We were faced with a tough choice. I had to schedule a late-June business trip to Boston. We planned a great trip around it: A couple days in Boston (Tom in meetings; Joyce playing), a week in Maine and ending at a friend’s annual 4th of July dinner party on a roof deck overlooking the Esplanade concert and fireworks (see our forthcoming blog on our Boston Fourth). We made reservations and anticipated a wonderful trip. Then came the hitch. The business meeting was cancelled.
What to do? Cancel the trip? Cut it to just do Maine and July 4th? Or extend it to cover the additional days of vacations? An easy decision. We extended it. But to do what? We came up with three options. The Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, or New England’s White Mountains. We chose the third. And where is our favorite place to stay in the White Mountains? The historic (1902) Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods.
The Mount Washington Resort
Bretton Woods! Does the name ring a bell? It should. The resort was the site of the 1944 conference in which representatives of 44 nations convened to create the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and define the current global economic system. It is more. It is also one of the Grand Dames of all hotels. The Mount Washington resort, which is now managed by Omni Hotels, is at the foot of the majestic Mt Washington which, at 6,288 feet, is the tallest mountain east of the Rockies. We arrived at the resort about 5:00 PM. After a quick walk to reacquaint ourselves with the 1902 monument to luxury, we advanced our dinner reservations to 6:30 and got one of the last window seats. The view was magnificent, the menu interesting and the wine reasonably priced. Unfortunately, the service (in the restaurant and some other parts of the resort) suffered from an inexperienced summer staff and the wine service was more appropriate for a pub than for a grand resort. Moreover, the food (Truffle and Crab Custard, Lobster Stir Fry and Stuffed Pheasant Breast) sounded better than it either appeared on the plate or tasted. Overall, however, the atmosphere, at least in our mind, more than made up for these limitations.
Since we ate so early, we just had to go for another drink. We went downstairs to “The Cave”, a wonderfully atmospheric club—which served as, and looks like a Prohibition-era speakeasy—was a great place to start. Then, anxious to capitalize in a respite from rain, we took our drinks outside to a fire pit, where we met a few couples from all different parts of the country.
When we got back inside, we couldn’t resist a call from years past—a Pac-Man game in the arcade. That called for another drink and for three games in which I totally lost my male honor to an unimaginably “lucky” Joyce. Then to bed, in our very comfortable and comfortably appointed room with a great view of the main wing of the hotel and what we could see though the clouds, of the majestic Presidential Range.
An Informative Morning with a 109-Year Old National Historic Landmark
Although we originally planned a day-long hike, the rainy weather prompted us to take the morning off, and postpone our hike till the afternoon. After a leisurely and productive morning, we took an interesting, well presented 45-minute historic tour of the hotel.
The tour, which took us through the two bottom floors, profiled the construction process, the numerous renovations the hotel has gone through, the eccentricities of the original Stickley family owners, the roster and activities of a century’s worth of rich and famous guests and the convoluted financial history that led to the current ownership. It also explained why the resort was chosen as the site for the 1944 international financial conference, the extensive renovation and security processes and, of course, the history-shaping events of the results of the conference—the creation of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the gold standard and the designation of the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency—all pretty heady stuff for a pleasure palace of the Guilded Age.
After the tour, and a bit of work in the conservatory, we headed downstairs, to Stickley’s restaurant for a fast, but very nice lunch that consisted of their signature lobster mac n’ cheese, a plate of imaginative, Maine-sourced seafood sliders (lobster salad, Peekytoe crabcake with aioli and fried belly clams with tartar sauce) and a spire of onion rings. Interesting, the mac n’ cheese and the lobster salad slider each seemed to contain more lobster than the previous night’s $35 entrée (and tasted better).
The dinner meals and some of the service notwithstanding, our night and morning at The Resort at Mount Washington was a wonderful night, a luxurious experience and a great step back into history. We plan to reenact it.
A Touch of Nature
After lunch, we did get out for a short drive, from Crawford, into Franconia Notch, and a few short trails,
We particularly enjoyed the roughly three-mile trail from the visitor center to and through the Flume Gorge area and the pretty, uphill hike to Artist Bluff (2,368 ft) and on to Bald Mountain (2,320 ft.).