Follow your hearts to one of Connecticut's great destinations for romance.
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At the end of an hour we saw a far-away town sleeping in a valley by a winding river; and beyond it on a hill, a vast gray fortress, with towers and turrets, the first I had ever seen out of a picture.
“Bridgeport?” said I, pointing.
“Camelot,” said he.
Scratch that. These days Mark Twain might have stayed closer to home and pointed out Winvian as a place to enjoy a medieval odyssey when referring to “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”—one of the 18 themed cottages at the quirky-yet-ultraluxurious 113-acre hideaway tucked in the Litchfield Hills town of Morris. But wait, if the image of shining knights and cloaked ladies roaming the royal castle doesn’t arouse your romantic sensibilities don’t worry, just choose one of the other cabins, each uniquely designed to appeal to travelers looking for a special adventure with high-end amenities.
“Win-vian” is the name given to the property’s original house (which dates back to 1775 and is now the Seth Bird House) by owners Winthrop and Vivian Smith, who purchased it in 1948. Win, a founding partner in Merrill Lynch, and his wife lived in New York City but kept the home as a country retreat. The Smith family heirs continued to maintain the property and in the 1990s decided to turn the estate into a unique resort. Under the direction of architect David Sellers, 30 architects were asked to come up with distinctive designs for the cottages. Eighteen designs were chosen (all with a Connecticut or New England theme) and in 2006 Winvian became a reality.
Fulfilling fantasies doesn’t come cheap here, but the experience will probably bring a sparkle to your eye every time you think of it. For $1,950 a night, you can pretend to be Tarzan and Jane in The Treehouse, a rustic two-story swaying playhouse suspended 10 meters up into the trees, outfitted with a state-of-the-art bath, two fireplaces and full bar. For $1,700 a night, you can fly as pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit of a restored 1968 Sikorsky HH37 Sea King Pelican helicopter—the centerpiece of the Helicopter Cottage. Or play the hero beside the mighty oak that stands inside the Charter Oak Cottage in honor of Connecticut’s state moniker.
In the cabins that have a more traditional style, you can create your own whimsy. Get lost in two-story-high stacks of books or just cozy up by a roaring fire in the Library Cottage, or enjoy a romp through a life-size terrarium filled with exotic plants in the Greenhouse Cottage. Outdoorsy types can let nature take its course indoors with a trickling stone waterfall and pebble-walled sauna-shower in the Woodland Cottage, and then head outdoors for a romantic hike in the surrounding 4,000-acre White Memorial Foundation.
Room service is excellent and all meals may be taken in your bungalow, but a visit to the renovated house, now the main hotel, is a must. Challenge each other to a contest of billiards in the game room or sip cognac in the solarium. Then take a seat in the intimate dining room and enjoy a superb meal prepared by executive chef Chris Eddy, accompanied by a notable selection of wines. Once intoxicated by the chardonnay—and each other, of course—it’s time to turn in. Enhance the afterglow from all of this with a private couple’s massage in the 5,000-square-foot spa before departing, and you’ll leave Winvian’s court feeling like a noble knight and virtuous lady. —Cathy Ross
Winvian, (860) 567-9600 or winvian.com.