A few weeks back, my youngest daughter Jamie and I had the chance to travel to the small town of Chester, Vermont which touts itself as "The Vermont you've been hoping to find. The town with a heart located in the heart of Vermont." Honestly? They're right! I was just as enchanted with the town I was in as I was of the Bed & Breakfast where we spent the weekend - the Inn Victoria.
Located directly on Main Street, USA, er, Main Street in Chester, the Inn Victoria was built circa 1850 as the private residence of Doctor Abram Lowell whose name graces a nearby lake and State Park. Dr. Lowell conducted his medical practice in a small building next to the main house which is now known as Dr. Brown's cottage. The building is currently being used as a bicycle rental shop but is undergoing renovations to become a cozy family retreat that should be available for use towards the end of this year. Located just steps away from the main house you can just see it to the right of the picture above. Once renovations are done I've got no doubt that it's going to be just as lovely as the rest of the house is!
Around 1880, Dr. Lowell's son-in-law George Hilton enlarged the original house to include a third story and a mansard roof which is also known as a "French roof". A mansard roof has two slopes on each of the four sides with the lower slope steeper than the upper slope. The upper slope is usually not visible from the ground and dormer windows are often set in the lower slope which allows for additional living space. The roof design was first popularized by François Mansart (1598–1666) who was an accomplished architect of the French Baroque period. The design again became especially fashionable during the Second French Empire (1852–1870) of Napoléon III. The Inn Victoria, which was known for many years as the Hilton House, is the only example of this architectural style in the historic town of Chester.
The house originally became a bed and breakfast in 1988 and I get the feeling that's when it really came into its own. The inn itself is named after Queen Victoria who ruled over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for 63 years and 7 months beginning on June 20th, 1837 and ending at her death on January 22nd, 1901. Her reign is known as the "Victorian era" and it was a long period of prosperity for the British people.
Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on February 10th, 1840 following her proposal to him on October 15th, 1839. Together they had nine children: Victoria Adelaide Mary, Albert Edward, Alice Maud Mary, Alfred Ernest Albert, Helena Augusta Victoria, Louise Caroline Alberta, Leopold George Duncan, and Beatrice Mary Victoria.
All of the guest rooms at the Inn Victoria are named after Queen Victoria's children with the exception of Mr. Brown's Cottage which is named for John Brown who was Queen Victoria's personal attendant following the death of Prince Albert at age 42. Just as an aside, if you'd like to see a good movie based on that relationship, watch Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown with Dame Judi Dench and Gerard Butler - it was quite good in my own humble opinion!
Anyway, history and movie suggestions aside, let's take a look inside the Inn Victoria, shall we? Walking across the beautiful front porch and through the welcoming front door, guests find themselves in a beautifully appointed living room area complete with comfy couches, gas fireplace, any number of books to pique your interest should you wish to settle down with one, and a piano that puts out some very beautiful music if you're lucky enough to be there when a guest decides to play a few tunes from H.M.S. Pinafore like I was!
Also located near the front entrance is a buffet where one can find not only a very beautiful tea set but an ample supply of beverages and probably the best baked goods in Vermont which are whipped up right there in the kitchen. Let me tell you, Jessica makes a mean brownie and whoever baked the peanut butter cookies - perfection!
On a wall nearby the tea service is the inn's "ghost" - Beatrice. Penny, one of the innkeepers, told me that all inns are supposed to have ghosts but because theirs doesn't, she named the decorative dress Beatrice and declared her to be the official ghost of the Inn Victoria. I suppose if one were to have a little too much of the complimentary Grand Marnier or Drambuie that's offered on a sideboard directly across from Beatrice, she may appear somewhat ghost-like!
Both Beatrice and the sideboard (over which many of the well-desrved awards that the inn has been presented are hung) are located in a smaller dining room where one can also find the "Wine Library".
Guests are welcome to help themselves to any bottle of wine that catches their fancy under the condition that they replace it with another bottle of wine at the end of their stay. "If you take one, leave one" is a very nice policy and I'm sure that guests appreciate the varied assortment.
Another dining room table is located in the next room over which opens on to the kitchen and where guests can find an amply stocked coffee bar. There's also a door off of this room that leads out to a lovely screened-in porch with comfortable seating.
Two dining areas aren't enough, though, as there's also the main dining room with a gleaming wooden table beneath a sparkling antique chandelier:
No matter what table you sit at though, breakfast is a true treat at the Inn Victoria. When the website says that Penny is "an exceptional cook and baker" they aren't kidding! Breakfast is served family-style in three courses beginning with a baked item like the phenomenally delicious lemon poppy bread pictured below.
The second course ranges from fresh berries and fruit with yogurt and granola to light crepes depending on what Penny is whipping up that day but you don't want to fill up too quickly as the main course is not to be missed! I was fortunate enough to not only partake of Eggs Benedict with fresh asparagus and tomato over a puff pastry (pictured below) on one day but also French Toast stuffed with fresh jam and Mascarpone cheese on another day (sorry, no pictures, I was too busy stuffing my face!)
I didn't get the chance to witness or participate in one on this trip but a specialty of the Inn Victoria is their "High Tea" that is offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays free of charge to overnight guests of the inn as well as being open to non-guests for a fee. From what I've heard (even from another inn another town over), the Inn Victoria is quite renowned for their High Teas which doesn't surprise me as I noticed that Penny had a very large collection of teapots (definitely a woman after my own heart!) and they had some amazing tea blends. I'd be willing to bet that even my over-the-pond friend Claire would find it to be up to her high British standards! Especially when that includes being met at the front door by a handsome gentleman wearing a top hat, tails, and white gloves just as if he had stepped out of a Victorian book! I really wish I had been able to see that but you know what that means, right? I'll have to make another trip back up sometime - darn the luck!
Leaving the coziness of the first floor below and heading up the stairs and to the third floor one finds the Princess Victoria Suite which boasts three big, beautiful rooms and a queen-size bed fit for royalty!
Located at the front of the house with lots and lots of windows, the Princess Victoria Suite has a gas fireplace for those chilly nights
... and gorgeous antique furnishings.
A separate sitting room provides comfortable seating, a 42"-inch flat-screen TV, and a small desk should you choose to sit down and write out some postcards.
As if the sitting area and bedroom isn't beautiful enough, wait until you walk into the bathroom which is huge! It has to be, though, as it boasts a double whirlpool spa tub which is fitted with chromatherapy mood lighting as well as a full-size shower and gorgeous granite topped vanity.
I get the feeling that Princess Victoria herself would approve of such accommodations!
Also on the third floor towards the back of the house is the Prince Leopold Room. It's obviously a lot smaller than the Princess Victoria Suite but that doesn't mean it skips on any of the amenities.
The room is beautifully decorated and very welcoming in spite of its smaller size which is still a lot bigger than a lot of rooms in other Bed & Breakfast establishments. The couple that I spoke to who stayed there thought it was the perfect spot to spend their first wedding anniversary - a great testimonial if I've ever heard one!
Heading back down to the second floor of the house, the first room you come across is the Princess Beatrice Room which is another of the inn's smaller rooms.
In spite of that, it's got charm and personality and an antique door that has been put to really good use separating the bath area from the bedroom! Previously this room shared a bathroom with the Princess Louise Room (which I didn't get any pictures of as it was quite occupied) but an en-suite bath was installed in 2010 that now gives occupants a private bathroom of their very own.
Next to the Princess Beatrice Room is the very beautiful Princess Alice Room with an enormous king-size sleigh bed in front of a fireplace and surrounded by beautiful antiques. The room's guests for the weekend had already moved in when I took pictures so I didn't want to go too crazy with the camera hence there are just a few shots but trust me when I say the room is very warm and welcoming and big!
Speaking of big, the Princess Alice Room has another enormous bathroom with a huge Jacuzzi tub and full shower - not to mention another beautiful marble-topped vanity.
Finally, it's time for our room for our weekend stay - the Prince Alfred Room which is located towards the back of the house and is, like so many of the other rooms, huge!
Each room at the Inn Victoria contains a book that tells you a bit about the Prince or Princess for whom the room was named as well as information about the inn and the surrounding area. History buff that I am, I thought that was pretty darned cool!
Just recently painted in a warm shade of pink, even though the room is named for a man it's very welcoming for a woman! There's a plush red carpet throughout the room that your feet literally sink into and one of the walls adds an air of masculinity as it's made of brick.
According to Dan, Penny's husband and fellow innkeeper, the original house stopped at that wall and when the room was added on by Dr. Lowell's son-in-law, they chose to keep the original exterior wall of the house. I think it really adds to the whole room and gives it a lot of character.
Just like the other larger rooms at the inn, the Prince Alfred Room has a gas-fireplace that works wonderfully - trust me, I tried it out several times being that the weekend turned chilly and rainy on Saturday!
Having seen a lot of really nice bathrooms throughout the inn I was really hoping that the Prince Alfred bathroom would also be special and I wasn't at all disappointed with the bright and cheery yellow room that greeted me.
Jamie's favorite part of the bathroom was the above-counter basin and the bath frogs - of course! Probably like many a guest before her she wanted to take them home but they sit on a small lily pad that explains that this is their natural habitat and it would be really nice if they could stay in it!
The bathtub in the Prince Alfred room is what's called a slipper soaker tub and it's easy to see why once you slip into it for a good long soak! Toss in a packet of the bathing salts that the Inn Victoria provides and it's darned difficult to ever want to leave!
There's a big walk-in corner shower in the bathroom also as well as two of the Inn Victoria's plush robes for relaxing in once you manage to convince yourself that if you don't get out of the tub soon you're going to be a wrinkled prune for a very long time! Jamie and I both seemed to have that problem but when you don't have a tub like that at home, it's too tempting to not make extensive use of it!
This comfy chair in the corner of the room was my very favorite spot while Jamie took over the sofa in the opposite corner. With complimentary wireless internet and a 32"-inch flat-screen TV that got lots of channels, Jamie was really quite content and when it came time to call it a night there was plenty of room for both of us in the incredibly comfy queen-size antique bed. Matter of fact, I had that whole sleeping-on-a-cloud feeling again like I did in Maine - something that I could really get used to if only I were so lucky to have that kind of bed. I tell ya, I get more and more disenchanted with my own bed every time I sleep on a bed like the one in the Prince Alfred room. Of course, I don't have the luxurious bed linens that the Inn Victoria does nor do I think I'm going to start triple-sheeting my own bed anytime soon so I guess if I want that kind of comfort and feeling of being treated like royalty, I'm just going to have to go back up for another stay! Somehow I really don't see that as being a hardship at all!
In addition to the rooms that I've covered here, there are two more guest rooms that I didn't get a chance to see on the first floor of the inn that open out onto a beautiful back deck - the Princess Helena Room and the Prince Albert Room. Even though I didn't get the opportunity to poke my head in and look around, I've got no doubt that they are just as nice as the rest of the rooms that I did see as it would be downright impossible for them not to be! After all, the whole inn is lovely from the white wicker chairs on the front porch to the back deck with its hot tub.
I honestly don't believe that there is a single thing that Dan and Penny have forgotten when it comes to giving their guests the best of everything but I would be willing to bet that if you did think of something, they'd go out of their way to get it for you as that's just the type of people that they are. Warm, welcoming, and wonderful!
I know I've said it before and I'm sure I will no doubt say it again but if you just want someplace to hang your hat for a night then go stay at a hotel (which is not to say that there aren't some really good hotels out there as there are!) but if you want a truly amazing experience that will be the icing on the cake no matter what your reasons for traveling are, then stay at a bed & breakfast - especially a bed & breakfast like the Inn Victoria which is truly a royal gem in the town with a heart in the heart of Vermont!