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DETAILS: St. Michaels, Md.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

GETTING THERE: St. Michaels is less than a two-hour drive from Washington. Take Route 50 east across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, stay on 50 when it splits with Route 301 and follow it 30 more miles to Easton. About a half-mile past Easton Airport, bear right onto Route 322. Go two miles, and at the traffic light, turn right onto Route 33; you'll glide right into St. Michaels.

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WHERE TO STAY: There are any number of comfortable, impossibly charming 19th-century inns in and around St. Michaels, though some -- like the wonderful Wades Point Inn -- close in the winter. At the upper end is the Inn at Perry Cabin (308 Watkins Lane, 410-745-2200, http://www.perrycabin.com) on the banks of the Miles River. Built in 1816, the inn was recently updated by Orient-Express and reeks of elegance and old money; you can even park your 130-foot yacht there. Its 81 quiet, antique-filled rooms and suites run from $330 to $770 per night double, with special packages available.

A more casual alternative is the Five Gables Inn and Spa (209 N. Talbot St., 410-745-0100, http://www.fivegables.com) -- actually three Victorian houses near the heart of town, with an Aveda spa, an indoor pool and rooms painted in lively Caribbean colors. Its 20 rooms start at $150 a night, and its Pity the Procrastinator special rewards early bookers with a $50 credit toward dining in St. Michaels.

Other choices include Aida's Victoriana Inn (205 Cherry St., 410-745-3368, http://www.victorianainn.com; from $135), the Dr. Dodson House (200 Cherry St., 410-745-3691, http://www.drdodsonhouse.com; from $165) and the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island (410-886-2452, http://www.blackwalnutpoint.com; from $120). For more modern accommodations, try the St. Michaels Harbour Inn (101 N. Harbor Rd., 410-745-9001, http://www.harbourinn.com; from $180).

WHERE TO EAT: Grab a cappuccino at St. Michaels Perk Coffeehouse (402 S. Talbot St.) or a sandwich at the Carpenter Street Saloon (113 S. Talbot St.), where you can also display your karaoke skills on Tuesday nights. For a lively bar scene in the evening, check out the Characters Cafe across the street.

But don't leave St. Michaels without trying at least a few of its better restaurants -- particularly Bistro St. Mich aels (403 S. Talbot St.), whose range of inventive, subtly flavored dishes never fails to delight; I recommend the scallops with coconut curry green beans ($27). The Bistro is always busy, so call 410-745-9111 well ahead for reservations. Also a good bet is 208 Talbot, where I tried the $55 prix- fixe menu offered on Saturday night. The food wasn't quite as memorable, but it's worth sampling the Southern-inflected inventions of chef Brendan Keegan.

And it's practically illegal to visit St. Michaels without at least one meal at Sherwood's Landing, the nautical-theme restaurant at the Inn at Perry Cabin. Aside from the superb Continental cuisine (and 10,000-bottle wine cellar), part of the fun is the spectacular view of the Miles River during the day and the roaring fireplace in the evening. The chef's honey-and-tarragon-glazed shank of lamb will warm you up on a winter's night, and the seared jumbo scallops were superb. Dinner entrees run $30 to $39. Call 410-745-2200 for reservations.

INFORMATION: 800-808-7622, http://www.stmichaelsmd.org.

-- S.B.


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