HOW QUICKLY CAN YOU LEAVE the 21st century? Two hours north on Interstate-95 and a right at Exit 7 and you’ve entered a time warp. There’s no CVS, no Walmart, no crowds, and the newest buildings date to, oh, 1935.
Decompression comes swiftly in Delaware’s Brandywine Valley, where carriage paths have been paved for cars but not much else has changed in a century. Stone mansions jostle stone cottages, all tucked behind rose-tumbled stone walls.
In its midst, the Inn at Montchanin Village is perfectly situated for exploring the du Ponts’ Winterthur museum and gardens (including an exhibit of costumes from the “Downton Abbey” TV series paired with like garments from the du Pont collection), the Wyeth collection at the Brandywine Museum, and Longworth Gardens, whose conservatory make Washington’s look like a terrarium.
Once the homes of workers employed at the du Ponts’ gunpowder mills, the 11 beautifully restored stucco-and-frame buildings, some dating to 1799, dot a 20-acre property where cobblestone pathways (beware, Manolos!) amble through splendid gardens, lantern-lit at dusk.
Most of the 28 period-elegant guest rooms and suites, which range in price from $192 to $399 a night, have a courtyard patio or porch, pleasant places to while away hours of doing nothing. Birds chirp.
While the exteriors of the buildings would be recognized by their long-ago residents, the interiors take wing. Each is individual in layout and, though varying in extravagance, all are up-to-the-minute posh. King and queen beds wear Frette linens, gas fireplaces warm chill evenings, and marble bathrooms have soaking tubs, room-size showers–or both. All have Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, if you must.
The centerpiece is the old milking barn, which contains the front desk and an enormous, and oddly African-themed, common room with large stuffed animals mingling with plush sofas and chairs, books and board games. An honor bar in the evening offers a quiet lounge in front of the fireplace.
The milking barn also houses a small gym and a spacious spa, where some patrons line up a weekend’s worth of royal treatments from hot stone massages to hydrating facials to manicures and pedicures, for her and him.
Despite its kitschy name, Krazy Kat’s restaurant offers fine dining in the renovated blacksmith’s cottage. Main courses come in either full-size or small-plate versions, for sampling. Try crab cakes bound with shrimp mousse, or meltingly tender rib-eye. Leave room for creme brulee, and make your dinner and brunch reservations when you book your stay. The restaurant deservedly packs in the locals.
The Inn at Montchanin Village, 514 Montchanin Road, Montchanin, Delaware 19710; 302-888-2133. www.montchanin.com
Winterthur, 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52), Wilmington, Delaware 19735; 800-448-3883. www.winterthur.org
Brandywine River Museum, 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania 19317; 610-388-2700. www.brandywinemuseum.org
Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania 19348; 610-388-1000. www.longwoodgardens.org