On vacation, readers and writers often attempt to settle down with a good book or an unfinished manuscript, respectively. But time on windy beaches, in swarming cafes, or at hectic airport lounges is limited. Holidays are busy with distractions, and those irritating must-see sites always interfere. A few hotels in New England, however, are perfect literary retreats and ideal for vacationers hoping never to stray too far from the page or pen. Here are the New England hotels that most revere the written word.
The Study at Yale, New Haven
Just by staying the night at the Study at Yale, guests might pore through an author’s oeuvre or write the perfect opening chapter. After all, if the Holiday Inn Express can run commercials about guests with no medical experience performing surgery after one night’s stay, well then waking up to and overlooking one of the country’s premier universities seems as though it could warrant a similar claim. In any case, the hotel is still a literary locale with its intellectual clientele, leather reading chairs, and hand-selected books on the shelves in every study and suite. 203-503-3900, thestudyatyale.com
Canyon Ranch, Lenox, Massachusetts
Most people who visit Canyon Ranch use their time to pause and reflect. It’s a place of vast grounds, countless workshops on self-study and spirituality, and included spa services. While all of these items are conducive to that well-needed writer’s getaway, or to create the conditions for a reader’s sanctuary, timing your visit right could make it an even more bookish weekend. Among the many speakers presenting at Canyon Ranch are authors who conduct workshops, readings or literary discussions in the resort’s high-ceilinged library. Even if no writer is in residence, the seminars, lectures and grounds offer those kernels that could launch a project from seed to sprout. 800-742-9000, canyonranch.com
Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington
The cliché writing retreat would include footpaths for thinking, gardens for pondering, vistas framing the very scene missing from one’s manuscript, and underlit, dark-wooded libraries with reading lights that mushroom up beside comfortable, deep chairs. The Mayflower has all of these trappings, yet the beauty of the grounds is the furthest one can get from hackneyed. More than just having a garden for reflection, the property has two: the Shakespeare Garden and the American Poets Maze, where one can wander among quotes and hedges and flowers. While it’s an upcharge for spa services, the vista through barn-door-size windows of ponds and empty grounds (which, a century ago, had been home to a private school), the purity of the white room, the quality books and magazines shelved about, and the recliners designed to steal a person from doing anything but read rivals any tranquil space in New England. 866-217-0869, aubergeresorts.com/mayflower
The Press Hotel, Portland, Maine
What had once been the offices of a local newspaper is now a chic hotel that still holds the spirit of a newsroom. Images of old front pages wallpaper the hallways, and even the carpet is wordy, as the wallpaper typeface appears to have dropped entire paragraphs to the rug. And like leaves fallen from trees, those letters have been swept to one side, forming alphabetical piles that have fused with the fabric. The hotel rooms are right for a good read, though they might also inspire one to pen their first lines of fiction. In the bedside stands, classic novels supplant the Gideon’s typical offerings, and famous quotes are attached to everything, from robes to toiletry items. “Don’t skimp on ice. I prefer beautiful, big squares for my cocktails” — this Jose Andres ode to cubes sits in front of the ice bucket. Aristotle’s “Change in all things is sweet” is a handy card for guests requesting housekeeping to swap their bed sheets. Fun with words fills all spaces: that famous pangram about the quick brown fox and his interactions with that lazy dog is printed on the back of all in-room desk chairs; the hotel lobby has a peaceful library and an oversize Scrabble board; and the basement features a literary-inspired art gallery with a rotating collection. Best are the few dozen typewriters in the lobby. Most are bolted to the wall as a permanent exhibit. But a few working ones are set out for guests to punch up a quick diary entry or a letter about their fine-dining experience at the Union restaurant, which connects to the lobby and provides kids’ menus inside picture books like The Hungry Caterpillar. 207-573-2425, thepresshotel.com
Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook
While the harbor and lighthouse views from the main inn are beautiful enough to stir the words out of any writer or to satisfy a reader’s need for solace, the guesthouses across the street make the Saybrook Point Inn a proper bookish escape. The inn’s two guesthouses, aptly named Tall Tales and Three Stories, are historic accommodations. In either of the two houses, bookworms can dig into a good story and wordsmiths can hammer out manuscript pages, as quaint rooms and airy balconies hark back to another time. Their less bookish companions can also stay out of their hair, keeping busy at the facilities at the main inn, in the guesthouses’ game rooms with billiards or chess, in the yard at the bocce courts, or atop the roof at the fire pits. 860-395-2000, saybrook.com
The Battle of Boston
With some of the country’s best universities, a riot of privately owned bookstores and a host of literary events, Boston has always been a city of books. While the bustle of Boston offers a different atmosphere than the peaceful retreats noted earlier, it is still a city of literary merit, and many of its hotels have a fondness for words. The Hotel Commonwealth has books available by request at the front desk. One guest room is even dubbed the Reading Suite, offering a writer’s table and housing titles, many of which have been signed by visiting authors. The Ames Boston allows guests to breakfast in The Library, which, properly, features a library. Most famous is the Omni Parker House. Long ago, the hotel had hosted the monthly meetings of the Saturday Club, which was a gathering of important minds, including some of the 19th century’s most famous poets — Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow — and writers, including Hawthorne. Charles Dickens began his first American reading tour of A Christmas Carol at the Parker House, too. Even some of the 20th century’s most astute political minds picked up paychecks at the hotel: Ho Chi Minh had been employed as a baker just before World War I and Malcolm X bussed tables in the ’40s. Across the river, in Cambridge, sits the Charles Hotel, occupying one of the most well-read corners of the country, as it’s hemmed in by Harvard, MIT and the tree-lined banks of the Charles River. Within a few blocks, one can shop a number of bookstores, many of which host weekly literary events, like the Harvard Bookstore and Porter Square Books. The former even has a machine that will print books, manuscripts and lectures (even those once previously inaccessible) on demand. Besides the lobby library beneath the staircase, the Charles Hotel’s two restaurants are important gathering points for literary fans. Like the Saturday Club that had once graced the Parker House, the Supper Club members, or so we’ll call them, comprise dozens of Harvard and MIT professors who come to feast and imbibe, and who talk about big ideas and great books. Listening in on these conversations at the bar, for instance, with a good book or a ready pen is both a gustatory delight and some literary meddling.
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