converted to bed and breakfast inns, giving visitors an opportunity to experience hospitality reminiscent of bygone days. I checked in at the Casa de Sueños, sister to the city's venerable St. Francis Inn. Conveniently situated just on the north end of the compact historic district, the two-story, Spanish-style former private house and funeral home (!) has been converted to a comfortable hostelry and I discovered it's actually a double B&B -- a Bed & Breakfast Beyond the Basics
In addition to providing a place to sleep and a morning meal, Casa de Sueños is generous with extras. Make your own coffee is available all day to stay or to-go. The breakfast menu changes daily on a weekly schedule that includes seasonal waffles, strawberry soup, cheesy eggs, asparagus mushroom scramble. Complimentary Bloody Marys and Champagne Mimosas are served on weekends and holidays; local jams and jellies provide regional flavor. Also available at no charge are fresh-baked cookies, a social hour of late afternoon nibbles with a choice of wines and sangria. After dinner the Casa lays out a homemade dessert -- cake, brownies, pastry -- as well as a snack basket with chips and sodas for guests who might want a late night snack.
Guest rooms carry on the Spanish theme -- Castillo, Valencia, Sevilla, Nieves, Cordova -- each of the seven has its own layout, size, décor. I was escorted to Saragossa, on the main floor with walls painted dusty lavender and a red club chair and double bed cover providing jolts of color. Beside the bed, a handy table held a clock, notebook, fresh flowers, and crystal water glasses. A delicate desk was stocked with books for browsing and space to work on the computer and free high speed internet. A wide-screen TV was mounted overhead. Candles were lit in the fireplace and facing that, under a chandelier, was the piece de resistance, a two-person whirlpool tub with a decanter of complimentary sherry to sip while soaking and a robe to snuggle into afterward. The bathroom was stocked with amenities, a walk in shower, and more fresh flowers. There was an iron and ironing board in the closet along with a luggage rack and lots of hangers. Instead of curtains, handy adjustable shutters filtered the light.
Parking is at luxury in the district's narrow streets, walking is the preferred way to get around, and Casa de Sueños provides space to leave your vehicle while sightseeing. I entered the inn from the parking lot at the side into the lobby with couches, bookcases, and sun streaming in. A bowl of candies and handy local brochures were set out on the entry table.
At the opposite end, sun also floods into the windowed porch and dining room through arched Arcadian windows overlooking the historic neighborhood, inviting guests to nestle in to the roomy sofas and read complimentary newspapers: USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the St. Augustine Record. Guests can obtain free passes to a local health club and for those who want to go to the beach, the inn will arrange beach towels and chairs and access to showers and parking.
Extras, which can be pre-ordered, include honeymoon and sweetheart baskets, chocolate covered strawberries, a dozen roses, in-room breakfast and massages, picnic baskets, chilled champagne, and carriage rides for two.
Innkeeper Steve Lohrke brought out maps and booklets to acquaint me with the area and introduce me to the district's 60 local historic sites, museums, and points of interest. He directed me to the handy trolley stop two blocks away, mid-way through its loop past around 20 of the notable sights with the driver providing ongoing commentary. The trolley passes are good for three consecutive days, and passengers can hop on and off or take note of sites they want to revisit. The Casa offers passes and discount tickets to some local attractions and the staff can help schedule other visits and outings. It's convenient location and helpful hospitality contribute to a stay that is bound to live up to its name -- Casa de Sueños translates to House of Dreams.
© March 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.