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May 08

The Windham Hill Inn Effect: Escape to a Green Mountains Paradise This Spring

CIMG4281Spring may have taken hold for us here in NYC, but spring takes a bit longer to arrive in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Thus, I’ve been holding out all winter to let you in on my newly-discovered staycation destination, which lured Deb and me for 3 nights last September. This one’s for the foodie with a longing for the outdoors and a tranquil setting.

If that describes you, and you’ve set aside 3 or 4 days this spring for a romantic getaway, then book your room at West Townshend, Vermont’s Windham Hill Inn, a mere 4-hour drive from the big city. This charming estate is a registered Relais & Chateaux® property, and is the sister property to the White Barn Inn & Spa in Kennebunk, Maine. Just being there for 5 minutes cleansed the city grind from our souls, and promises to provide similar therapy for you.

The Unwind

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A view of the White Barn between two of the estate’s manicured gardens.

The scenic drive into the region put us at ease, flicking our switch from stress mode to “unwind”. On arrival, no sooner than we were warmly greeted by a first-rate, friendly inn-keeping staff did we find ourselves relaxing in the rustic lounge of a converted White Barn, being served appetizers and drinks while we enjoyed jazz performed in an open-mic setting by other guests. We knew right away we had made the right staycation choice.

May We Show You to Your Room?

We chose to stay in Le Pied-a-Terre, a guest room on the second floor of the 18th-century Main House, which sports a large fireplace, a deadly-comfortable queen-sized bed, and sweeping views of the West River Valley as it pours along the horizon to the east of the estate. It was from this vantage point that we fell in love with the property, and decided to spend at least 2 of our 4 days tethered closely to it. We hardly knew the pleasures that such a decision would bring. In addition to this type of accommodation, there are various suites and traditional rooms in the Main House and aforementioned White Barn, plus a charming private cottage nestled into a hill, each of which appear to lend to the overall atmosphere of escape.

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The West River Valley from our bedside.

The Agenda-less Agenda

Southern Vermont has plenty to offer, regardless of the season. But when you have 160 acres of gently-developed paradise right outside your window, there are suddenly fewer reasons to warm up the car. Intricate gardens, manicured meadows, a vast network of deep-forest hiking trails, a heated swimming pool, a spa, and world-class dining options will tempt you to do what we did: settle in, and absorb the “benefits of membership”. Grab a trail map and hit the woods, book an appointment for a deep tissue massage at the intimate spa, or find a chair in one of the gardens, pour a glass of wine, open your favorite book, and be serenaded by the buzz of honey bees busily pollinating the flowers behind your shoulder.

Let’s Eat!

Sometimes when the location and accommodations shine, the food and service disappoint. Not the case at WindhamWindham Hill Inn Food Pic Hill Inn. The breakfasts and dinners served are culinary marvels, utilizing natural, local ingredients, and designed to please the most discerning and sophisticated NYC dining palates. We were so impressed with our first meal at the inn that we decided to dine off-site only once during our entire stay! Besides, one look at the wine list and we knew no one in the neighborhood could top it: 20 pages of well-chosen selections, a sizeable portion of which were mature, without pumped-up prices. The menus vary seasonally, and offer exciting dishes with trendy flair, served by a seasoned wait staff. If you time your stay accordingly, you can even reserve space at a private wine dinner.

Local Excursions

Just a portion of Hamilton Falls, a place to ponder the past.

Just a portion of Hamilton Falls, a place to ponder the past.

If you do manage to temporarily tear yourself away from the grounds, there are numerous worthwhile activities and regional attractions. We visited in late summer, so our experiences were pretty much exclusive to the mild season. For instance, just a 3 minute drive back into West Townshend’s center reveals a periodic farmer’s market, where you can stock up on local honeys, cheeses and seasonal produce. For the adventurous, a simple 15-minute drive will lead you to Hamilton Falls, where you can view and climb along a 150-foot dramatic waterfall. And if you’re feeling the need for a little civilization, 40 minutes to the southeast is the picturesque city of Brattleboro, where the streets are lined with cafes and specialty shops. Of course, Windham Hill Inn’s accommodating staff, passionately headed by Innkeeper Katja Matthews, can offer you on-the-spot details about what’s happening and when, and which activities they would recommend. Don’t be surprised to see us there. Happy Trails!

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