Conn. inn near it all but hopes you don't care
NORTH STONINGTON, Conn. - It isn't that there's nothing to do around this hamlet. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos are a short drive away. Several miles southwest are the restaurants and attractions of Mystic village, known for its historic maritime museum and for the pizza parlor made famous in Julia Roberts's 1988 movie, "Mystic Pizza." About seven miles south is the genteel village of Stonington and more diversions. Add in beaches and wineries and there's a lot to do and see in this coastal corner of New London County.
However, wandering through the Inn at Lower Farm's extensive garden, with only birdsong or the distant bark of a dog breaking the silence, is an experience to relish. Here and there, seats dot the garden as it gently descends to a small creek and a trail that cuts through bracken and trees. From late spring to fall, pretty native blooms feed the honeybees from the inn's hives. Year-round, birds - from cardinals to crows, and the odd bluebird, if you're lucky - nest and feed in this National Wildlife Federation-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Idling is recommended.
This quaint bed-and-breakfast is set in an 18th-century Georgian Colonial farmhouse. Two centuries later, the house had fallen into such disrepair it was known locally as "the falling down farm." Renovations by the former owner and the current ones, Jon and Mary Wilska, who bought the place as a retirement venture in 1999 and opened the inn two years later, have changed the farm's direction.
The wooden floors and exposed beams are still a little askew, but they add to the authenticity and charm of the place. Even the interior design reflects the house's character and age. A large mural by Susan Stafford, a local artist, at the main stairwell depicts the farm's bucolic setting, but the bulging old plaster underneath is to be admired, too.
Folk art is everywhere - pictures, paintings, quilts - and intriguing bric-a-brac and knickknacks fill every nook, including in the four guest rooms. Each bedroom has a double bed and an en suite bathroom, complete with toiletries. Three have working fireplaces (composite logs that require just the touch of a match to light are provided), but the one room that doesn't, the Sara Lynn, boasts the only guest tub. The grandest is the bright, airy Deacon Gray Room with its four-poster bed. The room is named for a local deacon, while the rest - besides Sara Lynn there's Emily Ayn and Gregory Alyn - are named for the Wilskas' children and daughter-in-law.
Downstairs, the massive old stone fireplace in the dining room, originally the farm's kitchen, retains its swing arm laden with cooking pots, and a "beehive" brick oven. During the colder months, the fire is lighted and roaring before guests wander down for a communal breakfast at the commanding oak table. Stories of places visited are shared and advice from Mary and Jon given over a two-course, home-cooked breakfast. Nearby, there's a book-lined sitting room for guests to relax in.
Breakfast is the only meal provided at the inn, but the area has many great restaurants.
North Stonington broke off from Stonington in 1807. Formerly a whaling and fishing village set on a peninsula, Stonington is now a weekend retreat for wealthy New Yorkers. A stroll by Water Street's little shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants takes only minutes. Mystic, also about seven miles away, is livelier. The chic Restaurant Bravo Bravo, next to the historic Whaler's Inn, serves upscale pastas and delightful seafood dishes (averaging $20-$25). More casual, the Seamen's Inne restaurant and pub at the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea is no less progressive and includes organic wines ($7.50 a glass) and wonderful staples like a seafood-packed fisherman's pie ($22) on its menu. Nearby, at the Mystic Marriott, the AAA four-diamond-rated Octagon is an elegant, more expensive boutique steakhouse with a lavish paella ($37) loaded with lobster and big enough to share.
One thing you can't do at the Lower Farm is watch TV. There aren't any. But there's complimentary Wi-Fi. Just don't take your laptop into the garden. That's where you can disconnect.
Linda Laban, a freelance writer in Watertown, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.