Owning a dog (or several) is one of life’s great joys. Taking care of the family pooch when we’d like to run off for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation is one of life’s great headaches. As much as we love them, our family canines require total commitment. That’s the very least they deserve, in exchange for the unconditional love they have for us. That’s exactly why dropping them off at a kennel, or a neighbor’s house, seems like a lousy way to treat your “best friend.”
Our solution? When in Vermont’s north country, we stay at the Phineas Swann Bed & Breakfast in Center Montgomery, a scant eight miles from Jay Peak resort. CNN ranked the inn one of the world’s 12 most dog-friendly hotels, and Lanier Travel Guides has awarded the Phineas Swann its “Most Pet Friendly” award twice.
High praise indeed, and well-deserved.
Lynne and Darren Drevik bought the pet-friendly bed and breakfast in the summer of 2013, escaping the madding crowds of New York City and (for Lynne) the corporate rat race. The couple’s search for a dramatic move to the Green Mountain State was featured in an episode of HGTV’s “New House, New Life” (guests can watch the show, which is cued up in one of the inn’s sitting rooms, anytime).
“During the six-hour drive back to the city, I went from ‘no way’ to OK,” said Darren, laughing, on the couple’s decision to relocate to Center Montgomery.
The Dreviks immediately set to work updating the tired-but-venerable inn, but kept the same sense of history and charm. And, of course, they kept the inn open to pets. Guests are greeted by the wagging tails of the Dreviks’ 12-year-old beagle, Magnolia, and 3-year-old Shih Tzu, Maple.
The rooms, ranging from well-appointed period rooms in the main inn to larger, more contemporary suites in adjoining buildings, reveal the Dreviks’ renovation efforts. All feature an impressive array of amenities, including WiFi access throughout the property, cable television with premium channels, long-distance telephone service anywhere in the United States and Canada, complimentary DVD “rentals,” and use of the inn’s outdoor hot tub.
The colonial home that houses the main inn is more than 135 years old and has been operating as a bed and breakfast since 1986. The Phineas Swann is routinely named one of New England’s most romantic inns by the likes of Yankee, New York and Boston Magazine. The accolades are well-deserved (be sure to ask about their Valentine’s Day special if you plan on visiting mid-February).
The rooms in the main house are quintessential New England, featuring four-posted beds, mood lighting and easy chairs that make curling up with a good book seem like the ultimate pleasure. The same holds for the common areas that practically implore guests to mingle and share stories of their day on the hill and a glass of wine (the wine collection on the wall alongside the Fireplace Room will entice even the most ardent oenophile). Even our daughters, both now young adults, are happy to unplug their devices and spend a quiet evening simply relaxing.
As a bonus, you’re likely to be among friends. Most of the guests at Phineas Swann fall into one of three categories — weddings (roughly two dozen a year), cyclists and skiers.
The four Carriage House Suites, meanwhile, are a bit more modern, and I say that as an unqualified compliment. I enjoy traditional, but even at my age, “traditional” still reminds me of my parents’ house. If contemporary translates to added comfort, I’m all in. I love the gas-fed fireplaces, sleep-inducing mattresses and extra room to stretch out.
A personal favorite is the Green Mountain Suite, with two bedrooms — a queen for my wife and I to share, and a pair of comfy twins for our girls — a common living room where we can catch a movie together, and a great deck off the back. Each of the three rooms has a flat-panel TV (accommodating an anticipated difference of opinion regarding late-night viewing), plus a mini-fridge and microwave.
Larger groups definitely will want to check out the more spacious River House Suites alongside the Trout River. The Black Bear Suite features a full kitchen (bring your groceries) and dining area, but the highlight of this unit is the large outdoor wood deck with a terrific view of the river. The living area features a leather recliner, full-size sleep sofa, cable TV with DVD player, an antique pine dresser for clothes (perfect for anyone using the sleeper), and an abundance of reading lights. In addition, the bathroom includes a Jacuzzi tub, and the front room includes a cast-iron gas log fireplace. Pretty sweet.
Meanwhile, the Trout River Suite, a tribute to fly-fishing and historic New England sporting lodges, is festooned with local antiques as well as a full-sized kitchen, a bar counter seating four more, a microwave, gas oven, full refrigerator/freezer, and all the dishwater and cooking utensils needed to entertain guests. The living room has a full-size sleep futon, large pine armoire with cable television and DVD player, and a cast-iron gas-log fireplace to set the right mood.
Both suites are pet-friendly, bringing us full circle. During ski season, the Phineas Swann features the Pet Perfect Ski Package, a one-stop shopping option that includes lodging, breakfast (including a doggie bag treat for your pet), ski tickets to Jay Peak, a dog bed, dog-walking services provided by the staff, and a lot of TLC for your treasured hound while you hit the slopes.
“So, when you’re packing for that trip, you don’t have to worry about grabbing the bed, the bowls, et cetera,” said Darren, underscoring the peace of mind that pet-friendly lodging offers.
The Dreviks also are expanding the Phineas Swann this June, adding a dedicated day spa and another suite. That will bring the inn’s total capacity to 10 rooms and suites, accommodating up to 32 guests. And every one of those guests absolutely will cherish the breakfasts prepared by the couple.
Almost everything found on the tables of the inviting, glass-enclosed dining room is sourced locally, including the eggs, sausages, bacon (simply the best I’ve ever had), coffee, milk, breads and, of course, the maple syrup.
“I will confess, the pineapple is not Vermont pineapple,” said Darren with a laugh.
Before a day on the slopes, no one should ever leave this “all you can eat” feast hungry. In fact, the temptation is to eat too much. Breakfast at the Phineas Swann is that good. The inn also provides all-day coffee, tea, soft drinks, snacks, cookies and brownies, as well as beer and wine (at an added cost) when you get back from the slopes.
For dining options later in the day, there’s a surprising variety in or near quaint Center Montgomery. We never visit the Phineas Swann without making time to stop by Bernie’s Restaurant (72 Main Street; 802-326-4456), a brisk, two-minute walk from the inn. Chef-owned and famous for its Mexican nights (Mondays and Thursdays),
Bernie’s always offers its traditional, wide-ranging menu, from big burgers to Grilled Country-Cut Pork Chops and Maple Carmelized Salmon. At the end of Main Street, another minute further away, is The Snowshoe Pub (13 Main Street; 802-326-4456). It’s a great place to hang out with locals, enjoy a casual meal, and watch sports on their wide-screen television or shoot a game of pool. Next door to the Phineas Swann, The Inn (241 Main Street; 802-326-4391) boasts an outstanding bar and an inventive menu that changes regularly but always has something interesting to offer. It’s the most expensive restaurant in town, but the setting is wonderful for a romantic night out, and you can choose to eat in the bar area or the more formal dining room up front.
Located halfway between the Phineas Swann and Jay Peak (six minutes by car), the Big Jay Tavern (3709 Mountain Road; 802-326-6688) is a new addition to Montgomery Center’s restaurant scene and offers perfectly located après-ski dining. The Belfry (14 Amandon Road; 802-326-4400), occupying a renovated mid-1800s school house a few miles up the road, is another local favorite within a five-minute drive. Plus, there’s always live music on Saturday nights. Two miles away in Montgomery, The Black Lantern (2057 North Main Street, Montgomery; 802-326-3269) offers an impressive farm-to-table menu with plenty of options, including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan menu items.
Phineas Swann Bed & Breakfast
195 Main Street, Montgomery Center, VT 05471
802-326-4306 | PhineasSwann.com