I've spent most of the post-holiday season trying to avoid winter. There have been a lot of Netflix and red wine marathons in the apartment. And anytime I go outdoors, it's usually underneath three layers with my chin tucked in and eyes on the ground, trying to avoid slush and ice. (Well, except for yesterday...yesterday was beautiful, slush and all.)
But a couple of weeks ago, we decided to embrace winter with a quick getaway to Winvian in Connecticut. I've been wanting to visit for a long time, so it was really nice to get the chance to stay here. It's a quick drive from New York City - just under 2 hours - and really a perfect spot to enjoy the season as it's meant to be...quiet, with feathery snowfall and a real wood-burning fireplace.
It's so easy to get caught up with the busyness of the city and forget just how different the rest of New York is from Manhattan and the other boroughs. You drive about 45 minutes northeast of our apartment and the scenery changes entirely. Highrises are replaced with towering pine trees and the snow turns from gray sludge to brilliant white powder.
Even without the signs, it was easy to tell when we crossed from New York into Connecticut. We opted for a path with no tolls and it led us through some of the most charming small towns I've seen. Really, there's something about Connecticut that just makes you feel like you're in a movie set. There's also so much history in that part of the country. It's pretty awe-inspiring.
Speaking of history, Winvian's definitely got it. It started as a family home and the original structure was built in 1775 - a year before the Declaration of Independence made the United States of America its own country. Later, in the 1940s, the property and surrounding land was purchased by Winthrop and Vivian Smith (he was a founder of Merrill Lynch and she was a model). They turned it into a working farm and summer getaway.
Now, Winvian is a collection of 18 luxury cottages, each with their own design, plus the Hadley Suite, which was the family's home. It's still owned and operated by the Smith family and you're likely to meet them during your stay.
We stayed in the Woodlands Cottage, a spacious cabin with tall ceilings propped up by towering tree trunks...one of which doubles as a chimney! There was so much beautiful detail in this cottage and I'll never forget the warm, calming scent of pine. I loved the placement of the bed. It served as the divider between the bedroom and bathroom and on the back of it is a trickling waterfall.
At night you could watch the sunset from all around and, in the morning, I could see the blue sky and icicles peeking in from windows placed just below the roof. Everything about the cottage was relaxing...it was exactly what you'd want in a woodsy retreat.
We toured a couple of the other cottages that weren't occupied, including the Beaver Lodge, which had the coolest bed I've seen in a long time! A winding staircase led up to a loft area where you could play a game of chess with the snowy branches as your backdrop. Every cottage at Winvian has these kinds of thoughtful details.
The details extend into their public spaces, too. In the main house, where you'll find the bar, restaurant and games, walls and shelves are decorated with old American art and Smith family photos. When we first checked in, I felt like I was coming to a friend's house to stay for the weekend. We played some pool and shuffleboard, drank some wine and then got ready for dinner at Winvian's restaurant.
I wish I had photos of our dinner, but the restaurant is just so quiet and intimate that I didn't want to disturb the experience for anyone. There are a handful of small dining rooms with just a few tables in each. We sat in a dining room with three other couples, in front of a roaring fireplace, and were treated to what I can only describe as a "beautiful" four-course meal.
Winvian's menu is pre-fixe and you can do three or four courses. Almost everything the restaurant serves - about 80 percent of the ingredients when we were there - comes from their own onsite farm. They grow produce and raise their own livestock. It makes sense, given Winvian's farming history. The selection changes almost daily.
One other thing I don't have a photo of for blogging is the spa, which is more modern than the main house but still really cozy. I booked a facial with Susan and am so glad I did because her facial massage skills, I'm almost positive, cured my congestion-fueled headaches.
Winvian was beautiful in the winter, but I'm sure it's equally enchanting during other months, too. In the spring and summer, they roll out free lawn games for guests and I can only imagine the brilliant foliage in fall.
MORE INFO: Winvian
GOOD FOR: Weddings, Romantic Retreats
PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic