CHARLESTOWN, R.I. -- Set on several acres on the Old Post Road near Charlestown Beach , the General Stanton Inn hosts a popular weekend flea market. When the season opened in April, we booked a Friday night at the inn to catch the next day's early-bird bargains. It was pouring rain when we checked in, but the Saturday forecast was optimistic.
"The dealers are already calling," the clerk told us. "I told them I'd be here." Perhaps to cheer us up, she told us to show our room key to receive a $5 per person discount at dinner.
The inn is an oddity among old New England buildings in that the first structure -- a house moved to the site in 1667 and now known as the Indian Room -- forms the core of the building rather than the front. The main house, which includes the largest of the dining rooms, dates from 1740 . Other wings, less precisely documented, create a charming warren of dining rooms attached to the large tavern, the inn's liveliest spot.
We had to walk outdoors to reach Room 11, one of six on the back of the building with individual entrances along a covered porch. Though clean and fresh, the motel-like character was a letdown after the beamed ceilings of the dining rooms and rusticity of the tavern. A queen bed with dark wood headboard and posts took half the floor space. Two green velour wing chairs flanked a small table and lamp by the window, and another lamp glowed from a low dresser. (There were no bedside lamps.) A large TV balanced on a small oak cabinet. The bathroom had a shower stall and wall-mounted sink.
The Night Watch Tavern , with its rough wood walls and massive stone fireplace, seemed like the best bet for dinner. In true tavern fashion, straight-backed wooden benches and captain's chairs were drawn up to trestle tables. The Red Sox and Yankees were battling on TV and musicians were setting up for the evening entertainment.
The food transcended conventional pub grub. The General Stanton salad combined baby greens, thin pear slices, crumbled blue cheese, and candied walnuts beneath a raspberry vinaigrette. A bowl of chili proved to be a rich, spicy bean soup. Slow-cooked barbecued pork ribs were honey sweet and falling off the bone, while the chicken pesto over penne was laced with sundried-tomatoes, mushrooms , and artichoke hearts. Chocolate mousse was a respectable rendering of that classic, while the coconut-filled carrot cake was sweet and surprisingly airy.
By the time we finished, Daisuke Matsuzaka had loaded the bases and the band was ready to start. We opted for the game over the music and asked our server for two cups of Diet Coke to take back to the room. She brought them at no charge and invited us back for refills. Alas, our room reverberated with the sound of the band, which was scheduled to play until 1 a.m.
When we returned to the office to ask about a quieter room, the desk clerk could not have been more apologetic or accommodating, finally offering the Block Island room on the second floor in the main building. "It's our nicest," she said.
Dramatic wallpaper of pink and green flora on a black background covered two walls (the other two were a subtler pink). An impressive cannonball post bed stood between two matching night tables with tall white ceramic lamps. A dresser across from the foot of the bed held the television, which was also visible from a small loveseat next to the nonfunctional stone-block fireplace with wooden mantel.
The faint music was mere background noise as the Red Sox rallied to win the game. The strumming and drumming seemed louder when we turned off the TV, but the air conditioning unit's fan masked the noise so we could enjoy a comfortable night's sleep. Visions of flea market finds danced in our heads.
Saturday dawned overcast, and we planned to have breakfast as the dealers (who would no doubt brave the weather) set up their wares. But the tavern and office were locked up tight. No one was anywhere in sight. A car piled with card tables and boxes sat idling in the driveway as the couple inside listened to the radio. We learned later that breakfast service would begin in mid-May. At 8:30 a.m., the General Stanton still stood dark and mute, perhaps sleeping in from the merriment of the night before.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon, freelance writers based in Cambridge, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.