The Inn at Stonington
Romantic Overnights – February 2004 Issue

By Charles Monagan
Reproduced with permission from Connecticut Magazine

There are towns and villages all across Connecticut that are notable for their charm. Chester is one, with its stage-set architecture and paintbox colors Stony creek and the impossibly cute thimble Islands together constitute another. New Preston makes the list, as do Southport Harbor, Hamburg Cove and unspoiled Hampton Center. But the most charming (and, by extension, most romantic) of all is Stonington Village.

It may be the variety of striking salt-water views that makes Stonington so appealing, or the narrow tree-lined lanes or the cheek-by-jowl rows of Colonial, Greek Revival and Federal style homes. It could be the scattering of antiques, clothing and gift shops, or the three or four good restaurants, or even the lighthouse and museum that are open to the public. Most attractive of all, however, may be the palpable feeling of community that you notice in the village- the greetings exchanged in the shops, the tap on the restaurant window and the cheerful responding wave from the couple seated inside, the impressive weight of small-town politics and gossip conveyed in a five-minute chat with a resident.

Indeed, about the only thing missing for visitors to Stonington village, at least until recently, has been a good place (outside of a bed and breakfast) to stay. That situation was remedied a couple of years ago, when The Inn at Stonington was built on the site of the dearly departed Harborview Restaurant. The inn’s sturdy but unobtrusive profile, and its owner’s commitment to comfort and good taste, felt at home right away along Water Street. Its 400-foot deepwater dock was a draw to oceangoing guests, while an exercise room, breakfast room, sunny common rooms and available bicycles and kayaks broadened its appeal even further.

The Inn’s 18 rooms share many characteristics in common but have somewhat differing personalities. Our room, No. 7, featured a king-size sleigh bed, a gas fireplace pleasant earth tones and a deck with a water view. The handsome maritime prints on the wall were by local artists. There were bookshelves with real books on them and a pair of wonderfully comfortable armchairs. Everything was new and lean and well appointed in the big bathroom, too, where an oversized Jacuzzi and fluffy Frette bathrobes beckoned.

My wife and I arrived from different directions to rendezvous downstairs at the inn’s cozy little bar for a predinner glass of wine. With fewer than 12 hours before we’d have to leave again, there was a feeling of a “brief encounter” as we reconnected, caught up on our days, settled down and decided where to go for dinner. We could have chosen either Boom or the Water Street Café, two excellent nearby spots but the night was cold and we wanted a short walk, so we picked Noah’s Restaurant, just up the street. Open every day but Monday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Noah’s is the sort of place you’d dream up if you were suddenly given the power to create your own neighborhood. It has a bakery and a convivial bar, a good menu with an emphasis on seafood and dessert, and big front windows that throw a welcoming glow up and down the street outside.

We enjoyed our scallops and monkfish, our dolce al mascarone and cups of coffee, but our time was fleeting so we said our goodbyes and left. The smell of the sea was in the air as we strolled arm in arm back up Water Street to the inn. We went up to our room, lit the gas fire and pulled down the shade. How lucky, we thought, to have a village like this, and an inn like this, so close to home.

And if you are very lucky, you will awaken early the next morning to the flicker of yellow light from the fireplace and slip from bed for a peek out the window. As you peer through the pre-dawn darkness toward Fisher’s Island Sound, you will see that it has unexpectedly begun to snow. Then, as you linger a moment over the serenity of the scene, you become aware that there is activity on the water – and soon a line of fishing trawlers crosses by, heading out to sea in swirling globes of light. Connecticut’s last remaining commercial fishing fleet, caught in a winter squall as the workday begins. There’s surely more than one kind of romance in this world, but Stonington Village – and The Inn at Stonington – seem to have most of them covered.