Mar 15, 2018

Maple Leaf Cottage Inn fit for a fairy tale in Elsah, Ill.

If there ever was a village in the United States that could serve as the perfect location for a fairy tale romance, Elsah, Ill., would certainly qualify in my book.

Wedged between two bluffs along the Mississippi River, roughly halfway between Alton and Grafton alongside Illinois Highway 100, Elsah appears very much like a small community frozen in time.  Many of the town’s original stone buildings from the 1860s remain, and as such the entire community is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Mother Nature didn’t leave much room for growth anyway, as the town’s 600+ residents and Principia College (alma mater of Robert Duval!) seems carefully placed within a tiny valley between the bluffs.  Trees blanket the town, and a small creek, naturally, runs alongside the main road.  Norman Rockwell couldn’t have imagined anything better.  

As charming as Elsah is year-round, it seems even more magical in the wintertime, especially when you have a fresh snow on the ground and fog moving through the valley.  So, when we were looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year (and the anniversary of our engagement which took place in nearby Grafton), the backdrop of Elsah seemed perfect for the occasion. 

Fortunately, Elsah has two highly rated bed and breakfasts.  Even more fortunately, I quite literally managed to book the last available room in town at the Maple Leaf Cottage Inn.

Located at the corner of Selma and LaSalle, one of two primary streets running parallel through the village, the grounds of the Maple Leaf Cottage Inn run nearly an entire block.  The main cottage stands at the corner of the grounds and houses two of the six guest rooms, the dining room, kitchen and office.  The remaining four guest rooms are in separate buildings behind or adjacent to the cottage, depending on your vantage point.  A charming courtyard with a brick pathway brings the grounds all together. 

We checked in around 3 p.m., and the experience could not have been more enjoyable.  We did have a slight wait, as many of the other guests had the same idea about when to check in, but that just provided us ample time to roam around and get familiar with the place and each other.  Frankly, from check-in to the impromptu wine happy hour through breakfast and check-out, the hospitality of the owners Deborah and Tim was nothing short of outstanding.  All the little things they do were definitely noticed, and they left a very positive impression with us.  

Case in point:  Check out the personalized greeting we received written on the stairway leading to our guest room. 

Our guest room was named the Attic Room for appropriate and obvious reasons.  At the top of the staircase, a small foyer separated the bathroom on the left and the bedroom on the right.  In the foyer was a small table with service for two and a coffee pot ready for the morning.  A mini fridge was freshly supplied with complimentary beverages.    

Yes, the ceilings in the bedroom were low, but the attic charm of the place was undeniable. 

It felt very much like spending the night in grandma’s sewing room … with some modern conveniences.  The TV didn’t offer much as far as channels go, but the complimentary Netflix and Wifi were very nice and welcome touches.

The bathroom was surprisingly spacious and just as charming.  Turn the corner and …

… there’s your shower area.  

Punky was especially excited to have a separate vanity area in the bathroom. 

All of this was apparently situated directly above the kitchen, so you can imagine how tempted we were by the scents rising up to us by the time our country breakfast was served.  And, by the way, breakfast was outstanding – homemade yogurt with fresh fruit for starters and scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy (according to Punky, the best she's ever had!) to follow.  It was a delicious wrap-up to a perfectly romantic night’s stay.   

As an aside, if you ever stay in Elsah – or even if you’re just passing through – I highly recommend you check out the Elsah General Store, located just a couple blocks down the street from the Maple Leaf Cottage Inn.

Located in a building that has been part of the village since 1877, the general store is another step back in time.

Its antique shelves hold a variety of provisions and goodies and basic necessities, providing both local residents and those just visiting an opportunity to shop for provisions without leaving town.  Just don’t expect to find any adult beverages there …

All in all, Elsah, Ill., proved to be the picture-perfect fairy tale escape Punky and I expected it to be, and the Maple Leaf Cottage Inn provided the ideal accommodations.  The only potential problem with spreading the word about this hidden gem may be trying to get reservations for the next time we stay.

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