If our cruise through the Kenai Fjords served as an introduction the Alaska’s land and sea, our stay at Le Barn Appetite provided us with an introduction the state’s culture.
Janet and Yvon are the proprietors of the establishment. She a retired high school teacher and he a Belgian crepe maker. Their story is quite something: the openness of their home to children in need of one (they’ve had nearly 20 foster children in total over the years), their resourcefulness and ingenuity, their resilience and humor. The B&B is a cobbling together of a diverse assortment of structures: a tree house, a cabin, a barn. The cabin, we are told, was built by the foster children one summer. They had nothing to do and were getting into trouble, so Janet instructed them to build a cabin…and they did. The aesthetic could be described, in a word, as kitsch. There are truck tires and school desks scattered around the property, all waiting for their next incarnation as a garden pot or fireside seat.
We arrive and are given a tour. Janet and Yvon’s home was destroyed in a fire a few years ago and the couple is rebuilding. Their new home is nearly complete and Janet shows us around with a great deal of pride, careful to point out several prized possessions and recent finds from the local Habitat for Humanity store. Everything has a purpose and I get the feeling that this woman has never wasted a single thing in her entire life.
Our tour ends at the “Jack London’s Cabin” where we’ll be spending the night. She gives an incredibly thorough cabin tour in one run-on sentence that goes something like “this is a real log cabin and this is a Seavy sled their family gave us, this is a cabinet I picked up for $8 dollars at Habitat for Humanity (points to price tag on the back as proof), Jack London’s books could’ve gone in here or maybe he could’ve had something like this in his home, don’t you think?, this is the bathroom, this is a curtain to give privacy between the two beds, and this is the bear my husband shot.” The whole tour comes out in one breath and is perfectly matter-of-fact. Ryan and I looked at the bear pelt and then at each other dumbfounded. The accommodations are incredibly comfortable and authentic.
The next morning the sun is shining and we walk over to the barn for breakfast. In the dining room, there are antlers and a taxidermied turtle and snowshoes and model airplanes and a deep sea diving helmet and family pictures and trumpets. Yvon is perched at a bar crafting crepes and holding court. He’s cracking inappropriate jokes and repeatedly asking for diners to call the Pope as the crepes they’ll be eating are so decadent they will almost certainly fall into sin. The crepes really are that good.
We have a morning activity planned and our time at Le Barn Appetit comes to a close, so we say goodbye to the innkeepers. We debrief about the innkeepers in the car and find ourselves in agreement that it was an absolute pleasure to spend a night fully immersed in Janet and Yvon’s reality.