Tours & Detours:
Fairville Inn in Brandywine Valley tops for local getaway
Wild animals at one time roamed the acreage of the Fairville Inn deep in the stunning Brandywine Valley just this side of the Delaware state border. Today guests wake up to the songs of countless birds in birdhouses as well as the teasing chant of catbirds visible in the holly trees from the terraces of some of the comfortable units in this Mendenhall, Pa. charmer of a bed-and-breakfast. The fully landscaped gardens, chock full of color at this time of the year, surround the Carriage House with its large and comfortable rooms on two floors facing the gorgeous greenery. With tasteful décor, handsome paintings and other accoutrements such as Pennsylvania hex signs, the rooms are decorated in good taste. In our suite the bedroom has its four-poster bed, which according to an old Italian proverb is "the poor man's opera." The Fairville Inn's bed was superb and adjoining the bedchamber another room was loaded with books for the lonely traveler who forgets to bring his own reading material. The Inn also offers The New York Times daily, further attesting to its civility.
Rick Carro, who has owned the inn with his wife, Laura, for two years, was a government lawyer in Washington, D.C., before retiring to the life of an innkeeper. What one is especially impressed with is their staff's warm and friendly manner, their enthusiastic and helpful attitude in suggesting side trips and dining suggestions.
Fairville Inn's main house may be circa early 19th century but with a nod to contemporary tastes guest rooms have gas fireplaces, TV sets subtly hidden in armoires, individually controlled air-conditioning units, wireless Internet and telephones that permit guests gratis local and long-distance calls. Perhaps best of all, many of the rooms have direct access to the gardens, either from first-floor rooms or second-floor suites with private stairs.
One of the primary virtues of spending some days in this part of the Brandywine Valley is the opportunity to see some of America's outstanding museums and gardens including the Hagley Museum and Longwood Gardens with its spectacular greenhouses and outdoor gardens on 1,000-plus acres. Just minutes from the Fairville Inn are the Brandywine River Museum with three generations of Wyeth paintings and the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, another 1,000-acre duPont miracle where a new exhibition, "Faces of a Nation," has just been installed. This collection of American paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art includes 18th- and early 19th-century masterpieces portraying the men, women and children of early America. Represented are many of our then-young country's artists including John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart and Samuel F.B. Morse, sponsored by duPont, naturally.
Location, location, location. This inn fits the bill and yet its practicality is the least of its virtues. Its very charm is that rarity of rarities that improves decisively once you have arrived.
Rick Carro is also an excellent baker (his pleasure comes from giving pleasure to others) and examples of his skill are served daily at teatime in the Fairville Inn's dining room along with cheeses and crackers. In the morning hours he dons a chef's toque offering the inn's guests a complimentary trio of hot breakfast choices. On a recent Wednesday morning the inn's 22 guests enjoyed a variety of fresh fruit and fruit juices; an oven-baked cheese and broccoli omelet; and apple, pecan and raisin pancakes= as well as scrambled eggs and bacon. Unlike many other inns, the Fairville Inn insists on a white-linen look for its tables and white linen napkins too. The pottery is from Germany and flowers come fresh from the inn's gardens. It sets this inn apart from the others and we long to see it again and again.
Ralph Collier is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and the International Motor Press Association. His syndicated programs are heard on 32 radio stations. Locally he can be heard Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. on WRTI 90.1.