Oops, that was a bad move.
As soon as I take my fingers off my checkers piece, I can see it: I've opened up not one, but two possibilities for my dastardly rival (that would be my husband) to jump me. If he sees the openings.
He does. Aaargh. I'm done for. And here I'd been on a clear road to victory.
Ah, well, that's the way the checkers bounce. Let's put these childish things aside and have a look around, shall we?
As my husband gloats in unexpected triumph and resets the board, which is actually the painted top of a small square game table, I make a slow circuit of the warmly wood-paneled room we've been playing in. Low-lit and plush, with green leather sofas and buttery yellow chaises, a fireplace, floor-to-ceiling bookcases in rich dark wood and Oriental carpets on the floor, it could be the library in some mogul's mansion.
Except that it isn't. It's the library in a beach hotel.
Specifically, the Jefferson Library in the Bellmoor Inn at Rehoboth Beach, Del. Go figure. Outside, the sun is shining brightly -- well, OK, it isn't, because it's nighttime now, but it's the beach, so you know what I mean -- yet here indoors we're in a cozy cocoon of highly traditional, decidedly non-beachy elegance.
To one side of the library, the New Castle Room is also all dark wood and warmth, although with wicker furniture and lots of tall windows. On the other flank is the equally womblike Kent Room. (Aha, the rooms must be named after Delaware counties -- aren't I quick?) Then there's the lobby itself, low-ceilinged and chandeliered and bouquet-bedecked and, well, beautiful.
Forget all that easy-breezy, open-air decor the shelter magazines always tout for seaside abodes. This is an enveloping kind of place, dark and formal but friendly, fancy but welcoming -- love it. Why, you hardly need the beach if you have a lodging like this to luxuriate in.
"I think they're set up to draw people in the off-season," opines my insightful husband, who's only slightly quicker on the uptake than I. But right he is. I can see myself here in the winter, beside a roaring -- OK, it's gas, so hissing -- fire, with a good book and a glass of wine. Let the winds whip and the waves crash -- can't hurt me!
But I get ahead of myself. Right now, we're still in warm-enough-for-the-beach weather, and the 11-year-old Bellmoor, with 78 rooms (including 22 suites), is hardly just about hiding from the elements. Showing us the way to our room, an employee leads us down a long hallway that opens into the airy sunroom at the back of the inn, where white paint and sunny colors take over and the light floods in through windows and French doors all around. Now this is more beachy.
As is the pretty, tree-shaded courtyard, which is much as I remember it from the days when this property belonged to the old Dinner Bell Inn of longtime Rehoboth renown. In fact, we're on a bit of a nostalgia trip here, staying in the Palmer House, a white clapboard cottage in back of the main building that was our frequent accommodation when it was part of that former hostelry. Although if memory is any guide, there've been some changes made.
I remember the old rooms having some crazy '70s neon wallpaper and sickly green carpeting and a rattan headboard on the bed. Now the wall covering is a chic white-on-white stripe, the floors are polished wood, the bed is a tasteful two-poster, the bathroom is all updated and there's the required flat-screen TV and, yay, free Internet. Plus toiletries, ironing board, hair dryer, you name it. The room is cathedral-ceilinged, light and bright and lovely. If it weren't for the noisy air conditioner, it'd be heavenly.
Which is the word for the little porch outside where we park ourselves for a while to bask in the sun and discuss where we might go for a bite, as we missed lunch and are experiencing some serious munchies. Unlike the Dinner Bell, which used to trumpet itself as "famous for food," the Bellmoor has no in-house eatery. We can pop right across the street to Cabo, a tasty new Mexican restaurant, for some quick eats. And we can stroll to our pick of Rehoboth's many gustatorial palaces -- Back Porch Cafe? Salt Air? Victoria's? -- for dinner. I mean, it's such a walkable town, isn't it? The beach is two blocks away.
A dip in the adults-only pool in the corner of the courtyard (there's also a family pool, one level up, off the entrance to the hotel spa) revives me just fine. It's relaxed and, well, quiet in this designated "quiet zone," and even though the pool is, um, very small, I get a modicum of exercise just treading water for a while.
Then we head into the sunroom for some of the inn's gratis lemon water, which we guzzle at every turn to stave off dehydration, and maybe some afternoon tea and cookies.
I plop onto a sofa with my glass and idly watch a couple seated at one of the game tables (they're everywhere) playing chess. It reminds me of my bad move at checkers the night before. Oh, but forget that.
We chose the Bellmoor, didn't we? And that was no bad move. Not a bad move at all.