Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Helena bed and breakfast offers history, pride, piano, family ties, fun and location

The Barrister Bed and Breakfast in Helena offers a warm, history filled stay in a stately mansion near the cathedral.


Beverages are available in the dining room, which sports a portrait of young
Queen Elizabeth II. The Barrister takes its name from its owner's law career.


Special touches and an artful eye
mark each Barrister guest room.

THE BARRISTER B&B is the kind of place you'd send your best hip friend or your beloved and proper dowager aunt.  Both would have a delightful stay.
The Barrister is the B&B world's equivalent of "black tie and blue jeans." Both are appropriate.
You may arrive in formal attire or casual wear, dressed for a wedding or a hike. Either way, you'll feel instantly at home.
The Captain's Quarters sports a nautical motif.
The 1874 mansion, across from the imposing St. Helena Cathedral, was once the home of the Catholic priest. Owner and proprietor Nick Jacques, Helena native and fifth generation Montanan, remembers being called from the cathedral to the priest's digs across the street. There in the now B&B, young Jacques was chastised for a minor infraction occurred during his altar boy duties.
FAST FORWARD a few decades: Jacques now holds court before an international clientele of visitors to the Barrister B&B, where years ago he was reprimanded.
Native San Diegan and lifelong sailor Keller
enjoyed staying in the Captain's digs.
A retired criminal defense attorney, Nick received his law credentials at University of Montana then returned to Helena to form his successful but taxing practice.  An auto accident changed the course of his career.  He was hit as he towed his boat from a nearby landing, inspiring the classic "wake-up call." He fully recovered from his injuries  but retired to follow his dream of operating a B&B.  That was nearly 20 years ago.
Charmed by a B&B he visited on his favorite holiday island, Maui, Jacques said "I just had a deep feeling that I could do this and would be fairly good at it."
THE WORD "fairly" is  an understatement.
From the moment one arrives at the Barrister -- named, of course, because "barrister" is Brit speak for attorney -- one feels relaxed, pampered and completely comfortable.
Helena's Cathedral of St. Helena
is across the street from the B&B.
Tours of the cathedral or state capital
make a pleasant diversion.
Nick's sister, Liane Jacques, is the B&B's innkeeper.  She left Helena to receive her degree at Notre Dame and wears multiple hats as interior decorator, reservations and events manager, copy writer and designer, director of housekeeping, chef and "elf," flitting quietly from room to room and event to event, organizing and accenting everything with her artful touches.
Cocktails are served nightly on the Barrister's relaxing porch.
"I couldn't do this at this level without Liane," says her proud brother, whose travel passion takes him from the operation from time to time.  Despite retiring his "barrister" shingle and leaving the law profession, Nick still serves.  But rather than defending the downtrodden and hapless, he's entertaining appreciative travelers.

Cookie was invited to play the parlor's beautiful grand piano.
"Now, I have nothing but happy endings," Nick said, sharing his considerable knowledge of Helena with guests at the Barrister's antique dining table. "I connect with people each day."
THE BARRISTER'S guest books -- one in each of the handsome rooms -- contain enthusiastic thank-yous from contented visitors, including newlyweds, bird watchers, outdoor lovers and politicians. Kudos and compliments come to the Barrister from many U.S. states and far corners of the world.  "Such an elegant place," "A most relaxing and hospitable time," "Gracious hospitality at every turn," "Beautiful environment" and "Fabulous breakfast" are praises sung by visitors.
Each room is decorated by the brother and sister, who collaborated to honor a family member in photos and decor in each suite.
The place is a treasure trove of history lovingly preserved and elegantly shared.
An antique bar attracts conversation in the kitchen, framed by paintings.
One room, The Morning Room, was part of the priest's suite during the years the place was owned by the Diocese.  It is now a cheerful and intimate welcome to Helena and the Victorian mansion.  Six fireplaces adorn the rooms and high ceilings and carved staircases enhance the allure.  Stained glass windows are also part of the charm, as is a grand piano which has been played by many of Helena's visiting VIP musicians.  I had the pleasure of playing for our small group -- visitors from several states -- in town for a wedding reception hosted at the Barrister. (Special catered events are a Barrister specialty!)
An antique banister found in the attic
now graces the Barrister's stairs. 
GUESTS ENJOY the home as if it were their own, making themselves comfortable in the parlor, formal dining room, den, library or an enclosed sun porch, where we enjoyed take-out Italian food one night.  We'd been treated to an olive tapenade and wine before dinner, with Liane joining us for cocktails and stories.  And because we visited on a Saturday, we had the pleasure of hearing the bells of St. Helena Cathedral ring out Sunday morning while we enjoyed a beautifully served breakfast-brunch of quiche, bacon, fresh fruit salad and homemade breads.
  The Barrister's pretty rooms boast family heirlooms  -- beds, lamps, divans, chairs, a claw's foot bath, and ornate tables -- making them a big draw for both antique aficionados and history buffs.  Our "Captain's Quarters" was decked out in nautical lore, and the honeymooning couple across the hall from us had a boutique-inspired room with floral designs
Helena's pretty parks, squares and historic buildings await near the Barrister.
and baroque appointments.
Liane's sharp eye is courtesy of her career as an interior designer with years of high-end projects in southern California, Oregon and elsewhere. When her brother suggested a partnership, she returned to Helena four years ago to become an integral component of the enterprise.
PROXIMITY to Helena's sights is a big plus for the historic building, and Helena's lively cultural scene is worth a few days' visit.  There's the Myrna Loy Arts Center, named after the famed actress born in Helena; the Archie Bray Foundation, known for stimulating ceramics; the Holter Museum of Art, with world class exhibits; and day trips to mining towns, rodeo towns, mineral baths,. trout fishing havens and beautiful drives -- just for sight-seeing.
Canyon Ferry Lake is known nationally for its water sports, boating services and campgrounds.
WE STOPPED at Gates of the Mountains along the Missouri, and hope to return when the boat tour season is back.
Freezeout Lake and birding beckon on a lovely fall day, next at whereiscookie.
This time of year, as the snowbirds leave the northern Rockies, the Barrister hosts many Canadian visitors.  Helena is a perfect day's drive from Calgary. We hope to encore our perfect stay, to enjoy another musical session with our music buff hosts!
406 443-7330 for reservations.

COMING UP:  We'd never been to Fairfield, Montana, but we'll be back.  Beautiful scenery, nice people, a couple fun restaurants, a little gambling and Freezeout Lake, for a bounty of birds to watch. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com

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