Bed And Breakfast Paranoia Cured

The grand staircase at Hughson Hall was featured in the Warner Brothers film One Foot in Heaven.Photo by Robert Stephen.

The grand staircase at Hughson Hall was featured in the Warner Brothers film One Foot in Heaven.
Photo by Robert Stephen.

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By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)

(STRATFORD, ON) – The term Bed and Breakfast used to send a shiver up my spine. I have visions of shared bathrooms and communal breakfasts with people I really don’t want to talk to. Greasy sausages, bacon and eggs, and toast for breakfast. No privacy.

Well I have stayed at a few B&B’s lately, here in Ontario, and my B&B phobia has subsided. Particularly with a private bathroom, that mentally has enabled me to escape my youth hostel days in Western Europe and hostels for itinerant men in Eastern Europe’s communist days.

Yes, I have paid my dues on the communal frontier. I want my privacy.

I decided, bravely, to try a B&B in Stratford lately. While Man of La Mancha was excellent, and Midsummer’s Night Dream was not so excellent, at the Stratford Festival, I have only good things to say about our B&B.

Hughson Hall sits in a residential and totally quiet neighbourhood where you are more likely to see locals walking their dogs and jogging than a mob of tourists wandering around licking ice cream, which my insider friends in Niagara-on-the-Lake refer to as cone lickers.

Hughson Hall is owned and operated by Clinton Hughes and Ross Hodgson. It is an imposing architectural gem about 11 minutes away, by foot, from downtown Stratford, assuming of course you know the shortcut through the municipal pool. A former farmhouse for a prominent and large family, it has been superbly maintained and converted into a two bedroom B&B.

We are in the impeccably decorated East Wing which is a huge room with a step down, coveted private bathroom and a little private reading room, with a sofa with all the right books. There are five large windows that let lots of natural light flood in.

Although the East Wing room is true to its roots, every detail has been painstakingly decorated. Yes, everything is perfect, although the riding helmets on the wall are just a tad over the top. But, the bed is huge and comfortable. The walls are a relaxing taupe with white trim. There’s a beige carpet. And there is also a mini flat screen television and a gas fireplace.

I really felt at home there. Totally relaxed.

I begin to realize that some B&B’s offer a unique and quiet non-institutional experience. In fact, I begin to feel that this is my house.

Clinton and Ross are gay and advertise on gay websites, so if you are gay intolerant you might feel uncomfortable. Not being gay intolerant, I find Clinton and Ross to be a warm and caring married couple concerned about my experience at Hughson Hall.

If you want complete privacy, Ross and Clinton will pick up that vibe immediately. If you want to chat and get to know about them and their B&B, they are completely open to that.

Need a snack? There is a butler’s pantry with waters and juice along with cookies and chips. I certainly appreciated the chilled Perrier after lugging a small bag in the terrible humidity.

And forgive me, I even consumed a bag of Cheetos.

Tea and coffee are served with a knock on your door at 8:30 am. And a non-greasy breakfast of fresh apple cider and orange juice, baked peaches over granola and topped with yoghurt, and finished with a breakfast Wellington stuffed with eggs, ham, and peppers in phylo dough, with sour cream and fresh salsa, awaits you.

The dining room was formerly a bedroom where Christopher Plummer often slept.

The home was built in 1875 as part of a 75 acre farm. Interestingly, the house and its staircase was featured in the Warner Brother’s film One Foot in Heaven, starring Frederick March and Martha Scott. It never lost its prominence and architectural cache, and Ross and Clinton purchased it in 2008.

The reason this B&B is so immaculately decorated must be because Clinton is an interior decorator and Ross has a deep history in the theatrical arts.

Ross and Clinton advise that half the guests are from Toronto, consisting of a predominately white collar crowds of doctors, lawyers, and assorted professionals. Ross and Clinton remark that the guests are trying to make their stay a very special trip.

The pair also host and cater weddings. I had rather hoped to extend my stay another evening but the two brides and their party at Hughson Hall made that a bit difficult.

In a nutshell, this is a very quiet and historically laden B&B set in a tranquil and peaceful setting. Close to the Avon Theatre and downtown Stratford, and so reclusive and relaxing, it really is difficult to think about staying anywhere else.

You’ll like you’re back in 1870.

Ross and Clinton will take very good care of you. Man, I just can’t wait for a longer stay there.

(Hughson Hall Bed and Breakfast, 220 Hibernia Street, Stratford , ON, Rates start at $200 a night)

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."Email Robert Stephen
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