Most Expensive Night in New England?
At first, it sounded like something out of Brigadoon. On a New Year’s Eve holiday several years ago in Barnard, Vermont, a one-general-store town about 10 miles northwest of Woodstock, a friend told me he’d heard about a semisecret resort on the lake — one so luxurious and private that few people knew it was there, other than a handful of celebrities. “Like who?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Oprah?” My friend went on: Each room was filled with original art. It had a private ski mountain and private lake frontage. When I suggested we pay a visit, my friend shook his head. “It’s gated,” he said. “You can’t get in without a reservation.”
Here, in Vermont?
Over the next few days, we made several attempts to case this mystery hideaway. We trudged around the frozen lake to catch a glimpse from the shore. No luck. In town, we found proof. The inn operated a tiny boutique next to the post office. We had a name — Twin Farms. The inn was real, though not of this world. The most expensive room (actually a cottage) was $2,750. Per night. The bargain room (a suite): $1,100.
As a travel writer, I have stayed in fine hotels. But really, how could any place, no matter how swank, be worth those prices? There was only one way to find out.
In the weeks before my husband and I pay a visit (a celebration of five years together as a couple), Twin Farms retains its mysterious allure. I hear a rumor of summer dinners served at formal tables in secret meadows. I notice that the inn’s address isn’t advertised, and directions are sent only after our room is booked. I receive a questionnaire about our food preferences, privacy needs, allergies, sleep schedule. Once we check in, there will be no menus, no tipping. Everything will be arranged.
Even the inn’s history has glamour. Though the original 300-acre farm dates back to 1793, it gained prominence in the 1930s as the country retreat of novelist Sinclair Lewis and his wife, famed journalist Dorothy Thompson. They named it Twin Farms for the two farmhouses that once stood on the property (one later burned down). The main house is now home to guest suites named Dorothy’s Room and Red’s Room (Lewis’s nickname) in their honor. For the past two decades, Twin Farms has been owned by Thurston Twigg-Smith, whose mother’s family was a founding Anglo-Hawaiian clan with vast real estate and coffee holdings and a museum-worthy contemporary art collection.
We announce our visit at a call box at the main gate and are met at the end of the drive by a staffer named Rick, who relieves us of our car and luggage. Good-bye keys, wallet, laptop, and cell phone. We are being freed of the currency of everyday life, and I sense we’re being ushered into something entirely new.
By the time we get to The Perch cottage, where we will be staying, the car is tucked safely into the carport and our luggage has been put away. The 1,100-square-foot stone cottage is decorated in an English fishing theme, with large windows overlooking a stream in the woods and antique fish decoys placed here and there. It’s a soothing place, with its sleeping alcove and moss-green paneling.