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If you’re winging your way to New...

If you’re winging your way to New England for the fall foliage spectacle, stop off for lunch or dinner at Jimmie and Bob Booth’s restaurant, The Golden Lamb Buttery at Hillandale Farms in Pomfret Center, Conn. The Golden Lamb Buttery is crowded with antiques. There’s a pond out front. Sheep graze in the pastures. A dreamy scene at sundown. Jimmie’s meals feature farm-fresh vegetables/herbs from her garden. Connecticut residents drive for miles, reserve for days ahead. Jimmie and Bob (both are 70) have operated The Golden Lamb Buttery since 1963. While Jimmie prepares such fare as tenderloin of lamb with oysters/mushrooms, guests join Bob on hay rides during a cocktail hour. Dinner is served by candlelight. Lots of hanging plants, romantic melodies. (The other evening, a live band entertained with oldies/contemporary offerings.)

The Golden Lamb Buttery is one of those places that one conjures up in the mind when thinking of New England. Windows frame rolling hills. The hayloft in the old home where Jimmie serves her guests is a flashback to a more peaceful period of a century ago. Particularly appealing to romantics--whatever their age. Jimmie continues to win honors with her meals (try her fresh salmon rolled in herbs, served in a puff pastry with Mornay sauce, lime, dill). Her thick country soups are especially appealing on those chilly New England evenings. (Jimmie’s also known for her pear-pineapple soup.) Dinner at The Golden Lamb Buttery isn’t cheap, but not outrageous either. About $55 per person. Lunches for under $20.

The Golden Lamb Buttery is 40 miles northeast of Hartford, Conn., 33 miles west of Providence, R.I., a mile off Connecticut 169 at Bush Hill Road. Lunch served Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 2:30 p.m.; dinner Friday/Saturday evening.

The Golden Lamb Buttery, P.O. Box 107, Pomfret Center, Conn. 06259, (203) 774-4423.

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On my last visit, Jimmie and Bob still rented rooms in their farmhouse. Now they send guests off to the Lord Thompson Manor, a magnificent old two-story brick inn set on 62 acres surrounded by woods/lawn. The Lord Thompson Manor is 12 miles north of The Golden Lamb Buttery in the village of Thompson. Mahogany paneling, eight fireplaces, nine guest rooms. Rates: $75/$125.

Lord Thompson Manor, Route 200, Box 428, Thompson, Conn. 06277, (203) 923-3886.

A Dream Inn: A new candidate for membership in the Relais et Chateaux group of distinguished hotels is Hotel Le Saint Paul in the medieval village of St. Paul-de-Vence overlooking the French Riviera. It is operated by Regis and Kathy Bulot (known early on as innkeepers of Le Moulin de l’Abbaye in Perigord). Hotel Le Saint Paul faces a cobblestone street. Formerly a private residence with 18 individually decorated rooms. A luxury hotel in an ancient village that drips with Old World charm. An open fireplace in the salon. Loads of books. Looks onto a street with art galleries/boutiques. Guests take their meals in an ancient vaulted dining room. Others dine on the terrace beneath the famed Provencal sky.

The village of St. Paul-de-Vence is an old favorite of mine. I recall having a drink at a bar facing the ancient fountain on Rue Grande. A series of narrow, cobbled alleys wind among the buildings with their lamps, colorfully painted shutters. Chagall captured it all on canvas, as did Picasso, Matisse and others. Contemporary artists still set up their easels in the streets, taking shelter by night in Hotel Le Saint Paul.

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Hotel Le Saint Paul, 86 Rue Grande, 06575 St. Paul-de-Vence, France, 011-33-93326525. Rates: from about $150/$300 per couple. Lunch/dinner, $30/$70 per guest.

Big Spenders: If money is of no concern and you’re wondering what to do for the holidays, a series of English country Christmas packages is being booked by Abercrombie & Kent. One of the settings is an old favorite of mine--Thornbury Castle in England’s west country between Wales and the Cotswolds (and only a short drive from Bath). This is where King Henry VIII spent a few nights with Anne Boleyn before sending her off to Never-Never Land. One of my few claims to eminence is having slept in the same room where Henry wooed Anne. As one of Britain’s top-rated castle-hotels, the Thornbury definitely is upscale. Abercrombie & Kent’s price tag for the seven-night holiday figures out to $4,345 per person. While few of us can afford it, let’s see just for the heck of it what you get for $4,345: After doing London, you’re delivered by chauffeured limousine to Thornbury, with its 18 luxury bed chambers and a baronial dining room that’s a treasure. On my visit, the then-chef/owner prepared a meal that can be described only as memorable. The queen herself would have swooned. For the forthcoming A&B; Christmas offer, guests will attend a black-tie dinner (same dining room) preceded by a champagne reception. After midnight Mass (for anyone wishing to attend), the holiday mood will be enhanced by the serving of mince pie and mulled wine. Breakfast on Christmas morning will be delivered to one’s bed chamber, after which guests will exchange gifts beneath a tree in the Great Hall. Dinner will feature everything from goose liver pate to plum pudding. And on Boxing Day (Dec. 26), guests will get gussied up in Tudor costumes to eat until they drop. After taking potshots at clay pigeons, they’ll be returned to London for their homeward flights, which, I hasten to add, is in addition to the $4,345 package. But don’t despair. Abercrombie & Kent is preparing other country holidays, the cheapest costing $3,125 for seven nights at another castle hotel in the British countryside.

Obviously, none of this is for the Bob Cratchits of this world. But think how Scrooge might have enjoyed Christmas had he not been such an old miser.

Abercrombie & Kent at (800) 323-7308.

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Idaho Retreat: Ever get the urge to run off to some small town with little to do but read and kick back in one of those old-fashioned hotels that smack of the early West, only with frills? The Riverside Inn in Lava Hot Springs, Ida., reopened recently after owners Duke and Joan Walden plowed $500,000 into a face lift. The hotel features four mineral tubs (one outdoors facing the Pontneuf River). Sixteen rooms (early Victorian) with king/queen beds and private baths, including a honeymoon suite with a large bed, a handmade quilt, antique lace curtains at the windows. Lots of brass and oak. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a lobby/library for socializing. Guests relax on the veranda to study the river/mountains. This is a sleepy town in southwestern Idaho where life remains serene. In summertime, vacationers ride inner tubes downriver, fish, go hiking, play golf at a nine-hole course. In winter there’s skiing/snowmobiling, odor-free public hot springs for soaking away aches.

Other details from Riverside Inn & Hot Springs, P.O. Box 127, Lava Hot Springs, Ida. 83246, (800) 733-5504. Rates: $55/$75, including breakfast.

Reader Recommendations

California--Bill Fox, Los Angeles: “Orchid Tree Inn, 261 S. Belardo Road, Palm Springs 92262. Ideally located near the mountains/downtown. Rates: $40/$225.”

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Washington--Harry Buckmaster, Pismo Beach: “Domaine Madeleine, 1834 Finn Hall Road, Port Angeles 98362. Overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A botanist’s five-acre dream. Rates from $69.”

Minnesota--Brennan and Margaret Batstone, Seal Beach: “Caribou Lake B&B;, P.O. Box 156, Lutsen 55612. Rates: $78/$88. Fishing, hiking, swimming.”

England--Barbara Kellogg, Alta Loma: “Fern Cottage, 9 Northend, Batheaston, Bath BA1 7EE. Sumptuous breakfast. A quiet neighborhood. Rates: about $90/$99 double.”

Germany--Dennis A. Cavagnaro, Oakland: “Recently driving into the former East Germany, we were dismayed at the expensive hotel rates in Dresden. Luckily we saw in the railroad station a note directing us to a service which would place us in pensions and private homes: Zimmer und Beratung Service, Reiner Schneider, Angelikastrasse 14, 0-8060 Dresden. We stayed at the Erholungshein, Dresdner Strasse 31, 8102 Langebruck. Rates: about $50 for two of us, including breakfast.”

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