Traveling with Orvis is not always the easiest, and often, you can be hard-pressed to find "dog friendly" places for any pup that breaks the 30 pound barrier. This however, is a collection of some of Orvis' favorite places (where you won't find any size-ism), and some of the things to do that we consider to be truly dog friendly.
It’s easy to forget that the yearly trips Michael, Orvis, and I take to Vermont every August started as little more than a late summer work trip in 2012. At the time, we had lived in New England for four years and still hadn’t been to Vermont. Since that first wonderful trip to the Green Mountain State, we’ve been back a number of times, at various points throughout the year, and continue to fall even more in love with the state, but it sure is hard to beat our summer visits to Vermont.
This August’s destination was Woodstock, a town that will always hold a very special place in our hearts, as it is where we traveled right after we were married last fall. The Woodstock Inn, we’re thrilled to report, is still as dog-friendly and inviting as it was back in November, and the town is just as charming, if not more so, in the summer when yards and gardens are at their very best, and the streets and square are bustling with people.
On this trip, wanting to slip into our Vermont vacation mindsets as quickly as possible after we arrived, we grabbed the bottle of champagne we were greeted with in our room, picked up some Plymouth Cheese at the farmer’s market in the town green across the street, and headed up Mt. Tom for an evening picnic on the mountain. The views of town and the surrounding area from the overlook on Mt. Tom are spectacular on almost any day, but having the trail and area at the top almost entirely to ourselves made it all that much more special.
We spent the following day reacquainting ourselves with the town, selecting our favorite homes (mine is pictured in this post). We visited the inn’s beautiful spa together, ate lunch by the pool, and hiked up Mt. Peg for the first time with Orvis.
That night we returned to a special spot for dinner, the restaurant in Ludlow we’d visited on that very first trip to Vermont back in 2012, The Downtown Grocery. With an emphasis on southern cuisine and the freshest local produce, The Downtown Grocery impressed us just as much as it did three years ago.
On our final morning, we took another stroll through the nearby Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park before checking out. Although leaving Vermont is definitely the hardest part of every trip to the state, over the years I’ve learned (and am convincing Michael) that the best way to ease the pain of leaving is to stop by Farmhouse Pottery to add another beautiful piece to our slowly growing collection. As we drove back through town we realized we weren’t quite ready to leave, so in an attempt to prolong our vacation just a few hours longer, we stopped for a picnic on the front lawn of the Woodstock Inn, a pleasant way to cap off another perfect August trip to Vermont.
By far, our favorite date night in the summer involves a quick trip over to Cape Elizabeth for dinner at The Well, followed by a visit out to Kettle Cove to watch the sunset. (On nights that we don’t happen to indulge in one of the tasty desserts at The Well, we’ll even complete the evening with an ice cream cone from the Kettle Cove Ice Cream.)
As we began thinking about dinner after work one evening last week we realized that the weather was too perfect not to enjoy our little date night in Cape Elizabeth, so we ditched the quinoa salad we planned on preparing, grabbed a bottle of rose from the fridge, and jumped in the car with Orvis. Thankfully, we got to The Well just in time to snag the last available picnic table for awhile. Although we’ve been to The Well three other times this summer, this was our first visit of the season with Orvis and per usual, he settled in quite nicely and made friends with all of the other families dining outside at the picnic tables.
After our fantastic meal, we took the scenic route to Kettle Cove, where we spent the remainder of the evening on a blanket with Orvis watching the sun go down. Kettle Cove is one of the very first places we visited when we moved to Maine seven years ago and we think it’s just as beautiful and special all these years later. Living so close to places like The Well and Kettle Cove are two of the reasons we love living where we do.
When dreaming up weekend trips to Boston with Orvis, The Liberty Hotel has always been high on our list of places to stay. Friends of ours with dogs have long talked about how accommodating the hotel is to pets, especially on Wednesday evenings in the summer during the famed Yappier Hour. So, when we found out that I’d be speaking at a conference in Boston this past weekend and decided to bring Orvis along for the trip, we looked no further than The Liberty.
Housed in the former Charles Street Jail, The Liberty Hotel is easily one of the more unique settings in which we’ve ever spent the night. The stylish open main space, in the old jail’s central octagonal building, retains many of its original 19th century architectural details, including the cells inside Clink, the catwalk walkways, and the wrought-ironwork on the windows. But while the details are a constant reminder of the space’s past criminal “guests”, a night at The Liberty is far from a stint in The Slammer. The modern amenities, the comfortable rooms (many with amazing views of Beacon Hill and the Charles River), and the impeccable service are just a handful of reasons why we’ll be returning in the future, but possibly the greatest asset of The Liberty for our trio was just how dog-friendly it turned out to be.
We don’t always choose to bring Orvis along with us when we travel to cities – he’s always seemed to be happiest running wild in the country – but we couldn’t have been more pleased that he made the trip down to Boston. Walking around Beacon Hill, down to the South End, up and down Comm. Ave, and through the Public Garden with him at our side was something we’ll always remember fondly. From our research and the comments of friends, we expected a certain level of dog-friendliness at The Liberty prior to our arrival, but we were continually blown away by how well he was treated, both by the staff and by the other guests throughout our stay. He was encouraged to sit right next to us as we sipped our cocktails in the lobby bar, something which we rarely have the chance to experience with Orvis indoors. The image of a rather large, goofy dog in the middle of such a luxurious setting will always bring a smile to our faces, and we honestly cannot imagine planning another trip to Boston with Orvis that doesn’t include a stay at The Liberty – we all enjoyed ourselves way too much to not have an encore visit.
When shooting film you find that every now and then a forgotten roll surfaces, and if you’re lucky, when you develop it, some pleasant memories are uncovered. Finding this most recent roll filled with images we took during a Wine Time at Blue Spoon with Orvis was just one of those cases. While planning the details for our tiny wedding, we sat outside one of our favorite restaurants as fall settled in around us. We sipped the featured $2 glasses of wine and snacked on mussels, roasted fingerlings, and crostini, as Orvis made friends with people passing by. It’s amazing how these memories come rushing back now that we have the photos.
As we finish out this week on a high note with some gorgeous weather in Maine, we just wanted to quickly share one last part of our trip to Vermont and the Pitcher Inn that made the stay so unforgettable – their inn-dog-in-training, Maisy. When we don’t travel with Orvis, one of Meredith and my favorite parts of any trip is meeting an inn dog to take the sting away of not being with our own furry friend. So although Orvis loved meeting and walking with Maisy around Warren, we know that this beautiful golden retriever will bring plenty of smiles to many travelers for years to come.
In the center of the town of Warren, Vermont there’s a bend in the mountain brook that cuts perpendicular across Main Street. Nestled in that bend, you’ll find the Pitcher Inn, a grand white building, heavily-porched, with a character that defies its surprisingly young age. Meredith, Orvis, and I recently spent a few evenings at the inn, and to say that we fell in love would be an absolute understatement. With its staff, design, food, comfort, and personality, our stay here was easily one of the more memorable we’ve shared since starting our site three years ago.
In the mid 1990s, after a fire reduced the original Pitcher Inn (essentially a ski hostel) to little more than a footprint, a number of ideas were pitched for the property – even that of a nursing home or a gas station. Fortunately, the Smith family had the foresight to see the property’s importance to the character of the town and value as more than a pit stop, and thus began the life of today’s Pitcher Inn.
As the inn was rebuilt, careful consideration was placed on details to make it feel authentic to its New England roots. If you’ve ever spent time in an old home or building that’s seen years of stories, growth, and renovation, you know that floors are rarely level between additions and hallways aimlessly meander, connecting the dots between rooms. These details were carried over to the inn’s new construction, giving a historical feeling to your stay, while tucking away the modern conveniences to the peripheral. Although throughout the first floor, the inn follows the standard upscale historical Vermont hotel to which the exterior alludes, opening any given door of the eleven rooms of the inn, and you’ll find an eclectic collection of themes that represent some part of Vermont’s history. A colonial room decked in toile, an alpine cabin with actual signage from neighboring ski mountains, a river room with a fly-fishing tie table and canoe alcove, and Orvis’s personal favorite, the dog-friendly ‘stable’ (which happens to be the only surviving structure of the fire). The detail and craftsmanship of the rooms at the Pitcher Inn create a delightful feeling of playfulness while serving as a nod to that which defines the people and culture of Vermont. Our spacious room had a rustic character, accented with modern comforts, and would have been a perfect place to return to after a long day of exploring. While Orvis generally loves any trip to Vermont, I don’t think he’ll ever be quite as excited with our accommodations as he was to find his own Orvis dog bed and a pile of treats and toys upon check-in!
Another fantastic part of the Pitcher Inn is its food and drink. Each morning, the breakfast options would range from the classic bacon and egg staple, to pancakes and french toast with that oh-so-delicious Vermont maple syrup. Starting days with a filling breakfast is one of my favorite parts of travel, and the Pitcher Inn does it as well as anyone. Our one meal at the inn’s primary restaurant, 275 Main, was exceptional. Vermont is no stranger to fresh, locally sourced, delicious cuisine, but our dishes and wine that evening were easily one of the best meals we’ve had in Vermont, or anywhere for that matter. For a more casual atmosphere, we highly recommend Tracks, the relaxed tavern downstairs – the beer list and burger are worth it alone.
Before I wrap up, I feel a special need to highlight how exceptional the staff at the Pitcher Inn was during our stay. In our travels, Meredith and I have had all sorts of interactions with hotel employees. Ranging from rigid ruled courtesy to friendly casual conversation, we typically can guess how our stays will play out not too long after we arrive. Adding a large black lab to the mix can add a little bit of hesitation, but at the Pitcher Inn, there was absolutely zero hesitation and “friendly” would be an understatement. From the moment we checked in, we felt right at home amongst friends. Orvis was doted on and genuinely loved. From Siobhan at the front desk to Ari, the general manager, and everyone in between, we felt as though we were completely taken care of. Dinner recommendations were made from personal experiences, our names were used in passing “hellos”, and we felt like much more than just two guests passing through. I could write an entire post just about the people that make the Pitcher Inn so outstanding, but I’ll save the gushing… well aside from a special mention and thanks to Ari. His knowledge and personality added something to our stay that we’ve never quite experienced before. His commitment to the inn and to ensuring that each and every guest has an exceptional time is simply unrivaled in our travels, and suffice it to say, if every inn had an Ari, we might not ever return to our own home.
Staying at the Pitcher Inn is really all about the experience. The property is so much more than just its Relais & Chateaux affiliation, or its eleven uniquely beautiful rooms – it’s about the people, the details, the food, and the character that really make your time here exceptional. We missed the inn the very moment we pulled away, and cannot wait to revisit it often in the future.
When Meredith and I first started dating, her family had been visiting Bald Head Island for a number of years. From the stories they’d tell and the excitement they’d share, it was clear that the island held a special place in their hearts, and fortunately for me, it wasn’t long before I was able to join in on the tradition.
Not unlike many other islands on the coast of North Carolina, Bald Head’s coast is lined with wide, white sandy beaches, bordered by grassy dunes, while its mainland-facing side consists of a marshy estuary, riddled with a maze of wildlife-filled creeks and streams. However, wholly unlike the other islands on the coast of North Carolina, it’s the span between the dunes and marsh that make Bald Head Island such a special and unique place to the people that are lucky enough to visit it. The island is almost entirely free of cars, and has been since its earliest days. Accessible only by passenger ferry or personal watercraft, the main modes of transportation on the island are golf carts, bicycles, or your own two feet, and because of this, Bald Head maintains a largely unspoiled natural beauty that’s becoming harder and harder to find on the shores of North Carolina. The island is not without its developments and luxuries – there’s a quaint harbor with a handful of restaurants, a year-round market with a string of small shops, and even two country clubs on either end – but it’s the controlled pace and planning of these developments that have allowed Bald Head to grow beautifully with time, without overreaching on what the island can handle.
Similar to other visitors, Meredith and my early days on the island were spent riding our beach bikes along the roads, visiting Old Baldy (the oldest lighthouse still standing in North Carolina), walking around the harbor, and losing all track of time on the beaches. While it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend one’s days, we were sadly missing a pretty integral part of our relationship – the 90lb. black ball of fur we call Orvis. Although the island is incredibly dog-friendly (open access on the beaches, trails across the inland, dog bag stations and trash cans on seemingly every corner) the place we stayed was sadly not, so we boarded Orvis on our trips, and guiltily enjoyed the island without him. We did add a getaway to Bald Head with Orvis to our “30 by 30” list, but after moving to Maine, our trips to the island dwindled as it became difficult to line up our schedules and balance visits with friends and family, and before we noticed it’d been five years without a trip.
Then this winter came. The freezing temperatures and feet of snow took their toll on the two of us, and in Meredith’s search for warmer weather, we realized that an off-season visit to Bald Head might be the perfect way to introduce Orvis to the island and trade Maine’s white powder for North Carolina’s white sand. It took little time to find a perfect-sized, dog-friendly place on the marsh, and in the blink of an eye, we were headed down the highway with puppy in-tow. That first ferry ride back to the island in so many years felt surreal – I don’t think I had realized how much I had maybe written off our time on Bald Head as a thing of the past – but once we arrived, everything seemed just as unspoiled and untouched as it always had been. “Quiet” is an understatement. In the first two days on the island, there was hardly another person to be seen. It was a little chilly for North Carolina, but even after it warmed up considerably (we even went for a shoeless walk in the sand), the beaches and roads remained empty, and we felt as though we had the entire island to ourselves. Orvis loved, loved, loved Bald Head. Laughing at him running and exploring off-leash made me upset that this hadn’t been a yearly winter tradition, but with any luck, it will be going forward.
It took Meredith and I moments to fall into our old island routines – running, walking, exploring, and relaxing – and although they were some of the happiest days I can remember, in the blink of an eye, our trip was over and we were boarding the ferry for the mainland. In our earlier visits to the island, Meredith’s mom would, like clockwork, stand in line to board the departing ferry, watching the new arrivals disembark, and say loudly “it’s our saddest day, and their happiest” to many chuckles from other passengers, but on that day, I couldn’t agree more with that voice in my mind. Now I can hardly wait for the day to come again when the tables are turned and it’s Meredith, Orvis, and my happiest as we return to the island. Thank you, Bald Head.
Breaking up the long drive to and from North Carolina has become an essential part of this road trip we make a few times per year. We don’t always have the opportunity to plan such a fun stopover, but on our way back from Bald Head this weekend, we decided to revisit one of our top Southern towns – Charlottesville, Virginia.
We arrived at Clifton Inn – one of our very favorite dog-friendly inns on the East Coast – with an hour or so of daylight left, so we immediately took Orvis for a walk along the gorgeous, snow-covered property and around the icy lake. Seeing him romp around after a day in the car makes extending the trip home so worth it. Of course, staying at a lovely inn and enjoying a nice, relaxing meal sweetens the deal even more.
After settling in at Clifton (in the same room from our last visit nearly two years ago) we headed into town for dinner at The Alley Light. Fortunately, we have the Oscars and a home basketball game at UVA to thank for allowing us to snag a last-minute reservation at this recently announced James Beard Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. We enjoyed a couple of delicious drinks at the bar before our table was ready and then followed the helpful advice of our sweet waitress in ordering the carrots, butternut squash gratin, beef tenderloin, and seared scallops. Our meal was simply delicious… I think I might suggest to Michael that we break up every road trip with a James Beard nominated meal!
Before hitting the road the next morning, we took Orvis for another walk around the lake and had a cozy breakfast near the fire on the inn’s verandah. Our time in Charlottesville was all too short, but what a truly wonderful way it was to make the most out of a long journey on the road!
A couple of weeks ago, the snowstorms and negative temperatures were really getting me down. It didn’t help that Michael was in Hawaii for work (I know, rough, right?) and I was stuck shoveling our driveway every other day all by my lonesome. So I did what I do every winter and began looking toward warmer weather for somewhere that would give me a break from all of the shoveling. I wasn’t long into my search when I had an idea – we’d hop in the car once Michael returned from Hawaii, and finally take Orvis down to Bald Head Island. We had put this adventure on our ’30 by 30′ list when we first moved to Maine nearly seven years ago, but every year, we seemed to be pulled in a million different directions when we visited North Carolina for holidays or weddings, leaving us zero time or energy to tack on the miles and days for a trip to Bald Head.
I grew up visiting this truly extraordinary island off the coast of North Carolina with my family multiple times a year and when Michael came into the picture in college, our trips became even more memorable. The only downside of the timeshare my parents owned was that the home didn’t allow dogs, so Orvis was never able to accompany us on these weekends away. Taking him to a place that we both hold so dear was incredibly important to us, but I always secretly wondered if we’d just never get around to doing so.
It took us all of five minutes on the beach our first night on the island this past week to realize that we should have been doing this each year of the past seven! Watching him run the length of the empty beaches we used to visit when we were younger brought us an unbelievable amount of joy.
We’ll be sharing lots more about what makes Bald Head so unique and special to us, but we couldn’t resist leading with a few photos of what might be our most memorable experience from our 30 by 30 list so far… besides getting married, of course!
Our Christmas celebrations this year were just as we prefer – low key & delicious. We took the opportunity to enjoy some tasty meals and catch up with some of our favorite people, but the highlight of our week was celebrating Orvis’s 8th birthday the day after Christmas. We began the festivities with a family run that ended at the beach and then hopped in the car to head up to the birthday boy’s favorite spot – our family’s farm in Wiscasset. We spent the rest of the day walking the property with Orvis and playing fetch with him, before taking a stroll around town.
With each year that passes, we realize how absolutely amazing our time has been with Orvis, and become sadly more aware of the finite amount of time that remains. Taking a full day to celebrate him – doing the things he loves most – fills our hearts with happiness, and we have to admit that after watching him gallop around the farm, he seemed more like an 8-month old puppy than the adult dog he is.