George

I turned my comfortable wicker chair around to enjoy the snow-covered maple tree right outside our second-story window, with the tall pine forest beyond, along with my morning coffee.

I do this at home, turning a rocking chair around to look out our large kitchen window while enjoying my coffee and Kennebec Journal every morning. But at the Noble House, I was missing the chickadees that crowd the bird feeder right outside our kitchen window — until I looked at my coffee cup. It featured a beautiful painting of a chickadee!

The thoughtfulness poured into every room of this inn is amazing. Innkeeper Cindi Hooper is a vivacious, super-friendly host — not surprising, since she chose Maine when she decided to switch careers. Cindi was a high-powered attorney in her native Texas when she decided a career change was in order.

Her personal story is very interesting, and I encourage you to go to the inn’s website and read it. In summary, she visited here in 1999 to bury her mother’s ashes in the South Bridgton/Adams Pond cemetery. And, not surprisingly, Cindi fell in love with our state. Finally, two years ago, she found a way to return and live here.

The Noble House Inn was on our list of favorite inns visited in 2011, and we’ve looked forward to getting back there to meet Cindi and enjoy this wonderful place again. I can tell you right now, the list of our favorite inns of 2015 will feature this one. In fact, we asked Cindi to change the name of our second floor room, Noble Suite, to the Travelin’ Maine(rs) Suite!

Cindi has embraced the greater-Bridgton community, and enthusiastically recommends many local shops and restaurants, including the Black Horse Tavern where we enjoyed a great dinner (the subject of another column soon). We even got to visit with the inn’s former owners, Rick and Julie Whelchel, in their new shop, J.Decor, Uncorked Style, featuring wine, furniture and home furnishings.

Bridgton’s business district was shining bright with Christmas lights and features everything you need, from its great independent bookstore, Bridgton Books, where I autographed my books for owner Justin, to art, crafts and wine shops, nice restaurants, pubs and the largest Renys we’ve ever seen. All out of our favorite Raye’s mustards, we bought some at Renys.

Cindi hosts many weddings, schedules musical events, hosts special dinners at holidays for her guests and has taught herself to cook. I’d give her an A+ on that, given the delicious breakfast she served Linda and me. She alternates savory and sweet breakfasts and, of course, Linda and I couldn’t agree on which we wanted, so Cindi cooked a savory breakfast for Linda and a sweet one for me. Yes, the Travelin’ Maine(rs) are spoiled!

My pecan-crusted French toast was so deliciously sweet that I didn’t use any maple syrup. The candied bacon was something I have never had and will dream about now. I even loved the green beans and cheese. When I asked about the cheese, Cindi whipped out a brochure for the nearby Old School Creamery. She really does love to promote local businesses.

“It’s a magical place. I feel like I’m just the caretaker,” Cindi said of her very special bed and breakfast inn. I really loved the story of her arrival at the inn, the day after purchasing it. It took her two and a half hours to drive from Gorham to Bridgton in a blizzard, and she had 400 items to unload and cart into the inn. In the midst of that chore, she looked down the driveway and the couple next door was walking up with a welcoming card, coffee and food. No wonder she loves Maine!

Linda

Entering Bridgton’s beautiful Noble House during any season is impressive. But one step inside during Christmas time is sure to please your senses. The tasteful decorations are subtle here — a small tree of silver and white in the parlor window, Christmas mugs and tableware, and sprinkles of Christmas accents throughout the house.

The Noble House is comfortably elegant. The fire is going in the fireplace and you can help yourself to hot or cold drinks, as well as Cindi’s homemade cookies in the jar. One of the best things about staying at a B&B is that it feels intimate. As Cindi gave us an introductory tour, it was clear that she wants you to make yourself at home. Lots of reading material is available, the selection of music and DVDs is vast, and there is a closet full of games and puzzles to fill your time. George even found mystery novels by his favorite authors in our room. Later, Cindi told us she arrived from Texas with 36 cartons of books!

We stayed in the Noble Suite this trip, a stunning space on the second floor. The main room features lots of windows, a four-poster bed, armoire and a vaulted ceiling. I quickly noted the fresh pale pink tulips in the bay window next to a martini glass filled with chocolates. The suite includes a sitting room with a loveseat and TV and a large bathroom which includes a Jacuzzi tub. Robes with the Noble House insignia invitingly hang nearby.

The king-size bed and selection of various sized pillows provided a great night’s sleep and we awoke to a winter wonderland. This room is located close to the wooded side of the property and all the trees had a coating of new snow.

The breakfast table was set with Christmas in mind and more fresh flowers at each table. Hot oatmeal was out with a variety of toppings and Cindi brought juice and a fruit starter. I’ve never heard of Vanilla Brule’ Grapefruit but I will tell you that it was amazing. (I was still thinking about the delicious sounding creme brulee served at the Black Horse Tavern that I didn’t order the night before. No regrets now! )

Breaking through the crusty topping, a thin layer of creme brulee rested on the sectioned fruit. You wouldn’t think that grapefruit could combine with dairy, but believe me it did. Cindi told us that her go to cookbook is “The Art of Breakfast” by Dana Moos, a local resident and friend, and this is where she got this recipe. I’m getting that book!

My breakfast plate was Quiche Lorraine, a strip of candied bacon and green beans with a dollop of locally made lemon goat cheese. What an elegant and interesting plate! The quiche had a flaky crust with a creamy filling, and the green beans were super. I loved the candied bacon due to her addition of cracked pepper making it savory and sweet.

Snow continued to drift down during our breakfast as we enjoyed a leisurely start to our day and a lovely conversation with Cindi. It is her second year of ownership and she mentioned her love of the four seasons as a reason she chose the Bridgton area to settle in. Some people do not like the snow. I find a new snowfall incredibly beautiful, and I could see that Cindi appreciated the miraculous scene as well.

Do come and visit the Noble House Inn, no matter what the season. Cindi will welcome you fully and feed you well.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.

Don’t miss Pies on Parade and the Samoset’s Ice Bar!

At the end of this month, there are two events in Rockland that we try to never miss. One is the Samoset Resort’s fabulous ice bar. This year the outside-under-the-stars-overlooking-the-ocean bar — a very popular annual event — is scheduled for Jan. 16-18 and 23-23. We’ll be staying at the Samoset and enjoying the ice bar on Jan. 25.

We picked that night because the next day, the 11th annual Pies on Parade amazing annual fundraising event for the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry and Fuel Assistance Program is scheduled. It’s probably George’s favorite annual event, given that more than 25 businesses serve sweet and savory pies as participants move from place to place.

But we both can justify and enjoy this event knowing that the program helped 313 needy families each month last year, in 17 midcoast communities. Each $30 Pies on Parade ticket follows the 3-4-5 formula: a $30 ticket translates to 3 meals a day for a family of 4 for 5 days! Since all proceeds from Pies on Parade are donated to the AIO Food Pantry, ticket holders can feel good knowing their day of pie-joyment will provide 60 meals to hungry families on Maine’s Midcoast.

Tickets for the Pies on Parade Tour are available for sale now and may be purchased from any of the three Historic Inns of Rockland including LimeRock Inn, Granite Inn and Berry Manor Inn. Tickets may also be reserved by calling 596-6611. More information can be found at www.historicinnsofrockland.com/pies-on-parade/ or by calling 596-6611. Tickets are limited and may not be available on the day of the event, so reserve yours soon. And we’ll see you there!

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