Country Inn Days at my favorite Country Inn

 

The Red Lion Inn and I go back a long way, not all the way back to 1773 when it first opened, but back to my single days.  I happened upon it quite by accident as I was driving to Boston. I was on my way to a house where I was renting rooms for the Summer.  The house was in Cambridge.  There I would meet up with friends I knew from Boston University.

I didn’t know a thing about this Inn when I first saw it but I later learned it began as a simple tavern.  During its first 120 years the Inn expanded several times and went by several names, but it always featured a red lion in its sign, and it has been known as The Red Lion Inn since the 1890’s.

The formal dining room
The formal dining room

I remember walking into the Inn back then and straight ahead was this dining room. Someone was at a grand piano playing light classics and I was immediately enchanted.  I took a seat and enjoyed a lovely fruit salad.  That was the beginning of my relationship with this Inn.  I returned many times over the years and very recently I was there again, not for one, but for a few extremely delightful Country Inn Days.

What are Country Inn Days?  They are days where I step out of life’s usual routines and simply enjoy my favorite things.  No matter how good one feels it’s always wonderful to make time for favorite things, and if one needs a little boost, well, you know how that famous song goes – “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”  It’s true.

One of my favorite things are flowers and this Inn has lovely flowers everywhere. There is a feeling of informal formality in every corner.  There are so many places to sit here at the Inn enjoying  a book or writing a letter with a cool drink at one’s side, all in the presence of beauty.  Delightful!

 

Sometimes it is nice to have an action-packed getaway, and a Country Inn Day can involve action and sometimes does, but I love slow Inn Days too, days filled with simple quiet pleasures – dreaming dreams, people watching, chatting with strangers who could become pen friends, taking leisurely walks in the country past old houses, down country lanes and through historic cemetaries.

 

The Red Lion Inn is located in the town of Stockbridge, such a pretty little town with many old charming sites.  There are shops to investigate, a number of little coffee houses and restaurants, and important historic houses belonging to famous people of the past.  These houses are in Stockbridge or in Lenox, the next town over.  I’ll share some of these places with you in another post.

When it’s time for dining there are three options right in the Inn. This is Widow Bigham’s Tavern.  It’s named after Anna Bingham, one of the Inn’s original owners. She is believed to have been the first business-woman in the country. This tavern reminds me of some of the oldest places I love in Boston.

But when in the mood for a little more informal formality I dined in the main dining room, usually by the window, so I could see the flowers outside. This was the room I first dsicovered all those years ago so when I’m here I feel 40 years younger.  It’s funny how returning to places from our past can make us feel we’re back in time.

But on a lovely Summer’s day it’s also great to enjoy a meal on the Inn’s open porch.  I got here early so I could choose a table near the railing.  Sitting here made it possible to people watch all the diners below at the umbrella tables.  I do always bring a book with me when dining alone, but people watching is great fun too.

And here I sit waiting for my pasta meal to arrive.

YUM!

Of course there’s a swimming pool and sauna and all that jazz, but I’v never been one for baking in the sun.  I’m more the porch type of person with my books, letters, pens and paper. But you never know, maybe on one of my visits here I’ll surprise myself and take a dip.

This trip you could usually find me on the porch.  I would come very early in the morning with my coffee.  I remember one man taking the rocker next to me saying, “Isn’t this wonderful?”  I had to agree.

After an hour or two of sipping and writing or reading I’d take off for an outing, then it would be lunch, and around 5 I’d be back on the porch with a cocktail until dinner.  I met a number of very nice people and had quite a few lovely chats.  All this is great fun for a person who likes people, and that’s me.

Of course the Inn has a gift shop.  Over the years I’ve bought all sorts of fun things in this shop – paintings, rugs, shawls, books and this trip was no exception.  I bought 6 Red Lion Inn mugs and two Red Lion Inn cocktail glasses… oh yes, and a Red Lion Inn cookbook.  I’ll enjoy testing lots of the recipes in this book.

Before leaving The Red Lion Inn I spent some time in the patio garden.  What did I tel you about flowers everywhere.  My flowers at home should be so robust.  How do they do it?

Don’t you love the cute little patio bar?

My last meal at The Red Lion Inn (this sounds so sad)  was a tasty fish fry with a glass of wine from that cute little bar, then coffee for the road as I made my way from the Bershires into Boston proper. It was a lovely few days here.  I have memories which will last me until I return. But now, simply to close my eyes and remember beautiful things I saw and moments I experienced will be a creative visualization exercise capable of refreshing my spirit whenever refreshemnt is needed.

Until I can return to The Red Lion Inn I will be enjoying lots and lots of my very own County Inn Days back in Hudson, Ohio.  The Red Lion Inn inspired these days and I’m working on a book explaining just how these days work.  The outline for this book was created right here at the Red Lion Inn.

So if you’re looking for a getaway my suggestion is to visit a Country Inn and not just any Inn.

Visit The Red Lion Inn.

Tell them Carol Ann sent you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Country Inn Day – Hudson Day

IMG_6318[1]
The Hudson Clock tower
On some Country Inn Days I like to stay close to the Inn, only venturing out into the neighborhood if and when I need to stretch my legs.  After all, there’s a time for adventure, but there’s also a time to lay low.  A day spent at the Inn, stepping out of regular routines and enjoying quiet pleasures with just a little larking about in town is exactly what I need every now and then, like today on this Country Inn Day, this Hudson Day.

Hudson, like my beloved Boston, is a mixture of old and new.  The town was founded in 1799 so there’s a lot of historic architecture to enjoy here and this I happen to love, but Hudson’s downtown area bustles with new establishments.  These establishments offer a nice mix of shops, restaurants and culture.

hudsonLibrary
The new Hudson Library and Historical Society

The culture is found at The Hudson Library and Historical Society. It’s here I begin Hudson Days and most other Country Inn Days as well.  The library is a wonderful place to meet  my beloved “dead friends” by way of books and old letters kept in the library archives.

UGRRenactment historic people

Here at the library spirits come alive.  I bring many of them back to the Inn with me so at tea time or cocktails I can visit with them and hear the tales of  their interesting lives lived long ago or sometimes lived right in our present day.  On this Country Inn Day I connect with C.S. Lewis, Claude Monet and the Duke of Windsor.  The aisles of the library are full of wonderful biographies just hoping people will pick them up in order to discover the lives described on their pages.

IMG_6295[1]

Just imagine  each of these books to be a live person dying to tell you his or her story.  And with a little imagination that’s exactly what happens for me .  Country Inn Days are  days full of imagination you know,  the perfect time to get to know all these interesting personalities captured in books.

IMG_6299[1]

I love to stroll around The Hudson library and its  many different areas.  It’s a very big place. One could spend the whole day here enjoying different rooms.  This is the main floor open space with magazines on the right, cd’s on the left, a seating area for reading at the windows and beyond the windows there is a great outdoor patio.

IMG_6296[1]

Of course today it’s a bit too snowy and cold to sit on the patio, but come May you’ll know where I will be regularly.

IMG_6300[1]

Today it’s a lot more comfortable reading and sipping a cappuccino here in the library cafe, and if your cup is covered you can take it up to the reference library.

archiveslibrary work room

This reference room is beautiful with windows looking out over the town. How lucky we are in Hudson to have such a facility. There’s an archivist on duty most days too.  Any library is a grand place to hang out, but for a small city like Hudson this library is quite stupendous… and it’s free!  What a treasure.

IMG_6303[1]

But after a nice time at the library I decide to walk through the new Village Green and pop into a shop or too.  This Green (now quite white with snow) is lined with shops and restaurants. There’s even an ice skating rink to the front of the pergolas.

IMG_6352[1]

I first come upon a Talbots and it’s quite nice  that the store happens to be having a big sale just in time for my Country Inn Day visit.

IMG_6307[1]

I take a few garments into this very lovely dressing room and end up with a new cashmere sweater, co-ordinating sweater jacket, plus a very nice blouse.  Every now and then a girl likes something new to wear.  Don’t you agree?  And who doesn’t like a sale?

IMG_6310[1]

From Talbots  I stroll down the lane and pop into another nice shop.  This one is called Heather’s Heat and Flavor.  At this shop I find a most interesting cookbook.  It’s called “The French Slow Cooker” by Michele Scicolone.

IMG_6400[1]

Did you think it was possible to make Creme Anglaise or Creme Brulee or an Orange Souffle in a slow cooker?  I certainly didn’t, but this book promises that even a novice can turn out dishes that taste as though they came straight out of the kitchen of a French grandmere.  I love French food so I had to buy this book.  I’ll let you know if my results are as magnifique as the book promises.

Well, with those purchases I decided I spent enough money for one Country Inn Day so I moved along deciding to take a little walk around the neighborhood before returning to the Inn.  Let me share with you some of the sights along my way.

IMG_6319[1]

There were quiet streets lined with old, charming houses.

IMG_6331[1]

Big houses

IMG_6336[1]

Smaller ones

IMG_6333[1]

and all sorts in between

IMG_6367[1]

Beige ones

IMG_6334[1]

And white ones

IMG_6324[1]

And brick ones too,

IMG_6317[1]

but the quiet streets also have  lots of public buildings which are fun to view  while strolling along.

IMG_6316[1]

Churches

IMG_6322[1]

Buildings on the Western Reserve Academy Campus like the Chapel

IMG_6366[1]

and historic Main Street with the older shop buildings that have been around for more than a hundred years.

Hudson is a great town for walkers and that’s me, so a Country Inn Hudson Day is great fun any time of year. But it is getting late. These Country Inn Days just fly by.  It’s time to get back to the Inn.

IMG_6368[1]And here I am

IMG_6370[1]

 stepping through the garden  all covered with snow and entering the Inn itself.

IMG_6373[1]

After all that walking in the cold it’s nice to be all cozy and warm inside sitting at the piano where I decide to play for a while as cocktails are being prepared.  Playing the piano is one of my favorite things and Country Inn Days are devoted to the enjoyment of favorite things. You know what that famous song from “The Sound of Music”  says  – “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad”.  But it’s not just when we’re feeling bad that we should enjoy our favorite things. We should take time for them regularly in order to prevent feeling bad.

IMG_6384[1]

So as I play the piano a fire is lit and my husband acts as Innkeeper setting out crackers, cheese and drinks.  Here, just as in the lounge of my favorite Red Lion Inn, we relax, chat, and make dinner plans. We decide to dine out of the Inn this evening, going to a fairly new Hudson establishment called The Three Palms.  It’s a gourmet pizza place.

IMG_6302[1]

This is  the exterior of The Three Palms restaurant by day.

IMG_6385[1]

And this is the interior of the restaurant by night. My husband and I sit at the bar so we can look right across the way to the kitchen where the staff is working busily.  Sometimes on Inn Days I am the one-woman kitchen staff, the Inn chef, but on other Inn Days like today I am pure Inn guest.  It is nice to be served now and then.

IMG_6390[1]

It’s fun watching this fellow prepare the pizza dough,  throwing it into the air.  He’s good, never dropped it even once.  A little entertainment while we sip our wine.

IMG_6386[1]

I enjoy the food here and I enjoy the setting too.  The lighting is very pleasant creating  an  ambiance just right for a romantic Country Inn Day.

So all in all I’d say this Country Inn Day was quite the success. Though it was too short, as all days seem to be, it did provide  rest, relaxation, imagination  and sights and experiences outside of my regular routines. That’s all I can ask for on any Country Inn Day so I’m quite content.

I hope you’re happy too, having your own Days of Imagination and Fun,   your own version of my Country Inn Days.  You are the artist of your life.  Only you can create the sort of days which will make your life glisten and glow… so seize the day  and remember…

If you can imagine a perfect day you can make it so.

Enjoy!

I Simply Remember my Favorite Things

IMG_5285[1]
Today’s letter
I simply remember my favorite things and then… I bet you thought I was going to say, and then I don’t feel so bad, but no.  I was going to say, then I feel wonderful! I guess it all depends just how much we love those favorite things we’re remembering.  Well, I have a lot of favorite things and I hope you do too, but as you might imagine, a lot of my very favorite things have to do with The Art of Letter Writing.

Do you realize how hard it is, if not impossible, to focus on two things at the same time?  There could be dirt all over the floor along with other things not so pretty, but in that same room there could also be beautiful objects- flowers, gorgeous paintings, pretty fabrics… If we focus our attention on the lovely things, we will feel one way – probably lovely, but if we focus our attention on the dirt and mess, we just might feel quite differently.

My point here is simple.  We should train ourselves to focus on those things which make us feel wonderful, unless of course we’re in the process of working on those other more dreary items in order to improve or eliminate them.   Of course, that’s if we want to be happy, but I rather like to be happy myself, don’t you?

IMG_5286[1]

Not all my favorite things are of a material nature, but we do live in a material world after all, so many are.  I love and live in an old house.  I love antique china, linen, crystal, and I love using these things daily.  I love country inns and elegant old hotels and try to visit them often.  I love cities oozing with charm and I love nature in all its glory.  There’s also puppy dogs and girl friends, afternoon tea and intimate candlelit dinners. music, art, books, cooking and baking… the list goes on and on.

Yes, I must be a real material girl for I love all sorts of material things, and just as Oscar Hammerstein II suggested, simply remembering  these favorite things can prevent dreary thoughts from taking hold.  Cultivating rituals around these things   is even better, for then these favorite things develop into passions and living with passion is wonderful.  Do you live with passion?

IMG_5284[1]

Because The Art of Letter Writing has become a passion with me I am also quite passionate about the physical materials used in creating my letters. As some might feel a thrill of excitement when discovering a shoe or sporting goods shop I feel that excitement  at a stationery store.  Sealing wax in all its colors of the rainbow enchants  me.

IMG_5255[1]

I love particular pens and inks, paper in all sizes and colors.  I love stickers and ribbon, water color pencils and paper punches that stamp out tiny little leaves for autumn tree designs for my stationery.  What we have to say in a letter is important of course, perhaps the most important thing, but the look of our letter adds an element of fun and put the two together and we have ART!

I know not everyone gets as carried away with the “art”  aspect of letters as I do.  I had a correspondent, a Scottish lady in Canada, who cleaned offices after hours. Her stationery consisted of the half-used paper she’d find in the wastebaskets there.  This paper  worked for her and maybe that would work for you too, but for me and a lot of my penfriends the art aspect of letters is at least 50% of the fun.

IMG_5260[1]
Kathy’s artful letter envelope

I would never tell anyone how their letter must look or what materials they should use in writing it because this reminds me of a certain interior designer I know who preaches individualism and yet has a list of do’s and don’ts for her customers that totally erases all their individuality.  “Don’t cover your windows”, she says.  “Let the light pour in.”  “Don’t choose dark colors.  They’re depressing and dreary.”  Ha! Says who? Says this decorator.  But maybe her customers like dark colors and drapery.

IMG_5256[1]

Maybe you like typing black words onto white paper for your letters and if that makes you happy, that’s great!  I mean it, but if you’re looking for a creative outlet consider the art play involved in The Art of Letter Writing.  Lots of people don’t think they’re very artistic until they give art a try.  You might discover an undiscovered pleasure which just could grow into a delightful passion.  That’s what happened for me.

Jean Renoir said, “True art is in the doing of it.”  He didn’t say anything about qualifications, training or end product.  Just have fun doing it.

You are a physical being. Letter writing is a physical activity using physical materials so –

Let’s Get Physical!

Write some letters

Making time for favorite things

IMG_4762[1]

Have you ever heard of Arsene Haussaye?  He was a French novelist, poet and man of letters born in the late 1800’s.  I don’t know Arsene very well yet, but, since I am a lady of letters myself and fond of literature, as well as the 19th century and things romantic,  this French writer is someone I should get to know.  Why, in time he might even become one of my very delightful “dead friends”.

I bring Arsene up today because of something he wrote that made me think of you –  yes –  All of YOU who are reading this post!  Arsene wrote, “My chief philosophy has always been to do only what I deem pleasant. This is why I write to you.”

Well, it’s not as though I can get away with doing only those things which I find pleasant as Arsene does.  Some uninvited dreary tasks do slip into my days, but I conscientiously work at making time for pleasure,  and writing you here is one of those pleasurable activities.

 Arsene and I both love to write letters.  Maybe you do too. You must at least enjoy the subject of letters (receiving them or reading historical letters of famous people) or you wouldn’t be here with me right now.

IMG_4754[1]

Writing letters, receiving letters … the papers, a favorite writing instrument, a desk filled with sealing wax, postage stamps, bottles of ink in assorted colors, a stack of letters waiting for an answer — these are a few of my favorite things.  Oscar Hammerstein II said, “We simply remember our favorite things and then we don’t feel so bad”, but going one step farther and doing, embracing and experiencing our favorite things makes us feel even better.  What are some of your favorite things?  Are you seeing that those things make it into your daily life?

I love people, but I also love my solitude, and those two favorite things together have something to do with why I love letters so.  Lord Byron said, “Only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously.”

Because I’m a letter writer I can enjoy my friends every day without getting worn out coming and going. I might write letters in a coffee shop (for I love coffee  and I love coffee shops) but my favorite letter writing time happens in early morning at my home.  The house and everyone in it is still asleep and quiet.  I make my coffee, and in cold weather stumble into my library.  Maybe I’ll light a fire in the fireplace.

IMG_3017[1]

In warm weather I have a different favorite letter writing location.

IMG_4752[1]

I come out  to the porch.  Here I sit quietly in solitude.  I gaze out my windows at the trees, the birds, and the sky.   I enjoy this alone time reflecting, and then I share some of my reflections with a letter friend. I find this ritual to be sheer bliss and a great way to start the day.    But any location and any hour of the day becomes golden when we’re enjoying our favorite things.

Though letter writing is not my only favorite thing – there’s music, cooking, gardening, knitting,  hosting teas, ectaetera, etcaeterorum … the extra special aspect of letter writing  is the ease of it.  It’s relaxing. I can put my feet up and write while lounging in my pink pajamas and comfy slippers.    Letter writing isn’t only a  mix of solitude and society.  It’s also a mix of physical relaxation and intellectual stimulation.

Then there’s the ‘Magic of creation’ to consider.  Even if we’re not  as brilliant or popular as some artists might be, we truly become artists whenever we’re involved in creation.  It doesn’t matter what our creation is – a poem, a song, a chocolate chiffon pie,  a letter –  all creation is  very satisfying.   As we create we team up with The Supreme Creator.  We make  something out of nothing.   And when we share our creations we then experience even greater satisfaction.

IMG_4756[1]

I consider myself to be a spiritual person.   I think we’re put on this earth to try to know God, to teem up with Him accomplishing  good, to be of service to others and to do our work with joy.  And we can be of great service to others simply by connecting with them, by sharing with them.  No man should be an island.

But besides being spiritual, there is a real material girl inside of me too, she’s the one that loves the materials used in letter writing.  I wonder if you feel the same attraction to these materials. Perhaps you do.  Perhaps you love paper stores and have  cabinets full of paper and pens as I do.

IMG_4757[1]

Perhaps you’re already an avid letter writer or just thinking about getting started.   Maybe you’re even one of my regular letter friends wondering why it’s taking me so long to answer your letter.  Well, I am writing to you right here, and a more personal letter will be coming soon.  This reminds me of something  Robert Louis Stevenson said,

“If I wrote all the letters I ought to write, and at the proper time, I should be very good and very happy; but I doubt if I should do anything else.”

So true, Robert!

 I do try to keep up with all my letter friends, but like a missionary, I also feel the need to spread the word about letters, and I’m so delighted when I see people from  places like India, Japan, Norway, France, Canada, The United Kingdom and other far off countries sharing thoughts and words on this subject of letters with me.  I hope you’re all having as grand a time as I am writing and receiving  letters and I’m hoping to hear from you, yes, write me a letter too!

But now I’ll be signing off for today

IMG_4753[1]

So till  we meet again

I wish you love,

Truly,

Carol Ann