Four years ago, our trip to Montpelier Plantation on the island of Nevis, served as a major source of inspiration for Michael and I to launch Map & Menu, and just a few weeks ago, we finally had the chance to return – this time shooting some imagery for the very place that opened our eyes to what the hotel experience could be. Although we felt a sense of comfort returning somewhere we’d been before, there was also a unique excitement accompanying that comfort, since we knew exactly what was waiting for us at the end of our 13 hour journey to the island.
Many of the reasons we originally fell in love with Montpelier in 2011 are still there, largely unchanged – Kaddy’s rum punches, the friendly, welcoming staff, pre-dinner cocktails with other guests, the beautiful pool, the ancient mill, and that timeless weeping fig tree that guards the entrance. And although we’d be just fine feeling as though the property and our experiences there had fallen into a bubble of forgotten time, we were greeted with plenty of newness on this trip – the colorful new rooms, the peaceful private beach, the small modern updates, and friendly new additions to the staff.
It’s reassuring to know that your memories of a place and experience can actually be improved upon by returning, and although this new time we spent on the island will serve as a brand new set of memories that we’ll fondly think back on, its easy to view each trip to the island as a set of building blocks toward a greater timeless experience, where you dream about your return in the time between. In the words of our waitress, Vanetta, as she tried to cheer us up at breakfast on our final morning, “you have to leave to come again.”
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The last time Meredith and I visited Montpelier Plantation on the island of Nevis, we were so caught up in the serenity and relaxation of the inn that we didn’t even venture down to their private beach during the course of our brief stay! We made sure to not make that mistake again on our most recent trip however, and spent an amazing day in the shade outside our cabana… cooling off in the clear water after walks on the beach in the sun, and enjoying our picnic lunch on the sand, accented by a few rum punches. We’ll be writing more about our trip in the coming days, but we felt that there were few better ways to kick of the posts than by reliving this saltwater daydream.
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The more we travel, the longer our list of places to revisit gets. Simple, right? But how often do you really have the chance to return to a cherished location? And with the whole world open to you, how do you justify returning to a place you’ve already been over an entirely new experience?
It seems as though every time I open one of the travel publications we receive or blogs we follow, I present Michael with a list of a good 3-5 new places we simply have to visit. (It’s a wonder he hasn’t gone and cancelled the subscriptions by now!) Of course, we don’t have the time (or the money) to visit the dozens of places I read about each year, not to mention the growing list of locations that have captured our hearts on previous trips. So how are you supposed to fit it all in?
I’m afraid there isn’t really an answer that we’ve found, but isn’t that what makes travel so incredibly special? Whether you’re visiting an entirely new location or making your way back to a place that’s refreshingly familiar, it’s a luxury that many of us work toward. Recently, Michael and I were presented with the opportunity to return to the Caribbean island of Nevis, a place we visited together in 2011 before we even had the idea for this site. We’ll be doing some work for the inn where we stayed during that trip, Montpelier Plantation, arguably one of the hotels that opened our eyes to what the hotel experience could (and should) be. We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to return to such a uniquely special inn and look forward to sharing the work we do there upon our return.
We’re curious – are there any places that you have returned to or hope to revisit someday? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.8 Comments - Leave a comment
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.
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A winter drive along Vermont’s Route 100 through the Mad River Valley is a pretty spectacular road-trip to say the least. Set between snow-covered mountains, and following the icy river, narrow gorges give way to wide farmland valleys, filling the spaces between the small towns that make Vermont so amazingly authentic. Covered bridges, shops lining Main Street, people milling about – it can often seem like a page out of an old book, but the more time we spend in the Green Mountain State, the more we realize that it’s just another part of the Vermont way of life.
Just a couple weeks ago, Michael, Orvis, and I were fortunate enough to spend a number of days in Warren, right in the middle of the Mad River Valley, and while we barely scratched the surface of all the area has to offer, we made a valiant effort at exploring as much as time allowed.
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. Read more about our stay at the Pitcher Inn here.
When Ari, the manager of the Pitcher Inn, told us that he takes his sweet golden retriever, Maisy, on walks along the Bobbin Mill Trail most days, we quickly moved it to the top of our to-do list. Given its proximity to the inn and the fact that Orvis is always looking for a place to really stretch his legs, we ended up visiting the trail each morning we were in Warren. The meandering path follows the cascades that make up Lincoln Brook Falls, through open woodlands and past a number of swimming holes that we’re sure Orvis would love in warmer weather.
Dear friends of ours who have ties to the Waitsfield area put the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm on our radar and we couldn’t be happier that they did. Although the farm was officially closed when we stopped by, the Winhold family quite literally opened their barn doors to us, introducing us to their wonderfully unique silkie chickens, their sweet donkey Callie, and their stunning Icelandic horses. Signing up for one of their summer or fall trail ride tours through the Mad River Valley is now officially on my bucket list.
Upon hearing that we wanted to visit a sugar shack while we were in Vermont during the very beginning of their spring maple season, Ari and Doug at the inn arranged for us to meet with a local sugar farmer at the Westhill Sugar Orchard. Glenn Cahilly-Bretzin has recently undertaken a passion project to revitalize the trees and sugar shack that neighbor his family’s property, and that morning he spent more than his fair share of time teaching us all about the sugaring process, telling us about his plans to keep the farm small and authentic, and letting us take some photos of his trees and sugar shack. We cannot wait to see their products in local shops on a future trip to the area!
We visited The Mad Taco’s Montpelier location during our August trip to Vermont last summer, so we were especially excited about revisiting some of their delicious tacos in the original location. Simply put, you can’t go wrong here – we devoured our Carnitas and Chile Colorado tacos in minutes.
Ari made sure to highlight The Sweet Spot, right in the center of Waitsfield, for a place to pick up a post-lunch treat. We followed his lead, and after browsing the nearby Artisan’s Gallery & 4orty Bridge Boutique, we popped inside for a cupcake and a macaroon. Their homemade ice cream looked good enough to lure us back for a summer getaway all by itself!
While Michael and I were eating breakfast at the Pitcher Inn one morning, we were fortunate enough to see something that is becoming somewhat of a common occurrence in Vermont. We watched as another guest of the inn got up, left breakfast, and hurriedly walked over to the Warren Store across the street. Shortly thereafter a number of cars started to pull up with people pouring into the store. It turns out that the Lawson’s Finest Liquids beer truck had made their scheduled Thursday morning delivery, and people were immediately lining up to purchase the in-demand beers. Although this was quite the site to see, the Warren Store (a sister property of the inn) is about much more than its beer. They have a wonderful wine selection (complete with an “Ari’s picks” shelf), plenty of local goods (including our favorite Vermont caramels), a clothing store upstairs, and a fantastic deli where Michael and I grabbed sandwiches to go for our trip back to Maine.
The same friends of ours who told us about the Icelandic horses also tipped us off to one of the best access points of the Mad River Path – the West Greenway. When it’s completed, the Mad River Path will be a continuous trail from Warren to Moretown, offering residents and visitors a way to experience the same beauty of Route 100, just by foot (or snowshoe, cross-country ski, etc.). For now, a number of individual sections of the path are available for public use, and Orvis, Michael, and I spent a lovely morning exploring a good chunk of it.
Set in a rustic mill quite literally on top of the river in nearby Waterbury, everything about Hen of the Wood seems classically authentic to the locally-sourced and chef-owned mission it’s based around. We enjoyed our meal this summer at Hen of the Wood so much, we’ve included it on both our Stowe guide and this Mad River Valley guide.
Even though we spent three nights in Warren, we still managed to run out of time to accomplish every item on our Mad River to do list. Next time we hope to visit the Mad River Distillers to sample their award winning rye whiskey, and dine at the original American Flatbread location, Mint, and Peasant. Of course, the next time we find ourselves in the area during winter, skiing Mad River Glen will be at the tip top of our list! Are there any Mad River musts we missed and should be adding to our list?
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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.
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If it wasn’t too long, this post could be more accurately titled, “That Time We Went to Kauai and Only Took Three Photos of One of the Most Beautiful Places We’ve Ever Visited”. Quite a mouthful, right? In truth, we took a few more than three – some of which include awkward beach timer photos that will never see the light of day on this blog – but how we took so few photos on what many, including me, consider to be a once in a lifetime trip to a beautiful tropical island is well beyond me.
I guess “once in a lifetime” only applies when your employer doesn’t fly you around the world though, and last month, Michael made his second trip back out to Kauai for work since the trip we took with my father and stepmother in 2009. While he was away “working”, and I was stuck buried under a few feet of snow, I dug back through my archives and found these three photos of our trip that I felt were good enough to share on the site. Initially, I berated myself for taking so few photos during our trip to this magnificent island – really, what kind of photographer am I? – but then I realized that the number of photos I took didn’t equate to the quality of the trip and the memories I made. On the contrary, I was simply taking in all of the wonders of Kauai – experiencing every moment and activity – the way I sometimes forget to with a camera around my neck.
There are no photos of the time we zip-lined through the jungle canopy, or the small boat ride through massive surf at the Na Pali coast. We have no instagrams of the cocktails we sipped by the pool, or the mornings we spent watching the sunrise from the cliffs. We simply have these three photos (and those awkward beach selfies), along with a handful of truly amazing memories – memories that we made without a camera or a phone in front of our faces. This way of travel seems a thing of the past, but I think that going forward on our tips, I’ll try to make the conscious effort to better balance camera time with real life time.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.1 Comment - Leave a comment
When it comes to sprucing up a bathroom, I’m finding that there are so many decisions to be made – paint colors, the style of light fixtures, etc. – and sometimes putting together a consistent look in all the different resources can be a challenge, so I decided to take a cue from our travels and pull some of my favorite bathrooms from the places we’ve stayed as inspiration. While the tiled walls and brass fixtures of The Marlton (pictured below) is closer to my idea of a dream bathroom, the style of the Bedford Post Inn (pictured above) sans soaking tub, might be more approachable with our current space and budget.
Do you have a favorite source for bathroom inspiration? I’d love to hear any suggestions you all might have!
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.2 Comments - Leave a comment
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.
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.11 Comments - Leave a comment
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!
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.