old lyme inn room 3 feature

Old Lyme Inn – A New England Winter Getaway For The Non-Skier

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I only had one night to get away during this recent bomb cyclone / polar vortex / insanely cold weather, so getting on a plane to go somewhere warm wasn’t really practical. I’m not much of a skier, and even if I were, the insane level of cold would have put me off. But I discovered that it is possible to have a perfectly lovely weekend away in January in Connecticut without any winter sports…and here’s how to do it.

Book yourself a room at the Old Lyme Inn. Old Lyme is popular as a summer resort (and has a tradition of being an artists’ colony), and it’s located just about equidistant from New York City and Boston, right off exit 70 on Interstate 95. If the weather is fine, you can check out the art galleries, the Florence Griswold Museum (right across from the Inn), and the Lyme Art Association, but if it is one of those weekends where the air hurts your face, you just might want to stay inside…and that you can do, quite nicely.

I’ve had some odd experiences at old inns and bed and breakfasts: one time the owners were gone and the manager (who seemed to have a drinking problem) wasn’t able to get the heat to work. I’ve been to a hotel decorated with a very large collection of stuffed teddy bears—far too many to be charming or quaint. Last summer, I stayed one night in a room which had not been updated since approximately 1987, and contained a riot of mauve and teal decor, and about (no exaggeration) 25 different floral fabrics covering every possible thing that could be covered in a bedroom.

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Fortunately, the Old Lyme Inn (formerly an old farmhouse, then home to a riding academy, before opening as a hotel) is quite attractive; the service is friendly, and our room was comfortable, spacious, warm (with a gas fireplace), and relaxing.

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You can check in after 3:00, get settled in, and then it’s on to dinner…Google reviews says the restaurant serves “modern comfort food in an upscale environment,” and I agree with that assessment. We shared a nice bottle of red wine and enjoyed a smoked tomato and white bean soup, one of the chef’s specials (filet mignon with asparagus), and a rich crème brulee with chocolate and blood orange. No complaints there.

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Next, the evening’s entertainment; I’d reserved a table at the Side Door, the attached jazz club. This is something you really don’t expect to find in coastal Connecticut, but it’s a local treasure. The owner of the Inn, Ken Kitchings (along with his wife, Chris) bought the place and renovated it from a rather dilapidated state in 2011, and after their hotel became established in the community, they opened this side space in 2013, realizing a long-cherished dream.   It’s attached to the main building and accessible from within (which is useful on a cold night). We missed the 500th performance in the venue (which was the night before we arrived and, we heard, celebrated with much champagne), but we very much enjoyed the 501st, in which we heard the Steve Sandberg Quartet, featuring Mr. Sandberg, bandleader and composer, on piano. It’s a small space–maybe 75 audience members–which makes it an intimate one. One very efficient waitress and bartender covered the whole room (no food was served, but drinks were abundant) and the enthusiastic audience had a terrific time up close to the performers.

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I wasn’t familiar with Steve Sandberg before, but liked the show enough to buy his new CD, Alaya. At first he reminded me of a combination of Vince Guaraldi, David Sanborn, and Claude Bolling, and then as I listened longer, I picked up some elements of Dave Brubeck and George Winston, too. (And he seems to be a Beatles fan.) Many of his compositions had classical themes, lifted from Chopin, Ravel, and others. There were elements of Latin music, of world music, progressive rock, 1970s –style fusion…it didn’t fit neatly in any box, but it was a wonderful evening and celebration of music. Listening to Zach Brock on violin was really a treat, as well…it’s not a common instrument in jazz, but then, this concert wasn’t strictly jazz either. In fact, it was rather radically inclusive. And the violin had a purity and a clarity that was really lovely in this context.  Michael O’Brien on bass and Mauricio Zottarelli on drums, both very good, rounded out the quartet.

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I’m looking forward to going back. Maybe in warmer weather next time. (Good food and good music are enjoyable in June, too.)

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old lyme inn exterior

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com.

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PHOTO CREDITS

Room 3 (Lead-In) and Exterior (Embed) Courtesy of Old Lyme Inn.