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Lodging in Kennebunkport, ME: Captain Lord Mansion

In summer, Kennebunkport, Maine, is jammed with vacationers soaking up sun on the warm sand, wandering through shops, or hoping to catch a look at George and Barbara Bush. But in spring, the beaches are empty, the stores and sidewalks unclogged, and reservations and parking spaces not yet impossible dreams. It’s a fine time to visit. Now Kennebunkport’s tidy prettiness is easier to appreciate, as are its many exemplars of American architecture, from stark Colonials to elaborate Victorians.

We checked into The Captain Lord Mansion on a Saturday and soon found how tempting it seemed to skip the village’s charms and stay inside. Why leave perfection? But curiosity did occasionally push us into the world beyond the inn.

For lunch, we landed at The Ramp Bar & Grill on Cape Porpoise, a few minutes up the coast. Cozy and hip, it’s the funky little brother of Pier 77, a bigger, fancier restaurant perched above it.

These establishments sit on a small inlet where anchored lobster boats point into the wind and, in the distance, the Atlantic tries to smash the Goat Island Lighthouse. The Ramp’s food — particularly the steamed mussels with tomatoes and chorizo — stands up to the scenery.

Goose Rocks Beach, a few minutes farther north, tempted us into a long seaside walk. At low tide, we shared a huge expanse of hard sand with a few solitary strollers and their romping dogs. But by then we had deprived ourselves of The Captain Lord long enough and headed back into Kennebunkport by way of Ocean Avenue, where we stopped briefly to stare out over the water at the Bush family compound, which sits on a peninsula called Walker’s Point.

Though Kennebunkport is flush with lovely inns, the butter-yellow Captain Lord Mansion is the flushest. In 2006, Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards ranked it among the top 100 U.S. hotels. Impressive. So is the inn’s “Memory Garden,” where the names of guests who have stayed at least 10 times are engraved on paving stones — 400 stones so far. Some are understatements — one represents a couple who has stayed 72 times. We met a couple from Palm Springs, California, enjoying their 13th visit; once, overcome by contentment, they stayed 22 nights.

The inn may be luxurious, but it’s also quite unpretentious, a tribute to its owners of 29 years, Bev Davis and Rick Litchfield, and their affable staff. I peeked into several of the 20 rooms (four of them in the mansion’s garden house) and toured the rest via the inn’s Web site. All are richly decorated and evoke sheer bliss.

We stayed in the Merchant Captain’s Suite. My wife, Jude, headed straight for the opulent double Jacuzzi, a long walk across the capacious bathroom, past an easy chair, settee, and gas fireplace. The grand main room also has a fireplace, flanked by a love seat and easy chair, as well as a desk with a CD player and a canopied king-size bed so regally elevated that small steps lead up to it. Another bathroom has a shower with jets and a waterfall.

As I said, why leave? But if you require dinner, as we did, the Cape Arundel Inn is nearby for a special meal right on the water. For tasty casual fare, we liked Federal Jack’s, a brewpub that serves Shipyard beers and overlooks the Kennebunk River.

But try to wake up hungry. Breakfast at The Captain Lord Mansion is a three-course extravaganza that begins with fresh fruit, yogurt, and granola; proceeds to warm homemade muffins; and culminates with a main course of eggs or waffles or a delectable souffle.

On our next visit to the inn, we want to arrive just before a whopping nor’easter. What better place to be snowbound?

Updated Wednesday, November 30th, -0001

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