The Windham Hill Inn – An Inn Of Stunning Beauty
West Townshend Vermont
Artwork by Lily Goldman
Far up and secluded in the Green Mountains of Vermont near the town of West Townshend rests an inn of stunning natural beauty blending European sophistication with New England warmth and hospitality.
Spread over one hundred and sixty acres, the property’s original farm house dates back to 1826 when the Lawrence family of Boston built it as a summer home. Eventually, in 1850, the family had decided to become homesteaders, and up until 1959 the property remained in the hands of the same family, when the last of the clan, Miss Kate, passed away.
The farm was converted into an inn in 1962, and current innkeepers, Joe and Marina Coneeny are the fifth owners, having purchased this glorious hideaway in 2002.
The Coneenys first met while majoring in Russian at Middlebury College, Vermont, and they vowed after graduation that one day they would return to live in Vermont.
Marina was born in Paris and lived there until the age of 17, when she came to the USA to attend college.
Joe is from the Boston area and for twenty-two years was involved in finance, which entailed a great deal of travel, leaving him little time to enjoy his family and home.
Marina worked in the specialty food and catering business, and in middle market banking in the USA and England.
Joe and Marina, together with their two children, Meagan and Ted, as well as three yellow labs, two cats and two horses, all contribute in their own way to the down-home ambience. We were also greeted by recent additions to the family – two peacocks that strutted around the property as if they owned it!
When I asked this charming couple if they had any difficulty transferring their skills from their previous professions to that of inn-keepers, their immediate response was that they had always dealt with people. As Joe put it, “we were and still are in the business of pleasing people – something we are very used to.” I also learned that in addition to their great people skills, Marina is a gifted interior decorator, while Joe is a very knowledgeable sommelier.
In addition, prior to making Vermont their permanent residence, the couple renovated and improved several antique houses, acquiring expertise that proved to be invaluable to the running of their own inn.
There are places where it is a joy to spend one night on your way to somewhere else and others are ends in themselves. This inn falls into the latter category, as you experience a charming and relaxing atmosphere in a country setting away from the traffic and the well-trodden sidewalks of the city.
All who have visited Windham Hill Inn proclaim, as evidenced by some of the comments written in its guest book, that it is one of the most enchanting and romantic places to stay and dine – we certainly would concur.
The inn comprises twenty-one truly superior rooms and suites located within two historic buildings. The room we stayed in, “Forget-Me-Not,” is enveloped on three sides by windows, one of which had a seat tempting us to take the weight off our feet awhile and enjoy the rural scenery and animal life. This proved to be an ideal setting for Lily to take out her sketch pad and do what she does best – drawing and painting. Although, I must admit, when we moved outdoors, she had difficulty choosing which of the many outdoor locations to set up her easel, as the possibilities are endless.
The Forget-Me-Not even has a small private balcony permitting us to go and come as we please, without entering the main lobby of the inn.
The king size bed, as well as the sheets, cushions and bedspread were of the highest quality, and together with the invigorating mountain air, you couldn’t help but sleep soundly – something we had been looking forward to.
Sixteen of the twenty-one rooms have fireplaces or Vermont Casting stoves; four have Jacuzzis and three have soaking tubs.
All rooms are very spacious featuring Queen or King-size beds, private baths, central air conditioning, phones, CD players, turn-down service, and upscale bath amenities.
There is even a music room with a Steinway grand piano, and adjacent to the dinning room is a cozy pub.
The dining room is open seven days a week and the menu changes eight times a year. Chef, Jennifer Cayer, is given wide latitude in trying out novel dishes incorporating tasty and varied ingredients. As pointed out, and as we discovered, when we had the opportunity to indulge in Kathleen’s dishes, the emphasis is on super fresh with a great deal of creativity and imagination.
For wine lovers, the inn boasts of having a list of over six thousand bottles comprising about four hundred different choices. You will be able to enjoy an extensive selection from California, France, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, and Italy. It is little wonder that it has won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
After a scrumptious breakfast that is included in the price of your room, guests can choose from a long list of activities, beginning with perhaps a walk or hike around the many trails that meander around the property. In winter these trails provide for some excellent cross country skiing. If you are into tennis, there is the inn’s clay court, and after working up a sweat, you can jump into the adjacent heated swimming pool, where you can relax and read a good book or meet other guests.
Nearby activities include shopping and antiquing, golf, fishing, theater, biking, sleighing, alpine skiing, snowmobiling, museums, art gallery hopping, country fairs, art and craft shows, and horseback riding. In other words, there is plenty to do.
A short stay at the Windham Hill Inn was all we needed to recognize why it was selected as a Top Ten Romantic Inn by Bedandbreakfast.com in 2003 and as one of twelve Romantic Hideaways by the Discerning Traveler, 2002. It is also a member of the prestigious, Select Registry, wherein inns are chosen by their fellow innkeepers. These inns must undergo a rigorous review and inspection conducted by some of North America’s leading hospitality professionals that ensure that the highest standards of excellence are adhered. Windham Hill Inn definitely passes the test with flying colors.