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Bristow earns place on list of state’s most romantic sites

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Wine, starlit soaking tubs enhance couples getaway

By KEVIN KOELLING
Managing Editor

BRISTOW – Mary Moseby told the News Thursday she saw a television news report on “most-romantic sites,” and that New Harmony and Bristow made the list. She could understand New Harmony’s place there, she said, “but Bristow? I live there. Am I missing something?”

The report was on Channel 25, she said, also known as WEHT-TV. Its website, Tristatehomepage.com, included Thursday a very brief summary of the list, boasting that two of the sweet spots “aren’t too far of a drive” from their coverage area.

“The places aren’t ranked best to worst,” that media outlet also noted, “just highlighted as the best places for couples to get away.”

As if to counter Moseby’s claim, “in Perry County, the town of Bristow has a lot to offer,” the site asserts.

It was Kay Kemmet at the Indianapolis Star who compiled the list, according to that newspaper’s website, IndyStar.com.

“Escape the busy modern world in favor of an experience that is part camping, part bed and breakfast,” she entices readers in describing the entry for Bristow and its Mary Rose Herb Farm and Retreat. The “camping” part refers to “yurt lodges, a modern take on an ancient portable cabin,” Kemmett wrote.

Dick Betz and Rosa Lee Sheard purchased property at 23112 Cattail Road in 1999, according to information posted at their website, maryroseherbfarm.com. As the News reported in a feature story Nov. 15, 2001, visitors making overnight stays at the herb farm are lodged in yurts, circular, canvas nomadic-type structures that can withstand 100 mph winds. She described them at the time as being a “step up from luxury camping.”

Their phone’s been going crazy since the list was released, Sheard said Thursday.

“They go, ‘now where’s Perry County?’ It’s been great,” she added.

“I think our retreat is geared more toward adults than children, although we do get some children because of (the proximity of) Holiday World,” Sheard explained. Attractions for the grownup crowd include two outdoor Japanese soaking tubs that stay a cool 55 degrees in the summer and are warmed to 104 in the winter. The temperature and mineral water are “pretty refreshing,” she said.

“Couples just love that,” the proprietor said. “They’ll take a glass of wine and go sit in the soaking tub.”

Visitors can sit out under the stars, enjoy a chimney-equipped fireplace, get massages or attend classes on stress relief.

“We get a lot of people from all over the U.S. Actually, this is our 14th year in business,” she boasted.

“We do a lot of women’s retreats (and) couples retreats.”

Many couples visit to celebrate anniversaries “and of course, I cook – I’m a damn good cook,” Sheard said with a laugh. “I cook all-organic food for them and I gear the menu toward their needs – if they’re gluten-intolerant, dairy-intolerant – because quite honestly, in our area there’s no selection for vegetarians or people who have food allergies.”

“That, combined with the setting – we’re in a little hidden valley in the north part of Perry County – it’s just perfect.”

Outdoor showers with lights that change color “s one of our favorites for our guests,” Sheard said. “They love that. We didn’t want to make it like a hotel because you can’t compete with West Baden or French Lick or some of the beautiful bed-and-breakfasts around here. So we geared it toward a holistic kind of thing and kind of back to what Grandma had. You were outdoors, you took baths outdoors, you know, those kinds of things. And you can see the beauty of Perry County. That kind of blows it away, the hills and the forest and everything.”

Visitors “can sit outside on a deck and look at the stars,” she continued. “We who live here kind of forget about all that. And we send them up to the wineries and they love that. They usually come back with lots of nice wines to enjoy with dinner, and I kind of coordinate that, tell them what kind of wine to look for.”

“About 26 guest books that are full” of visitors’ comments attest to the farm’s place on the romantic-places list, Sheard said, “and we get a lot of repeat business. The people who are coming this weekend have been with us nine years to do their anniversaries. We think it’s pretty romantic.”

The owners incorporated feng shui principles, intended to foster serenity, into the layout of the yurts, Sheard said, “and people comment about that, (saying) ‘oh, it’s so calm here.’ ”

The Star didn’t call them specifically about the romantic-places list, but “we got a phone call about six months ago, and they asked some questions about our Japanese soaking tubs and if we (host) a lot of couples or was it a family retreat, and I said we’re kind of geared toward adults.”

The Star list touts the yurts’ amenities and nearby attractions such as the Hoosier National Forest and Winzerwald Winery.

Sheard said Thursday the farm was booked solid every day until Oct. 17, but with the surge of interest generated by the list, that may have changed by now.

“The perfect time to come is in November, and I tell people in March and April,” she said. Weekends fill up quickly for each new Holiday World season, she added.

Other cities offering the top romantic getaways in the state, according to the Star, are Columbus, French Lick, Indianapolis, Madison, Nashville, Roanoke, South Bend and Wabash.

Editor's note: The headline on this story was incorrect in our print edition. It was a state, not a regional, romantic-sites list as the printed headline asserted.