Cover Story » Vol.12

Getting Away without Going Far

Perfect New England Weekend Getaways

There are few more welcome phrases a spouse can utter than, “Hon, let’s get away from everything for a few days.”  It is an invitation to unwind, perhaps explore a new town or remain comfortably hidden from the outside world, to forget everyday stresses, and to simply treat yourselves to a bit of pampering, change of scenery, and relaxation.

One of the many benefits of living in New England is that not only do we have beautiful falls that beg us to make the most out of their crisp, cool day, but we also have an abundance of inns and bed and breakfasts that offer the perfect weekend escapes.  Whether you prefer to spend as much time outdoors ~ perhaps hiking or discovering a nearby vineyard ~ or would rather stay snuggled up in front of the fire from the moment you arrive, there is a destination perfectly suited to your definition of a weekend getaway ~ and best of all, these inns and B & Bs are much closer than you think.

Garden Gables Inn
By Ellen O’Connor

Peggy and John Roethel are new to the Garden Gables Inn, but they are not new to the hospitality business.

“We had to hit the ground running this July 1,” said Peggy Roethel of the day that they took over the inn from the previous owners. “We had 100 percent occupancy.”

Their previous bed and breakfast business in the Brandywine Valley area of Pennsylvania held them in good stead for the busy season at the Garden Gables Inn, an historic inn located in the Berkshire Mountains in Lenox.  It was built in 1780 by Susan and Eliza Williams as a home.

The Roethels’ goal is to make the Garden Gables Inn a year-round destination, similar to the experience they had at their previous bed and breakfast, said Mrs. Roethel. During the warm weather months, the inn is full, what with visitors coming to the Berkshires to hear the Boston Symphony, watch the dance at Jacob’s Pillow, or just enjoy the beauty of the Berkshire Mountains.

“One of the very unique factors of our place is that we can offer year-round activities, like cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing,” she said.  “We are going to try to lure people up here for the different seasons.”

To that end, the Garden Gables Inn will be offering packages during the cold weather months, trying to attract people who are interested in outdoor activities. One of the packages is for New Year’s and will include cross country skiing through a nearby winery and orchard and a complimentary wine tasting.

“It is a very lovely property,” said Mrs. Roethel of the winery and orchard that is about five acres in size.

Upon their return, cold skiers can warm up near the inn’s fireplace.
“There is a fire going all the time,” she said.

“We don’t want this to be a one season or two season resort,” said Mrs. Roethel. “We are going to use all of our experience with marketing to get people up here.”

The Garden Gables itself is a destination.  It is a first-class inn with both a fascinating history and a vibrant present.

During the warmer months, there are plenty of things to do, including hiking the area trails. There are hikes that suit a range of abilities ~ from easy terrain, shorter hikes to more demanding, up- the-mountain type of hikes.  The inn also offers guided hikes, hay rides and apple picking.

The Garden Gables Inn is the kind of place where you can park your car upon arrival, fill your vacation with wonderful activities ~ or just plain relaxing ~ and never get back into your car until you have to leave, said Mrs. Roethel.
That sounds like the perfect vacation.

www.gardengablesinn.com

The Beechwood Hotel
By Ellen O’Connor

The Beechwood Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel that has been in operation in Worcester for 20 years, is not content to rest on its laurels.

The Beechwood, located at 363 Plantation Street, is in the midst of a major renovation, which includes the construction of a 250-seat restaurant that will have indoor and outdoor dining, a terrace, a bar, and an outdoor tented park area that will host movies and concerts or wine festivals or whatever else they can think of. There will be function rooms that can easily handle large weddings, meetings, and bar mitzvahs, holding up to 400 people.

“The whole thing should be finished by the second quarter of 2010,” said vice president and general manager Mark Waxler about the $7.5 million project. “We are hoping it becomes a destination.”

Right now, The Beechwood has carved out its own successful niche as a 73-room luxury hotel that caters to guests who otherwise might be staying at the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton in Boston.

“The difference is you pay a lot less here,” said Waxler, but without a downgrade in accommodations and service.

In fact, The Beechwood is about to launch a new program that will make a guest’s stay even more pleasant.

There will be a computer in every room with special software that guests can use to order room service, gather information about local events and restaurants, make airline reservations, or order more towels.

“Whatever they request, it goes into their profile,” said Waxler. So the next time they visit, the hotel will know ahead of time that this particular guest likes flowers in their room or feather pillows.  In short, the hotel will have a way to track guests’ likes and dislikes, which will help make their next stay even more enjoyable.

“It is a really interesting concept,” he said, and one that is completely cutting edge.  He hopes to have the system up and running by October.
Of course, people will still be able to order things the old fashioned way by calling the front desk, said Waxler, but those who prefer the newest technology will have it at their fingertips in the form of their own personal room computer ~ or their own smart phone.

The Beechwood offers all kinds of getaway packages – romance packages, spa packages, golf packages. It has its own award-winning restaurant, a fitness center, and the usual amenities for the business traveler.

With all the hotel offers, Waxler is still quite excited about the potential of the new project.

“It is the same concept as the Boston Harbor Hotel,” he said. “It’s going to be the place to go and the place to be seen.”

www.beechwoodhotel.com

Hotel Northampton

By Ellen O’Connor

Plenty of famous guests have called the Hotel Northampton home for a time.  President Richard Nixon.  Tom Cruise. Nicole Kidman. David Bowie.  Even his Holiness the Dalai Lama has spent some time at the historic hotel in downtown Northampton.

“I was lucky enough to meet him,” said Mansour Ghalibaf of the visit by the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.  “It was a good experience.”

Of course, not all of the people who have stayed at the Hotel Northampton are celebrities or politicians or religious leaders. Everyone is welcome.
Ghalibaf took over the hotel in 1990, when it was under bankruptcy. He did a lot of work to bring back its luster and it’s now known as “the jewel of downtown,” he said proudly.  The Hotel Northampton, which is located at 36 King Street and which was built in 1927, is a member of the Historic Hotels of America, just one of the prestigious organizations to which the hotel belongs.

The hotel, which has 106 rooms, has all the amenities expected of a first-class inn ~ wireless internet, exercise room, fine dining, turn down service, valet dry cleaning. It also has something no other hotel in the area can lay claim to: the oldest restaurant in New England.

The Wiggins Tavern is the Hotel Northampton’s more formal restaurant ~ one of two dining establishments on the premises ~ and it has a bit of family history to tell. It was in 1786 that Benjamin Wiggins began operation of the Wiggins Tavern in Hopkinton, NH, with the tavern quickly building a reputation for fine food and spirits. Lewis Wiggins, a direct descendant of Benjamin’s and the original owner of the Hotel Northampton, decided to move the old tavern to his new place of business.

“He transferred everything,” said Ghalibaf. “Everything.”

Particular detail was paid to reassembling the tavern as closely to its original design as possible; even some of the interior furnishings are from the original tavern. So, if you choose to dine at the Wiggins Tavern, be aware that you are enjoying your repast in a restaurant that looks about the same as it did when it served its first customers more than 200 years ago.

In addition to its own rich history, the Hotel Northampton has plenty to offer visitors who wish to get out and explore.  The area is home to five colleges, numerous museums and fine arts centers, and has plenty of opportunity for [almost] everyone’s favorite pastime ~ shopping.  The hotel is near the Mohawk Trail. People can hike, bike, leaf peep or take white water rafting trips.  If participating in sports is not your thing, you can travel to the Basketball Hall of Fame in nearby Springfield.  The Hotel Northampton also offers getaway packages throughout the entire year.

www.hotelnorthampton.com

The Inn at Woodstock Hill

By Cristal Steuer

“The Inn at Woodstock Hill has old New England country charm but with modern conveniences,” says Lara Luppi, banquet manager at the Inn at Woodstock Hill.

Set in the quaint little town of Woodstock, CT, with sixteen acres of rolling countryside and breathtaking views of the hills and valleys, it makes for the perfect combination of country and elegance.

With 18 guest rooms in the main part of the Inn ~ of which many are adorned with  four poster beds and gas fireplaces ~ and three rooms in the guest cottage, which has a kitchen and living room ~ it’s a home away from home.
The Inn was built as a country estate in 1827 and operated as a dairy farm until 1982. In 1986, Richard Naumann, who hails from Germany, bought the entire property and opened the Inn.

The Inn offers numerous getaway packages including the Wine Lovers’ Getaway, where you can visit some of the local wineries like Taylor Brooke and Sharpe Hill, an Antique Lovers’ Getaway, where you are bound to find treasure in the antiques capital of New England, and a Golf Lovers’ Getaway that will have you enjoying the great golf courses in the area while staying at the Inn and enjoying its fine dining after 9 or 18 holes. The Inn is known for their veal chop, chicken saltimbocca, and the rainbow trout with crabmeat and bacon (I must add here that their crab cakes and chocolate cake are also to die for).

If you or your child or grandchild is looking for a place to get married ~ or even to renew your vows ~ then there is no place in the area more beautiful to tie the knot than the Inn at Woodstock Hill. (OK, maybe I’m a little biased because I had my nuptials there.) “We do approximately 50 weddings per year, most of them are in the summer and fall seasons,” says Luppi.
With approximately 25 seasonal workers, the Inn can pull off a wedding of any size. From saying “I do” under the gazebo with the country backdrop to enjoying a fine dining experience in the Victorian dining room to celebrating under a tent outside in the back, you can get married pretty much anywhere on the Inn’s premises.

But the secret to this place ~ what truly sets it apart ~ is the service. Anything you ask for, it is done. Anything you can dream up, chances are the Inn at Woodstock Hill can make it come true.

The Inn has had its fair share of celebrity guests, too, which just adds a bit of excitement: Whoopie Goldberg, Paul Newman, Brian Dennehy, Meg Ryan, and Melanie Griffith, to name just a few.

If you are looking for country surroundings, beauty, impeccable service, and the best food around, you better book a room fast!

For more information visit: www.woodstockhill.net

Vienna Restaurant & Historic Inn

By Cristal Steuer

Proprietors, Lisa & Jonathan Krach

Proprietors, Lisa & Jonathan Krach

If you are looking to get away, say to another country perhaps, but have only a weekend to spare, look no further than the Vienna Restaurant & Historic Inn in Southbridge, MA.  Whether you are looking for a little taste of Austria or just a relaxing getaway, owners Lisa and Jonathan Krach, who started the Inn from the ground up, promise to not disappoint.

“In 2003, the restaurant opened. Shortly after, a guest room upstairs, one by one, every couple of months we would complete another,” explains Lisa. “A total of five suites are available for use.”

The cozy guest rooms each offer a different flair; take, for example, the The Königzimmer (or King’s Room) and the Freudzimmer (or Sigmund Freud Room), both of which will transport you to another country and era.

If you need even more proof that you have traveled to a distant land, stop by the restaurant to have some homemade Wiener Schnitzel. “This thinly pounded veal cutlet is raised right here in Southbridge, at East Acres Farm,” exclaims Lisa. “Lightly breaded and sautéed in butter, and served with a wedge of lemon and accompanied by the traditional ‘Lingonberry jelly,’ this dish is the ultimate in simplicity but rarely duplicated as is our Schnitzel.  Guests are always commenting that this is as good, if not better than, those same served in Vienna, Austria.”

Freud Zimmer Suite

Freud Zimmer Suite

What’s dinner without dessert? “Our authentically prepared homemade apple strudel (a.k.a. apfle strudel) is of course, the best in Massachusetts,” says Lisa. “The handed-down recipe and technique is made with ultra-thin dough and rum soaked raisins, butter and tart apples baked until buttery and crisp.”

The Inn is lucky to be in an area with a grand variety of rural activities. Lisa recommends the “back in time” theme: with Sturbridge Village right down the road, start at the Village for the day and end with the old world charm of dinner at the Vienna. “It seems to work just about every time,” she says.

Konigzimmer Living Room

Konigzimmer Living Room

Lisa also suggests visiting some of the local orchards to pick a pumpkin and grab a bag of apples. If it is antiques you treasure, the Brimfield Antique and Textile show is by far the most popular event the area offers; add that to an impressive selection of antique stores and galleries in a 20 mile radius and you have an antique lover’s dream-come-true.

During the fall foliage season (Nov. 3 -17), the Inn will be offering a two-for-one night stay on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. This special rate includes a 2-room guest suite that is lovingly appointed with antiques and European featherbeds, a private bath, full gourmet breakfast for two and hors d’oeuvres and a cocktail each night of your stay.

Make sure to stop by their open house in December for a tour of the Inn with its festive holiday décor; enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and Gluwein, a traditional hot mulled wine with spices and a splash of schnapps.

Most importantly ~ if you mention this article, Lisa and Jonathan will treat you to one free Viennese dessert with a paid dinner for two from now until November 18.

For more information visit: www.thevienna.com.

The Red Maple Inn
By Cristal Steuer

Shari Alexander and John Bills

If a romantic, elegant getaway is what you are looking for, then the Red Maple Inn in Spencer ~ a recent winner of the YANKEE Magazine “Editors’ Choice” Award can provide just that, and more.

Shari Alexander and John Bills bought the Inn in 2003.  John had just retired from a 26-year career as a tenor with the Metropolitan Opera Company.  “After singing 5,000 performances with everyone from Pavarotti, Carreras and Fleming, he was too young to retire, doesn’t play golf and wanted a new challenge and also to live in a beautiful historic home,” explains Shari. “I had already owned many restaurants, a catering business, managed upscale boutique hotels and basically just wanted to sit in cafés in Paris and Madrid drinking red wine and people watching.  John seems to have gotten his way!”

The Inn offers 15 cozy guest rooms, delicious dining, and even a cooking school. After 30 years in the food industry, Shari channeled her passion into opening up a cooking school at the Inn: “Each class includes demonstrations of various international cuisines and local seasonal dishes, such as Summer in Tuscany, The Mediterranean Table, French Country Cooking, and Fabulous Fall Bounty.”

During the lesson there is also a wine tasting conducted by the Inn’s sommelier. You may even get to meet someone famous. Shari invites many of her culinary friends to be guest chefs at the cooking school, including Top Chef’s Tom Schaudel and Miguel Morales, stars of TV shows and noted chefs/restaurateurs.

It’s no surprise that The Red Maple Inn serves a “Signature Gourmet Breakfast Menu.” “Every dish is my favorite, especially the mascarpone pumpkin mousse French toast,” says Shari. “For dinner I must admit my herb-crusted hand cut filet mignon with port wine demi-glace with Danish bleu cheese served with a leek and gruyere tart is my favorite, also my paella is delicious.”

The Romantic Peach Room

The Romantic Peach Room

Every Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. the Inn features a “Dinner and a Movie” special. Shari prepares a sumptuous three-course seasonal meal and dessert. Then John has a short discussion on why each classic film is selected. “John is a life-long movie buff, member of the prestigious American Film Institute (AFI) and a classic film ‘encyclopedia!’” exclaims Shari. “Our guests love his discussions before adjourning to our private screening room and wine cellar.”

During the holiday season, the Inn partners with the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield for their Fireplace Feasts, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. “We provide the luxury overnight accommodations, Salem Cross serves up traditional New England dining in a wonderful Colonial era setting,” says Shari.

The Elegant Parlor

The Elegant Parlor

Just minutes away from St. Joseph’s Abbey, Old Sturbridge Village, Salem Cross Inn, Brookfield Orchards, the Brimfield Antique Fair, and many antique shops, the Red Maple Inn may just be the perfect getaway.

For more information visit: www.theredmapleinn.com.

Jenkins Inn
By Ellen O’Connor

Twenty-four years ago, David Ward and his partner bought themselves a bit of history when they purchased an 1834 Gothic Revival in Barre, MA.
The six-bedroom residence had been vacant for a while and had been neglected for far longer.

“The structure itself was sound, but it needed a lot of cosmetics, both on the interior and exterior,” said Ward, who wears the following hats at the Jenkins Inn & Restaurant, located at 7 West Street (Route 122): owner, innkeeper, and chef.  He and partner Joseph Perrin did a lot of the work themselves and contracted out what they could not accomplish on their own.

“We did all of the scraping, painting and wallpapering. Twenty-four years ago it wasn’t so bad, but I am not as young as I used to be,” he laughed.

The Jenkins Inn, which operates as a bed and breakfast, opened more than two decades ago and has served as host to business travelers, nature lovers, and tea drinkers alike.  It has four bedrooms, each with its own private bath. There is a gourmet restaurant on the premises, which is open to the public, and a full bar and lounge with a fireplace. The sheets are a luxurious 600-thread count and there are pillow-top mattresses with extra pillows to make sleep that much more enjoyable. A snack basket awaits all guests upon their arrival. And, of course, there are the usual technical amenities, such a cordless room telephones, Wifi and cable television with HBO and Showtime.

Ward, who does the cooking for the gourmet restaurant, is self-taught.

“I worked in a lot of restaurants with great chefs and I asked a lot of questions,” he said of his culinary schooling. Perrin makes all the desserts for the restaurant. Ward changes the menu about four times a year and always makes sure to include at least one odd item. Sometimes it is emu steak, other times it is kangaroo.

“You’ve got to be different from other restaurants,” he explained. The Jenkins Inn dining room seats up to 18 people, so make sure to call ahead for reservations.

As for local attractions, there are many of the natural variety: lot of trails for biking, hiking, fishing, and cross country skiing, plus the beautiful Quabbin Reservoir is nearby.  There are apple orchards to visit, an alpaca farm, antique stores, and even a Buddhist meditation center.

Most of the Inn’s getaway packages are offered during the winter, which is their slower season. Come March, stop by on a Sunday afternoon for tea, crumpets, scones, classical music, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and the lost art of conversation.

“We love this business,” said Ward. “It is our lifestyle.”

www.jenkinsinn.com

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