By Becky Krystal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 11, 2011; 2:03 PM
I finished college more years ago than I care to believe, and in many ways I'm glad that those days are behind me. But when a recent trip brought me within easy distance of Princeton University, I booked a room at the nearby Peacock Inn. College without the tuition or the linoleum-lined dorm? I couldn't resist.
The 16-room Peacock Inn began as an 18th-century house that once stood a few blocks from its current location, where it arrived in 1875. The move didn't take the mansion too far from the university campus, though. After handing my car off to the hotel valet, I put my bags in my room and went back out to walk to the school.
But first I decided that I'd need my snow boots, which I'd left in the back seat of my car. I tracked down the valet and asked where he'd parked it, assuming that his earlier inquiries about my plans for the evening were meant to determine whether it might get blocked in by other arriving guests.
Wrong. Apparently he'd taken my car somewhere a mile or more away so that diners at the inn's restaurant could use the small driveway and parking lot. Retrieving the boots or the car quickly seemed unlikely, and not wishing to further burden the lone valet, I told him not to worry.
After a two-block stroll, I was on the Princeton campus, taking in both the architecture and the students flitting about, like some mash-up of Hogwarts and a Ralph Lauren ad. When I'd had enough of the cold, I retreated to the inn.
Had I wanted to continue my scholarly evening, I could have thumbed through the books artfully stacked on my dresser: Selections included volumes on Picasso and Rodin. Instead, I chose to study my quarters for the night.
The Peacock Inn, more of a small hotel than a bed and breakfast, gets high marks for decor. (It probably doesn't hurt that it reopened about a year ago after a three-year renovation.) The gray walls of my room were soothing without being sterile. A wall-mounted flat-screen television was a good way around the limited space. The architects hadn't skimped on square footage for a large glassed-in shower, though. And the decorators earned bonus points for the subtle yet cheeky elephant-shaped lamp bases. But the soiled comforter at the foot of the bed - ink stains and spots from a wounded shaver, perhaps - wouldn't have passed muster even in my dorm room.
The next morning reminded me of at least one drawback to the college housing experience: subpar window treatments. The ones in my room at the Peacock let in entirely too much light, and without any reason to wake up so early, I grumbled at the disturbance.
The continental breakfast, classier than the usual, brightened my mood. With a raspberry muffin- and apple strudel-fueled sugar rush pulsing through my veins, I prepared to check out. When the desk clerk said he would start my car to begin thawing the previous night's frozen precipitation, I took him up on the offer. Graduation to adulthood certainly does have its perks.