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After a peaceful night's rest, the pleasure begins again with a breakfast that includes what some say are the best grits in the South. Guests may stroll majestic grounds that encompass moss-draped live oaks and verdant gardens. Or they may tour other nearby plantations, hunt for antiques or enjoy boat trips down the Mississippi or through bayous www.madewood.com; 800-375-7151). --By Jyl Benson
AKWAABA MANSION, BROOKLYN, N.Y.
In the Akan language of Ghana, akwaaba means welcome, and that is exactly what guests receive at the Akwaaba Mansion bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Brooklyn, N.Y., just a 20-minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan. On a brownstone-lined street in the historic Stuyvesant Heights district, canopied by magnolia, beech and horse chestnut trees, sits an 18-room white Italianate mansion, dating to the 1860s, that Monique Greenwood and her husband Glenn Pogue bought and restored five years ago.
Each of the four guest rooms is decorated in an Afro-centric theme. The sunny Ashante Suite features African artifacts and textiles and hauntingly beautiful sculptures. Visitors tell Greenwood that staying in the Black Memorabilia Suite--with its old quilts, rag dolls and Louis Armstrong wax record from the 1940s--is "like going to Grandma's house down South." The romantic Jumping-the-Broom Suite, with double Jacuzzi, is popular with honeymooners, whom Greenwood greets with champagne, strawberries and cream.
Breakfast, served in the dining room, sun porch, garden--or even in bed--includes blended juices, salmon cakes, scrambled eggs and scallions, cheese hominy grits, corn bread, fried apples and turkey sausage. Or visitors can stroll to the corner and enjoy African, Caribbean and Southern fare at the Akwaaba Cafe.
Greenwood, editor in chief of Essence magazine, is spearheading a renaissance in Stuyvesant Heights. Though touched by urban strife decades ago, the close-knit, family-centered neighborhood has been illuminated by new businesses. African Americans savor a sense of pride and connectedness at Akwaaba Mansion, and savvy travelers from other backgrounds enjoy an entree into a fascinating historical community where a warm welcome prevails www.akwaaba.com; 718-455-5958). --By Adrianne Navon
THE OAKS, CHRISTIANSBURG, VA.
Perched on a hilltop in southwestern Virginia, the Oaks garnered its name from the seven historic oak trees, now more than 300 years old, that surround the Queen Anne Victorian house, built for a bride in 1889. Its gardens unfold along Christiansburg's Main Street, once part of the Wilderness Road forged by Daniel Boone, today close to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and a rails-to-trails bicycle path.
In 1989, Margaret and Tom Ray bought and began restoring the property, which had been "remuddled," says Margaret, by a previous owner. "A leaking bathroom ceiling fell in on the very day we were to open. People thought we were going to start up either a brothel or a dynamite factory," she recalls.
All that has changed. The Rays added five bathrooms, four fireplaces, a new roof, fresh paint and hundreds of yards of window dressing. Some of the seven rooms are named after former inhabitants: Major Pierce, Bonnie Victoria, Lady Melodie and Sir Christopher.
Margaret, a gourmet cook, may prepare a breakfast souffle of salmon, eggs and cheese, served with her special dill sauce, or her original shirred-egg, Parmesan and Portobello-mushroom concoction.
By tradition, the Oaks is a place for listening to crickets and watching mist hang over low-lying dips in the fields. But with high-tech industry moving into nearby Roanoke, the Rays have wired the inn to court midweek executives who want to carry on business in a relaxed, picture-perfect setting www.bbhost.com/theoaksinn; 540-381-1500). --By Anne Moffett
DICKEY HOUSE, MARSHFIELD, MO.
Refuge in the Hills
In the heart of the Ozarks, 190 miles west of St. Louis, Mo., lawyer Samuel Dickey built his dream house in 1906. But 85 years later, the Greek Revival mansion in Marshfield, Mo., was about to be condemned when Michaelene and Larry Stevens bought it. Restored to its previous grandeur, Dickey House is now a retreat where guests can eat pumpkin pancakes with cider syrup and watch doves fly about a private aviary.