Yet again we face a difficult holiday season. Limited gatherings, limited holiday events. But 2020 was worse and there were none of the holiday tours I have enjoyed in the past. Most fun has been the Inndulgence Tour which friends and I enjoyed first 3 December 2016 and again 8 December 2019. To help you get in the mood with great decorations take a look at those two posts. Sadly again this year the Inndulgence Tour was cancelled out of caution since the festivities involved many people gathering in small spaces and sharing conversation and goodies of all sorts. Exceptional was the 9 December 2017 Manchester Vermont Holiday Inn Tour. You can read about it, and see great holiday decorations at the end of this link. The Manchester tour was scheduled for 2021 with additions and deletions from my last attendance. I also read of a holiday festival in my favorite Grafton, both on the 11th. Thus, I decided to travel and “get in the mood.”
Saturday did not look good, rain, icy roads, but checking the weather maps it appeared clearing by the time the Manchester tour started at noon. Off I went, first stopping for “Christmas in Grafton.” You can see my special Inn at Grafton below in the rain. Not much going on in the almost deserted village, so I continued west.
Compared to the joyous experiences of these past tours, today was a disappointment. I never want to sound negative, and choose to not say something if I cannot say something nice. Yes – COVID – it cancelled last year’s events and has dampened what has attempted to open this year. At some stops I was the only person instead of dozens as in the past. The decorations I wanted to see and become uplifted by were fewer or absent. The joy of sharing goodies around a table also was gone. No one to share with, and just a few cookies to take away. Don’t get me wrong, I had a full eight plus hour day out on my circle route west to Manchester, south to Bennington, and east back home. BUT – there were two very bright spots,
My plan was to start at the northern most stop in East Dorset, Vermont, and head to the two new additions in Bennington – at the southern most point of the tour. My first stop was amazing – well decorated, and an important historical spot I did not know existed here – THE WILSON HOUSE – birthplace of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). You know I love to learn something new – and then share with you.
I arrived just before noon, and since this was my first stop purchased my ticket, with all proceeds going to the local food banks. Operated as a non-profit, Executive Director, Berta Maginniss, welcomed me, toured me, and shared local history of the Inn and the Wilson family. In the first image in the gallery below (hopefully displaying properly – WordPress is becoming less user friendly), the lamp is the spot (ironically behind the original bar in the inn) where Bill Wilson was born in 1895. Next the dining room, the back barn where meetings and seminars are held, and one of the showcases of AA memorabilia.
The Inn welcomes more than 10,000 visitors annually (surprising since this is really rural Vermont – but an important pilgrimage spot), and hosts about 300 meetings, and more than 35 seminars while providing over 150,000 cups of coffee. I had driving once into East Dorset which is just east of my favorite US Route 7 – my favorite Battenkill River – and a set of railroad tracks. Two trains a day Berta told me when I asked. “And, they stop the freight right here, and cross 7 to the general store for lunch,” Berta told me when I asked if the tracks were used. She also provided a map to the local cemetery and resting place of Bill W., and invited me to join in the community dinners on Friday nights – suggested donation $15. I already mentioned that to BLUE BELLE, and she is ready for the trip when it gets light out again (and a tad warmer).
I spent an enjoyable, learning time here, and recommend you stop to see the small village, and the displays in the inn – and maybe I will see you at a community dinner.
Then I began my journey south stopping at spots I did not see on the previous tours. The next three probably recently added – probably just for the publicity exposure, but not decorated, and for the two large venues nothing welcoming at all for the tour participants. But here goes. First on Route 30 just outside the center of Manchester on the way to Dorset is The Barnstead Inn. An employee was showing another person some rooms and suites – I joined in.
The old farmhouse has suites, and the rear cow barn as well. To the right (not in my image) is a bar and restaurant. Nicely done and appointed, but no holiday decorations or cheer did I see to share with you. Here are some interior views.
I then went into the “new” Kimpton Taconic Hotel which recently replaced a wonderful rambling old inn that stood here. Nicely done, high end, but nothing to share with you, and a holiday tour disappointment. Sadly the same feeling I had for The Equinox Resort. Hosting Lincoln’s wife and sons prior to that 1865 event, and in the early 20th century falling into disrepair, fortunately the Inn was saved. The resort is massive, the front desk people handing out a map and said you could walk around. Again nothing focusing on the holiday tour, Cathy and I had dinner here in 1996 while still living in Connecticut. We were staying at The Arlington Inn just down the road, and that was the night my first herniated disk popped – hard drive home and following recuperation. Here is the Equinox in the rain, and the one nicely decorated stairway I saw.
Because the tour now extended to Bennington making it hard to see everything, I decided I was not going to stop at the spots I really enjoyed in and around Arlington, but I needed some good holiday decorations, so stopped at The Inn at Ormsby Hill. Glad I did, welcoming, chatting with the owner was nice, decorations as I remembered them, hot cider and cookies wrapped to take. Not the wine, cheese, music and crowds I experienced before, but at least some lovely decorations and atmosphere. Plan a visit here.
My next stop I did not make during the last tour. And my stop at the Ira Allen House made up for some of my other disappointments. Cathy and I stayed here a couple times in the late 90s before we moved to NH. Mike and his partner Kevin have now owned the inn for nine years. Kevin is a buyer for the Vermont Country Store, and Mike runs the Inn, and does a fine job welcoming and making you feel as though you belong. This is just what I expect of an inn owner, and an experience on such a tour (please remember – places I did not visit this year e.g. the Wilburton Inn, were and are outstanding)
I loved this image on the tour website, and since there was no great snow, I needed to catch this to share.
Here are some nicely decorated rooms here – main guest room and the dining room – and then an upstairs suite where we had stayed.
now, this feels like Christmas
and, an image to share on my “Rocking Chair Studies” page.
Leaving the historic Ira Allen House I figured I had enough time to get to Bennington to see the two inns that I do not believe had been on the tour previously. Passing CHRISTMAS DAYS in Sunderland I quickly turned around and went back. Not having seen many decorations as yet on the tour, I needed a fix. In business for 52 years, and in this spot since 1972, I have been driving by for over four decades, and maybe only stopped once. So glad I did as you will see below. Open all year – make the stop.
Just west of Old Bennington, on Route 9, I have passed the Four Chimneys Inn, also for well over three decades. It was time to see it, and again I was the only one. I did not have to wake up the innkeeper however.
A lovely inn with exquisite appointments, I am glad I got to hop in and learn its history as a “farmhouse” in an area that residents of Troy, New York would venture to for second homes.
At least there was a lovely tree in the porch. The last stop in Bennington I will not even share the one sad tree. I went in, said something to a young girl playing games on her laptop on a couch. She said she thought the owner was in the kitchen. Lovely woodwork in an old Victorian spacious mansion, but I headed back out making some antique shop stops on the way home. Just disappointment reflecting back on the previous tour here. I would imagine that three places I did not go to again that were tremendous last time did so again, but it is hard to do everything. The addition of the Bennington properties was not a good idea, stretching the tour distance too much.
But besides the gracious visits and welcomes by Berta at The Wilson House, Mike at the Ira Allen House, and the owner of The Inn at Ormsby Hill, I “scored” at CHRISTMAS DAYS, and one other antique shop. For some reason I have been “hooked” on collecting “bottle brush” trees that “grab me.” Just like my candlesticks that I have shared on my FLICKERING FLAMES page. I am going to have to update my candlestick page, and it is about time I document and share with you the over 60 trees I have around the house – many of which I now leave out and enjoy all year. But, here is a teaser with the special one I got at CHRISTMAS DAYS (I seldom see this size ornaments on these trees), and a small forest I got from the owner of antique shop who said he bought them for himself thirty years ago. I usually do not see this much snow of these little trees.
and, a teaser of how I decorate – looking at this now as I “keyboard”
Hope you got this far. Not sure what else will come along to share with you this calendar year, so let me take the opportunity to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR – as always, luv, RAY
and, one last thing – I research to learn – write to remember, and love to share. Two years ago I researched and wrote about the background to “candles in windows.” As the top “google hit” on candles in the window history searches, my published post has been read over 11,500 times in two years, and over 1,500 times in the past two weeks. Not quite “viral,” but you may also enjoy learning about “Candles in the Windows.” Click on this link – and please share.
Ah, Christmas time in New England! Things are a bit different here in Las Vegas. It is amusing to see Christmas lights on palm tree and cactus. Several years ago, while visiting our friends in Danby, I stopped by the Bill Wilson house and visited his grave. It was very moving to see how people left their sobriety coins on his headstone in gratitude for his pioneering work. I recall we had dinner at an inn not far from the Equinox. I believe the restaurant was called the Reluctant Panther, but that was at least 10 – 12 years ago. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Nevada, George
Dick and I loved staying at the Old Tavern, now the Grafton Inn. Our visits started soon after the Old Tavern was renovated and was the only building owned by the Foundation . The antique furniture in the room as was beautiful, the food excellent. We would visit with the Inn Keeper, a Princeton Graduate. Great memories.
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Again, a treat for the senses. Especially enjoyed seeing the bottle brush trees. I have two antique red bottle brush wreaths from my childhood nestled in my Christmas vingettes. Thanks for sharing your adventures and life with us. Merry Christmas, Ray!