November. It’s the calm before the storm. Summer is long past; the vibrant fall foliage has dulled, and there’s a lull before the busy holiday season — and Old Man Winter — arrives.
“New England in November has a wonderfully calming effect,” says Beth Steucek, CEO of New England Inns & Resorts Association (www.newenglandinnsand
resorts.com). “It’s a quiet time for a good book, brisk walks, and a few decadent meals. And innkeepers and hoteliers are especially eager to provide a warm welcome at this time of year.”
Before it gets too crazy busy, treat yourself to a quick escape to one of these tranquil country inns. We’re thinking serene settings, quiet towns, and classic inns that remind us of simpler times.
THE GRAFTON INN
Close your eyes and imagine a quaint, postcard perfect Vermont country village. Open those eyes in Grafton and you’re there. The sleepy hamlet, on the National Register of Historic Places, includes a white steeple church, a covered bridge crossing the trickling Saxtons River and a cluster of impeccably restored 19th century houses, surrounded by rolling farmlands and mountain peaks. The Grafton Inn, one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the country, sits prominently on the village common, and has been welcoming quests for more than two centuries. Rudyard Kipling was a resident at the inn while he was writing “The Jungle Book”; Ulysses Grant stopped by in 1867, and Daniel Webster, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ralph Waldo Emerson were guests. The rambling inn oozes historic charm, with age-worn pine floors, fireplaces, antiques, and a gracious porch filled with oversize, cane-backed rockers. There are 45 rooms and suites, located in the main building and nearby restored houses. We like the bright, second- and third-floor rooms located in the main tavern building, many with handcrafted, four-poster beds, topped with fluffy duvets. Snag one of the porch rockers and watch the clouds roll over the Green Mountains before enjoying beverages in the Phelps Barn Pub, with exposed beams, wood paneled walls, and a fireplace. Reserve one night for dinner in the Old Tavern Restaurant, located in the main inn, to enjoy dishes like Grafton cheddar cheese and Long Trail Ale soup, roasted sea bass with an orange gremolata, and a zingy house paella, loaded with chicken, sausage, shrimp and mussels. 92 Main St., Grafton, Vt., 802-234-8407, www.graftoninnvermont.com. Rooms starting at $209.
It’s tough to top the views from this affectionately-restored inn. Tucked away on the slopes of Foss Mountain in Eaton, N.H., the inn sits on a knoll, with lofty vistas of Mount Washington and the Presidential Mountain Range. It was once the gracious summer home of Frank Simonds, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and still has a relaxed, country get-away vibe. Put on your fleece and take a walk around the property, stroll the beach at Crystal Lake, or hike nearby trails. If you’re missing the hustle and bustle, or need to get some early holiday shopping done, you can head to North Conway, only a 10-minute or so drive away. Or not. Instead, relish the peace and quiet, while you have it. Rooms, located in the main house and two separate buildings, are spacious and comfy, decorated in simple country décor; all have private baths, some have fireplaces. But the rooms in the main house have the best mountain views. Check in and then head to the pub to slip into one of the leather chairs fronting the fireplace, the perfect spot for a pre-dinner beverage. Many guests are tempted to stay put, ordering casual fare off the pub menu, including vegetable tacos, steak & frites, and burgers. Others head to the more formal dining room, serving entrees like maple cider brined duck, Maine coast scallops and rack of lamb. Chef Peter Willis also offers a nightly game selection: beef to boar, antelope to venison. “We guarantee that you will leave insouciant and ready for the holiday rush,” promises innkeepers Kevin Flynn and Jen Kovach. 136 Stewart Rd., Eaton, N.H., 603-447-2818, www.snowvillage
inn.com. Two-night stay, breakfast daily, three-course dinner for two, keepsake wine glasses and gift soap (made by the innkeeper) starting at $459, valid through Dec. 24.
THE HANCOCK INN
Your heart rate drops; your breathing gets deeper; your pace slows. Ahhh . . . you’ve landed in the tiny, pristine town of Hancock, N.H., where every single building on Main Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a country store, a church, and the town square gazebo. The Meeting House is home to one of Paul Revere’s bells, and the Hancock Inn opened its doors in 1789, when George Washington was president. Much of the inn’s original details remain: burnished pumpkin pine floors, wood paneled walls, fireplaces, period antiques, and a hand painted mural by American folk artist Rufus Porter. But despite the historic authenticity, the vibe is relaxed and amenities, like flat screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and high thread count linens, are up-to-date. Individually decorated rooms come in all sizes and configurations; all have private baths and some have fireplaces. The Rufus Porter room is a favorite, with an antique four poster bed, electric fireplace and original hand-painted wall murals. The George Washington Room is a cozy cocoon, with a window seat and red, white, and blue décor. Or, splurge on the John Hancock Suite, located in the inn’s original ballroom, with an electric fireplace, whirlpool tub, and four poster king bed. After settling in, head to the inn’s Fox Tavern, known for fresh, farm-to-table cuisine, including dishes like the local cheese and charcuterie platter, New England raised beef ribeye steak, and a daily New Hampshire-caught fish selection. If the mere thought of leaving the inn stresses you out, consider extending the weekend stay. The popular Innkeeper’s Supper on Sunday evenings is all about comfort. 33 Main St., Hancock, N.H., 603-525-3318, www.hancockinn.com. Rooms starting at $159.
Tranquil, elegant, immaculate, beautifully decorated, and very welcoming are some of the words guests use to describe this top-rated Berkshires bed and breakfast. Even in the height of the summer and fall tourist seasons, the inn remains apart from the hustle and bustle, surrounded by six acres of manicured lawns, gardens, and orchards. The gracious two-story Georgian Colonial, the former summer estate of a successful New York surgeon, is filled with quality antiques and lush fabrics; a grand piano sits in the corner of the library/living room, where guests can enjoy complimentary cheese and wine during the cocktail hour. Other nice touches include a help-yourself pantry filled with snacks and beverages and a never empty cookie jar. There are eight guestrooms in the main house (the adjacent Carriage house has two additional rooms and a two-bedroom cottage), with private baths and fireplaces or stoves. Room 1 is a standout; located in the former master suite, it has a four poster bed, working wood fireplace and a bathroom with a steam shower. Room 8 has a private balcony, electric fireplace, and a whirlpool bath with overhead skylights for star gazing. 279 West
Park St., Lee, 413-243-4451,
www.applegateinn.com. Rooms are $170-$305; several specials are offered, including a stay-three-nights-and-pay-only-$50-for-the-third-night package.