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Mount Washington Hotel

My husband decided that with the money he received from his December birthday and the football pool winnings he received, he would buy not the sea kayak he considered but instead a night for the two of us at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

It’s like Frank to do this sort of magnanimous thing. (In his thirties, he bought a Kitchen Aid mixer for well over $300 with his Superbowl winnings since baking is one of his favorite pastimes….how lucky am I to be on the benefit side of what he chooses??)

Frank and I love the Mount Washington Hotel and have been there several times. We’ve been going to the White Mountains since we were teenagers – hiking, skiing, driving the Kancamagus Highway. We have a deep connection and affinity for this area of New Hampshire and a bit of a sense of pride in the Mount Washington Hotel itself, the Grand Dame representing another time in our history.

We can’t afford a week or even three nights….but we can afford one on occasion with two full days on the grounds, and the joy it brings us is worth every penny. I’m the sort who would rather travel less and do what I want in beautiful spots than to economize and go more often. This may have developed from something my father used to say to me as a girl. He would take me to beautiful hotels in Kennebunkport and say, “We may not be able to own it. But we can go in and touch the drapes, now can’t we?”

And that’s what we would do. We would go to the most glamorous spots on the ocean in Kennebunk and have breakfast or lunch, walk the grounds, touch the drapes, and then go back to our “real” lives feeling so blessed.

I’m convinced I’m reincarnated from 1910 England. I have such an attraction to people born at that time, the gentility, civility and formality of life, the excitement of the inventions of the time, and, of course, the fashion. Give me a fitted gray wool “Mary Poppins” coat over my short, lace up Victorian boots any day! (Downton Abbey Sunday nights on Masterpiece Classics has become one of the few TV shows I watch.)

At the Mount Washington, we are in love with the scenery, the building’s architecture, the history, the magnificence, and the food. It was built by Joseph Stickney of New Hampshire who made his fortune in coal mining and the Pennsylvania Railroad and then married a 25-year old young woman from Bethel, Maine, when he was fifty-two. Ground for the hotel was broken in 1900 and construction was completed in 1902. It was considered “the most luxurious hotel of its day.”

Their diningroom is a AAA four-diamond restaurant. Our meal a couple weeks ago rates in my top three ever – 4 courses: Boston lettuce, marinated beets, goat cheese (the beets - the best I’ve ever eaten, the tangy cheese perfectly complementing them) hearts of Romaine with shaved parmesan, marinated onion, delicious vinaigrette veal shank, Israeli couscous, root vegetables (melt in my mouth, the ultimate winter comfort food) bananas cooked in brown sugar and butter on a bed of chocolate & crushed pecans with homemade ice cream.

We took long walks on the grounds and rode in a “one horse open sleigh” on snow at the foot of Mount Washington, while our neighborhood when we left that morning was nearly fifty degrees and snow-free. And the hotel was packed!

We walked around in awe – are we not still in a recession? Could families of five truly afford to come here for school vacation to ski at Bretton Woods?

They came, car after car into valet parking; they swam outdoors in the ninety degree heated pool, steam rising from the water; they road dog sleds; they snow-shoed & cross country skied across the golf course acres. There were so many children all over – I was impressed with how well behaved they all were. Obviously, they had done this sort of thing before.

We sat before a roaring fire in a fireplace as tall as me; we read; we drank our pre-dinner glass of wine in oversized wicker chairs looking out the glass conservatory from all angles at the mountains that mark what New England is. Can’t wait to return….

Photo: Mount Washington Hotel, NH

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