Our Day With Paolo From Rome. In a Helicopter. Swoon.
January 23, 2010
As I mention quite frequently on the fine pages of CTMQ, a perfectly normal Saturday for my family is to wake up, putz around for a couple hours, and then go on what we call “an adventure.” Damian is almost always happy to go on a car ride and seems perfectly fine with taking in something new and different every other week or so.
On this particular Saturday, he… and Hoang… and I… was in for something very new and very different hidden away in the rolling hills south of Litchfield. Notice I didn’t name the town – because really, who out there knew before right now that Morris was a town in Connecticut? I’ve actually become a bit familiar with Morris over the past few months as I’ve made the drive from Woodbury to Bethlehem to Litchfield (by way of Morris) and vice-versa on our travels. Hoang has been with me almost every time, but I doubt she ever knew we were in Morris.
That statement, by the way, is a knock on Morris – not Hoang. Morris is small. Only 2300 people live there. And they are all white. The racial makeup of the town was 97.48% White, 0.70% African American, 0.83% Asian. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.87% of the population, which is amazing to me. There may not be more than one stop light. The library and town hall are both in one small building. They don’t even have a mayor, but rather three selectmen. Yes, Morris is dinky.
But! They have two museums -one is the James Morris Museum in that same library/town hall complex (CTMQ Visit here), but the town likes to hide their attractions online. I guess it’s worth mentioning that Morris is also home to Bantam Lake – the largest natural lake in Connecticut! (CTMQ Visit here).
The town is also home to another “attraction” that is unbelievably well hidden from the world at large: Winvian.
It’s “hidden” geographically – being in Morris and all, but it’s also hidden off in the woods behind a stone wall, through a locked gate, off of a small country lane that only those hiking on the many nearby trails and those on their way to Winvian have any business driving down.
It’s “hidden” from us hoi polloi financially. You have never heard of it because you can’t afford it. And if you can afford it, you’d employ someone else to read this page to you. Actually, you’d most likely be looking at travel sites for the Seychelles or real estate sites looking to buy your own island rather than this silly blog.
And it’s “hidden” from advertising, travel brochures, and all the normal Connecticut magazines and newspapers you read. Why? I guess because they can.
I have no recollection of how I stumbled onto Winvian. I’m guessing it was some random website I stumbled upon listing the most unique hotels in the country or maybe I saw a note about it at some Litchfield County vineyard or something. Regardless, I’m glad I did.
And I’m even more glad that the proprietors are super nice and were more than accommodating to us goofballs in our dirty little pedestrian Jetta and non-designer jeans. Well, I guess Hoang was wearing some, but Damian and I weren’t. Upon deciding we’d be out in Litchfield, I emailed Winvian and essentially told them I’d like to check out the joint simply because it was so unique and interesting. And oh yeah, I’m Steve Wood from Connecticut MuseumQuest and did you see me in Connecticut Magazine this month?!
It’s about time I get the respect I deserve. (Note: I didn’t really do that and I’ve come to learn that they give cottage tours to visitors who only come to dine if they are asked and have time. Although, I’m really not sure they do what they did for us for everyone. I did mention I write about unique places in the state and that seemed to work. But you can try… Of course, that is, if you actually want to check out Winvian. Which would be kind of weird. Unless you’re me. And you’re not.)
I had no idea of what to expect – even though upon confirming my 11:15 AM arrival, being told that “Paolo knows about your visit and will take care of you,” gave me a strong sense of comfort. After breakfast at the wonderful Pat’s Country Kitchen a few miles north in Litchfield, we arrived at the gate at precisely 11:15 AM, hit the intercom and the disembodied voice of Paolo hurriedly greeted us and told me to drive to the main building.
At this point, you are probably (justifiably) wondering, “What the heck is Winvian?!” The short and simple answer is: An exclusive set of very unique overnight accommodations and dining options in the Litchfield hills. The longer answer is contained within the next several paragraphs.
As I pulled into the reception parking area, a well-dressed dashing young man bound out of the building and introduced himself as Paolo. “Follow me,” he said with a thick indeterminate accent, “To take the tour.” Wow, efficient! I was digging this place already. Paolo hopped into a Mercedes and sped off down the little one lane road. Not having been given an explanation of the plans, Hoang and I were a bit confused as we sped through the quiet woods and past the first cottages.
Yes, cottages. That’s what they have here – not hotel rooms or even suites, but detached cottages scattered throughout the 113 acres of woods and rolling fields. Each of them completely unique, large, beautiful and interesting. In fact, fifteen different architects designed the individual cottages “that combine the whimsical with the traditional, the modern with the historical.” Continuing with their introduction, “A place like this is difficult to describe for it lacks nothing. Winvian aspires to host you with no airs but graces, no extravagance or opulence, only warmth and treats. The cuisine, the wines, the spa and the team are as unexpected as the experiences that one might with to enjoy – carefree with no need for purple prose, this or that, something or other. A flight of fancy, a leap of faith, pie in the sky.”
No, I have no idea what they means either… But in the context of this crazy place, it somehow makes sense.
Paolo drove like crazy too; deep into the woods before pulling a 180 and driving right back by us. We saw some of the far-flung cottages like Log Cabin and Music and Tree House before stopping in front of a cottage named Woodlands.
Paolo exited his car and we jogged into the building behind him. Whoa. It’s beautiful. Keep in mind that this one cottage is but one of many. They are all very different, with different themes and such. This one, Woodland Cottage, obviously includes features from nature – like the awesome tree trunk sink and stone waterfall.
The Treehouse Cottage is ten meters off the ground. The Stone Cottage is, you guessed it, built entirely from Connecticut stone. There’s another one called the Secret Society Cottage which they don’t tell you anything about. On and on it goes… Winvian has been named on several “Unique” Hotel lists the world over.
After our quick walk around, we zipped back across the property and checked out The Greenhouse Cottage. More modern, airy and full of natural light, we both really liked this one. You can click on the links below and their fancy website will show you a bunch of the other cottages. I won’t bother noting the amenities each cottage offers, but suffice it to say that they are all super deluxe. While in the Greenhouse Cottage I asked handsome Paolo where he was from.
Rome. ROME! And this cat is working in Morris, CT at this place?! I’m sure Hoang wished Damian was being a little more compliant so she could chat up our new Roman friend, but oh well. (Good boy, Damian, good boy.)
Oh there’s more to Winvian than just these cottages. There are giant suites in the historic buildings on the property. There is an out-of-this world restaurant with an executive chef who served as sous chef under Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud. Wow. There is a spa to end all spas. So the big question… How much does a night here run you?
Are you sitting down?
The cottages go for $1250-$1950 per night. Okay, those rates include all meals AND the in-room wet bar and it’s open bar around the property. That’s cool. Now to the fine print…
Rates do not include 13% gratuity, 12% CT lodging tax, and CT sales tax on those meals and services. And that “open bar” is only for a few wines whereas everything else costs. The spa costs – I’m a guy and if I want a men’s facial, $225. 90 minutes Ashiatsu massage, $400. An hour of freaking Reiki, where you get NOTHING done to you, is $155. One hour of yoga will run you $150 for some reason.
Back to the good stuff: Fly-fishing, $450 for two people. A guided hike in the nearby hills, $75. (I’m thinking of offering my services!). Snowshoeing(!), $75. Glass-blowing workshop, $250 per person – which is at the Peter Greenwood Glassblowing Studio in Barkhamsted (CTMQ’s $250 cheaper visit). You get the point.
And yet, it’s a lovely place. Paolo was unfailingly nice and every single everything was perfectly in place. We had one more cottage to check out – the Helicopter Cottage, paying homage to Igor Sikorsky who built his eponymous company in Connecticut. From the outside, it just looks like a fairly benign little cottage. But inside… there’s a helicopter in there! You can hang out inside the cabin where the wetbar is, take a romantic bath right next to the fuselage!
I loved it. Of course, if we were ever to stay at Winvian, no way Hoang would even think about staying in this cottage.
But something tells me we won’t be having that argument anytime soon.