Address: 13630 Lord Fairfax Highway
Web Address: http://www.laubergeprovencale.com
In the rolling countryside of Northern Virginia sits an absolutely charming French country inn,L'Auberge Provencale, that seems to have been plucked from Provence and set down here. Just an hour and a half from Washington, the Inn is the perfect place to escape the city and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the country. But this is no ordinary Inn, it is something very special from its gorgeous rooms to its amazing food, it is an experience you will want to re-live more than once.
Set on a small knoll with sweeping lawns and fields as far as the eye can see, the Shenandoah Valley setting could not be more idyllic. The circa 1753 manor house with its stone façade and wonderful front porch is surrounded by fruit orchards and flower, vegetable and herb gardens, all used in the restaurant or public rooms.
The cozy and cheerful living room is set with a plump couch and comfortable chairs and has a delightful fireplace to take the chill out of a crisp day. Sit around the fire or on the front porch, enjoy a glass of wine and a good book. The city seems so far away.
There are 11 rooms and suites and another 4 rooms at a sister property down the road. Decorated in bright, cheerful colors with faux painted walls, Provencal fabrics, hand painted tiles and antiques, the rooms are spacious and elegant. Some have fireplaces and aromatherapy steam showers, some have sitting areas, all have meadow or pastoral views.
My room, La Chambre des Amis was very large, had a wonderful palette of light blues and yellows and was furnished with French country antiques and striped wallpaper and fabrics. A four poster wood canopy bed centered the room next to a fireplace. A sitting area surrounded a large screen TV and looked out onto the gardens. The linens were luxurious, the toiletries aromatic and the shower had great pressure, all contributing to a most pleasant experience.
As wonderfully charming as the rooms are here, it is the food that brings people here again and again. Trained in Provence with cooking stints in Europe and throughout the U.S. owner Alain fashions a menu using vegetables, herbs and fruits grown right on the property. He works hard to support sustainable farming in the area using fresh organic meats, cheese and eggs.
Breakfast, Sunday Bistro Lunch and dinner are served in one of three intimate dining rooms all decorated with antiques, fine art, Provencal fabrics and whimsical artifacts from France. I enjoyed the main dining room with its floor to ceiling windows overlooking the terrace, hardwood floors and cheerful orange and yellow colors.
Weekend dinner is 5 courses, mid-week when I visited, is a 3 course “Eating Local for Locals” menu which had wonderful aromas and textures. I started with a fresh tomato and basil soup that was outstanding and followed that with a fish I had never heard of before, Hawaiian Tombo. Delicate and sweet, it was seared with sesame seeds, their own garden citrus greens and served with a sweet soy and ginger vinaigrette. I paired this with an excellent Muscadet from their Wine Spectator award winning list. A little chocolate some petit fours and a glass of Pinot Noir and I was ready for a great country sleep.
Breakfast at L’Auberge rivals dinner in its creativity and uniqueness. Mine started with Tai basil sorbet in watermelon soup, followed by a sausage stuffed quail served with homemade waffles smothered in fresh fruit. Sides of Applewood bacon and roasted olive oil potatoes made this maybe the most memorable breakfast I have ever enjoyed.
Owners, Celeste and Alain or a staff member are always available to get you a glass of wine or a cocktail or to answer any questions you might have about “things to do” in the area. Looking for a place to walk/run they directed me to a wonderful Arboretum just down the road. No one hovers, but someone seems to always be there when you need them. Service at both dinner and breakfast was flawless. Nice touch when you check-in; there’s a basket of fruit, cookies and chocolates in your room.
$155-$325. Mid-week specials.
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
You can have a "perfect" French multicourse dining experience - featuring herbs grown in the on-site garden - at this "old", "romantic" inn in the Virginia hunt and wine country 90 minutes from DC; though it has solid service, a "gorgeous stting" and the requisite antiques in its "charming" rooms, it's a "restaurant first and a B&B a weak second" say foodies who find a "dream come true" in the "incredible" fare. ZAGAT
WHILE YOU ARE THERE:
Wine is big in the area and there are about 10 wineries within a short distance to visit. A half dozen golf course are nearby. The State Arboretum at Blandy Farm is just down the street from the Inn and is a great place to walk or run amidst beautiful trees, plants and flowers. You can canoe or kayak on the Shenandoah, horseback ride in the mountains and visit Luray, Skyline and Shenandoah Caverns. Civil War battlefields are close by as are antique stores and museums.
New York: 5 hours
Philadelphia: 3 hours 35 minutes
Washington, DC: 1 hour and 26 minutes