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Anita Carmin embarks on the ultimate joyride and finds a warm welcome at the region’s best seaside inns, mountain lodges, country manors, and haute city hotels.
Pastoral postcards: classic roadside attractions in a region for all seasons.
Six states. Sixteen days. Sixteen hundred scenic miles. It was, in six words, The Ultimate New England Road Trip. A journey I’ve wanted to take for decades. Growing up in the Northwest, I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the Northeast — everything from its Norman Rockwell images and poems of Dickinson and Frost to its Paul Revere-was-here historic sights. I wanted to see those covered bridges, steepled churches, stone fences, and storied ponds with my own two eyes. And, yes, I wanted to taste lobster fresh off the boat in Maine, real maple syrup-doused pancakes in Vermont, white clam apizza in Connecticut, and ricotta-filled cannoli in Boston’s noisy North End. So, with that long list of musts, my boyfriend Robert and I plotted the perfect auto adventure, encompassing all six states and the must-stay places in each. We began (and concluded) our “circle trip” in Boston, picking up our Hertz Toyota Prius hybrid right at the airport. While we planned our itinerary to coincide with the renowned fall foliage, New England is truly a region for all seasons. (Think skiing in winter, sailing in summer, marathon running in spring.) This was our first trip, but it certainly won’t be our last. P
The Maine course.
Lobsters and Lighthouses
Larger than the other five New England states combined, Maine is particularly famous for its rocky coast, dotted with picturesque lighthouses and lobster boats bobbing offshore. For fresh-offthe-boat lobster, head to one of the colorful lobster shacks in Portland’s historic Old Port. Just southeast of Portland, Cape Elizabeth offers a peaceful retreat of wetlands, woodlands, and beaches. It’s also home to Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine’s oldest and most-photographed beacon, and Great Pond, a nature lover’s utopia accessed by a groomed one-and-a-half-mile trail.
Where to stay:
Inn by the Sea, a luxe eco-friendly resort committed to preserving the natural beauty of its coveted coastal setting. Following a multi-million-dollar renovation, the inn gleams with such green initiatives as biofuel heating, farm-to-table dining, and whimsical eco-educational children’s programs. Guestrooms feature lavish eco-sensitive bathrooms; the spa offers bamboo towels. Outside, a boardwalk leads to a mile of unspoiled beach, and butterflies flutter among the indigenous gardens. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade upon arrival, if available; full breakfast daily (try the blueberry pancakes!) in Sea Glass restaurant; and a $50 resort credit, once per stay. From $189 per room, per night.
White Mountains and Golden Ponds
The most glorious autumn color in all of New England? Those in the know will point you to New Hampshire, specifically the White Mountains, which reign as the region’s highest range. For spectacular fiery displays of maple, beech, and birch, cruise the scenic Kancamagus Highway, a 34-mile ribbon that winds through the White Mountain National Forest, with numerous photo-op stops, well-marked hiking trails, and historic sights — such as the circa-1830s Russell-Colbath Homestead — along the way.
Where to stay:
The Manor on Golden Pond in the foothills of the White Mountains. Overlooking placid Squam Lake — immortalized in the 1981 film On Golden Pond — the century-old English-style manor house boasts individually decorated suites, many with woodburning fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs. In the Van Horn dining room, Executive Chef Peter Sheedy’s Nuevo American cuisine showcases a bounty of local ingredients. Tucked away in the estate’s historic Carriage House, the intimate Seasons Spa offers the best massages around. Virtuoso guests receive early check-in and a room upgrade upon arrival, if available; full country breakfast daily; and a $70 spa credit, once per stay. From $300 per room, per night.
Falling for the Albany Covered Bridge (built 1858), just north of the Kancamagus Highway.
Quintessential Christmas card: Stowe in winter.
Verdant Hills and Storybook Vistas
Imagine driving through a children’s book, neatly illustrated with rolling green hills, red barns and silos, black and white Holsteins, and sky-piercing white steeples. Come winter, Vermont is the quintessential Christmas card. In autumn, it’s a leaf peeper’s paradise. In Stowe, you’ll quickly see why The Sound of Music’s von Trapp family chose this pretty alpine village — reminiscent of their native Austria — for their American home. You’ll also recognize the town’s steeple; it’s a popular postcard and calendar image.
Where to stay:
For a peak experience, head to Stowe Mountain Lodge where you’ll enjoy ski in/ski out convenience in winter, foliage tours in the fall, and guided hikes in the summer. Opened in 2008, the Lodge offers studio and suite accommodations, all with fireplaces and kitchen facilities. Private cabins are also available. The concierge will point out the area’s best scenic drives, covered bridges, and antique shops. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade upon arrival, if available; full breakfast daily; choice of a $50 spa credit, once per stay, or hiking or snowshoeing tour for two; and Vermont cheese plate with signature Hourglass Ale or wine, once per stay. For up-to-the-minute pricing, contact your Virtuoso travel advisor.
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Good fences make good scenery in the “Constitution State.”
Town and Country
The Connecticut countryside has no shortage of idyllic towns — complete with the requisite stone walls, rolling hills, running streams, and white-church-studded town greens. Among the fairest of them all: Washington, a scenic hamlet tucked into the Berkshire foothills. A mere two hours from New York City, but a world away in the peace-and-quiet department, Washington is where Manhattanistas head to de-stress, recharge, and indulge at the Mayflower Spa — the most acclaimed spa in Connecticut, if not all of New England.
Where to stay:
Mayflower Inn and Spa, a country-house hotel set amongst 58 acres of woods and expansive lawns. The individually decorated guestrooms are straight from the pages of Architectural Digest, and the dining room, with its lovely pastoral murals, offers a feast for the eyes and palate. But it’s the exquisite 20,000-squarefoot Spa House that takes your breath away. Its centerpiece: the ethereal Garden Room, a soothing sanctuary of pale powder-blue walls, white slip-covered furniture, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Blue Heron Pond. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade upon arrival, if available; Continental breakfast daily; and complimentary fruit basket. For up-to-the-minute pricing, contact your Virtuoso travel advisor.
Under sail near Newport.
National Treasures and Maritime Pleasures
Our nation’s most diminutive state, Rhode Island makes a big impression with its lively historic towns and rich maritime legacy. Amazingly, one fifth of the country’s National Historic Landmarks can be found here. You’ll get a glimpse of how the rich and famous once vacationed by touring their over-the-top summer “cottages” in Newport; many are located along the breathtaking Cliff Walk, a three-and-a-half-mile National Recreation Trail that follows the rocky shoreline.
Where to stay:
On Cliff Walk, of course! You’ll feel like a Vanderbilt yourself at The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport’s first historical mansionturned-hotel. The 20 rooms and villas are individually designed to reflect a different historical period or theme. The acclaimed Spiced Pear Restaurant serves contemporary American cuisine with a New England accent. A must for lunch: the famous and seriously good GQ Burger. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade upon arrival, if available; Continental breakfast daily; and a $50 food and beverage credit valid at Spiced Pear Restaurant, once per stay. From $279 per room, per night.
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RoAD TRiP tIps
• Ask your Virtuoso travel advisor to help plan and map your driving itinerary. In addition, Hertz can equip your vehicle with a GPS navigation system. • Keep daily driving distances to three hours or less, saving time for sightseeing, fine dining, and spa treatments. • Opt for a green car. Our Hertz Toyota Prius was ideal. Not only was it a comfortable ride, with plenty of pep for the highway, it also was large enough to store all of our luggage out of sight. • Keep your walking shoes handy in the back seat to take advantage of scenic trails en route. • Invest in a Go Boston Card to save money on major attractions in Boston, Cape Cod, and Newport. (We used ours to visit such places as the Paul Revere House, John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, and Newport mansions.)
Colonial charm: an early stars & stripes flies on Beacon Hill.
Historic Cities and Celebrated Seascapes
Boasting cities with fascinating histories and a National Seashore with charming colonial villages, Massachusetts is the perfect start — or finish — to a New England road trip. Fly in and/or out of Boston, New England’s largest city and unofficial capital. Whatever the season, you’ll find plenty to do, from walking the Freedom Trail (see Virtuoso Insights: Urban Renewal, page 26) to noshing in the North End. An easy drive from Boston, Cape Cod remains New England’s beloved summer playground — and a delight to visit in the off-season as well.
Where to stay on Cape CoD:
The oceanfront Chatham Bars Inn, where discerning New Englanders have summered for nearly 100 years. While the 1929 Ford Model A Woody parked in the circular driveway may reflect a bygone era, the resort is thoroughly au courant. The historically-designated Main Inn has been restored to its original grandeur, and newly-constructed cottages include spacious spa suites with fireplaces, oversized hydrotherapy tubs, saunas, steam showers, and massage tables. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade upon arrival, if available; spa amenity, champagne, and seasonal fruit in room upon arrival; and buffet breakfast daily. From $215 per room, per night.
Having grown up with the iconic “Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat” commercials, Robert and I were only too happy to rent a Hertz car for our trip. The company has been around since the days of Model Ts and offers a large number of pick-up and drop-off locations throughout New England. Depending on your needs, Hertz offers a Prestige Collection of super-performance vehicles; a Fun Collection® for those wanting to drive, say, a zippy Corvette coupe; and an impressive Green Collection of fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly cars such as the Nissan Altima and Toyota Prius hybrids. Ideal for road trips, Hertz’s NeverLost® navigation system will guide you to any address — in 10 languages, no less. For help in choosing the car and amenities best suited for your New England road trip, contact your Virtuoso travel advisor.
Where to stay In Boston:
Mandarin Oriental, Boston in the hip Back Bay. Opened in late 2008, this elegant hotel puts you in the heart of what’s happening in Beantown. Chic-boutique Newbury Street, Boston Common, and the eclectic South End restaurant scene are all easily accessible — as is a convenient Hertz drop-off location. After a long road trip, you’ll love luxuriating in the city’s largest guestrooms, and people-watching in the stylish M Bar & Lounge. Two musts: a tasting-menu dinner in Asana, and a created-just-for-you treatment in the Asian-inspired spa. Virtuoso guests receive a room upgrade upon arrival, if available; Continental breakfast daily; and a $100 spa credit, once per stay. For up-to-the-minute pricing, contact your Virtuoso travel advisor.