When we travel, we try to stay in interesting inns and bed and breakfasts when possible. I admit that lately I have defaulted to hotels in many cities. But when we want to really explore an area like a native, we seek out small inns and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs). Why? In our younger years, it was cost. Lower-priced hotel were dismal and the better hotels were out of our price range, given the amount that we traveled. Plus we always liked seeing how people really lived in an area. In our older years, it is more about meeting interesting fellow travelers, having a local source that REALLY knows the area, and getting away from cookie-cutter rooms. Plus we have a chance to experience some really interesting homes and sometimes, really memorable breakfasts.
We recently had an opportunity to stay at a B&B in Martha’s Vineyard thanks to our host at The 1720 House. While our room was comped for our visit, the regular room pricing was very reasonable for Martha’s Vineyard over a July weekend. Our experience there reinforced our feelings about B&Bs and renewed our plan to visit them more often.
The charming 1720 House is owned Abby Hirsh, a published author and PR person formerly from New York City. Abby moved to the Vineyard and turned her house into a B&B. Backing up Abby is Cheryle, a photographer, and Bella, a puppeteer and TV producer. What an interesting mix of people—each talented in their own areas. Oh yeah, and they also keep the 1720 House clean, comfortable and running like clockwork. The grounds were beautifully maintained and provided a peaceful place to just relax. In addition to being peaceful, the backyard looked like a beautiful place for a small wedding. But my wedding days are over.
If you lived in Boston like we did for 22 years, you appreciate the charms and idiosyncrasies of older homes. Our 100+ year Boston condo had walls that weren’t perfectly straight and doors that didn’t quite close. It also had the high ceilings and details that one doesn’t get in new construction (like transom windows) lend to their charm and more than make up for any shortfalls. I still remember finding an old whiskey bottle in the subfloor when we renovated our kitchen. Gotta love those Irish workers. But I digress. Still, our appreciation for historical places made the 1720 House a special treat for us.
The 1720 House was built in….guess…1720. Abby has kept the charm of the place and has filled it with appropriate furnishings from her personal collection and that she found in yard sales. This is a B&B for people who appreciate the charms of older homes, and for those who wonder about about all the people who passed through those doors over the years. What were their dreams? How did they live? Did the women hate those cumbersome clothes and want to bare their legs like we do today? No wonder they summered on the Vineyard, where it was cooler than in a city.
We stayed in the Blue Room, which shares a bath with the Brown Room. Some rooms have their own private baths with various size beds. No cookie cutter rooms here. We got to explore most of the rooms, all of which were all very clean and comfortably furnished. And, of course, the bathrobes and free wifi always enhance our stays.
The location was perfect for Vineyard Haven…right on Main Street just a few hundred steps from the stores, island buses, and the Black Dog Tavern. (Full disclosure, Tom is embarrassed that I bought a Black Dog t-shirt and made me promise not to tell anyone..wink wink).
Like most B&B hosts, Abby, Cheryle and Bella love to interact with their guests and want people to really enjoy the island. Abby continually asks people what they want to see and do and arranges tours for unusual experiences. It never seemed that she was performing a job. For example, if people are into gardens, she calls up her friends to see if her guests can explore other local gardens that she finds interesting. If one is into farms, she knows who to call for farm tours. She was sure to point out the old trees in the Vineyard once she learned that I love old trees (one of the oldest of which is in her beautiful back yard).
She made sure we knew about the spring rolls at the Saturday Farmer’s Market in West Tisbury (a treat not to be missed), and the galleries around the areas (where we ended up leaving behind too much money for a fabulous oil painting that we fell in love with).
She also suggested which restaurants not to miss and cautioned us as to which to avoid. Sure, some of this is normal in a B&B, but Abby et all really seemed to enjoy showing us the ropes. We felt almost like natives versus tourists…and isn’t that the point of a B&B?
True, some of the things that we consider most interesting about B&Bs–especially historic ones–others may view as annoyances. Want to watch TV? If you must, go to the common room. You might have to even have to meet and speak to new people at breakfast (gasp).
Bottom line is that we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Martha’s Vineyard and would definitely recommend the 1720 House B&B. Now, to find our next B&B………