Saturday, January 30, 2010
"Breakfast is at 8:30 in the morning," Don said as we were telling him goodnight. Hmmm. 8:30. That might be a bit of a stretch for me considering I'd been waking up routinely at 10-10:30 every day since the start of our holiday. But I resolved to try my best.
It was a cold morning with a bright blue sky. Because we'd arrived in the dark, it was the first chance for me and Richard to take a look around. He got dressed, put on his boots and headed out into the garden early. We were both excited. The snow lay on the grounds of the farm, white and glistening in the sunshine. I could hear people moving around through the wooden house, which creaked and groaned with every step.
The house, the living quarters of Butternut Farm, was built in 1720 by Jonathon Hale. Don Reid bought the property in the early 1970s and immediately set about restoring the building. Reid, a graduate of Harvard, had previously worked for years in banking and then as a school teacher. But it quickly became obvious to me that Don was born to run a period bed and breakfast. He has a passion for collecting antiques - more like an obsession, he admits over breakfast - which he places in each room of the inn. The doors all hang on period hammered hinges; all the rooms are furnished with ancient rugs and beds, sliver and brass objets, antique books, drawings and paintings, and a decanter of sherry, two glasses and little pile of chocolates. Two Abysinnian cats wander freely through the house, and there's a huge variety of stuffed animals and fox pelts leaping off of walls and strewn over the backs of chairs.
I went downstairs to the dining room for breakfast. Richard had come back in, and we were joined by Don and Irving and two other guests - a mother and her toddler. The table was set beautifully with silver cutlery, home made raspberry jam, toast, yogurt, cheese and an enormous yellow omelette.
"Happy hens make the best eggs!" declared Don, and so I tucked in to test his theory myself. There's something truly special about a fresh egg - I mean one that's been gathered and cooked in the same day, as our eggs had been. Their colour is magnificent; taste rich and decadent.
Don - like me - was a bit of a foodie. He'd even cooked for the famous Jullia Child and her husband, Paul, in the mid-70s. When I asked him about it, he was sufficiently vague. "You run a bed and breakfast for long enough and all kinds of people will come through your door." I liked his quiet humility. Both he and Iriving had a grace about them that made it easy to spend time with them. They spoke easily and without guile about their lives. They were curious about me and what I did and where I came from, but somehow managed, without any apparent effort, to not seem intrusive or prying.
Over the next couple of days, Richard and I would explore Glastonbury and go to Real Art Ways. Whenever we returned to the farm, we were greeted by Don or Irving or both. We ate fresh eggs every morning for breakfast and noted that the snow on the lawn had started to melt. We were at the end of our holiday, and on our final day we packed our things into the jeep and readied to leave for the airport. Don gave me a jar of home made jam. I said I'd better pay you now, lest I forget. "I feel so comfortable here, I might just walk out the door and forget all about money. Don felt similarly - that it was strange to be accepting money from friends. I was happy to pay him, though. It had been such a special few days, due in no small part, to the place itself and to its gracious proprietors.
"You decide where we stay and make the arrangements," Richard said when I started to get excited about our trip to New York. We were going to be heading to Connecticut for a screening of my film at the Rockstone and Bootheel exhibition and I'd decided that it would be a gentle denouement to our New York trip, if we spent some time at a cozy inn or bed and breakfast. I got to searching on the internet - Bed and Breakfasts, Connecticut - and almost immediately came upon Butternut Farm. Here's one example of not judging a place by its website! The site was fairly dreadful - low-res photos, badly laid out. But I read through the entire site, realising that it was still run by owner, Don Reid; it was full of antiques, had been lovingly restored, was affordable and within 15 minutes drive of Hartford.
There wasn't an e mail address for making contact, so I called instead. Don answered the phone - the quiet voice of an older man. I told him who I was and where I was calling from. I gave him the dates I'd like to come. He asked why I was coming and I explained my film was going to be screened etc. I told him my boyfriend was a designer whose work was part of the exhibition. He seemed interested to learn more about us, but explained that he hadn't decided if he was going to be in the US in January, so could I call back in mid-December? I have to admit: I was a bit irritated by his request. Didn't he want my business? Why did I have to call him back, why couldn't he call me? Didn't he know there were a million other places I could stay instead of his?
"Okay," I said. "But could you make a note of my name and the dates?"
"Sure," he said. I gave him my information and decided I would wait till December to call him back, rather than search out other accommodations. I can be very impatient when I feel like it, so accepting the delay was a leap for me. But there was something about the dated website, the grainy photos and the reticent Don on the other end of the phone that made me decide - paradoxically - that this was the place for us.
And let me tell you - I was absolutely right! When I called back in December, Don answered the phone with, "Hello Mariel!" He'd remembered me and kept my number. He'd decided not to go anywhere in January (by this time it had become abundantly clear that it was going to be a hard winter) and he'd be delighted to welcome Richard and I on the 15th. Every time I called him after that, he spoke to me with a gentle familiarity, as though we'd known each other for years. So much so, that when Richard and I ended up staying longer in Salem than I'd expected, I called Don to let him know we'd be late - just in case he had errands he wanted to do.
It was cold and dark when we arrived at the farm. The settled snow was a strange pale blue in the night, and it muffled the sounds of Main Street just beyond the garden. Don and Irving greeted us warmly at the door, and we walked into probably the loveliest guest house I've ever had the pleasure to visit.
Photos taken by Richard Rawlins and Mariel Brown, with the permission of Don Reid.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
If you look closely at the menu, you'll see one of the hot chocolates is made with cocoa from Trinidad!
The mug is called a 'hug' - you're meant to cup it in both of your hands and get comfy - which Richard and I did!
Talk about indulgence!!! Have you ever seen a chocolate pizza?
(Photo by Richard Rawlins)
18 miles of books.