STONINGTON, Conn. -- They call the historic center of this town the borough, where antique shops line the street that leads to the point at the end of the peninsula, which juts into Fisher's Island Sound.
It's a disarmingly friendly place for such an upscale community, where Chinese silkscreens sell for $2,000, mahogany tables go for three times that much, real estate office windows show a castle for $9 million, and wood-framed houses have plaques that say things like "C. Breed 1760."
Say hello to the elderly priest sitting with two friends on one of the street corners, and he may gently inquire as to your political persuasion, and they may all chime in to agree about what should happen at the polls in November. Farther down Water Street, you may get stuck watching the world's smallest Lady of Fatima parade, with a half-dozen children in costume, a little marching band imported from a neighboring town, and a single policeman keeping watch.
Only three years old, the Inn at Stonington fits right in, and not only because its Greek Revival style seems to match the buildings around it and the subtly nautical decor refers to the state's last remaining commercial fishing fleet, which calls Stonington home. Amid both opulence and a working fishing port, the inn seems to capture the same kind of tranquil informality that makes Stonington such an unassuming hideaway, only a few minutes from the relative bustle of Mystic and a half hour from two casinos.
The inn was built on the site of the popular Harbor View restaurant, which had burned down. It expanded to include more rooms in a renovated brick building next door. Our room was in the annex, and while we were initially disappointed not to be in the main building, the feeling didn't last long: The room, done up in soothing, creamy colors, came with furniture that, to the untrained eye, looked almost as valuable as some of those antiques down the street. We were tempted to ask if the armoire hiding the TV was for sale, but then realized that if there was indeed a price, we were afraid to learn it.
In front of the TV, equipped with hundreds of DirecTV channels, were two very comfortable chairs, and behind those were two even more comfortable queen-size beds. The bathroom was as big as most Boston bedrooms, with a six-foot Jacuzzi tub lined with limestone. Linens were the best of Italy: Anichini on the bed, Frette for the bathrobes.
Money can indeed buy luxury, or at least a taste of it. Prices at the Inn at Stonington can feel luxurious to match. Our room, in the middle of three tiers of prices, costs $245 on weekends, $30 more for a seaside room, although construction next door would have compromised those views. It's not the most expensive hotel we've ever visited, but pretty pricey for a place without a restaurant, room service, or even a full breakfast.
Thankfully, the elegant sense of calm made the price seem within reason, and the service could not have been more efficient or amiable. After dinner in Mystic, for instance, we returned to have a nightcap in the main hotel's bar, only to lean that it's not quite a bar (as in a place that serves drinks). With its red walls, white painted wainscoting, and black and white photos of sailboats, this room is where the daily complimentary wine and cheese hour is hosted, and we were there long past the hour's end. No matter: The smiling desk clerk immediately poured us glasses of pinot grigio anyway, and we chatted about her artwork, her bookstore in nearby Westerly, R.I., the mill restoration project next door, and the best bets for nearby restaurants.
The next night, we made sure to catch the wine and cheese at the appointed hour, and the clerk this time graciously helped us and a few other guests make dinner reservations. (We went to the gorgeous and satisfying Up River Cafe in Westerly.)
Both mornings included showers that almost ended in repetitive stress injury from trying to get bits of Neutrogena shampoo, body soap, and conditioner out of the stingy (or clogged?) wall dispensers -- an environmentally responsible amenity gone awry. After such stress, we were more than ready for coffee and breakfast. With no coffeemaker in the room, one of us would go to the bar to fetch java and carbs at the continental buffet. Each time, a clerk cheerfully arranged a tray complete with a full thermal carafe, cups and silverware, and creamers of choice. We stacked delicious cranberry bread and cinnamon rolls on a plate and took the tray back to the room.
Unfortunately, the coffee was weak, and the breads weren't enough to fortify us for a day in Mystic, so we went elsewhere for the real thing: eggs and espresso drinks at Noah's Restaurant.
Later, when we learned that inn owner William Griffin also owns the Skipper's Dock restaurant on the other side of the parking lot, we imagined a way that this luxurious place could have made a weekend of indulgence feel even more so. If we had had access to a full breakfast and room service, we would have lingered a while longer each morning at the inn, flipping through the Sunday paper in one of the lovely common areas, or, better yet, in our rooms, where we would have stayed wrapped in those soft Frette robes as we caffeinated.
Joe Yonan can be reached at email@example.com.