NEW PALTZ, N.Y. -- It was on a drive up to Lake George that my fiancé, Matt, and I decided to stop for the night in New Paltz, a funky mountain town in the Hudson River Valley about 70 miles north of New York. When I lived in the city, I was among the weekend warriors who escaped to do outdoorsy things like climb the crags of Shawangunk Ridge (or the Gunks, as the locals call it) and attend trapeze school. But most trips were day trips, and I never did get to stay at one of the Victorian bed-and-breakfasts I passed on the way in or out of town.
On a recent visit back east from our home in San Francisco, we followed signs in town for Lefèvre House and ended up on a quiet lane hidden away just off New Paltz's Main Street. A powder-pink 1870s farmhouse with dark rose shutters and white detailing, the B&B didn't exactly promise modern sophistication with its exterior. It was a Sunday night, and everything on the block seemed deserted.
As we climbed the stairs to the porch and knocked on the front door, I still held the nearby Holiday Inn under consideration. But once we crossed the threshold into the front foyer, the dated 19th-century look gave way to swank, sleek four-poster decor, museum-quality art, and the clean, contemporary feel of a European inn. Forget the Holiday Inn -- starting at just $20 more, we could bunk here in style.
We checked into the blue room; the house has five guest rooms with names coded to their color schemes (Am I Blue, Red Hot, Green With Envy, Purple Rain, and Brown Sugar). And the comforts were abundant: original polished pine hardwood floors, marble-topped tables, a cushy couch, a huge walk-in closet, and a dark wood four-poster king bed made up in Versace linens. Huge windows opened out to greet expansive views of the Gunks.
The room technically shared the large spa bathroom downstairs with the brown room, but that night we had it -- and its impressive glass-enclosed multijet steam shower -- all to ourselves. Wireless Internet access was available throughout the property, and in the downstairs great room, guests could curl up on the plush sofa or faux-fur covered loveseat and read.
The next morning, a sumptuous three-course gourmet breakfast was prepared for us by Jessica Marzigliano, the inn's chef, executive administrator, and all-around Renaissance woman. In the downstairs dining room, the candlelit breakfast included French toast, caviar-encrusted soft-boiled eggs drizzled with truffle oil, and a beautiful orange crème brûlée garnished with mint.
``This is a pretty unique place," said Marzigliano, who used to live on-site as the night manager. She currently handles everything from managing the two-year-old inn's website to culinary tasks in the gleaming antique kitchen. Along with a handful of other staff, she helps carry out the vision of proprietors Charles Clement and Maurice Zinken, who moved to New Paltz from the Netherlands and acquired the house with the idea of setting up a sophisticated, art-oriented European-style inn in their new home.
Before we left, I took a last walk around the house, admiring the vintage wooden sleighbeds, tasteful antiques, and colorful brocade cushions shot through with gold thread. From the house's aged facade -- fit, as it was, for a grandmother -- I never would have guessed that such a forward-thinking hotel lay behind. And I was happy to have subscribed to an age-old maxim: Don't judge a book by its cover.
Contact Bonnie Tsui, a freelance writer in California, at www.bonnietsui.com.