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More Luxe for Your Bucks

It's better than a museum, not only because a museum would put some of this stuff behind glass but because you can enjoy it as you go about your business or lounge by the fire, as you would if you happened to be a billionaire with taste.

Without a boss to report to, you could hang a Tony Bennett painting he'd given you near a chichi still life, or an old French wardrobe shaped like a fat Brittany housewife.

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It's like the countryside manor house of a duke, and I felt comfortable there in casual clothes. Actually, you could probably be wearing a hunting vest and have a couple of dead pheasants sticking out of your pockets and not feel out of place. The Lodge would be my choice if I returned to Nemacolin to ski (downhill or cross-country).

Chateau LaFayette, opened in 1997, is another story. Baccarat-style crystal chandeliers reflect off marble floors. Original Versace chairs grace the lobby, so beautiful you understand that, despite the lack of forbidding ribbons across the arms, it would be a shame to actually sit in one.

"Punch," an 1875 statue once part of Andy Warhol's personal collection, is exhibited, along with original lithographs by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, paintings and mobiles by Alexander Calder, and Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan artifacts.

The Chateau's upscale elegance is reflected in its prices: In season, the cheapest room for a weekend night is $350. Yet compared to hotels in major cities, the prices don't seem so out of line.

If money is no object, or you've saved for a special event, enjoy. If you don't have the cash, consider this: You can sleep with the have-a-littles and hang with the haves. For the price of a room in the Lodge, I paid for the Holiday Inn, got a great haircut, ate in an exquisite setting, savored the spa, spent an afternoon on the shooting range and had almost enough left over for a horse-drawn surrey ride for four.

Before sunset, I began my gorgeous drive down the mountain from the resort to the valley. On the way, I decided to have dinner at the Historic Summit Inn. It was a great choice, and I'm glad I beat the Nov. 10 deadline for its seasonal closing.

The lobby and dining room with views of the mountains and valley remain as they were when the resort opened in 1907. The pork chops in applejack brandy were the best pork chops I've ever had, and as a person of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, I've had a lot of pork chops.

Then it was off to the Holiday Inn, where I immediately noticed that the paintings on the walls are the kind -- well, the kind you'd buy at a weekend art auction at the Holiday Inn. But the rooms are built around an indoor swimming pool and a large play area for kids.


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