Checking in

Falmouth inn makes a point of personal touches

Palmer House Inn, Falmouth
Built in 1901, the Queen Anne-style Victorian Palmer House Inn in Falmouth has a breakfast room that is bathed in sunlight and a parlor welcoming and markedly Victorian. (Ellen Albanese/Globe Staff)
Email|Print| Text size + By Ellen Albanese
Globe Staff / February 3, 2008

FALMOUTH - The best part of visiting a bed-and-breakfast is the personal touch, the knowledge that you are staying in a place that is, if not the actual residence of the innkeepers, at least a home they have chosen to treat as their own.

In such a place, you feel more like a guest than a customer, and that's just how we felt at the Palmer House Inn. Pat and Bill O'Connell were consummate hosts, greeting us warmly, giving an unhurried tour of the 1901 main house, asking questions about dietary restrictions and coffee preferences, offering to bring ice to our room. They managed to make us feel that nothing was more important to them than our comfort.

The inn is an imposing Queen Anne-style Victorian at the edge of Falmouth's historic, shop- and restaurant-filled downtown, which makes it central but quiet. There are 12 rooms in the main house, four in the guest house (including a handicapped-accessible room), and a two-bedroom cottage.

The decor is decidedly Victorian but not over the top. The parlor, bathed in light falling through high leaded glass windows, features comfortable furniture in rose and colonial blue and a wood-burning fireplace. A large tea table was stocked with teas, coffee, hot chocolate, and ice water, and shortly after we arrived a plate of fresh-baked oatmeal raisin cookies appeared. Guests are welcome to enjoy tea in the parlor or on the verandah in warm weather.

We stayed in the Robert Frost Room (all rooms are named for American authors, Pat told us), decorated in shades of green, maroon, and tan, with an attractive stenciled border. The corner room was spacious, with a four-poster king bed, mini-refrigerator, coffee maker, telephone, television, and bath with a whirlpool tub.

Thoughtful extras included bottled water, packets of coffee, an ice bucket and tongs, stemware, and a corkscrew. And while I am not a thread-count snob, I have to say the 600-thread-count sheets were among the softest and silkiest I have ever slept on.

The best part of our room was a comfortable, well-lighted sitting area with two wing chairs and a footstool, and two smaller upholstered chairs on either side of a round table in front of a double window alcove. On the table we found fresh flowers and two books of Frost's poetry. The layout gave us space to chat, read, and indulge our passion for sudoku puzzles.

The comprehensive guest information booklet, a hefty 14 pages, offered advice on everything from operating the room's heating and air conditioning system to getting beach stickers, buying ferry tickets, and booking tee times.

The bathroom offered everything we needed: thick towels, a magnifying mirror, a hair dryer, and space to store our toiletries. We were intrigued by the "candles." Since fire codes prohibit burning candles in the rooms, Pat said, they found battery-operated models, which give off the same flickering, romantic light.

The breakfast room is pretty in pink, with rose floral wallpaper, pink damask tablecloths, and chandeliers laced with decorative cranberries and gauzy ribbon. We loved the silver-plated napkin rings in animal shapes. Our only quibble was that we had no choice of breakfast time; it was served at 8:30 a.m., period.

When we visited, Bill cooked and Pat served, though they often switch roles, Pat said. She recited the menu - "bananas dream" with heavy cream, scrambled eggs with herbs, applewood-smoked bacon, and a corn muffin - and asked if there was any part of it we would not care for or would like to change. I asked for my bananas without the heavy cream, and they arrived with just a sprinkling of cinnamon. Like so many other aspects of our stay, even breakfast had a personal touch.

Ellen Albanese can be reached at

If You Go

Palmer House Inn

81 Palmer Ave., Falmouth

508-548-1230 800-472-2632

What we liked best: A comfortable, well-lighted sitting area in our room.

What we liked least: Having to report for breakfast at precisely 8:30 a.m.

What surprised us: Finding the inn nearly full on a January weekend.

You know you're at the Palmer House Inn when. . . each room reflects an American author with decor evocative of the writer's style or period and signature works on the nightstand.

Rates: $109-$299 including breakfast. The Robert Frost Room was $189 in January.

Directions: Falmouth is 72 miles or about 90 minutes from Boston. Take Interstate 93 south to Route 3 south to Route 6 west to the Bourne Bridge. Over the bridge, take Route 28 south. Continue straight through the traffic signal at Jones Road for approximately half a mile. After Route 28 (Palmer Avenue) turns left toward Falmouth Center, the inn is the first house on the left past the shops. The driveway is before the inn.

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