Above left: Step back in time to the Gilded Age at Blantyre; right: A warm fire and overstuffed furnishings in the main house
You don’t have to travel far from Fairfield County for a great getaway. At least that’s what we learned on a recent driving tour of three Relais & Châteaux properties. If you’re not familiar with R&C—a collection of 450 independent hotels across sixty-four countries—know that it’s the antidote to the ennui some seasoned travelers feel at the mention of a ho-hum hotel chain. Each R&C location is a true original, offering a boutique-style experience for those with a yen for painstaking service, beautifully decorated rooms and sublime food—as R&C operates with strict culinary admission standards.
In the late nineteenth century, the leafy, peaceful vistas of this region in the Berkshires drew blue bloods and robber barons, who built big summer homes and spent weekends sipping cocktails with neighbors like literary heavyweight Edith Wharton. That glittering, highbrow era is brought back to life at Blantyre, a Forbes Five-Star property. Originally built in 1901, Blantyre was gifted to the late Ann Fitzpatrick Brown by her parents, rural royalty of the region who founded Country Curtains. In the 1980s, she renovated and reopened the resort that today features rooms in the main house, cottages and the carriage house. While the carriage house rooms are charming with four-poster beds, sitting rooms and private terraces, guests in the main house enjoy suites that are even more plushly inviting, with lovely antiques and art, books (4,500 volumes in all), heavier brocade curtains and deeper clawfoot tubs. Service here is pleasantly brisk and efficient; this is about as formal as it gets in the Berkshires. A typical stay includes an afternoon walk along hiking trails on the property or a treatment at the small but friendly spa. That’s followed by cocktails in the music room, where fires roar and a piano player performs each night. From there, head to the dining room with its dark wood paneling and appropriately fussy china for an amazing meal. Here, it is refreshing to see people talking quietly rather than peering into smartphones. Blantyre has a few cell-free areas so that guests can really step back in time.
Try a hot cocoa tasting at the warming hut, where the spread includes homemade marshmallows, whipped cream and banana bread.
Burn off calories at the tennis courts, pool and bocce ball court. In winter, snowshoes and skis are available for guests.
The wine cellar that houses over 10,000 bottles is a great venue for a special occasion.
Blantyre has one of the few Tesla charging stations in the Berkshires, concealed in a bear statue.
THE INN AT HASTINGS PARK
Every R&C property is unique, but one thing ties them together: Each is rooted in the culture of its location. That much is clear at The Inn at Hastings Park, a New England-style lodging fifteen miles from Boston and a short walk from the town green, where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. “The Battle of Lexington is a big source of pride for this town,” says Trisha Perez Kennealy, who owns the inn with her husband, Michael. She’s a Lexington native who’s as passionate about the town’s history as she is about hospitality and food (after Harvard, she trained at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school). She energetically organizes a walking tour of the town guided by a docent from the local historical society who comes dressed as a colonist; a helicopter ride that highlights the road traveled by Paul Revere on horseback in the hours leading up to the battle, and more. Her enthusiasm, which is shared by her friendly staff, makes for a spirited stay in an atmosphere that’s both sophisticated and family-friendly. There’s even a selection of children’s books in the library. The inn has twenty-two guest rooms in three impeccably restored antique buildings. The décor plays up the historic character of the architecture but reinterprets it with modern flair. The main house is home to Artistry on the Green, a restaurant serving locally sourced food that exudes a casually elegant atmosphere.
Even light sleepers doze deeply here. The owner tested hundreds of mattresses for the guest rooms.
Frette towels and robes, Traditions bed linens and blankets woven on an old-fashioned loom take comfort to a luxurious level.
WINDHAM HILL INN
West Townshend, Vermont
Tucked away on 160-plus acres in the foothills of the Green Mountains is this 1825 farmhouse that’s both elegant and rustic, with a genuinely warm and embracing staff who set the relaxed tone. Sure, there’s plenty to do outside in any season —ski, hike, canoe, fish—but the accommodations are so comfortable you might just want to curl up inside for a while. Common rooms with overstuffed furniture are filled with thoughtful collections of books, games and music, and there’s always a gourmet bite within reach. As for the twenty guest rooms, most have a fireplace or gas stove; others have whirlpool tubs or private decks; not one has a TV. Rooms are in the main house, the cottage and the barn annex, which is a must-see if only for the incredible rough-hewn parlor. The innkeeper presides over a perfectly run property, which faces sweeping vistas that typically draw couples for romantic getaways, as well as a good number of European travelers with a desire to be close to nature but not too far from exceptional food and wine. During our stay, Wine Director Daniel Pisarczyk hosted a great tasting, making selections from two cellars that hold 4,000 bottles. He also collaborates with the chef to create a tasting menu for dinner that rivals any high-end eatery in NYC.
The chef will host a pasta-making class for guests. Sip bubbly and nosh on cheese and charcuterie while watching this pro create dinner by hand.
Produce from the inn’s veggie garden will show up on your plate.
A pool, massage room, bikes and hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty are all on-site.
Photographs courtesy of inns