When Bernard Russo greeted us with a smile and strong Italian accent, I wondered about the small sign Bienvenue (French for welcome) on the front door. The next morning I met his lovely wife, Tessa, who is of French and Belgian decent, and does all of the cooking at this historic inn. Located in Valle Crucis, NC, her breakfast menu was outstanding each of the three days we stayed there. The attention to special details, such as garnishes of fresh herbs on the plates she prepares, fresh pastry stuffed with fruit, waffles, and delicious sauces, were a gastronomic delight. When she comes out of the kitchen she is dressing the part of a professional in her crisp, white chef jacket greeting everyone with fresh hot coffee. The table settings also give a European ambiance to the morning meal, which is served by Bernard Russo. Vegetarian and special meals are prepared on request.
The Taylor House Inn, est. 1911, is one of the original homes in the area. The name Taylor is from one of a family of brothers who built very grand homes in the area in the late 1800’s. Bernard Russo is the proprietor and caretaker of one of these fine historic homes now. His sister moved into an area nearby, and as all Italian families want to stay close to one another, he moved not far from her.
The interior of the residence is fashioned with an understated comfortable elegance. Large sofa’s in the main room, with a piano for musical guests, gives the room a stay-and-play feel. The large wrap-around porches with white-washed wicker furnishings are large enough for entertaining friends, (which we did) and for lounging (did that too!). A porch swing on the west end catches the afternoon breezes through the quiet rural valley. The gardens around the home are tended lovingly by Tessa, and a slow observant wander around the home gives a feeling that no corner is left untended to. Huge hostas and gorgeous rhododendron in several colors grace the stairway leading to the entry of the inn at this time of year. A large gazebo centered in the well-groomed lawn is perfect for an afternoon picnic or reading. Wine and a plate of delicious cheeses were offered one afternoon during our stay.
Original oil paintings throughout the large home were done by relatives of Tessa. She tells of how “she was sadly skipped when the painting talent was passed down” in her family. Large abstract work in the upstairs foyer was completed by their daughter, a young struggling artist living in various places in Europe. All of the artwork in the large dining room where breakfast is served was completed by Tessa’s Grandmother, Naude, who painted for over 70 years in France and died at 99 years old in the 1960’s. Some of the work reminds me of the work of Miro, and others have cubist influences from the 30’s and 40’s. I found her paintings more than just interesting and would enjoy seeing them again. Oh, to be that talented, and long lived!
The lovely Spanish speaking woman who was continually cleaning and helping Tessa gave my husband a chance to use his limited knowledge of the language. She made sure our room was made up fresh and clean when we returned from breakfast, and I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently she had organized everything for us.
This is a very special place. When we checked out, Bernard gave us a coupon for a discount on our next stay with them. I understand why they have been very successful as Europeans operating a B&B in North Carolina. There is something very special about every detail. I plan to go back someday. Oh, I almost forgot! A wedding was taking place up the road from the Inn, and I managed to get photos of the bride in the old car she was being escorted to her wedding in. The car was parked and waiting at the entrance to the inn. The two fathers of the bride, her father and step father, were anxiously waiting for the wedding to begin while watching through binoculars up the road. They were waiting to deliver their daughter in the antique car to her wedding when the bridesmaids gave them the signal. It was a special day at the Taylor House Inn in North Carolina.