The Rockcliffe Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Hannibal, MO is the American equivalent to Downton Abby. Or else, it very well could be if someone were to write a PBS series for it.
Hannibal’s Steampunk Festival
My son, Carver, and I arrived late Friday night 2 weeks ago for the Hannibal MO Steampunk Festival. If I had know what an incredible venue Rockcliffe Mansion was, I would have hustled my bustle over there hours earlier. I picked this B&B because of its close proximidy to the festival as well as its Victorian era charm.
Steampunk is Victorian Science Fiction on steroids complete with corsets, gears, and gadgets. Think Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the movie Wild Wild West with Kevin Kline, Will Smith, and Salma Hayak.
There are several things that make Rock Cliff a historical wonder. First of all, the mansion stood completely deserted for over 40 years. Then when it was reclaimed, days before demolition, it was operated as a museum.
However for those 40+ years, the plumbing and the fixtures were not repaired. When Warner and Juan bought the mansion in 2010, they completely restored and renovated the plumbing, electricity, and made it more than habitable. They made it incredibly comfortable for their guests without sacrificing the historical integrity.
I was shocked to learn at least 85% of the furnishings, art work, artifacts, and wall coverings are original to the house.
Rockcliffe Mansion Details
The architectural details are mind blowing at the Bed and Breakfast. The table below (original to the house) was hand carved in Florence Italy shortly after the owner saw one exactly like it at the St. Louis 1904 World’s Fair.
I was particularly impressed with the music room’s mantel. Right below is a close up picture of one of the hand carved facing mantel legs. The sweet face is only about 3 inches. If you look closely you can see her each of her teeth were carved. My mind… boggling right now. I can’t even conceive living in a world where people took the time and had the skill to do this artistry. This is what we did before the internet… and television… and radio.
Ok… let’s just take a moment here because I have to tell the #1 most awesomest amazing thing I experienced at this darling B&B. Don’t laugh. It was nearly a religious experience… The Shower.
I’m not kidding. Yes, Juan is an excellent cook and as delicious as the breakfast was, and as delightful as our hosts were… the shower totally did it for me! First off, it’s 117 freaking years old!!! The only other time I’ve experienced water pressure of this magnitude was in Las Vegas in a deluge shower at the spa at the Winn Hotel. Second of all, it’s so high! I stretched my arms straight up and I couldn’t touch it and I’m 5’9″! It was like diving into a pool straight up into the sky. So cool. Best shower of my life. No joke.
Bed and Breakfast
In addition to staying in an elegant room with a great shower, we were also treated to a 3 course breakfast: a yogurt parfait, fruit plate, and sausage, ham, potatoes, and egg frittata.
The guest count at Rockcliffe Mansion is limited to 8 per night. In the morning we would make our way down for coffee at 7:45am and then we would all sit at precisely 8:30am for breakfast. It was so much fun getting to know everyone, hearing their stories, and what they had planned for the day. I’m going to see if I can talk Jerry into a 4 night stay. It felt as if we were living a dining room scene straight out of A Room With a View.
In the evenings, we were invited to a reception on the porch with the other guests where we were treated to wine and cheese as we looked over the town of Hannibal and the Mississippi.
A stay at Rock Cliff Mansion would not be complete without a guided tour. We were simply stunned at all the innovations that were installed when the house was built, but also because so many of them were still in working order.
Put it on the calendar!
The bed and breakfast is open from March to November 15 and I highly recommend that you look at your calendars now and plan at least a 3 day excursion to Hannibal and stay at Rock Cliff.
Pack a deck of cards, a board game or 2, take your journal, a good book, your camera, a pair of comfy walking shoes and a hardy appetite. (Don’t worry the WiFi is great!) It’s the perfect retreat to relax and rejuvenate.
This week’s recipe: Homemade Yogurt
In the spirit of clever Victorian engineering ingenuity, I’m sharing my Sous Vide Yogurt recipe below. Making yogurt in the sous vide is a easy and fun. It takes awhile, but it’s worth it to have your own homemade yogurt. Since it’s fresh, it lasts for about 3-4 weeks in the fridge unopened.
Sous Vide Yogurt
- 8 cups whole milk
- 8 tablespoons yogurt starter or plain greek yogurt with live yogurt cultures
- 8 Earl Grey tea bags optional
- Sous Vide
- 4 mason jars with lids
- Fill sous vide with water and set temperature to 180.
- Put 1 cup milk and a tea bag in each mason jar. Screw the lids on tightly. Make sure you leave room to stir in 1 tablespoon yogurt.
- Put the mason jars into the sous vide. Once the temperature has reached 180, let them remain in the bath for 45 minutes.
- Lower the sous vide temperature to 110F. Once the temperature has been reached, let the jars stay in the water for 15-30 minutes.*
- Take the jars out of the water, take out the tea bags and discard. Stir in 1 tablespoon yogurt or yogurt starter in each jar. Seal the lids back on the jars and put them back in the water bath.
- Increase the temperature to 115F and incubate yogurt for 12-24 hours.**
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
*To cool the water faster, I pour out some of it and replace it with tap water.
**The longer the yogurt is incubated the thicker it will be.
Yogurt is fun to play around with all sorts of flavorings. Try different teas, cinnamon, vanilla bean, or cardamon pods. Or keep it plain and add honey, granola and berries when you sit down to enjoy it.