The sound of a doorbell jolts me from a deep, dreamless sleep and sends me rolling onto my side to peer at the alarm clock. Six o'clock. Ah, the butler always rings once, I think as I stretch under the 600-thread-count sheets and down duvet, smiling at the idea of being served English breakfast tea and freshly squeezed orange juice in bed. My reverie, however, is interrupted by the nightstand telephone.
"Good morning," a soft female voice says with incredible sincerity. "Are you ready for your beverages?"
"Of course. I requested they be served at 6 a.m.," I reply.
"Then you'll have to remove the deadbolt. I can't get in."
Those who don't already enjoy the trappings of extreme wealth may have a little trouble adjusting to life at Falling Rock, the luxurious hostelry that recently opened at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a 2,800-acre property nestled in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. How many people, after all, employ someone round-the-clock just to prepare and serve morning coffee, draw baths and fetch buckets of ice?
My first night in residence, I fought the impulse to set the alarm clock so I could make myself presentable before anyone arrived to wake me up. But, like most guests, I quickly got used to greeting the butler in my hotel bathrobe and bedhead and watching her open the suede draperies while she recited the daily weather forecast. After 24 hours in the place, lifting a finger to do anything for myself became downright painful.
Falling Rock was built to cater to the golfers who play in the 84 Lumber Classic, a PGA Tour event now in its second year that draws pros such as Vijay Singh, Mike Weir and local favorite Rocco Mediate to the resort's newly redesigned Mystic Rock course. And the hotel, inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, is definitely outfitted to accommodate VIPs: plush upholstered furnishings, plenty of cherry woodwork and cabinetry, fireplaces in the suites, handsome stone-tiled baths with stall showers and soaking tubs so deep even the largest guests float. Roughly half of the 42 rooms have balconies overlooking the picturesque 18th green of Mystic Rock. Public areas include ladies' and men's locker rooms, a pro shop, an exercise room, the lobby lounge and an outdoor pool with six private cabanas available for rent by the day during the summer season.
The restaurant, Aqueous, one of 15 eateries resortwide, boasts a progressive American menu heavy on the chefs' own interpretations of surf 'n' turf: freshwater prawn ravioli and roast rabbit saddle, monkfish osso buco and sweet-tea-infused duck, and my own lunchtime favorite, lump crab sprinkled on a grilled sandwich of Vermont white cheddar and sourdough bread.
Noticeably absent from the Falling Rock lobby is the traditional front desk. Instead of queuing up to check in, guests are met by their butlers in the lobby and immediately escorted to their rooms, where credit-card information is taken for payment. Once settled in, new arrivals fill out a form indicating what time they want to be roused; which coffees, teas and juices are to be served; when they'd like their bath drawn â€” even how hot they'd like the water to be. Those who are picky about their bedding can choose between two different mattresses in double-bedded rooms and select pillows from a "pillow menu" listing 15 different options, from a Mediflow water pillow that adapts instantly to different neck positions to a buckwheat-hull counterpart that better ventilates the head. Nightly turn-down service includes little dried-herb-and-flower-filled "dream pillows" on each bed as well as the usual chocolates.
Golf is undoubtedly the pursuit of choice at Falling Rock. (While Mystic Rock closes at the end of October, the more player-friendly Links course remains open as long as weather permits.) But the resort offers plenty of things to do for anyone who can't tell a driver from a putter. Activities run the gamut from clay shooting, rock climbing and off-road driving in a Hummer to wine tastings, cooking classes and private tours of the area's two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Falling Rock guests who are too tired (or lazy) to make it to the resort's Woodlands Spa can book a limited number of in-room services ranging from massages to therapeutic baths.
Or you can spend some of your time as I did, lolling in a soft-as-a-cloud bed, flipping through the 100-plus channels on the flat-screen TV, dining on room service and, of course, calling the butler.
Great Lakes Options
In with the New and the Old
Move over cigars; the newest thrill coming out of Cuba is its art. An array of young Cuban artists, many presenting work never before seen in the United States, are on display through April at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, alongside their established counterparts in the Artists in Residence: Cuba exhibit.
Featured are brothers IvÃ¡n and YoÃ¡n Capote, who use postmodern techniques to create works of satirical social commentary. The results range from thought-provoking to downright chilling.
Admission to the museum, located at 500 Sampsonia Way, is $8, $5 for students, and half-price each Thursday. For more information, call (412) 231-3169 or visit www.mattress.org. â€” Amber Matheson
The Bird's the Word
As much fun as it is to wake up at five in the morning and throw a 20-pound turkey into the oven, Atwood Lake Resort in Dellroy, Ohio, is tempting would-be kitchen slaves with its own version of Thanksgiving. Abandon cooking for a nature hike, a round of golf on the championship 18-hole course and a dip in the spacious indoor pool and sauna. Guests also enjoy free hot cocoa and cookies, dinner overlooking the lake at sunset and a Thanksgiving Day buffet.
The holiday package is available from Nov. 21 through 28. A couple and as many as three children can get a room for $99 (kids under 18 stay free), as well as breakfast for two in the dining room. For more information, call 1-800-362-6406 or visit www.atwoodlakeresort.com.
Introductory rates for a standard room without a balcony â€” $350 a night Sunday through Thursday, $450 a night Friday and Saturday â€” increase as much as $150 after May 14, 2005. For more information, call 1-866-399-6957 or log on to www.nemacolin.com.