Image: Just Inn, Paso Robles, Calif.
Peter Malinowski
Four luxurious suites and an intimate six-table dining room are found at the Just Inn Bed & Breakfast, part of the Justin Vineyard & Winery, just outside Paso Robles, Calif. Nestled in rolling hills, Just Inn's suites — Tuscany, Bordeaux, Provence and Sussex — are appointed with European antiques, and each offer a unique taste of its namesake region.
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updated 2/11/2009 10:53:34 AM ET 2009-02-11T15:53:34

Romance shines in the little things that are special between a couple. And so, too, it's the tiniest of details that set apart a romantic bed and breakfast from other inns.

Karen Brown, author of Karen Brown's Guidebooks, including 17 titles covering Europe and regions in the U.S. and Mexico, has hand-picked accommodations across the globe for her publications over the last 30 years. While some travelers place more emphasis on where they go instead of where they stay, lodging is very important to set the tone of the trip, Brown said.

"Your room can be a haven in its own right," she said. Room to read, a wood-burning fireplace and well-appointed bathrooms are all high on her list. Great weather is never a guarantee on vacation, so a beautiful, romantic room means "you are happy even if you have to abandon all of your other plans."

If Washington state’s weather keeps guests inside, Run of the River Inn and Refuge in Leavenworth is a cozy log cabin with river rock accents, warm fires, plush furniture, exposed logs and four-post beds. Casa Obelisco, near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Watch whales migrate from your private balcony, or retreat to a plush bed under romantic netting with the sound of the palms and waves enhancing relaxation. In France, Les Charmes de Carlucet has views of a nearby medieval village from some of the rooms.

No matter where you are visiting, "you want a beautiful property in a beautiful setting. You also want the room itself to be beautiful, not just everything outside," Brown said.

Brown said when choosing a romantic getaway, look for a friendly, attentive staff. Is a restaurant important? Some bed and breakfasts have set meal times. Guests who sleep in could miss it altogether. B&Bs like Austria’s Schloss Kapfenstein and Vermont’s Pitcher Inn offer acclaimed restaurants so leaving the property is an option, but not a necessity.

After a career in pharmaceutical sales requiring extensive international travel, Connie Fairbanks grew tired of impersonal hotels and seeks out B&Bs now when traveling for pleasure.

"We really want a great breakfast," she said of trips with her husband Kirk Twiss. Fairbanks recently published her first cookbook and said food can enhance a romantic jaunt. "I want to be served. I don't want a buffet."

And after staying in what she guesses is more than 100 bed and breakfasts in 14 states, plus many abroad, Fairbanks easily rattles off criteria when choosing a personal, romantic place to stay.

"I would love to hear a fireplace crackling when I walk in the door," she said. Gas logs are nice, but the real thing adds more ambience, she said. Add to the list: an inn with a great smell, extremely soft bed linens, and an attentive staff that doesn't hover. Oh, and keep it intimate. "We don't want to run into a lot of people."

Guests spread out over 256 acres of Virginia horse country at The Goodstone Inn have plenty of elbow space to feel like the only visitors on the farm. Seventeen rooms occupy five historic houses on the estate's grounds. In California, four luxurious suites and an intimate six-table dining room lend to personal service at the Just Inn Bed & Breakfast, part of the Justin Vineyard & Winery. The suites — Tuscany, Bordeaux, Provence and Sussex — are appointed with European antiques and each offer a unique taste of its namesake region.

As Fairbanks says, "I don't need a heart-shaped tub." It's the subtle details, not obvious amenities, that make the most romantic B&Bs shine.

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