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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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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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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Although our trip was postponed by one snowstorm and cut short by another, my mother and I had a splendid visit to the newly reopened White Hart Inn last week. Located right in the center of the charming village of Salisbury, Connecticut, the White Hart opened its 19th century doors for business late this past summer after being closed for four years. The owners, a group of investors with ties to the surrounding Litchfield & Columbia counties, hope that the inn will once again serve as a gathering place for the Salisbury community, and if the scene at the inn’s Tap Room on a random Wednesday night in January is any indication, they’re well on their way to achieving this goal – we settled into the last available seats at the cozy pub for a delicious, comforting dinner after we arrived. When the inn’s formal dining room, headed by Chef Annie Wayte, opens this Friday, I’m certain the White Hart will become even more of a fixture for the area.
The inn’s clean, classic elegance was accented by hardwoods, bold art, and strong patterns. Its rooms were lovely and luxurious, and everyone we encountered on staff was delightful. Photographing the details of the sitting room and reception area, including artwork by Jasper Johns & Frank Stella, was an absolute pleasure.
Planning a return trip with Michael & Orvis – the inn is dog-friendly (!) – is high on my list of things to do this year. There’s so much more of Northwestern Connecticut I’d love to see, and two of our favorite areas to visit in New England, the Berkshires & Hudson Valley are just a stone’s throw away. Hopefully next time the weather will cooperate a little more, and we’ll be able to thoroughly enjoy all that the White Hart and surrounding area have to offer, but until then, I’ll just keep on smiling, thinking about all of the delightful parts I already had the chance to experience.
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.2 Comments - Leave a comment
Recapping some of our best hotel stays each year is always an enjoyable experience reliving the memories, adventures, and meals of the past year. Here are some of our hotel favorites from 2014 that we hope will help you in planning your upcoming getaways.
Michael: From the moment we stepped onto the property at Charleston’s Zero George, I felt right at home with it’s classic Southern charm, style, and understated elegance. I’d be hard pressed to stay anywhere else in a town I can’t wait to return to.
Meredith: The Marlton’s rooms, restaurant, and branding are all packed with a quirky personality that perfectly balances style and expression. I loved every moment of my stay there this year.
Michael: The nod to Scotland’s own Sean Connery at The Balmoral in Edinburgh was a nice touch to an already classically cool bathroom.
Meredith: These days it seems as though my dreams are made of the marble sinks and brass Waterworks fixtures from The Marlton.
Michael & Meredith: We loved everything about our time with Orvis at Topnotch – the dog-friendly green spaces, the access to trails, and the welcome package for Orvis – but getting to eat outside with him at each meal at the resort was easily the highlight of our entire stay.
Michael: North Haven, home to the Nebo Lodge, is a picturesque and quintessential as a Maine island can get. Miles off the coast, exploring the island’s trails, village, and farms was an excellent way to spend a weekend getaway.
Meredith: Drinks atop the The Surrey in the hotel’s private garden is one of the very best views of Manhattan I’ve experienced thus far.
Michael: Eating pancakes and eggs on the patio by the pool with Orvis by our side at Topnotch Resort is just about the only way to unseat Hotel Fauchere from its breakfast throne.
Meredith: No other hotel breakfast has earned its own post on Map & Menu, or been the reason for a road trip detour. The breakfast at Hotel Fauchere is once again my favorite.
Michael & Meredith: The restaurant at Nebo Lodge is what brought us out to the island of North Haven in the first place, and after enjoying two fantastic dinners and two breakfasts there, it’s safe to say that the food was well worth the trip.
Michael: A slightly unusual, but amazing amenity of Atlanta’s Stonehurst Place is its museum-quality art selection with works by names like Warhol, Picasso, and many others.
Meredith: The spa at the Woodstock Inn is right at the top of my list of reasons I want to return to this charming Vermont inn. I didn’t have time for a treatment, but a mere $25 gave me access to the beautiful facilities – an amazing value!
Interaction with Hotel Staff:
Michael: Maybe it was due to the fact that Orvis was their very first canine guest, but every member of the staff at the Woodstock Inn seemed to know us by name and be excited about Orvis. Everyone who knows us knows that the fastest way to our hearts is through our buddy.
Meredith: Inez, a co-owner of Table on Ten, made my trip to New York an absolute delight. She seemed to be involved in each and every part of the inn and restaurant’s operations – welcoming, cooking, etc – and her hard work and creative attention to detail was evident throughout my stay.
Overall Hotel Experience
Michael: I couldn’t have imagined a better way to kick off our Scotland getaway than by staying at Greystones in Oban. A modernly-renovated baronial home overlooking the bay, the boutique bed & breakfast was wonderfully comfortable, a short stroll into town, and served an outstanding breakfast on each of our mornings.
Meredith: Between the amazing meals, the lovely chats with Liz the manager, and the Angela Adams-clad modern cottage aesthetic of Nebo Lodge, it was easily one of the most enjoyable trips of my year. And the fact that the pups were able to join us on our adventures around North Haven made it even more memorable.
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We hit a Map & Menu milestone last week when we checked into the Woodstock Inn & Resort… our very own Orvis was the first – the very first – four-legged guest to ever stay at the inn! This of course, made us the happiest people in all of Vermont. He was treated with such fanfare every time we walked through the doors. The entire staff must have been briefed about this VIP guest, because everyone we met greeted him by name and called to him from afar. He was asked to pose by the fireplace for a photo, given treats, and received lots of love from other guests who somehow also knew that he was the first dog to stay at the inn. It was as though we were with a celebrity, and naturally, we loved every minute of it.
Beyond all of the red carpet treatment for Orvis, Michael and I absolutely adored everything about our stay at the Woodstock Inn. Located right in the heart of one of the more charming towns we’ve ever visited, the inn is a focal point of Woodstock, and just steps away from the beautiful trails and carriage paths of a national park, and the shops, galleries, and restaurants of Woodstock’s two main streets. Waking up with a deliciously hearty breakfast from the inn and falling asleep on the wonderfully comfy bed became book-end highlights to a fantastic Vermont getaway.
The inn’s stunning LEED-designed spa should not be missed. Knowing I wouldn’t have enough time for an entire treatment before we had to checkout on our final day, I opted to purchase a day pass that gave me access to all of the luxurious spa facilities, including the steam room, sauna, and whirlpool. Checking out of a hotel has never been so depressing! Waiting until the final day of our trip to visit the spa was certainly a mistake on my part, but you can bet that the spa will be one of the first activities I enjoy the next time we’re back in Woodstock.
Staying at an inn as well-appointed as the Woodstock Inn & Resort is always a treat, but the fact that Orvis can join along in the fun makes the entire experience even more memorable. We’re already looking forward to our next family trip there!
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.8 Comments - Leave a comment
There are no shortage of coastal Maine islands from which to choose for your next getaway. Close, remote, big, or small, there’s probably one to fit your needs, but until our most recent trip to Nebo Lodge on North Haven, we weren’t quite sure that we’d found that one to fit our own “quiet island, comfortable and stylish accommodations, delicious food, and dog-friendly” requirements.
The island of North Haven is 13 miles off the mainland, and an hour’s ferry ride from Rockland, making it one of the more remote islands we’ve visited in Maine. We’ve been wanting to visit Nebo Lodge ever since reading about it in Bon Appétit when it was listed as one of “The Best Food Lover’s Hotels in America,” and this month, we finally had the opportunity to plan a mid-week visit with Meredith’s mother and her dog, Mason.
Although the inn is plenty old (the building was the original inn on the island – a print in our room showed it in the later part of the 19th century), it’s styled in a clean, modern cottage aesthetic, with Angela Adams accents (a North Haven native, herself) and carefully selected art throughout to balance with its age. It sits just up the hill from ‘downtown’ North Haven (more about that in a future post!), and from the moment we walked through the door, we felt right at home. There are bicycles to borrow to explore the island, plenty of options for walking, and large front and back porches (and a second floor deck) to enjoy a morning coffee, a midday book, or an afternoon drink. Each room presents an opportunity to notice new details, and art like the full-wall mural in the dining room (painted by David Wilson) are impressive touches that make for a beautiful stay.
The food is something at the inn that just can’t be overlooked. We ate at the inn’s restaurant both nights it was open during our stay, and enjoyed wonderfully prepared meals across the board. With locally-sourced ingredients and a variety of different choices, we ate to our hearts’ content on the first evening, and then scaled way back the second – but both nights couldn’t be happier with the quality, flavor, and atmosphere of our meals. The food alone is a reason to visit the inn, but I don’t know how you could make the trip and not want to stay a while.
All in all, we’d highly recommend the Nebo Lodge for anyone looking for a Maine island vacation. For us, it was the perfect mix of comfort and style, peace and relaxation, and some very very tasty eats.
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.6 Comments - Leave a comment
A guaranteed route to the top of Map & Menu’s favorite hotel list is one that includes the following: a well-executed sense of design and comfort, a friendly and helpful staff, delicious food, and the willingness to embrace our furry buddy, Orvis. Stowe’s Topnotch Resort checked off every one of those items, with extra emphasis on the dog-friendly point, and after three wonderfully relaxing days spent there, I find myself anxiously anticipating a return trip in the future.
If you’ve heard us mention it once, you’ve heard us mention it one thousand times – traveling with Orvis can present its fair share of difficulties. Finding hotels that we’re drawn to aesthetically, that simply accommodate dogs of any size is difficult enough, but finding one that goes out of their way to be overly dog-friendly to our large-ish travel companion, and does so without ushering us around to the back door of a forgotten side of the hotel, is almost an impossibility. It’s the reason that places like Hotel Fauchere, the Porches Inn, the Inn at Perry Cabin, and Palmetto Bluff hold such special places in our traveling hearts. Topnotch easily deserves its own spot on that list. When we arrived, Orvis was greeted with open arms and more than his fair share of treats. Each of the resort’s restaurants had outdoor seating where dogs were welcome, and with the exception of the pool area, the entire property seemed to be open to its guests and their pets. Not that Orvis needs any more of an ego boost, but at one point, a young guest walked by with her mother and proclaimed “That dog is horrendously cute!”
I don’t know that in all of our travels, Meredith and I have ever been quite as comfortable with Orvis as we were at Topnotch. That, combined with the comfort and style of the resort made for a pretty unforgettable stay that could easily become a recurring part of our annual Vermont getaway.
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.1 Comment - Leave a comment
Photographing a wedding in the Upper East Side turned out to be the perfect excuse to finally stay at the only Relais & Chateaux hotel in Manhattan, The Surrey. The hotel’s stunning rooftop garden is reason enough to put The Surrey high on your list of places to stay during your next trip to New York, but as it turns out, the rooms themselves warrant a visit. Expecting a typical (almost uncomfortable) tiny New York hotel room, I was shocked with how spacious and luxurious my 330+ square foot “salon” felt. Retreating back to my room at The Surrey each night after shooting was such a treat – even though I was in the city for work, whenever I happened to be in my room, I felt 100% on vacation.
While I didn’t have as much time to lounge around and enjoy the 17th story rooftop garden as much as I would have liked to, enjoying a glass of rosé and a plate of bruschetta from the hotel’s restaurant, Cafe Boulud, was the perfect way to spend a summer evening in the city. (Really, I’m not sure I’d ever want to visit Manhattan in the summer months without staying at The Surrey and taking advantage of that gorgeous rooftop.)
In the most leisurely of ways, I took full advantage of my final morning at The Surrey by feasting on a stack of delicious pancakes delivered to my door, while reading the Sunday paper. I really don’t think I could have imagined a more relaxing way to decompress on a work weekend in New York.
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As luck would have it, the very first place we stayed for our week in Scotland together turned out to be the favorite of our Scottish accommodations. It also just so happened to be the bed & breakfast we knew the least about before our trip – what a delightful surprise!
Greystones, a boutique b&b on the Argyll coast in Oban was our first stop after Michael picked me up at the Edinburgh airport. We happened upon the Greystones website online when we were searching (and searching!) for a place to stay in between Edinburgh and Skye, and since it seemed like a decent fit, we booked their last room quickly as they were filling up left and right.
Consisting of five contemporary rooms inside a beautiful historic Scottish Baronial house overlooking the pristine Oban Bay and just a short walk to the water, Greystones perfectly blends the old and new. We simply adored our bright, spacious room (with its massively tall ceilings!), and couldn’t get over the views from the breakfast nook, where we enjoyed an exceptional meal each morning of our stay. Owners, Mark & Suzanne, were wonderful innkeepers and we so appreciated their calming, minimal aesthetic.
When the time came for us to head up the coast to Skye, we were terribly sad to leave Greystones. We found solace, however, in the fact that we could at least share this gem of a bed & breakfast with you all here, as we truly believe everyone traveling to the western coast of Scotland should make it a point to stay here.
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