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Travel: Timeless Getaway

Re-experiencing Colonial Williamsburg.

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The historic area comprises 301 acres, which include 88 original 18th-century structures and hundreds of houses, shops, public buildings and outbuildings that have been reconstructed on their original foundations. Gardens are also plentiful, ranging from the formal splendor of the Governor's Palace to the utilitarian kitchen garden of the James Geddy site.

An overnight visit to the area was rare in my family, because Colonial Williamsburg was so close to Richmond. This weekend would provide an excellent opportunity to check out the legendary Williamsburg Inn, something I've wanted to do for years.

Opened in 1937, the Williamsburg Inn has been host to U.S. presidents, Queen Elizabeth II and the emperor and empress of Japan. Four years ago, the inn underwent a major renovation. Guest rooms were enlarged, and seating areas and marble baths were added to each.

Our room was splashed in pastel greens and mellow cream hues. Brocades covered the chairs and sofa. We discovered, much to our delight, that the floors in the marble bathrooms were heated — pleasant for cold feet. As we scoped out the lobby and sitting rooms scattered about, we saw handsome fireplaces, brass chandeliers and gilded mirrors embellishing each area. The ambience was comfortable and homelike, more reflective of a country estate than a large inn.

The staff suggested visiting the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, where we could wander through the exhibit "Treasures From the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum." The exhibition, which runs through December 2006, features more than 100 objects from Colonial Williamsburg's folk art collection.

Later that afternoon, we considered eating dinner in one of the four taverns — Chowning's, Christiana Campbell's, Shields or King's Arms — found throughout the Historic Area. We decided instead to make a reservation at the Inn's Regency Room. We weren't disappointed.

From the moment we sat down to the time we said goodnight, the service was impeccable. We felt as though we had drifted back in time to the 1940s, when dining was an experience to be savored and big-band acts were the rage. We watched as families celebrating birthdays and anniversaries took the dance floor — often it was a child dancing with grandma or granddad. Little girls wore white gloves and fancy frocks. Young men were dressed in suits and ties. Our food, from the crabmeat Randolph appetizer (sautéed crabmeat, spinach and grilled country ham in a Creole mustard Dijonnaise sauce) to the pan-seared chicken scallopini, was heavenly. We ended our dining experience with a hazelnut-ice-cream cake blanketed in Kahl£a-spiked chocolate sauce. Perfecto.

The experience was so pleasing that we plan to go back for our own birthday celebrations — only this time, we'll take along our dancing partners.

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