A biweekly staff review of East Coast and regional lodgings.
I’ve been to England exactly once. But for all the time I spend reading and dreaming about the island nation, the United Kingdom might as well make me an honorary citizen.
There are the Jane Austen novels. The Jane Austen film and TV adaptations. The Tudor history books. “The Tudors.” Even, and especially, those hypnotic PBS pledge week “Visions of” specials, where you soar over scenic British vistas.
So when I needed to find a place to rest my Anglophile head after visiting Winterthur’s “Costumes of Downton Abbey” exhibit, it seemed only appropriate to book a room at the Hamanassett Bed and Breakfast. The Brandywine Valley property, built in 1856, had me at “English-style country inn.”
The room names in the main house, taken from British places and families — Windsor, Inverness, Devon, Brighton, Cambridge, Cotswold and Tudor — set my heart aflutter. If this was schtick, it was schtick I could get behind.
I swooned at the canopied four-poster bed in the Tudor room and booked it, anticipating an hour or so sprawled on a puffy comforter reading the biography of Elizabeth I on my Kindle.
Approaching the inn, I returned to reality with a reminder that we are, after all, in what is essentially a Philadelphia suburb. Though Hamanassett was once a larger estate of several hundred acres, it’s now just barely set back off a street lined with single-family homes. The setting — horses, sloping lawn, water features — is pretty nonetheless.
As my husband and I check in, we enthuse about the “Downton Abbey” exhibit to innkeeper Ashley Mon. We tell her how we love the show and still mourn the loss of A Certain Character. (Or are we finally past all this spoiler nonsense?)
Then Ashley says that if we like the show, we’re going to love the Inverness Suite, which she’s upgrading us to. Part of me wants to turn down this generosity, because I’d had my heart set on the Tudor room. But a little voice in my head — which, hey, sounds kind of like my mom — says to not look a gift horse in the mouth.
Score one for the little voice.
The Inverness, a master bedroom with huge windows on three sides, is enchanting. The suite’s forest green walls and vintage print of a kilted man remind me of the Season 3 “Downton” finale, when the whole gang troops out to Scotland for some old-fashioned Highland fun.
The room wraps us in a hug as we settle in. The electric fire glows in a marble fireplace in front of the bed. One of the two nightstand alarm clocks — no need for one of us to fumble with my watch in the middle of the night — is tuned to a classical music and jazz station. Four Hershey’s chocolate nuggets call to our sweet tooth.
There’s plenty of space to stretch out, too. And not just on the king-size bed. We can recline in a seating area outfitted with a loveseat, an armchair, a coffee table and a DVD-equipped television. Oh, and did I mention the balcony that stretches across the entire side of the house? As a whole, our suite is bigger than the entire upstairs level of our condo.
We find a note reminding us to change our clocks for daylight saving time. I resent losing an hour that could be spent luxuriating here.
The public spaces are just as enticing, so we wander around them after dinner. The tastefully decorated rooms are full of antiques. Yes, there are some strategically placed stuffed animals, but they’re limited to a few Beefeater teddy bears (so cute) and foxes, which hark back to the home’s earlier life as the HQ for a fox-hunting organization. Overall, the effect is classically English.
We continue playing lord and lady of the manor, pouring ourselves a glass of sherry and a glass of port that we take into the billiard room, where we engage in a best-of-three match. Eventually, we decide to hang up the cue sticks for the night so that we don’t annoy everyone else.
Back upstairs, I indulge in quieter activities, including reading some of the B&B’s eclectic magazine collection. I swipe a copy of BBC History Magazine off the table outside our room. The issue includes articles about both Henry VII and his granddaughter, Elizabeth I. On our coffee table, I unearth a copy of another Brit magazine, the English Home. I also get a kick out of studying a framed 19th-century board game on our wall, entitled “Historical Pastime, or a New Game of the History of England from William 1st to William 4th.”
In the elegant blue-and-white dining room the next morning, we experience our first candlelight breakfast. I half expect our table to groan beneath the weight of the spread: coffee, tea, juice, water, baked apples and the main course of waffles, scrambled eggs and sausage. Not to mention the waffle condiments of strawberries, melted butter, whipped cream, maple syrup and bourbon-nut syrup, which I could have chugged straight out of the container.
That British stiff upper lip? It wouldn’t take long to turn into a big smile here.
Hamanassett Bed and Breakfast
115 Indian Springs Dr.
Chester Heights, Pa.
Rooms from $175.