These days, it's hard to truly get away from it all. Our high-tech gadgets keep us perpetually plugged in but still we dream of that perfect getaway -- perhaps a bucolic New England town where we can unwind amid nature, poke around country stores and enjoy long dinners with fine wine, preferably within a few feet of a roaring fireplace. After spending a few nights at Windham Hill Inn in southern Vermont, I think I found just such a place.
En route to the inn, I passed through the town of Newfane with a charming village green and white-steepled church and snapped a few photos of nearby Scott Bridge, the state's longest wooden span. Once I pulled into Windham Hill's driveway in West Townsend, an hour's drive northwest of the Brattleboro Amtrak station and saw the snow-lined path leading to an 1825 farmhouse, I thought, so far so good. Instinctively, I whipped out my phone to check email. No service. Even better.
Windham Hill Inn, on 160 acres in the foothills of the Green Mountains, was once a working farm owned by the Lawrence family from Boston. It become an inn in the '70s and has received numerous additions and renovations over the years. Today, the luxury b&b has 21 rooms, 13 in the main house and eight in a restored barn building, many of which are named for the Lawrence children such as Matilda and William, both with wood-beamed ceilings, exposed brick and private decks. In 2009, spearheaded by German-born innkeeper, Katja Matthews, it was awarded membership in the prestigious Relais & Chateaux collection (joining its sister property, the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine).
My room, the North Loft, in the barn building was larger than most New York apartments and had everything I needed and nothing I didn't so no television but a delightful sitting area with a gas fireplace, an enormous Jacuzzi tub under a skylight and a four-poster wooden bed. I could have spent the morning snow-shoeing but a deep-tissue massage in the one-room spa was much more enticing. Mount Snow ski resort is nearby and other activities include visits to local cheesemakers and galleries, antiquing, foliage drives and in the summer, hiking and biking, white water rafting and swimming in the inn's heated pool.
In the afternoon, hot apple cider and homemade cookies are served, while pre-dinner, guests gather round the fire in the parlor with wide-planked wooden floors topped with Oriental rugs and overstuffed couches for a glass of wine or the signature maple martini and Vermont cheeses like Lazy Lady Farm goat and Taylor Farm gouda from the complimentary cheese board. In the elegant, candle-lit dining room (open to non-guests), let Wine Director Dan Pisarczyk, who oversees an award-winning 700-bottle cellar, recommend pairings to complement executive chef Graham Gill's seasonal menu which might include butternut squash-and-brie stuffed ravioli and Maine crabmeat-crusted filet mignon with a béarnaise sauce. Come summertime, feel free to join Gill in the organic garden picking everything from rhubarb to raspberries.
I very quickly got used to the inn's low-tech pace (it sits in a "dead zone" so cell and wifi service are spotty) and could have easily spent more than a few nights there, especially since the attention to detail is so impressive--the jazz music isn't too loud, the lighting isn't too dim. The rooms have full-length mirrors and bathroom lighting bright is enough to do your makeup by--little things that make such a difference but are so frequently overlooked. Additionally, staff knows exactly when you need a coffee refill at breakfast or when to deliver a blanket while sitting on one of the outdoor Adirondack chairs. And there's no end to what Katja won't do for her guests--from driving 15 minutes every morning to pick up the New York Times and Boston Globe so they're in the parlor when guests arise to personally delivering a room service order.
On the morning of my departure, I read some of the comments from my in-room guestbook (not surprisingly, I noticed many repeat guests). They commented on the service, the cuisine and the family-like atmosphere but, interestingly, one guest left no words or signature but simply an ink drawing of the room's comfy armchair with a plaid woolen blanket draped over it. I think that says it all.
Windham Hill Inn rates start at $255 and include a full breakfast. Inquire about its popular Wine Series dinners throughout the year. Upcoming dates include March 2, June 15 and July 20.
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