Clifton Inn: Check In and Relax
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It’s not all about food at the stately Clifton Inn in Virginia, but the owners keep guests full and happy.
It starts with fresh fruit on arrival. In the morning, breakfast offers a choice of five entrées. At afternoon tea, pastries are created by Erin Maupin, whose résumé includes the New York outpost of the renowned Fauchon in Paris. Her husband, chef Dean Maupin—lauded in Esquire and Food & Wine—presides over dinner, and seating at the chef’s table is first-come, first-served, no extra charge. Officially, the inn doesn’t serve lunch, but because this is a Relais & Châteaux property, it will take care of you. And you can raid the kitchen cookie jar anytime.
Work off all this indulgence by jumping off the lake dock like a kid or taking laps in the infinity pool with its elegant waterfall. The 100-acre property also has tennis courts and walking trails.
Each of the 18 bright, attractive rooms and suites is distinctive, with fresh flowers, antiques, hardwood floors, Italian linens, and beautiful baths.
Just seven miles away is historic Charlottesville’s brick-paved pedestrian mall, with 120 shops and restaurants. Other off-site diversions include golfing, wineries, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate. Among the off-property dinner choices are Fleurie for contemporary French, C&O’s casual downstairs bar, and elegant Fossett’s at Keswick Hall.
Our tip: A weekend escape is even easier with some puppy love. Canines are welcome in some rooms—$75 a stay.
Travel time from Washington: Two hours and 15 minutes.
What it costs: April through October, rates start at $245 a night; January through March, from $149. Check the Web site for packages and last-minute specials. Breakfast and tea included; dinner is $57 a person for three courses, $76 for four, $95 for five.
More information: cliftoninn.net.
Inn at 202 Dover: Enjoy Elegance in Easton
At the Inn at 202 Dover in Easton, Maryland, you can dine, sleep, and luxuriate all in one place. When you want to venture out, shopping and more dining are two blocks away.
First, luxuriate. The Asian Suite will woo you with its golden-dragon faucet, sumptuous steam shower, gas fireplace, and bamboo canopy bed. But peek into the French Suite, with its elegant pale blues and sun-splashed sitting room, and you may feel torn. The Safari Suite’s charms include a palm-frond ceiling fan, elephant-head vanity, and cathedral ceiling. Each of the four suites and one guest room comes with fresh cookies and flowers, poofy towels and linens, and a whirlpool tub that lights the water in colors.
Former Washingtonians Ron and Shelby Mitchell renovated this 1874 Colonial Revival mansion three years ago to include a restaurant with silver, crystal, and a 70-bottle wine list. Jorge Alvarez, a Cordon Bleu chef, sets the tone by singing a song on request, bringing to mind Lanza or Sinatra. My companion and I swooned over an appetizer of portobello salad, and the duck, salmon with spinach gnocchi, and filet mignon were all excellent. (The menu changes seasonally.) Dover sole—the house’s signature dish—was tasteless and mushy, but ricotta cheesecake and a molten chocolate soufflé almost made up for it.
Other dining choices in this Eastern Shore town include charming Mason’s for Modern American fare, Scossa for Northern Italian cuisine and attentive service, and the pricey, praised Restaurant Local in the Historic Tidewater Inn.
Our tip: For low-cost entertainment, stroll the historic town square (is that Dick Cheney at Orvis?), check out the art galleries, and sit at the marble soda fountain of old-fashioned Hill’s Drug Store.
Travel time from Washington: 90 minutes.
What it costs: The rates, $279 to $475, include breakfast; two-night minimum on weekends. Check the Web site for specials. At dinner (Thursday through Monday), entrées run $19 to $30.
More information: innat202dover.com.