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Correction to This Article
The Feb. 11 Escapes column misspelled the name of the chef at the Ashby Inn in Paris, Va. He is Christopher Carey, not Carrey.
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Inn Love

The Inn at Easton (28 S. Harrison St.) is 70 miles east of Washington in Easton, Md. Rooms range from $175 to $395 a night, including a gourmet breakfast. A special, available through the end of March (except Valentine's weekend), features two nights for the price of one. Entrees range from $23 to $30. On weekend nights, dinner is prix-fixe at $60 a person, not including alcohol. Details: 410-822-4910, www.theinnateaston.com.

The Ashby Inn

You don't get many chances to sleep in a village these days. Even the smallest towns are usually stamped with a Stop & Shop or some other generic chickenpox of sprawl.

Not so Paris, Va. Paris is a proper village, one that would look as natural in the Cotswolds as it does in the Blue Ridge. Except for one antiques store, the Ashby Inn is Paris's only obvious commerce (unless you count collection-plate activity at the church ).

Fortunately, the Ashby does this world-unto-itself thing very well. Whether you stay in the main building (where the rooms are creaky and rich in character) or in the restored old schoolhouse two doors away (where the rooms are snug and stylish in a high-count-linens, stinging-hot-water sort of way), the Ashby has cultivated a womblike coziness.

We bagged a top-floor room in the schoolhouse, with a tall, four-poster bed, a wide view of hunt country and walls of the warmest Chinese red. There was a dorm-size television (which, the literature warned us, didn't really work in these mountains) but unfortunately no radio or CD player, something we like in our hideaways. But there was infinite ice, books on the shelf picked by a reader (not a decorator) and a fireplace flanked by chairs so comfortable they seemed to produce their own gravity. Fighting their clutch, we dashed to the main inn and settled into the library.

This room, so full of firelight and leather club furniture, is essentially an aristocratic drunkard's den. We had such fun -- and so many rounds -- that by the time we went to dinner, I'd chucked my adventurous palate and ordered a filet. Sorry, but steak was what I really, really wanted after two perfectly shaken Manhattans. (With a tangy au poivre sauce, it served nicely.)

Fortunately, my wife kept her head and had us wander a little more widely through chef Christopher Carrey's unfussy menu for a winter's night, which seemed designed to maintain our comfy fireplace glow right through dinner. We passed, sadly, on the venison pâté but were delighted with the duck spring rolls and the gravlax salad. Ann's flounder in a brown butter sauce, with clams, helped explain why the Ashby is routinely booked with customers from all over hunt country and the District.

The booths are marked with brass plates naming various loyal regulars. We decided, after our first visit, that plaquehood in this village was not a bad thing to aspire to.

-- Steve Hendrix

The Ashby Inn is 60 miles west of Washington in Paris, Va. Rooms range from $145 (main building) to $250 (rooms in the recently renovated schoolhouse, each with fireplace, killer views and a soaking tub). Rates include a hearty country breakfast. Dinner entrees range from the high teens to mid-$30s. Details: 540-592-3900, www.ashbyinn.com.


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