You can tell a great deal about a lodging establishment by the quality of their Q-tips. More on why that matters in a moment
I started this post as a love letter to the Pilgrim’s Inn in Deer Isle, Maine, then I switched to describe it as a fan letter. Either works. In busy years (and 2016 has qualified), I spend close to 3 months out of each year in someplace other than home. It comes with the job. That experience was helpful as Candice and I looked for a place to stay in Maine for the last quarter of my sabbatical.
While at the American Academy in Rome over six weeks in March and April, Candice and I had a wonderful studio apartment in a historic building where we got accustomed to being in one room together for long stretches of time. We found that the studio apartment layout – with areas to sit and work, a table to gather around for conversation, and with windows to throw open and take in the fresh air – helped stimulate our personal interactions and my work. It was also nice to have two delicious meals a day provided, so that we could focus on other aspects of life.
The Maine part of the sabbatical was not as intense from a work standpoint, but I did want someplace that was relatively quiet, where I could read for hours on end in comfortable chairs, and where we had options for food and stimulating places to visit. Candice went online while in Rome and found just the place we were looking for: the Pilgrim’s Inn in Deer Isle, Maine. We booked the room that had the features we were looking for in a retreat and have enjoyed every day here over the past two weeks.
Deer Isle is not a tourist destination along the lines of Bar Harbor or Rockland. That was fine with us. We found hidden treasures, such as the Greene Ziner Gallery at Yellow Birch Farm, where potter Melissa Greene and blacksmith artist Eric Ziner hosted us for a farm dinner last Saturday evening.
We also took time to tour the beautiful campus of the Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, a treasure listed on the National Register of Historic Places just a few minutes drive from the inn.
The combination of a stunning natural setting, a unique campus designed by award-winning architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, and the focused energy of the school community, provides an environment that supports a serious exploration of craft, ideas and imagination.
The Greene Ziner Gallery, Yellow Birch Farm, Haystack, Owl Furniture – these were all places that the welcoming innkeepers at Pilgrim’s Inn directed us to as we sought out unique places in our home away from home. Tina Oddleifson and Tony Lawless have owned Pilgrim’s Inn for 11 years, and they are the “perfect” innkeepers – willing to talk when you want to talk, quick to size up a guest’s interests and make just the right suggestion, and always willing to stop and give you their undivided attention even when they must have had a dozen things on their to-do list before noon. The staff was all just as eager to make our stay comfortable and unique. We got to know some of them and their stories while we were here. Amy – who was a visitor at Pilgrim’s Inn for 20 straight years and cried each year when they had to leave – now owns the oldest house on the Island with her architect husband and works at the Inn. Paige began busing tables at the restaurant when she was 14, and is wrapping up her 7th year before heading back for her senior year in college as a journalism major. Mena (short for Philomena) heads off to California for school in a few short days, Madison, Jody, and the others whose name we didn’t catch. Like Gabby, Alesandra, Gianpaolo, Pina, and the other folks at the American Academy – all worked together and in the most friendly way to support our time in their special piece of the world.
Pilgrim’s Inn is a beautiful 1793 home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We lingered over a sumptuous breakfast there every morning, and had dinner at the Whale’s Rib Tavern restaurant in the inn six nights during our stay. Up in room #9, as we sat in our rocking chairs and read while listening to music or the birds, we felt we were in a treehouse, given that the inn has two large front yard trees just outside our windows. On most nights we were able to open the windows and let the cool Maine air blow through the room as we slept.
And about those Q-tips. Many travelers know that you can tell a great deal about the quality of a lodging establishment with items such as the towels and sheets. But Q-tips are a particular point of reference for me. Many hotels and inns provide them, but they buy the skimpy type that have very little cotton on the ends. The quality places? They have plush Q-tips. I knew we were in for a good stay at the Pilgrim’s Inn the first time I opened the container on the shelf by the sink and saw those plush Q-tips poking up between the cotton balls. Ahh…a true home away from home.
Thanks Tina and Tony for the wonderful hospitality. You helped ensure that – despite the high bar set by Rome – the final two weeks of my sabbatical were just as restorative and unique as the first six.
More to come…