New England is not an easy place to get to know, especially in its winters when the dark and the cold and the snow hold the land in a formidable grasp, and the people disappear into their homes and cafes for months.
But that can also be the fun part of New England, and especially the iconic state of New Hampshire
Here the spirit of Robert Frost is alive and well, his woods fill with snow, are dark and deep, and the lights on the landscape come from villages in the hills, and especially old inns.
At this time of year in particular, inns like the Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, are islands of light in snowbound seas.
This 100 year old white shingled inn is perfectly situated at the northern edge of the brooding white mountains. The glassed-in breakfast room looks out over a distant small village seemingly afloat in the shadows and sunlight, while the west facing rooms are perfect perches for the dramatic sunsets and a snowy tundra that stretches and stretches.
Once part of the Grand Hotels of New England, today it’s adjusted to modern times with upgraded facilities, solar panels, a fine dining area, while still retaining the feel and look of the Grand Hotel it once was.
Innkeeper Nancy Henderson has done a great job lighting the way to her 28 guest rooms, with poles and bushes and festooned with lights or sparsely placed globes, creating a warm, welcoming, well-lighted place to stay. The kind of place a traveler is glad to get to.
But Henderson is Social Media savvy, and uses Email to welcome her guests before they arrive. She includes a little history, introduces herself, and explains the attractions of the region. Wisely, she follows each guest’s departure with a “thank you” Email asking how their stay was, and what suggestions they might have. She also asks guests to share in answering questions (what room to redo next; suggestions for new breakfast items) ) via her Facebook pages. A great way to build client loyalty.
The Better Way To Stay campaign, run on behalf of the B&B industry, including, Sunset House, is a big user of Social Media to reach travelers who love inns – and those haven’t yet discovered them.
Marti Mayne, CEO of Maynely Marketing who engineers these kinds of strategies, is a veteran user of video sharing, Facebook and Twitter. Mayne says that she is using Social Media to ” expanded the appeal of inns beyond the traditional baby boomer market to include more Gen-X and Gen-Y travelers.”
The rooms are typical for a New England inn. Some with jacuzzis, some with fireplaces, all very comfortable, unpretentious and with free Wi fi, a service conspicuously absent in more expensive and elaborate hotels.
Inns often do live on the reputation of their breakfasts, and just as often on their dinner and bar service. After all, after a day of skiing or hiking or just plain exploring, a good drink and a memorable meal are deeply appreciated
And guests at Sunset Hill are not disappointed , at least with the pub service and breakfast.
We found the Fine Dining menu too pricey for us ($34 00 for basic entrees like pan seared scallops, or a fish du jour),
but breakfast was a delight.
There’s lots to do in the area, and thoughtfully the inn provides a comprehensive and informative list with breakfast. They have their own small, but delightful 9-hole golf course (New Hampshire’s oldest, we hear), with “postage stamp” greens, and with enough ‘white stuff’ you can snowshoe, and ski right from the Inn.
• The ‘don’t blink’ Village of Sugar Hill itself boasts the iconic Harman’s Cheese shop, which has some of the best cheddar we’ve tasted anywhere. Franconia , just down the the road from the inn, is a rustic town with one good restaurant, the Dutch Treat, a good coffee shop and small grocery store.
• A bit further north the town of Littleton with its quirky mix of shops, diners and restaurants, the longest penny candy counter, a thriving bookstore and old covered walking bridge, caught our nostalgic fancy.
Sunset Hill’s Nancy Henderson says she’s the world’s “happiest innkeeper.” She may be.