Westphalia was on fire, and yet the Queen of Bavaria barely stirred from her slumber. That wasn’t her province, so why bother?
Wedmore Place, a European-style country inn expatriated to Williamsburg, sparks your nationalist pride, even if you’re only an honorary native with a short-term visa. Each of the 28 rooms represents a territory or region of the Old World, such as Tyrol, Wales and Killarney.
The furnishings, color scheme and decor embrace the character and elan of the Euro-destination. Vienna: gilded mirrors and artworks depicting dancers and Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria. Gascony: French toile de Jouy fabric on the walls. Castilla: chocolaty brown beams and furniture, heavy red drapes and an engraving of the Spanish royal site, El Escorial. Venice: 250-year-old studded wooden doors from India. Okay, so the property supports globalization.
My second-floor duchy, wedged between Provence and Andalusia, flung open the doors to a Bavarian home. The slice of German life featured knobby oak floors, a fireplace trimmed with purple flower tiles (the temperature must fall below 50 degrees before you can light the fire), a folksy handpainted night table and a wardrobe as green as a grasshopper. A vintage map of Wurttemberg placed the room in its biological motherland.
The inn was conjured up by Patrick Duffeler, a Belgium-born cosmopolite who has professionally dabbled in French wine, auto racing and fragrances. Inspired to open a winery in Virginia, he and his then-wife, Peggy, visited 52 farms before landing on a 300-acre plot once coveted by a 17th-century captain on the Godspeed (you know, the ship that delivered the first English settlers to Jamestown).
Duffeler named the farm Wessex Hundred, which sounds like a musky cologne, but actually Wessex refers to the kingdom of the West Saxons, and Hundred is a vintage term for a tract of land capable of sustaining 100 residents. The family harvested grapes for its Williamsburg Winery, which released its first wine in 1988. In 2007, it added the lodge because, well, no one wants to drink vino and drive home. And surely everybody wants to overnight in a hotel that scrambles together the Faberge eggs of the Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy, Montabaur Castle in Germany and Bacon’s Castle across the James River from Williamsburg.
Despite its highly cultivated influences, the inn is neither hoity nor toity. When I entered the baronial lobby, with its 16-foot ceiling and stone hearth, I felt as if I’d walked into a giant group hug. The staff was welcoming and gregarious, our conversations transcending such standard front-desk topics as breakfast hours and checkout time.
A lively debate centered on the staff’s favorite rooms (the Venetian and Tuscany suites ranked high), and one employee told me about a special pair of visitors: a man who brings his granddaughter to see the knight in shining armor holding court in the lobby. Until she discovers Justin Bieber, Wedmore Place is her princess castle and that tin man is her prince.
The room rate includes two tickets for a tour and tasting at the winery, but I arrived after closing time (the vouchers are valid for a year). However, a self-led exploration of the property was still possible. It was too chilly to swim in the terra cotta-tiled pool and too daft to hike the two miles of trails in the dark, so I took my party of one indoors.
I started in the hallways, which resemble Louvre galleries with their enviable collection of tapestries, rugs, antique desks and paintings of melodramatic men and zaftig women. In the center courtyard, I looked down at an imported stone fountain missing only frolicking water nymphs.
En route to the fitness center in an adjacent building, I popped into the tweedy library modeled after a 19th-century British club. Here I could recharge my brain cells with more than 500 books written in four languages (German, English, French and Spanish) and covering such varied topics as history, travel and the decorative arts. If only I had a pipe and an Afghan hound named Duchess to complete the picture.
Across the way, near the coffee and tea station, Cafe Provencal is a bubble of Mediterranean blues and flavors (the current wife, Francoise, is a native of Provence). For dinner, the chef stays on-theme with such dishes as foie gras with port-braised figs, and lavender-and-garlic-grilled rack of lamb. (In-room diners can choose from assorted pâtés, meats and cheeses.)
At breakfast, the hostess tempted me with croissants flown in from France. I resisted, instead piling my plate with mixed berries and thick slices of nutty bread sweetened with black currant jam — pshaw to pedestrian grape jelly.
I didn’t see any guests during my stay, but other visitors did exist; that fire in Westphalia didn’t start itself. The next morning, the staff filled me in on the details, which involved a gentleman hanging his shirt too close to a hot bulb. The smoke set off an alarm, and firefighters rushed to the scene. I zzzz’ed through all of it.
Despite having missed the action, I still took away a crucial lesson: If I am ever the Queen of Westphalia, I must remember to keep my ermine robe far from the light.
5810 Wessex Hundred
Rooms from $165 a night.
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