Picking the Inn
Don and I were the first of our 3-car caravan to arrive. We found the Victorian Inn on Main Street, in the middle of the cute little "hamlet" of Norwich.
The skies were threatening when we arrived on that June afternoon, but I wasn't worried. The porch looked like the perfect place to for watching a rainstorm.
This photo shows the new Inn and general store, over 100 years ago. The original Norwich inn was built in 1797 and served as a busy stagecoach tavern and hostelry, until fire destroyed it. After many name changes, the inn still sits on Main Street today, beside a newer, but still iconic general store. (Dan and Whit's, built about 1930, is slightly visible in the first photo)
Finding Our Way
I decided to wander the grounds before checking in. The skies looked ready to let loose. The front walkway looked inviting, leading up to the homey porch. The rear of the building was a curious jumble of additions, which held the hotel's bar and some guest rooms. The side entrance was near the bar patio, behind the flowers.
Jasper Murdock Ales
We were a little disappointed to find out the brewery, (housed in the old carriage house) was not open. However, the Jasper Murdock Ales are somehow piped underground, from the brewery to the hotel's pub.
We entered the side entrance and climbed the stairs, near the decorated moose. Gretchen greeted us from the corner desk. She was pretty delightful, welcoming us to the inn, with an upgrade to a King Deluxe Room. While Don filled out paperwork I eyed the coffee and muffins, near the moose. A rainy evening... that might be cozy.
Across from the office desk, I could see the sunny breakfast room and doorways leading to other spaces.
A Couple of Living Rooms
At 4:00, the living rooms were empty. A little later, some of the sitting areas were a little more lively.
I'm guessing fall may be the inn's busiest season. October travelers probably gather around the fireplace, after a day of snapping photos of autumn colors. In September, the inn probably gets a few parents of college freshman, since Dartmouth is just minutes away in New Hampshire. I can picture a melancholy mom or two, rocking on the porch... or cheering with a glass of wine.
Table for Eight
Seeing this cozy dining room, made me wish my younger brother and wife had been able to join us on our road trip. This private dining room would have been the perfect size to enjoy a family meal, during our "sibling road trip". I loved the dark green woodwork and radiator.
This is the room where we dined, later. The sunroom-like space, had once been a porch. I loved the slanted ceiling and clapboard wall. At night, while rain poured outside, the cozy space was lit with twinkly lights. The food was reasonably priced and quite delicious!
After getting our key from Gretchen, we grabbed our bags and made the trip up to the 3rd floor. We passed some curious framed art as we trudged. There was a cute little railed in space with a chair, when we reached the top.
The inn was filled with prints and drawings, cartoon images and paintings. The most curious of all was the framed cat on the third floor. The shadowbox-style frame, held a intriguing cat image, that appeared to be decorated with real cat fur. Yikes. Luckily the only pet art we found inside our room, was a cute little girl and dog.
A Grand Room
Gretchen was right. The room was large. It was so large, that the stone pillar didn't really get in our way.
We stepped into the room and the phone rang. I laughed when I heard Gretchen's voice. "What do think? Pretty nice, huh?" I had joked that my siblings would be arriving and they might be jealous. "You'll need to have everyone in your room for a party!" She encouraged. "I've never had a room with a pillar before." I teased back. "Oh, that's just a chimney." Gretchen answered.
A Grand Bed
The stormy skies and the cozy bed, made me crave a nap.
Luckily there was a handy stool, because that bed was really high. It happened to be as comfy as it was decorative... but I didn't waste time with a nap.
I loved the angled ceiling and the cozy desk in the alcove. I also loved having windows on two walls. It was tempting to open them up and let in some Vermont air... but the air was pretty moist and muggy.
Wallpaper and Tile
Gretchen led me to believe our room was in part of a newer addition. I sort of pretended I didn't hear that, because I love being in the original, old part of every building we stay in.
But if our room was "pretending to be old", then they did a very good job. I loved the wallpaper and painted woodwork. I especially loved the antique dresser that held our water glasses, where candles should be. The bathroom was equally charming, with subway tile around the tub and basketweave tile on the floor. The marble vanity was lovely and the little green stool was just plain cute!
To the Porch!
I was excited about the porch. I was eager to get out there, grab a rocker and wait for the storm. But when I walked out the front door, I was frustrated.
The porch covering was large, but the sitting space was limited... due to ramps. I was eager to find a spot to gather our group of 6, but how?
To the right, there was a row of 5 chairs, lined up properly. How do you visit, when the chairs are all facing out. The yard view was nice, but the porch was just feet away from busy Dan & Whit's general store and gas station. Who wants to watch people pumping gas?
The Better Side of the Porch
The other end of the porch had 3 chairs, set up for visiting. The flowers were nice and so was the fountain, but there was no place for our group of 6. So, we headed with our beer and wine to the little umbrella tables, near the brewery.
And The Rain Came!
But suddenly the skies opened up and we ran for the porch. We probably broke rules, but we moved those darn rockers into a messy cluster. We even blocked the side stairs to the porch, but there was a ramp available.
Loving the Porch
So, I got my porch time! I just turned my back away from the gas pumps and I was in heaven.
The rain came down as I rocked away on that porch, sipping a little wine, gathered with my family... from 3 different states. So happy. I have good memories of playing games on porches with my siblings. What a hoot!
Suddenly, there was the sound of a piano. We turned towards the general store and saw a man in a gray cap, sitting under the awning. He was pounding away on a colorfully painted, upright piano!
A Ragtime Dance
I grabbed my camera and dashed across the driveway, to enjoy. The Piano Man laughed when I told him my family, on the porch, was enjoying as well. He said it was okay to take his picture and then my sister snapped her camera from the porch... which encouraged my silliness. I tried to dance along, but I had to admit to the Piano Man, "I have no idea how you dance to ragtime!"
Piano Man laughed that the piano wasn't really in tune, but he sounded just fine. While he finished his song and I finished my dancing, a truck pulled up with workers in neon shirts. They laughed and danced along, as they headed into the store. When my Piano Man finished, he said he had to get going. He told me, "Oh, I was just on my way to pick up my wife from work. I just stopped to play a little bit." I was charmed.
By the time their truck motor was running, they were in happy spirits. We cheered from the porch and they cheered back. I was so happy that the grungy little store, turned out to be a happy place, not just an eyesore. Best of all, we got to connect with a few cheerful locals.
Rain Through the Night
I also wish I'd taken a better peek inside "Dan & Whit's" next door. You have to love a grocery/dry goods store, with a wooden floor!
Obviously the porch is worth noting... since I used half the blog writing about it. I adore porches!
I also loved our uniquely shaped, comfy room. (You can see our small, square window on the far right) and I loved the people we met from Gretchen to Piano Man. I'll put the Norwich Inn on the "Worth Revisiting" list.
Too Good to Be True?
I thought there might be a catch, when my sister found a Groupon coupon, offering a night in a "castle" for $99.00
But we were happy to find out for ourselves. Here's a photo I took after we arrived at the Castle Hill Resort. There was nothing fake or corny about the impressive home!
Road Trip Stop
We climbed from our 3 cars and grinned at the castle which had been home to Vermont's governor, at the turn of the century.
Stone and Wood
I paused under the structure to take in the view, through the wood and stone frame. I was tempted to keep on walking, towards a few chairs in a peaceful garden area. Then I turned towards the intricate set of wood and screen doors and felt equally delighted. I love cool doors!
The entry was dim and quiet, like a thoughtful museum. But we were suddenly made comfortable by Mary Jane, who greeted from a nearby check-in table. She was delighted to tell me she was putting us in Room 11. "It's the favorite of the staff!" She announced. I'm guessing some guests might not call Room 11 their favorite, because not all guests like to climb stairs.
Up Two Flights
Don and I are used to old hotels with no elevators, but we had more baggage than usual. If we'd arrived about 100 years earlier, we could have enjoyed the luxury of an elevator, since this home was the first residence to have one in Vermont. The old lift no longer worked, so we headed up the first set of stairs, past the original green wallpaper from 1905.
All 3 of our rooms were on the third floor and our group made a rather comical parade, trudging and lugging and panting up to the second floor. It looked like we were coming to stay a month!
When we reached the second floor, we had to head down the hallway, to a narrow stairway at the end of the hall. It was tempting to splash a little water on the face... or call for help on the old phone device...or to test out the broken elevator, behind the wooden door.
Big Corner Room
Don and I dropped our bags and laughed when we saw our room. In many old mansions, the rooms on the top floor were often smaller ones, reserved for the Help. Surely our spacious room couldn't have been the maids quarters?
Room to Play
Not only did our room have a king sized bed and ample seating, but there was floor space, large enough to practice some dance moves. And there was a classy brick fireplace with a peacock fire screen!
Once settled, we took time checking out each others' rooms. Don and I got majorly teased for grabbing up the best room. I guess we should have hosted a room party, to even things out!
Our bathroom was about the size of the hotel room, we'd slept in the night before.
To get to our private bathroom, we opened the beautiful, arched door beside the fireplace, then passed through a closet/walkway. Another door led into the roomy bathroom.
Sweet Window and Tub
I did love the adorable bathroom with all its cozy charm. The diamond pane window looked out on a wooded hill with numerous birdbaths. The tub had a good shower head, but I took full advantage of the soaking portion. I relaxed and pondered the large bathroom closet, with enough shelves to hold 3 seasons worth of Grandma's canned fruits and veggies... or towels.
Pool and Spa
On the other side of the parking area, was a quaint, shuttered building that was once the carriage house. Inside the building was a spa and fitness room, but the weather was perfect for enjoying the salt water pool... or for sitting near the pool. I lounged and watched my sister-in-law do laps.
Back at the Castle
After pool time, we cleaned up and looked for a place to enjoy a little Happy Hour champagne. We traveled down the paneled hallway, away from the porte cochere.
The Living Room
If it had been raining or hot, we could have met up in the living room/library and had some champagne toasts, beneath a most decorative ceiling!
My sister and I did a little exploring while we waited for the others to join us on the patio. This beautiful westside entrance, with windows and stone, was what we saw up on the hill, when we arrived earlier.
Jennifer and I wandered down the pathway a bit. We did some posing for each other's cameras. I am pretending I own the home behind me.
We found another garden area and a wedding reception tent, which reminded us of our nephew's wedding a few days earlier. Andy and Casey's wedding, was what brought the siblings (and spouses) to the northeast to begin with!
Toasting the Newlyweds!
The atmosphere was the perfect for opening our mini bottles of champagne, that we'd gotten as gifts at the wedding.
This was the third wedding that my Meyer Sibs had gathered for in 7 months. It was the first time we allowed extra time to continue celebrating, on the road!
Cheers to All of Us!
We were lucky to have the patio to ourselves. It kind of felt like we were just hanging out "at home". Although my sibs and I never lived in a mansion, nor did our spouses.
We enjoyed sipping our bubbly, before heading into dinner. I'm a little bit glad I didn't know there were rules about outside alcohol on the property. We read the hotel rules later and realized we had been breaking this one. Ooops.
The menu had some exciting options. We all ended up with a fabulous 3-course meal. Beef Wellington, Mussels, Escargot and Bone-in Filet Mignon... Our meal was paced beautifully and couldn't have been tastier.
Diane was our server and she absolutely made our dining experience! She also happily took a couple photos, so we could remember our night!
Best Food & Best Service
The 6 of us agreed that our meal at the castle was probably the favorite memory from our trip. The complimentary truffles and the pecan pie, with maple ice cream was a good ending.
We also agreed that Diane's service helped make our evening above and beyond. It's taken spouses many years to totally get the Meyer (specifically my brother's) Humor. Diane was on top of it, from the moment she greeted our table! Once the cozy room emptied of other diners, our voices got little louder and Diane became more relaxed with our questions and silliness. What a great evening.
Our castle on the hill, was really more of a mansion... but calling it The Castle, was half the fun. We relaxed at the pool and on the patio and dined like Royalty into the night, but it still felt like our castle was a comfy, homey castle.
We are a group, who is happy making memories anywhere. This time we got to make a few good memories, at The Castle!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!