By Becky Krystal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 21, 2010; F02
I grew up going to Virginia Beach pretty much every summer as a kid. Our accommodations were of the chain hotel variety, perfectly understandable for a family of five who valued an oceanfront location. Those were good times, but when an assignment took me back to the resort city, I looked forward to finding something a little different. Something a little more grown-up.
For such a huge tourist attraction, the immediate area around the boardwalk has a surprising dearth of the small independent properties I tend to favor. From what was available, I settled on the Beach Spa Bed and Breakfast. The establishment's Web site was appealing enough, although I'm not sure it would have been in my power to resist any combination of the words in its name.
I was only fleetingly concerned when Danny Santos, who runs the inn with his wife, Debbie, told me I was the only guest the night I arrived. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, after all.
Danny showed me around the expanded 1937 cottage, making a particular point of stopping at the outdoor spa adjacent to the walkway that connected the two parts of the building. The cascading waterfall was a nice touch, but the smallish size and unremarkable view toward the sidewalk -- there are screens to protect you from prying eyes -- didn't make me sorry I hadn't brought my bathing suit. That, and it was cold and rainy.
I'd read enough into the description of my room, the Breakers, as "cozy" to prepare myself for a less than palatial space. No matter. It was plenty big for me and, I suspect, would have been for me and my husband, had he not had this obligation called "work."
The delicate pink walls of the room made me smile, as did framed vintage scenes of the beach. A flat-panel television sat within easy viewing distance from the queen-size bed.
If the bedchamber suggested classic beach cottage, the bathroom was pure modern. A steamer shower with massage jets was the centerpiece, something like a cross between the transporter room of the starship Enterprise and a drive-through bank's pneumatic tube.
This I had to try, and try I did, with mixed success. The podlike enclosure trapped too much steam for my comfort. Convinced of my imminent suffocation, I cracked open the doors. Despite a confusing array of buttons with little icons, I managed to turn on the massage jets but, ahem, forgot that I had left the shower door ajar. Oopsy. Consider this a plea for an instruction manual, because it's a minor miracle I even figured out how to turn the thing on.
The bathroom ended up rather toasty, and I wished for a few water glasses in the room. I know there were probably some in the guest pantry area. However, I'm a bit shy when it comes to traipsing beyond my room while wearing jammies, particularly if it involves running outside.
Heat was no concern the next morning, when I took advantage of the bed and breakfast's easy three-block distance to the boardwalk for a stroll in the downright chilly ocean air. Invigorated and hungry, I returned to find the Santoses ready with breakfast. The entree was French toast. Debbie said they always think they should be serving something fancier, but the guests request it. I could taste why.
Sadly, with a long drive ahead of me, I had to leave soon after. I'm not sure I would have appreciated the serenity and unpretentious simplicity of the Beach Spa Bed and Breakfast when I was younger. Some things really do improve with age.