Who knew that Bath is a vacation destination? After years of driving by this thriving
community, we stopped for a night at the Inn at Bath where we met others on weekend
getaways from Chelsea to Chicago. And because of a storm, this turned into a three-day visit!
Our ever-increasing search of interesting cities and towns in Maine has led us to Bath. We were familiar with our prominent shipbuilder, Bath Iron Works, and certainly the nearby Reid State Park and Popham Beach. But I was so pleasantly surprised at how much is going on in the downtown section of the city.
A variety of local shops caught my eye including The Cooking Emporium and The Mariner’s Compass quilting shop. There are lots of restaurants, art galleries, a health food store and so much more.
We did cram a lot into our visit — the Winter Wonderland Art Exhibit and a play at the Chocolate Church Arts Center, a Saturday-night concert at The Winter Street Center (another former church), a very fine dinner at Solo Bistro and a fascinating visit to the Maine Maritime Museum.
Our stay at The Inn at Bath was certainly a highlight of our getaway. Located in one of the large old historic houses on Washington Street, it was an ideal location within easy walking distance to downtown. The fact that it was a snowy weekend made it even more delightful. Walking around in light snow gave us the full winter experience in a small New England town.
As you enter this inn, you will find a packet on the counter with your name on it and a gold key ring with a large gold jingle bell on it. You won’t be misplacing this key! The stunning dining room alerts you that breakfast is a priority here. The table is set, complete with a vase of fresh tulips in beautiful pastel colors.
Two sitting rooms are so cozy that guests are drawn in to enjoy the fire and conversation. One of the things I love about staying in a historic inn is the chance to appreciate an old house with a different architectural design than ours.
Innkeeper Elizabeth Knowlton has tastefully decorated her inn with beautiful artwork featuring flowers and birds that blend with comfortable furniture in a most inviting way. She must have a green thumb because there are orchids and even a tree with small oranges on it in the dining room. You will want to linger here.
All the rooms were full on our first night, which allowed us an opportunity to meet an array of interesting people at breakfast. One couple was from Chelsea, and the husband wanted to give his school teacher wife a short getaway. Another couple was from Ithaca, NY, here to see their freshman daughter (who attends Amherst) compete in a swim meet at Bowdoin. And we had wonderful conversations with a couple from Chicago who were enjoying a long weekend with their son and his girlfriend who live in Massachusetts.
The Winter Wonderland Art Exhibit at the Chocolate Church is stunning, featuring eight artists and pieces focused on nature in winter. I loved the gorgeous photographs of Joan Cyr and Rob Smith, as well as Leon Vanella’s black and white photographs printed on metal. The 3-D paintings of birch stands with crows and red berries by Karen Dominguez were probably my favorite. But the beautiful encaustic wax paintings of Jane Page-Conway were also special. It’s an amazing variety of mediums in one show. Try to see this exhibit before it ends on March 16.
Though it turned windy and the snow continued to fall Saturday night, I loved the beauty of it all as we safely watched from our second-floor windows. On Sunday, as the wind gusted up to 50 mph and snow piled up in the streets, we decided this was a great place to watch it all happen. We signed up to stay another night, getting to some of the city’s great eating places on foot. It’s an adventure I’ll remember for a while!
Innkeeper Elizabeth Knowlton has clearly created a home away from home for travelers from all over the nation at her Inn at Bath, but Mainers have discovered this elegant yet comfortable inn, too.
I was impressed that the couple from Chicago selected the inn after an extensive online search — including a telephone conversation with Elizabeth before they reserved their room.
Highlights for me were: our beautiful room with a gorgeous canopied bed; two rooms downstairs for sitting, reading and visiting with new friends; the downstairs fireplace, where I warmed myself each time we returned from a cold walk; the large gathering table in the dining room where we could enjoy breakfast and converse with other guests; the short walk in the snow to Solo Bistro, our dinner destination Saturday night, and then to the Winter Street Church for a lively evening of music.
Elizabeth’s breakfasts deserve special mention. Oatmeal, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, juices and coffee are always served along with a hot dish. These are cloth-napkin, heavy-cutlery, fresh-flowers, fine-dining breakfasts. The first morning she served a very tasty French toast using pumpkin bread, along with delicious sausages.
The second morning we were blessed with a perfectly poached egg served with bacon, lettuce and tomato on very tasty toasted bread. The bacon was thick and crispy, the tomatoes were grown in Madison and we lingered for half an hour after eating. We visited with Elizabeth and her guests, two of whom came up from Boston to bird-watch on a very wintry Reid State Park beach. Brrr!
I especially loved visiting with Elizabeth, a world traveler who once owned and cooked at a Montana fly-fishing lodge. You can guess what we talked about! From Montana to Alaska, we swapped fishing stories.
Our favorite inns feature a wonderful host and Elizabeth is just that. She was very helpful with suggestions for our visit, and the best came when she told us Pat Colwell and his brother were playing Saturday night in the Winter Street Center. I worked closely with Pat when he was Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and love his music.
But the biggest surprise came after we arrived, when we discovered that my cousin Marlene’s son, Justin Maxwell, was playing in the band as he sometimes does. I hadn’t seen Marlene or Justin in quite a while and it was a great reunion. And if you’ve never attended a Colwell Brother’s concert, then put on your dancing shoes and get out there. We had a ball.
After the concert Elizabeth gave us a tour of the Winter Street Center, a church now being restored by Sagadahoc Preservation, Inc. It’s a beautiful place, from the wraparound balcony to the hardwood floors. Bath is a community that clearly values its historic buildings and organizations that have helped make this city vibrant, attractive and a real destination.
We left the inn on Monday morning having enjoyed a wonderful stay, discovered another great Maine destination and made a host of new friends.
IF YOU GO . . .
Inn at Bath, 969 Washington St., Bath, 1-800-423-0964 or 443-4294. innatbath.com.
Chocolate Church Arts Center, 804 Washington St., Bath, 442-8455,
chocolatechurch.com. Winter Wonderland Art Exhibit ends on March 16.
Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday: noon to 7 p.m.; Saturday: noon to 4 p.m.
Winter Street Center, 880 Washington St., Bath, 443-2174,
Midcoastmaineinns.com. This is the website the Chicago couple used.
Visit George’s website: www.george smithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.