At the Fairville Inn, the nightly rate includes afternoon tea (hot and iced) with a spread of cheesy snacks and homemade pastries, and daily breakfast featuring baked goods and a selection of three hot dishes. (A sample multiple-choice quiz: Do you want the apple pecan pancakes; crustless quiche with spinach, portobello mushrooms, and ricotta and feta cheeses; or scrambled eggs?) Also: WiFi, parking, bottled water, satellite TV and local sightseeing advice.
What’s not rolled into the price: Ozzie the dog.
“I think your dog was trying to climb into our car,” said a departing guest, as she deposited the four-legged rascal at the two feet of Rick Carro, co-owner of the lodge and the pooch.
Ozzie was not trying to escape the five-acre Chadds Ford, Pa., property for a better life in an SUV. He was just snuffling around for crumbs.
“He likes Cheerios,” said Rick, referring to the common detritus found in most family vehicles, including his own.
The Carros — Rick and his wife, Laura, their two daughters and two pets, Ozzie and Harriet the cat — took over the Fairville in 2007, becoming the fourth keepers of the Brandywine Valley inn since 1986. In earlier times, the region’s monarchs, the DuPonts, occupied the 19th-century main house as a summer residence.
The daffodil-yellow structure with the inky black shutters now contains five guest rooms, a curl-up den with a fireplace, and the dining room and kitchen, where Rick cooks breakfast and whips up such special-order desserts as chocolate truffle torte and fruit-stuffed crepes (no in-room flambes, reads the small print on the menu). An adjoining room holds the reception area and a corner gift shop selling pottery mugs, antiques (an 1880 china-head doll with “original underwear” goes for $135), fuzzy grass plumes from the garden and wool rugs woven by Rick-of-all-trades.
Around back, the four-room Springhouse stands on the site of the former barn, which is gone but not entirely forgotten: reclaimed parts such as wooden beams and doors have returned as interior decor. I stayed in the six-room Carriage House, which resides on the same land as the former (and smaller) “garage.”
Each of the inn rooms is individually decorated, with some overlapping elements: gas fireplaces in eight rooms and cathedral ceilings in two. My room’s key pieces included a princessy bed framed by floaty gossamer panels and a pair of cushy chairs for princes-in-waiting. I was the only guest who could claim an It.
“We call the vine ‘Cousin It,’ ” said Rick, referring to the horticultural Afro sprouting from my back deck. “We give it a haircut every spring.”
My friend It blended in with the living Wyethian landscape of a cascading meadow, pervasive plantings and decorative and edible gardens. Rick is an adherent of the yard-to-table ethos, often incorporating his recent harvests into the morning dishes. Peppers, squash and tomatoes from his personal plot appear in omelets; melons land in the fruit salad; smoked and pureed pumpkins perk up pancakes and donuts. However, the black walnuts, so messy and tough to crack, remain unclaimed on the ground.
When I arrived in the evening, the hotel was one bulb short of lights out. The front desk attendant issued a last call for ice, then led me to my room through the dark. I checked the stars from my porch (still twinkling), then kicked back on the snow-white bed, crawling to the edge for a better view of the very-small-screen TV.
On weekdays, breakfast runs from 7 to 9 a.m. (weekends, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.), and guests must sign up for a specific slot, which helps stagger the hot entree orders. As the last visitor to check in the night before, I’d missed out on all the good (read: late-riser) spots. The solution: Below the last entry of 8:40, I scribbled in my name and 8:50. In hindsight, I should have added “ish.”
Guests were still scraping their plates when I wandered in. Laura, full of smiles, stopped at my table to refill my coffee. She inquired about my day’s plan, throwing out such suggestions as visiting the nearby Longwood Gardens and the Wyeth artworks at the Brandywine River Museum. Crunched for time, I asked about the closer Fairville Gardens.
“That’s Rick’s garden,” she said. “You’ll see him out there pruning and tending to his pumpkins.”
At that moment, Rick was on breakfast patrol, but once freed from the kitchen, he took me on a tour of the grounds. He pointed out the giant fir that wears ropes of colored lights during the holidays and the three-hole “pitch-but-no-putt” golf course (the fourth hole went a-missing). We also peeked at the suites and into my downstairs neighbor’s accommodations, a fairy nymph’s fantasy of forest-green-and-white floral wallpaper and a tall wooden headboard with a bow.
Eventually, the chef/gardener/weaver/innkeeper had to return to his duties and I had to check out. But before driving off, I quickly glanced around my car to make sure that Ozzie wasn’t in the back seat, vacuuming up the cereal bits.
506 Kennett Pike
Chadds Ford, Pa.