The road trip is the most American of all forms of travel. For a nation of car lovers, the open road is a symbol of freedom. Of course, in its classic form the road trip is transcontinental in scope. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of times I have looked out of a rain-streaked window in the Northeast and dreamed of palm trees and cloudless skies. No boundaries or customs posts stood in my way; all that was required was a decision to set out along an uninterrupted ribbon of asphalt. Given the current pandemic, however, road trips have acquired a wholly new significance. Many would-be travelers who find the thought of airplanes unappealing are assuaging their wanderlust with journeys by car. So, finding my own travel horizons still restricted, I decided to embark on a tour through Connecticut, southwestern Massachusetts and New York State.
Mayflower Inn & Spa
Leaving Manhattan, we headed northeast to join Route 7 at Danbury. Ninety-five miles from New York, the pretty town of Washington is the place where Connecticut suddenly becomes unmistakably New England, with white church spires, classically proportioned houses and tidily mowed expanses of public green. Here, the landscape of the Litchfield Hills is open and rolling, with folds in the land containing a succession of small lakes. On the town’s southern outskirts, an unobtrusive sign indicates the driveway leading to the Mayflower Inn & Spa, a 30-room country house hotel set on a 58-acre estate. The shingled 19th-century mansion was originally converted into a luxury hotel by Robert and Adriana Mnuchin (parents of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin) who sold the property in 2007. Ultimately, it became part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, and since 2018 the group has been engaged in a major renovation, led by interior designer Celerie Kemble.
At the front entrance we were greeted effusively by a doorman who assured us that valet parking was still available — frequently it isn’t nowadays — and that he would attend to our vehicle once he had dealt with our luggage. We were checked in by a receptionist protected by a screen of plexiglass. After a brief glimpse at the library and the parlor, where Kemble’s talents for vibrant and eclectic interiors are on full display, we were escorted to our room in the nearby Speedwell Cottage.