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Checking In

Leaving Lenox soaked and steamed

Email|Print| Text size + By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / March 12, 2006

LENOX -- The chocolate-dipped strawberries and iced sparkling wine were waiting when we checked into our room at the Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club for a ''Romance Package" getaway that included breakfast and dinner and use of the spa and pool.

When we booked in January, we had imagined snowdrifts outside that would make the steamy pool all the more inviting inside its 20-foot wall of glass. But as we drove out the Mass. Pike, the ground was brown and bare. As if on cue, the first flakes began to fall when we turned up the driveway onto the 380-acre Cranwell estate.

Our room, No. 521, was in the Founders Cottage, which is connected to the spa by a heated walkway lined with woodsy murals. Romance notwithstanding, we parted company to use the whirlpool, steam room, and sauna in the gender-segregated areas. By the time we met up at the pool, nature had obliged with a coating of snow just thick enough to make it seem that we were having a privileged escape from winter.

We had inadvertently booked our getaway during school vacation week. Parents were taking turns watching children in the pool, then retreating to the tranquil spa rooms. (Guests must be 16 or older to enter the men's or women's spa.)

Having soaked and stroked, we returned to our room for pre-dinner ''champagne" (actually, Italian sparkling wine). The spacious main room (roughly 16 by 20 feet) had a king-size bed with night tables, a writing desk, an armoire with a TV behind its doors, and two small club chairs flanking the glass doors to a small patio. The vestibule was big enough to hold a bar sink and refrigerator, and the spacious bathroom featured a (single) whirlpool tub and double sinks. Amenities included mini-bottles of Cranwell's signature spa toiletries.

The decor of the room was muted, with a floral border around the beige walls and a matching floral fabric that served as drapery over the glass doors and a roll-up shade over the bathroom window. Two small floral prints over the bed and a gilt-frame mirror over the desk were the only other accents. In fairness, given the spa facilities and the golf course/cross-country ski trails, our hosts probably don't expect guests to spend much time in their rooms. If we had hankered for a soft chair by a cozy gas fireplace, all we had to do was head to the lounge in our building.

Everything was far more vivid in The Mansion, as Cranwell calls the 1894 Tudor-style ''cottage" where we went to dine.

The enormous rooms feature all the sumptuous touches that Gilded Age wealth could buy, including wooden ceilings and trim so intricately carved that it looks like plasterwork. Baronial fireplaces finish off the look.

The Music Room, where we dined and returned the following morning for breakfast, was lush and beautiful, with a gold-and-apricot paint finish on the walls and tables set with thick white linens. Pages from a Gregorian chant hymnal decorated one wall, and a tall case clock marked the quarter hours with a tinkling chime.

Striking the perfect balance of relaxed formality, the waitstaff were dressed in tuxedo shirts with studs, bow ties, black-on-black striped tux pants, and cummerbunds (no jackets). When we informed our waiter that we were on the Romance Package, he explained that it entitled us to three courses each, but if we wanted four, we could split appetizers and desserts. His cheerful ease dispelled any fear of feeling like bargain hunters at the luxury shop.

We stuck to three, with appetizers of grilled vegetables and local goat cheese salad for one, and grilled sea scallops with frisee and shaved fennel for the other. Premier salad vegetables suggested that, weather to the contrary, spring wasn't far away. Our main dishes were similarly deft -- wild mushroom ravioli with lively black-pepper pasta and a grilled sea bass. For dessert, the dark chocolate mousse cake with white chocolate rum sauce was rich and satisfying. A dollop of cinnamon ice cream gave an American accent to an otherwise French-style apple tart.

The Music Room was even brighter and cheerier in the morning when we returned for a buffet breakfast that featured a surprising array of choices: generous plates of fresh fruit, an omelet station, pastries, breakfast meats, French toast, and pancakes.

We tried to restrain ourselves so we wouldn't have to put in time on the fitness machines. Instead, we squeezed in one last steam before we had to put on all those layers of winter clothes and drive home.

Contact Patricia Harris and David Lyon, freelance writers in Cambridge, at harris.lyon@verizon.net.

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