COLONIAL VIRGINIA TOWN
A Fine Time, by George
Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page P06
B&B: Richard Johnston Inn, Fredericksburg, Va. -- about 43 miles from the Beltway.
BEST FOR: History and war buffs (Revolutionary or Civil).
DRIVE TIME FROM BELTWAY: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Fredericksburg should be an easy one-hour drive. Should be. But not at evening rush hour. We left on a Thursday via Shirley Highway and noted the time: 5:02 p.m. Beyond the Beltway, the driving would bring joy only to a clutch repairman's heart. Stop, start, speed up, slow down, curse the idiot in the next lane, wave thanks when he lets you merge -- all the way down I-95 to the Fredericksburg exit. We did not arrive until 6:22. (Fortunately, we had called ahead, as our B&B otherwise requires check-in by 6 p.m.)
THE INN: The Richard Johnston Inn was built as two row houses in 1770 and once was the home of the mayor of Fredericksburg, for whom it is named. It fell into disrepair, however, and was converted into a warehouse. It was rescued from demolition in the 1980s and transformed into a comfortable, elegant B&B.
We stayed in the "kitchen house," one of seven rooms and two suites. It was originally separated from the rest of the residence because of the threat of fire, and it still has its own entrance onto a courtyard behind the main house. Although the room has been updated for guests, the cooking fireplace remains. Baskets that would have held provisions hang among the ceiling beams, along with a smoke detector. The brick floor is covered with a thick rug that felt good on my bare feet.
We ate breakfast the next morning in a lavish, high-ceilinged dining room -- a continental buffet, including fresh fruit salad (with mango) and cherry sour cream coffee cake. Sam, the innkeeper's gregarious schnauzer, nuzzled against our legs under the table.
WE'D GO BACK FOR THE . . . tranquillity. Fredericksburg's historic streets do attract tourists, but the inn's grounds are nonetheless quiet.
WE COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THE . . . squeaky wooden floor in the room above ours (a concession to historical accuracy, perhaps). Fortunately, our upstairs neighbor didn't walk around much.
THE EXPERIENCE: Given the nearby battlefields, Fredericksburg is a natural destination for Civil War buffs. In town, however, the attractions range from Revolutionary War scholarship to Eisenhower-era comfort food.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company