The Inn at Weston
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By NANCYE TUTTLE Lowell Sun Staff

WESTON, VT. - Worries slip away in Weston, and cares seem to evaporate the longer you stay in this idyllic little hamlet nestled on the banks of the West River in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont.  We savored Weston's charms last month during a relaxing 48-hour getaway to this scenic town located on Vermont's historic Route 100.  A quintessential Vermont village, Weston has all you'd expect from such a place - cows and sheep grazing in the meadows, a classic village green, interesting historic sites, delightful art galleries, an award-winning professional theater, and leisurely shopping in a couple of old-fashioned emporiums selling all sorts of "stuff" we didn't think they made anymore.  But, best of all, it has the Inn at Weston, a luxury inn and fine dining establishment that's a calm respite and ideal place to relax and rejuvenate from the worries of daily life.  Located a short walk from the town's other amenities, it is one of the most inviting hostelries we've stayed in during 25 years of frequenting bed and breakfast abodes.

Owners Bob and Linda Aldrich, both New Jersey natives, left careers in medicine - he as a cardiologist and she as a cardiac rehab nurse - to become innkeepers in May, 2001, drawn to the charming 13-room inn that was handsomely refurbished by its previous owners.  "Nine years ago, we knew we would do this," said Linda, recalling the route they took to their new career, one that included an inn keeping course, visiting inns and viewing many properties.  "We considered other locations, but we love the fall and felt drawn to Vermont," she added. After viewing nearly a dozen other properties - none of which they liked - on a Vermont trip in August, 2000, by chance they heard that their inn was for sale and approached the owner. "We knew it was for us the minute we walked in. It was an emotional attachment," Bob noted. "We sat with the previous owners for a couple of hours and came to a price that day." And who wouldn't love the Inn at Weston?

A six acre property on the banks of the river, it has two houses - the Main Inn and the Coleman House across the street. The Main Inn, which includes the dining room and cozy, fireplaced pub, was built in 1848 as a working farmhouse with connecting stable and barn. It was converted to a guest house over 50 years ago. The Coleman House was built as a farmhouse, too, in 1830 and renovated and made a part of the inn in 1988. Offering more moderately priced rooms that are no less inviting, there is a communal living room here, complete with large screen TV and video player, a fireplace, books and shelves stocked with board games, perfect for apres ski or post-leaf peeping relaxation. The Aldriches warmly welcome their guests to the inn, which now boasts many personal touches that they have added, including lovely antique dressers, chairs and lamps scattered through the rooms. Bob's stunning, professional-quality photographs of Vermont and other locales adorn the walls. Their distinctive collection of vibrant glassware is artfully arranged throughout the house. And the Main Inn's cozy, fireplaced sitting room is now a comfortable library, complete with cherry wood shelves stocked with hundreds of books, both fiction and non-fiction, which the Aldriches accumulated over the years. It's so inviting here, in fact, that you might decide to stay inside, curl up with a book, and read for your entire stay. But don't, since there's plenty to see and do at the inn and in Weston itself. The inn's new greenhouse is home to another of the Aldriches' passions - orchids. Bob grows hundreds of them and other tropical plants there and gladly gives tours to guests who want to know more about the intriguing plants. Outside, there are lush gardens with comfortable Adirondack chairs and inviting rockers for quiet contemplation or conversation. Under the new gazebo off the back deck, you can enjoy a quiet dinner, too, or glass of wine before dinner if you'd like. This romantic spot was the setting for a recent marriage proposal, complete with champagne. And, after our days at the inn, it didn't surprise us that The Discerning Traveler, an upscale publication devoted to presenting memorable destinations on the East Coast, named the Inn at Weston one of its 10 Romantic Getaways this year. Each picture-perfect room is distinctly decorated with antiques. There are featherbeds and decorator quilts on the queen or king-sized beds. Oriental rugs cover the hardwood floors. Luxury linens and double-size whirlpool or thermal massage tubs and steam showers are in every bath. Its other niceties are almost too numerous to mention  - scented geranium rose soaps; chocolate truffles, bottled water and CD players in every room; Linda's funny stories and an appealing house dog Jake, who waits patiently in the pub for tastes of your breakfast sausage if you decide to share.

Other amenities are a doting, attentive staff, including innkeeper Scott Hendricks, whom the Aldriches call "our right arm." A Lawrence native and former Catholic priest, Hendricks served St. Ann's in Littleton from 1989 to 1994 but left the priesthood two years ago to move to Vermont. Dining, too, is an experience here at the Inn at Weston, with exquisite dinners, designed by Max Turner and his culinary team, whose focus is a contemporary regional menu. The wine list is exceptional. Designed by Bob Aldrich, a wine expert, it has Wine Spectator awards for excellence. Menu selections vary according to the market and the finest  ingredients that can be attained locally and internationally. We enjoyed baked oysters with brie and spinach, conch fritters and duck breast appetizers. Our entrees featured delicacies like salt prawns served with Maine lobster risotto, fresh sturgeon, venison and a tender culotte of beef. The accommodating chef even created a fresh fruit dessert for us, another example of the attentive service here. Breakfasts, included with your room, are a delightful experience and feature fresh fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice, inn-baked muffins and breads and entree choices like blueberry buttermilk pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, brie and Maine lobster omelets and frittatas with a medley of fresh vegetables. After dinner on our second night here, we enjoyed the stars from the deck off our room. Relaxed, refreshed, rejuvenated, we promised ourselves a return  trip to the Inn at Weston very soon.  

By NANCYE TUTTLE
Sun Staff
WESTON, VT. - Yes, this is how life should be on a wet, cool afternoon.
That was our reaction one recent drizzly Saturday as we settled at the
bar - where you can get a beer or martini as well as ice cream sodas and
sundaes - in the Bryant House Restaurant, a delightful lunch spot
adjacent to the Vermont Country Store.
Located a few hundred yards from the Inn at Weston, our headquarters
that weekend, we sat on stools in the 1885 barroom perusing the menu and
deciding on lunch.
Our friendly bartender Sherrie Brown brought out samples of warm
johnnycake, a molasses flavored cornbread that's a house specialty and
offered suggestions.
We were in Vermont, so cheese was a logical choice. And a wise one, too,
when we tasted the scrumptious turkey and cheddar melt, a tasty blend of
mesquite smoked turkey piled high on wheat bread with cranberry sauce
and smothered with warm cheddar. It simply hit the spot.
Another tasty find was the chicken pie, another house special, made with
chicken, peas, onions, celery and carrots in a rich gravy and topped
with homemade biscuits.
The waitresses scoop Wilcox ice cream, made in Rutland and considered
the best. Throw dietary caution to the wind, Brown advised, and enjoy a
hand-dipped rocky road sundae sprinkled with Ovaltine or an ice cream
soda.
Fortified with lunch, we trooped next door to the Vermont Country Store,
well-known for its Voice of the Mountains mail order catalog of quirky
items that we didn't know they still made.
Whoopie cushions are displayed besides bolts of gingham and calico
fabrics. Old-fashioned Christmas decorations are near the cleaning
supplies, with names like Lime Eater and Moth Away. You'll find Lifebuoy
soap and licorice flavored Sen-Sen along with Munsingwear undies,
Columbia bikes and stuffed Audubon birds with real bird calls.
Crowded on a rainy day, this is the kind of place that begs you to stay
awhile and sample its ambience and free tastes of Vermont common
crackers, potato chips, dips and cheeses that are offered in the food
section.
Across the street, check out the Weston Village Store and its collection
of weathervanes, hand cut cheeses, sandwiches, vintage signs, fruit
butters and penny candy.
Its sign at the entrance - The Original, Serving You Since 1891 - makes
you stop and wonder if there's a little Macy's and Gimbels-like rivalry
going on here in Weston.
Also on our shopping list, the Weston Village Christmas Shop is a
harbinger of the holidays to come. Its ornaments are intriguing and more
reasonable than those at other specialty shops we have visited.
And if bargains are your thing, consider the VCS Catalogue Outlet,
offering famous Yankee bargains with cleaned out seasonal and catalog
overstocks from the Vermont Country Store's unique catalogue.
 Other shopping destinations not far from Weston include Manchester, a
40-minute ride away and known for its array of outlets, and  Chester, in
the other direction, a haven for antique lovers.
This fall, Weston hosts two events to delight shoppers, too, both being
held at the Weston Playhouse on the village green.
The 43rd Annual Weston Antiques show is Oct. 3-6. Featuring 37 dealers,
it is touted as one of the Northeast's best shows and offers Americana,
fine furniture, oriental rugs, paintings, prints and jewelry. This show
is one of several in the region that weekend in nearby Ludlow and
Manchester and at Bromley and Okemo Mountains.
The next weekend, the 19th Annual Weston Craft Show runs Oct. 11-13.
Selected as one of Vermont's Top Ten Fall Events for 2002, the juried
show features 46 Vermont artisans displaying and selling their wares at
the Weston Playhouse.
Art lovers will find galleries to explore in Weston, too.
The Todd Gallery at the south end of the village is the studio of artist
Robert Todd, well-known for paintings of Vermont and Ireland. Here, too,
are limited edition prints, photography, sculpture and fine handcrafts
created by talented Vermont artists.
Wick Ahrens, who takes native Vermont wood and hand-carves whales and
other sea creatures, exhibits them in his Whales in Vermont studio down
the lane behind the Inn at Weston. Here, you'll find intriguing examples
of his work. Enjoy the sculptures and visit with the artist if he is
there.
History buffs will enjoy Weston, too, thanks to the efforts of the
Weston Historical Society that maintains several museums, all near the
village green, and offers a useful map and directory to all the historic
sites in town.
The Old Mill Museum, built around 1900 on the site of the original
sawmill, that was constructed in 1780,  you will find a fine museum of
antique tools.
Nearby is the Crafts Building, housing a museum and the historic Weston
Cornet Band Wagon. Upstairs you will find a crafts shop showing works by
local artisans.
The Farrar-Mansur House Museum, also by the village green adjacent to
the Playhouse, was built in 1797 by Oliver and Polly Farrar as a
combined home and tavern. Chock-full of items used by generations of
Weston families, the historical society offers tours and intriguing
stories during the summer and fall foliage seasons.
 About four miles north of the village on Route 100 is the Weston
Priory, a religious retreat run by Benedictine monks who are well-known
for their inspiring music and daily schedule of prayer.
The Weston Playhouse, recognized as oldest professional theater in
Vermont, continues to offer entertainment through late October during
its 66th season.
The fall show is David Copperfield, a new version of the beloved Dickens
tale. It will be performed Oct. 17-23.
Sports lovers will find four seasons of activity in the region, too,
from hiking, golf, tennis and swimming in the warmer months to winter
sleigh rides and skiing nearby at four acclaimed ski areas - Okemo
Mountain, Stratton, Bromley and Magic - offering downhill and cross
country options for all level of skiers.