Are you in bad need of a first -rate island vacation, but are not wanting to leave the USA? Well Debbie and I just returned from a three-day visit to a magnificent getaway retreat about which Elegant Small Hotels says, “A spirited revival of Edwardian-era elegance, this 1864 home has been a haven for generations of discriminating travelers during all four of the island’s distinct seasons.” Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report chimes in, “Striking guest quarters which exude an unpretentious sense of class and refinement.” Bon Appétit, never at a loss when it comes to the best, suggests, ‘The guest who snares the large room with the working fireplace might decide to roost until the next equinox.” The New York Times Magazine understates when it emphasizes very classy and painstakingly restored. There are many the reasons this special gem of a luxury small hotel has been called one of America’s top ten hotels.
When Debbie and I hit the road, we often look first to our Relais & Chateaux guide. In all the years, we have had but a single disappointment with R&C. Its standards are hard to match. As a result any R&C selection is most likely to be superb. I have written on occasion about The Inn at Little Washington, which is generally thought to be the standard for any other inn to match. When traveling, we are likely to joke during an inn stay, what would “Chef” think? Here, of course, we would be referring to Patrick O’Connell, owner of The Inn at Little Washington. Patrick is quite simply the hands-on king of detail and perfection. To match with Patrick O’Connell is no mean task. So when friends of ours suggested we meet them in Edgartown, we looked no further than R&C.
Well I am eager to report that Gerret and Paula Conover, long-time, hands-on owners of The Charlotte Inn in the heart of Edgartown, MA, are in Patrick O’Connell’s league. Their magnificently restored inn is one that I am certain “Chef” would be most pleased to stay at himself. Like O’Connell, the Conover’s are meticulous hands-on owners. Our first morning at breakfast in the Inn’s fabulous dining room, Debbie and I were surprised to learn that the most pleasant woman who was serving guests their morning coffee refills on the terrace was none other than Paula Conover. And the dapper white-haired gentleman sweeping away out front turned out to be Gery.
Just wait until you get a gander at the paint job on the Inn’s beautifully restored white buildings. Gery even passes out business cards to introduce you to Fine Paints of Europe, based in Woodstock, Vermont, another of our long favored places to visit. I have never laid eyes on such a high-gloss, magnificent paint finish. And jaw dropping comes to mind over the inn’s furnishings, antiques, old paintings and splendid gardens. If polished brass and old English hunt club work for you, then you are indeed home by the fireside. If you wish not to be invited back to The Charlotte Inn, simply get on your cell phone or laptop in the inn’s public areas. Kidding, but the inn does emphasize the need for privacy and respect for other guests. And if you are desirous of having evening dinner in your Patriots t-shirt and polo shorts, well, plan to dine elsewhere. Breakfast is not to be believed. Even “Chef” does not roll out the foie gras.
The inn’s Maitre de Maison is Carol Reed, who has been at the inn for over three decades. Upon departure, Carol can call Jeff Katzenberg, an eclectic cabbie who will, with little prodding, give you his view of the world via the Vineyard. Carol will also explain in horror why you do not want to take the high-speed, stomach-wrenching Quonset ferry, as Debbie and I found out. Talk about the rock & roll ferry. Not fun!
On a night you do not wish to eat at the inn, head over to the front porch or the bar at Alchemy. This French-style bistro—a converted grocery store—is no secret, so arrive early or forget it.
A great way to see the island is with a $7 all-day island bus pass, which allows you to get on and off the bus as you wish. We rode to the fishing village of Menemsha for chowder, lobster and steamers. Another day, we took the bus to Vineyard Haven for lunch at the world famous Black Dog. Our friend Alan Miller, owner of Pepe’s restaurant in Key West, was a founding member of the Black Dog building team. Alan, as legendary a figure on this island as he has become in Key West, built David McCullough’s 8 X 10 foot backyard writing studio, which David refers to as his “world headquarters.”
I could go on and on about our great stay at The Charlotte Inn, but you get the message. I would not write about an inn for you that I did not consider world class. Go to relax, kayak, sail, walk or just eat like a king. You can do all in style. I promise! Have a great time.