What is it actually like staying at Orient-Express’ Inn at Perry Cabin, on Miles River, part of Chesapeake Bay. Peaceful. One word sums it up. Look out of the all-wall windows of room 43 and you see what looks like a modern Constable painting.
Grass, white Adirondack chairs, blue water and blue sky. That is all. No wonder some guests spend hours just sitting looking at the view (most of them have spent up to three hours simply driving here, so what are a few more hours simply sitting?). The gal took her bike ride, and then just enjoyed being here.
No wonder Purser Samuel Hambleton wanted to build a cabin here when he had finished with the War of 1812. He named it after his boss, Oliver Perry, Commodore of the USS Niagara.
Forward to the 1980s, when the Myerhoffs opened it as a six-room hotel. Forward some more to its purchase by Sir Bernard Ashley, who in 1999 sold it on to James Sherwood and Orient-Express. Forward to today, after millions have been spent.
There are now 78 rooms, in white timber blocks (two to three floors, connected at ground level). Inside, it is a zigzag from one end to the other. From the reception’s drawing room, you wind past the restaurant (Sherwood’s Landing, for Mr S), and the pub (named for the Purser) and a little courtyard and several meeting rooms and there is door 43.
It is charming, this room. Take a palette of light stone colours, for painted walls and full-length, all-wall curtains. There is a log-look working fire, and, an Orient-Express trick, a television that pops up from the foot of the bed, which has a grey ostrich-leather headboard.
There is a shelf of much-used, obviously much-loved hardback books, their paper dust covers long since lost. CP Snow’s Corridors of Power sits, perhaps suitably, with JS Fletcher’s The Root of All Evil. An embroidered mini-cushion, announcing Do Not Disturb, can be hung outside the door.
WiFi and fixed-band connectivity are free (yes, they have thought of everything). I have a two-foot long model of a ship, with lots of rigging, and the walls are not surprisingly adorned with masses of nautical prints.
The toilet stall has two really useful framed ditties, one showing all the semaphore stances, a reminder of Girl Guides a few years ago – and another that outlines how to do a round turn and two half-hitches, and other knots.
This is certainly sailing territory, and the summer-long sailing school for kids starts shortly after Easter. There is also kayaking and, for the first time, a type of high-energy kayaking that includes paracourse disciplines that must be done at a series of buoys.
But this is high energy luxury, anyway. Matthias Smith, the one-time English schoolteacher who has been babysitting this lovely hotel for the last few months, showed me where the croquet lawn is going to go. Is tennis in the plans, too?
If you must spend hours with a bag of long sticks to hit a little white ball, golf is two and a half miles away. And there is shopping, including for those Christmas necessities, under half a mile away in St Michaels.
There is more exercise right on site. Up 20 carpeted steps from the Linden Spa, you find the gym, with good equipment and a great view of the surrounding 112 acres of the estate. The pool, summer only, is next to the spa. And your jaw muscles need exercising too, so how about some food, gal?
The dinner menu at Sherwood’s Landing includes choptank oyster stew with Miss Gussie’s cornbread, made by Gustina Harmon, who has been baking here since 1989. There are lots of local fish, say rockfish, roasted with vanilla parsnip purée.
The room service menu, actually, is so appealing – the kind of simple comfort food that is ideal for this type of relaxing oasis – that it would be tempting to dine on your terrace, looking at that view.
Late at night, you find a chocolate chip cookie, from Miss Gussie, with compliments, and a plate of brightly-coloured biscuits. In the morning, your ordered breakfast might be brought by a lovely woman who looks straight out of Gone With The Wind (or The Help).
She asks how you pronounce your name, tells you her name. What a nice touch. But this is a nice place, ideal for a weekend break or simply getting away from the routine of everyday life.
Talking of weekend breaks, my friend Lisa Lindblad has a new series of ‘getting to know the history of the USA’ breaks entitled American Stories. Three days on one subject – she so far has Gettysburg, Harlem, the Mid West and New Orleans.
The last includes visits to regeneration projects led by Harry Connick Jr, Branford Marsalis and Brad Pitt, and dinner at Antoine’s (where oysters Rockefeller were invented). Sounds just the ticket for intelligent visitors to the States, and for Americans too.