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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

L'Auberge Provencale

What kind of sick person goes to a romantic country inn and complains about the lack of good bedside reading lights?

The same type who'd bring along a pair of pants that needed hemming, a couple of months of old New Yorker magazines and a folder of legal documents for a house refinance.

Well, overextended obsessive-compulsive multitaskers need romantic getaways too. It just takes us longer to get into the swing of things. We had settled on L'Auberge Provencale, a B&B in the Virginia hunt country that seeks to re-create the atmosphere of French country inns. The old stone house (it dates to 1753) and its outbuildings sit on a little rise overlooking snow-covered fields and split-rail fences. From this utterly colonial setting, you walk into a sunny world of French provincial antiques and Edith Piaf belting out "Ma Vie en Rose" on the stereo. Our room was all blues and golds, with whimsical animal sculptures, a four-poster canopy bed and a working fireplace.

Since some of us think reading in bed in the middle of the day ranks with life's greatest pleasures, the first order of business was to rearrange the furniture. We dragged a floor lamp to the bed and settled back with the Sunday papers, nibbling on fruit and cookies left by our innkeepers.

Dinner in the apricot-colored dining room wasn't just a meal, it was an Event. They had me with the first course, a witty "lobster cappuccino" served in a demitasse cup and topped with whipped cream and cayenne. Another inventive appetizer, of foie gras, brioche, spicy plum sauce and "peanut foam," was the master-chef equivalent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This was followed by a sage- and parmesan-encrusted veal chop with saffron-garlic sauce (for monsieur) and seared monkfish with flageolet bean ragout and pesto sauce (for madame). Then, a cheesecake/creme brulee concoction and some kind of incredible chocolate thing -- my notes get a little hazy at this point (the inn has an excellent wine list). And then we were off to our feather bed and another log on the fire.

It snowed all night, and in the morning the dining room was aglow with reflected light. Breakfast was another masterpiece: fresh pears with raspberry sauce, lamb-apple sausages, applewood-smoked bacon, wild mushroom quiche, sauteed potatoes, and fresh-baked croissants and scones. We lingered over coffee, watching as a marmalade cat picked its way through the silent white world outside.

The pants never got hemmed.

-- K.C. Summers

L'Auberge Provencale is 50 miles from the Beltway in White Post, Va. Rooms range from $150 to $275 per night and are furnished with antiques. Six have fireplaces. Rates include a gourmet breakfast. A prix-fixe dinner of appetizer, main course and dessert is $75 per person, plus wine, tax and tips. Details: 800-638-1702 or 540-837-1375, www.laubergeprovencale.com.


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