Darryl "Python" Haley, a smooth-pated leviathan who once battled the most ferocious defenders in the National Football League, makes a heavenly waffle breakfast. When he's not folding towels, making beds or pouring champagne, the 6-foot-6 330-pounder with size 16 shoes and a Volvo-size chest can also whip up a delightful batch of chocolate-chip cookies.
And when it's time to sweat off those carbs, the owner of the Villa Bella Vista inn in Luray, Va., will conduct a workout that would make the manliest of macho men sob like ninnies. Guests can beg for mercy all they want; if Haley wants 10 more sit-ups -- well, this guy gets what he wants.
Darryl Haley leads guest through a workout.
(Jay Paul For The Washington Post)
Yep, the 43-year-old Haley, who spent 10 seasons as an offensive lineman in the NFL -- and, as a member of the New England Patriots, traded hits with the Chicago Bears in the 1985 Super Bowl -- is not your typical innkeeper. But then, the 15-acre, $3 million Villa Bella Vista, dedicated to "romance, fun and fitness," is certainly not your typical Shenandoah Valley inn.
Rustic chairs, creaky stairs and a swarm of doilies? Not here. Flat-screen TVs, high-tech kitchens and 15 bikini-clad Brazilian women playing volleyball? Now we're talking.
Sitting high on a hill in the antiques-happy town of Luray -- and surrounded by gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge, Massanutten and Appalachian mountains -- the Bella Vista, which the single Haley maintains without help from a cook or cleaning staff, would fit just fine on "MTV Cribs," the real-estate rundown of glammed-out manses owned by the Shaqs and P. Diddys of the world.
Everything is bright and new and sleek -- and a bit out of place in the quaint, history-rich vibe of the Shenandoah region.
The place is actually two separate houses (Villa Bella Vista Inn II is smaller but no less luxurious), plus a "pamper cottage," a "coffee shack," a workout garage, a gazebo, a shooting range and, coming next summer, a fully stocked fishing pond and 25-meter lap pool. Haley describes it all as "California-style."
Yep, it's California-style, all right -- if you happen to live in Beverly Hills. Long, winding driveways lead up to both towering tan-brick and wood-trimmed fortresses. Inside is just as smooth: marble floors, sky-high ceilings, long white couches, and enough TVs and CD and DVD players to stock a Best Buy. Although relaxing and comfortable, the Villa Bella Vista is still waiting for a coat of home-sweet-home character.
"This is my passion," Haley says during my overnight stay in early November. He's sitting in a deck chair on one of the estate's many spacious patios and sipping from a wine glass that looks like a dollhouse accessory in his massive hand. "I had planned on doing this 15 years ago."
Haley fancies himself a supersize Mr. Roarke from "Fantasy Island," a smooth mastermind who encourages guests to create their own perfect itinerary. The rates aren't cheap -- suites range from $275 to $725 per night -- but almost all rooms come with a spectacular view, a four-poster bed and a yowza bathroom with Jacuzzi and spacious glass-walled shower. (Haley says his inn has proved most popular with professional athletes and big-name entertainers, although because of matters of privacy, he declines to dish. "Oh, there have been some parties here," he allows.)