Romantic Inns and Outs
Kick-start or rekindle love within a 3-hour drive
BY MICHAEL CLEMENTS
About 30 minutes into our drive from Adams Morgan to the Eastern Shore town of Chestertown, Md., my girlfriend turned to me and inquired, "What do you think defines romance?" Although at the beginning of a romantic "getaway weekend," I grasped for a rousing retort. When nothing came to mind, I fell haplessly back on the ol' male stand by, "You know, flowers and things ...?" Later that night, as I slept on a sofa, I realized roses were simply the by-products of love. True romance is about moments and gestures that transcend the everyday and move relationships out of the ordinary. My answer should have reflected that romance is about surprise and finding the unexpected, be it minute or grandiose.
One way to accomplish this is to simply escape. It doesn't have to be a weekend in Paris or Marrakech, or some remote 5-star luxury cottage on stilts on an abandoned Fijian island (although, that would be nice). Romance, fickle thing that it is, can be ignited or rekindled just as easily without a long journey - heart-felt intent and quality time trump expensive timeshares any day. Whether you have been married for 33 years or dating for just three months, here are three regional inns to help you experience romance close to home.
INN AT 202 DOVER
Inns and outs Innkeepers Shelby and Ron Mitchell have painstakingly restored this historic home, turning it into a bed and breakfast in the heart of charming downtown Easton. The couple stripped 30 layers of paint to reach the original Maryland swamp cypress, recreated the original moldings and antiqued up and down the Eastern Seaboard to fill the 10,000-square-foot house.
Relaxation starts when ... You walk through the doors and Ron offers you a warm cranberry scone as you head to your suite. The feeling is amplified by reclining on your expansive bed and sinking into a sea of pillows (10 to be exact).
Room-inations Each of the four suites (and the Victorian bedroom) has a distinct theme - English Country, Asian, Safari and French. There's a golden dragon bath faucet in the Asian suite; the Safari suite reminds one of entering a big game hunter's den; and the English Country suite suggests just that. We went French and found our je ne sais quoi via the soothing blue and white-trimmed walls, ornate sitting room and bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and steam shower.
Breakfast Ron likes to mix things up, especially when he and Shelby have guests staying for multiple nights. Breakfast begins with a yogurt and fruit parfait, followed by sausage links and croissant French toast with an orange-cognac glaze.
Romantic Tips Besides the above-mentioned bed? A few glasses of complimentary sherry will help set the mood ...
When you're not sleeping ... Take a daytime walk through town, ducking in and out of art galleries (check out Creatrics at 13 Goldsborough Street or South Street Art Gallery at 5 South Street) and unique shops (want to see where Dick Cheney gets his birding supplies? Check out Albright's Gun Shop) or catch a nighttime performance at the historic Avalon Theatre (Wynton Marsalis recently played there). There is "something to do every day of the week," Shelby told us. For dinner, try Scossa at 8 North Washington Street for northern Italian cuisine prepared by Chef Giancarlo Tondrin (don't miss the short ribs in cheesy polenta or veal scallopini in pizzaiola sauce). Rates: $375-$475/night; www.innat202dover.com; (866) 450-7600
BRAMPTON BED & BREAKFAST INN
Inns and outs Built in 1860, this former peach plantation is a quiet bed and breakfast built for couples looking to reduce the stress of urban living.
Relaxation starts when... You cross over the Bay Bridge. Here, the traffic thins and the Maryland countryside stretches out on both sides of you. Turn up the radio and put the top down - you're free.
Room-inations Country living meets Eastern Shore plantation. Ten guestrooms themed by color, each individually appointed (not surprisingly) by its namesake. Fireplaces are standard. Some rooms have saunas. Country antiques and canopied beds add to the plantation charm. Keep a window cracked when you light up the fire, however ... the rooms can get a bit smoky.
Breakfast Guests receive a choice of breakfasts cooked to order. The cranberry muffins are perhaps the best you'll ever eat. Complimentary tea is served each afternoon.
Get romantic Rent the green room, which has access to the belvedere, which offers celestial stargazing and is the perfect spot to pop the question (if the stars are aligned). Or, simply stroll the grounds after a languid cup of tea on the verandah.
When you're not sleeping ... Meander through nearby Chestertown. Founded in 1706, this quaint main-street town is on the Chester River and has numerous arts, crafts and antique shops. For dining, try Julia's (410- 758-0471) in nearby Centerville or Andy's (410-778-6779) in Chestertown for a more casual hometown pub atmosphere. Rates range from $175 to $295; www.bramptoninn.com; (866) 305-1860
Inns and outs Few people think it's possible to escape the city by remaining in the city - Swann House will definitely change that ugly duckling thinking. Introduce yourself to one of the oldest freestanding mansions in the Dupont Circle neighborhood and rediscover Washington's historic charm with that special someone.
Relaxation starts when... You walk through the door and get an instant feeling of having entered a home away from home.
Room-inations Historic Dupont meets modern elegance. Each of this bed and breakfast's rooms are appointed with furnishings of differing motifs. From the Regent ($265- 365), il Duomo ($265-365), Jennifer Green ($225-295) and Richardson ($245-$345) suites to the quainter Lighthouse ($175-195) and Shanghai'daway ($165-$195) rooms, the warm atmosphere will affect even the most unromantic of souls. Saunas are available in some rooms ... although the jets in ours didn't work.
Breakfast Buffet style with special daily side dishes, such as sweet apple strudel.
Romance factor Get lost in the city and the big fluffy feather beds. Need we say more?
When you're not sleeping ... You are within walking distance of Dupont Circle and all of its shops, restaurants and galleries.
Rates run from $165 to 365 and vary by room and season; www.swannhouse.com; (202) 265-4414