Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page P06
B&B: The Inn at Norwood, Sykesville, Md. -- 33 miles from the Beltway in Carroll County.
BEST FOR: Kicking back, or as the woman at a Maryland tourist center described Sykesville, "Hon, there's not much there. It's just a nice little country town."
DRIVE TIME FROM BELTWAY: 49 minutes.
Leaving Arlington at 11:10 on a Sunday morning, we cruised up Glebe Road to Chain Bridge, through Bethesda and onto Highway 185 north. At 11:37, we passed under the Beltway and soon merged onto Highway 97 north. Once we cleared Olney, it became a bona fide country road, with circling hawk, sprouting cornfields and the whoosh of cicada siren songs. We hopped on Interstate 70 east, then Highway 32 to Sykesville.
THE INN: The frame house commanding a hill is a 1906 Colonial revival, with all the small-town touches: rocker on the front porch, American flag, tail-wagging dog. In this case, a Labradoodle (cross between a Labrador and a poodle) named Macey. Inside, the look is Victorian-meets-HGTV. Period furniture and swagged windows are old-school, yet the red dining room walls would undoubtedly freak a proper Victorian matron.
Sliding into the roles of small-town snoops, we poked our noses into three of the four second-floor guest rooms, named after seasons. Themes are risky, but fortunately here they're used for color cues -- russets for Fall and pastels for Spring -- rather than, say, plopping a cute little snowman and a miniature sled on the dresser for Winter.
The Secret Garden, where we stayed, is in a small, cottage-style building behind the house. A trompe l'oeil painting of a Tuscan scene graces one wall, and an indoor fountain burbled over smooth rocks. The owner's mother, Eva, showed us around, flicking on the surprisingly realistic faux flames of the cast-iron electric stove. "You can have the flames without the heat," she revealed. So we got the best of both worlds -- the coziness of a roaring fire and the coolness of a roaring air conditioner. A plate of homemade chocolate-chunk cookies endeared the place to me even more, though I would have traded the small TV/VCR for a CD player.
My husband, Paul, succumbed to a nap in the temptress of a pillow-piled featherbed, while I engaged in one of my favorite voyeuristic activities, reading the guestbook. "After three happy years of marriage, my husband finally treated me," one entry began. Hmm . . .
The next day, breakfast was a feast, with yogurt and fresh fruit, a souffle-like egg dish, bacon, herbed cheese biscuits and coffee cake.
WE'D GO BACK FOR THE . . . whirlpool tub for two with a flotilla of rubber duckies -- plus plenty of candles to turn the mood romantic.
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