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September 4-5

Extravagant Elegance

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If the stock market has been wonderful to you this year, why not celebrate with an extravagant Labor Day weekend?

To spend some of your gains — and get good value for your money — head for the Mobil five-star Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va. Limos bring guests from D.C. (about one-and-a-half hours away by car). But no helicopters are landing there yet because the town has refused co-owners Reinhart Lynch and Patrick O'Connell's request to install one.

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Those who have read the March 29 New Yorker article about the establishment know that it's possible to spend a mint on one meal: unbelievably TNY claims that the maitre d' presented one group of six a check for $24,000. It was here that Alan Greenspan married Andrea Mitchell.

Prix fixe dinner costs vary according to the night you come: Monday through Thursday you pay $98, Friday, $108, and Saturday, $128. If you want to have dinner at The Inn you can reserve 30 days in advance by calling 1-540-675-3800. When you go, the chef suggests you try, as a first course, seared duck foie gras on polenta with Virginia country ham and huckleberry.

When The Inn first opened in January 1978, diners had cocktails in the garden. Now, there is a new living room and bar for happy hour. There is a new kitchen, complete with a stove that local rumor claims cost $45,000.

According to one neighbor, people drive over to park and look through the large kitchen bay window to see Chef Patrick O'Connell working his magic on the wonder stove.

If you get a reservation you may stay in one of the few rooms available. You can book one a year — no more— in advance and will pay $340 for a double.

If the Inn is booked you won't slide down the scale by heading for West Virginia and The Greenbrier. The huge hotel, with its gleaming white columns and carefully tended grounds, has everything you might want to make you feel cosseted. Take the mineral baths and massage, or wander down to the beautiful outdoor pool where you can relax as servers bring you frosted drinks and light lunch. Then, come back to the main building for the genteel tea which is served at 4 o'clock, and head to The Old White Club for cocktail dancing and free (!) hors d'oeuvres.

Want to take it all in? You can't, but you can certainly try. Play golf, tennis (indoors or outside), ride horseback, go to the Land Rover Driving School or perhaps engage in the elite sport of croquet.

The shops of the ground floor are tempting. There is the Greenbrier Shop where they will happily sell you a Greenbrier terry cloth bath robe for $89.50 or coffee cups with the famous pink rhododendron on them.

The shoe store, Yarid's, is well-known by all. But if you want something more durable, drop into The Greenbrier Jeweler.

All of this comes at a price (but who's counting). The price is per-person and in the summer season, the tab starts at $238 per person for a double.But if you are looking for extravagance and extra space, you can get together with seven other people and rent an estate house for from $280 to $339 per person. Prices include breakfast and dinner — for lunch you are on your own. Reservations:

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