Bed Check: Sleep in heavenly peace at the Morningstar Inn in Bethlehem, Pa.

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 13, 2010

To get into the Morningstar Inn in Bethlehem, Pa., you don't use a key. You punch a set of numbers into a keypad.

"It's almost like a club," said Tim Nickel, who owns the Morningstar with his partner, Virginia Hadam.

And there was, in fact, an aura of exclusivity and intimacy at this B&B just blocks from Bethlehem's historic area. There are only five guest rooms, each with a different name and theme. The Sleigh Ride, for example, has a walnut sleigh bed and Christmas accents (appropriately enough for the town known as Christmas City, U.S.A.).

The guest rooms are on the second floor, and Virginia and Tim live on the third floor. In Bethlehem, bed-and-breakfast owners are required to live in their inns, which in this case translated into careful attention to detail.

Virginia was gardening when I arrived. As soon as she spotted me, she grabbed my bag and led me inside. After check-in, she showed me around the house. In addition to the living room, there was a room with a pool table and a sun room with a television. There was also an outdoor patio and a swimming pool that opened after Memorial Day.

The pantry held a small refrigerator stocked with free beer, wine, soft drinks and bottled water. Fresh baked cookies are placed in a cat-shaped jar every afternoon, Virginia told me, and coffee is available every morning from 6:30.

My room was the GQ, which hadn't been my first choice. Nor had it been my second choice, but everything else was booked. Given the name, I thought the room would be tailored to the opposite sex, but I was wrong. I liked the queen-size, bow-front brass and iron bed, the hidden writing desk and the oak antiques.

After going out on the town that night, I got back to the inn at about 11 p.m., feeling like a teenager coming in after curfew and not wanting to wake her parents. The house was dark and quiet. I tiptoed to my room and watched a bit of TV with the volume turned low. Sometime after midnight, I could hear a man and a woman enter and walk to the room across the hall from mine. At least I hadn't been the last one in.

The next morning, though, I seemed to be the first one up for breakfast. I took a cup of coffee from the pantry and found newspapers and a basket of blueberry muffins on one of the dining room tables. I grabbed a muffin and ate it while I read. Thinking that was it, I was about to go back upstairs when Virginia walked in. "On the menu this morning," she announced, "you have your choice of scrambled eggs with asparagus tips, Canadian bacon and toast; pancakes with fruit and Canadian bacon; or granola, milk and yogurt."

I knew I should have chosen the granola, but I wanted to try the pancakes. And Virginia had failed to mention that these weren't just any pancakes. They were homemade banana nut pancakes with sliced bananas and fresh syrup. And they were the best I'd had in years (though truth be told, I hardly ever eat pancakes).

As I ate, Tim came out to ask whether I needed anything else. "You're staying in our home," he said. "That's why we want to make sure you really enjoy it."

I certainly had. I'd enjoyed a good night's rest, a delicious meal and pleasant company. Yes, Virginia, in Bethlehem, Pa., there is a Santa Claus -- even in May.

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