NEVIS, Minn. — Sometimes the most surprising, off-the-wall places can be hidden in plain sight, right under our noses.
Take, for instance, a cave-themed underground suite -- a room that even the Stone Age Flintstone family would relish a stay in -- found amid the elegance of a Victorian-style bed and breakfast.
It’s a mishmash of eras that wouldn’t typically go hand in hand; surely the stiff-corseted Victorians would disapprove of their uncivilized loin-clothed ancestors shouting the occasional ‘yabba dabba doo’ while sipping their afternoon tea.
But at Park Street Inn, situated in the muskie-loving town of Nevis, Minn., about 10 miles northeast of Park Rapids on State Highway 34, guests unexpectedly find that they’re encouraged to take a walk on the wild side when booking a stay in its cavern-like accommodation called the Grotto.
Upon arrival to the inn, guests discover a private garden-level entrance awaiting them -- a feature solely unique to the nature-inspired room.
They must then descend a staircase -- seemingly like a tunnel carved into the subterranean of the earth -- to reach the cave dwelling, which is located in the refinished cellar of the 108-year-old home.
Realistic stone murals of various shapes and shades cover the suite and its bathroom from top to bottom while hints of leafy green forest peek out, provoking one’s perception of utter seclusion in the depths of nature.
It’s a room that channels our most basic human need for sanctuary and occasional reclusion -- our descendants aren’t called cavemen for nothing, after all -- while also fulfilling our contemporary desire for modern amenities, such as a flat-screen television, a mini-fridge and a large stone-colored jet tub that appears to blend into the rock facade.
But at first glance, most guests book a getaway at Park Street Inn, which is nestled on a quiet lake view street, to experience the romance of the bygone Victorian period antiques abound as does original woodwork that flows throughout the home, showcasing hand-carved floral designs.
Upstairs, three bedrooms exude charm in what innkeeper Linda Hayle describes as “Victorian minimalism,” a style she’s found allows guests to appreciate the beauty of her home and its decor without giving off the impression of a cluttered museum.
“I’m a minimalist, so when I bought the inn 14 years ago, I got rid of a lot of the froufrou,” Hayle said. “I think now it’s a good balance.”
So, while she ditched the frills in exchange for cleaner design cohesion, Hayle also refined some of the more, let’s say, unique personalized touches that prior innkeepers had left on the historic home -- a place that has functioned as a B&B for nearly 30 years.
“Two innkeepers before me had a daughter who worked in Hollywood as a set designer, and she helped them create the Grotto downstairs,” Hayle said.
But when Hayle purchased the inn, a hodgepodge of jungle-like elements filled the Grotto, detracting from the room’s intended theme.
“There used to be a waterfall feature in the bathroom, but I found that it was just too much,” Hayle said.
After she removed it, a waterfall sink and a stone countertop were installed in the private bathroom, which also features a walk-in shower.
“I’ve added a few modern updates to the room, but at this point, it’s really about making sure the paintings and things like that are maintained down there.”
Who doesn’t like to take a walk on the wild side now and again?
I know I sure do.
When I first arrived at the Park Street Inn and the Grotto was introduced, I couldn’t help but have a big goofy smile on my face because the room embodied that quirkiness factor I’m always on the edge of my seat to find.
“It’s definitely a theme room,” Hayle said while serving breakfast the next morning. “It’s good for honeymooners and anyone who just wants some privacy.”
Although I was still incredibly full from my previous night’s dinner at Iron Horse Bar & Grill -- Friday and Saturday is prime rib night -- I couldn’t resist how fresh Hayle’s gourmet breakfast tasted in the dead of winter.
Mixed fruit and a muffin were included in the first course; but the star of the show was the inn’s signature raspberry-stuffed French toast, which was served alongside a generous portion of crispy bacon.
Checkout wasn’t until later so I spent part of the remainder of my time browsing the inn’s extensive library of games, movies and books.
The other half was spent checking out the gorgeous Lake Belle Taine across the street as well as the Heartland Bike Trail only a half block away.
So, how would I describe my trip to the inn?
Of course, it's a place that reinforces what mothers teach about not judging a book by its cover; but it's also a classic case where opposites attract, making for an experience that highlights the best of both worlds.