Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Peter Shields Inn - Cape May, NJ

**I started this post back in late October but due to the hurricane, put off finishing. While New Jersey was struggling to recover from Sandy, I didn't feel the time was right to post it. Months later, I'm revisiting the review and am happy to say that Cape May survived surprisingly (and thankfully) unscathed. 

This summer, when we were in Maine, we stayed at a darling B&B that was a member of the Select Registry hotels. Upon checking out, The Boy grabbed the Select Registry catalog to peruse, which sparked the idea to visit Cape May over Labor Day. We came across the Peter Shields Inn which we promptly booked for the long weekend!

This ocean front property is located at the north end of Cape May away from the bustling nightlife of Cape May, but close enough that you can jump on one of the Inn's bikes and quickly be in the heart of it all. The inn is housed in a gorgeous Georgian Revival Mansion with huge columns that loom above the beach. There are a variety of other similarly restored inns in the Cape May area, but I didn't see one with such curb appeal.
Peter Shields Inn. *Photo courtesy of the Select Registry Website.

Best known for their BYOB restaurant, the inn was teeming with guests each night seeking their acclaimed dining experience. We'd booked reservations outside of the inn for dinner but had the breakfast that was included with our stay. Service wasn't a strong suit, at least for breakfast, but that's probably because the inn manager served it instead of a true server. The overall meal was good but nothing to write home about.

One charming touch of the inn that we enjoyed both evenings during our stay was an afternoon wine and cheese happy hour for hotel guests. It was served on the second floor veranda overlooking the beach, the perfect kick off to the rest of the night!

Restored homes can go a variety of ways in terms of renovation, decor, upkeep, and style. Overall, I was quite pleased with the look and feel of the common areas of the inn. It was contemporary while still respecting the architecture of the building. Each area was decorated with updated furnishings that mixed the right amount of beach house with modern decor. The common areas were well accessorized and the amenities like the bicycles, beach towels and beach chairs were thoughtful additions.

Unfortunately, those accolades end once you reach the threshold of your bedroom (or at least ours). We stayed in guest room four, which touts a private porch and promises privacy and romance. The porch overlooks a parking lot. That's romantic. And the bathroom, while huge, lacks any element of utility. There isn't a place to put your cosmetics or overnight kit so we stored ours in the cheap, rundown wicker armoire in the bathroom (no closet in the main room). In the shower, it is almost impossible to turn around and you have to bend back to get your head under the shower head, which was almost impossible for The Boy who is 6'2". The "two person tub" is a relic of the 1980's fad for whirlpool tubs and lacked any appeal whatsoever. I'd have much preferred a claw foot tub - much more appropriate for the inn's style.

The wiring throughout the room and bathroom was messy, exposed, and had pipes running across the ceiling. At night, we lay in bed looking at one of those unsightly pipes and considered how much we were overpaying for that experience. One morning while getting ready, the boy was drying off under the overhead light when a fuse burst and sparks flew everywhere! When we shared this experience with the front desk, they barely acknowledged any problem. For over $400 a night, we both expected much more from our room and the staff.

Older homes have their own issues when retrofitted for commercial and contemporary uses, but it is incumbent upon the ownership to diligently identify and abate the most obvious and ensure their guests are pleased with the experience. While this wasn't as bad as our motel experience, the price tag certainly didn't warrant the disappointment.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

100 Days

It's been a while since a hundred day countdown had much meaning. Just the mention of it brings back memories of the anticipated burning (or melting) of polyester uniform skirts at the end of high school. Or the impending end of college dorm life and the start of the "real world". And both of those were over a decade ago. Those moments were life changing in their own right, but singular to this new countdown because they were just about me. My life. My next chapter. Individual decisions about the path my life would take me. And while I consulted my family on those chapters, ultimately I was the one at the helm of that solo adventure.

This time around I have a partner standing by my side anticipating the same changes and exciting new journey. Once only one name of many in my best friend's Rolodex, the boy (soon to be the man) is now my partner, my teammate, my best friend. And in 100 days we're going to commit to one another for the rest of our lives right on this spot. And I couldn't be more thrilled.

Lake Placid, NY

Beyond the thrill of marrying this man will also be the very honest thrill of being done with wedding planning. Outside of the key components many girls dream of (the dress, the shoes, the hair), so much of wedding planning is fraught with stress, anxiety, and well, stress and anxiety. No one tells you this, but when you express it to others who've experience this rite of passage, they effusively agree. The same is apparently true about being pregnant. I guess you just have to earn your wings and weather through it. I'll be reflecting on that accomplishment in 100+ days when we're lounging beach-side with an adult beverage in hand in Jamaica and Brazil! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Wave of Emotion at Wave Hill!

I rarely post more than once a week (unless on a long trip) but given recent momentous events this past Sunday, I thought it warranted a post...
View over the Hudson at Wave Hill

Just as you drive out of the northwest tip of Manhattan and cross over the Spuyten Duyvil Creek into the Bronx lies a spectacular 28-acre public cultural center and garden that was first built in 1843. Wave Hill was originally built as a "country home" in what is now the bustling urban neighborhood of Riverdale in the Bronx. In the early 1900's, the property was bought by George W. Perkins, a partner of J.P. Morgan; Perkins grew the property from the country house to include several gardens, terraces, a greenhouse, swimming pool and recreational facility.

Three blocks from the Henry Hudson Parkway, Wave Hill is nestled in a perfectly manicured fringe of lush green trees obscuring the beauty that lies within. Once past the threshold, the great lawn opens up before you with picturesque views of the Hudson River and the Palisades beyond.

Wave Hill map courtesy of Robert Loscaro (Wave Hill website)
Descending the Great Lawn, you will see the Conservatory and flower gardens on your right and the Glyndor House and Gallery to your left. Ahead of you is the Pergola Overlook (pictured above) looking out over the Hudson River and out into the distance. Arriving at Wave Hill is possible by car, subway, and Metro North. The Boy and I had made a plan to bike to Wave Hill from Hoboken, a nice 15-mile ride that was perfect for a Fall Sunday morning. The hosts at the front gate were nice enough to lend us a bike lock so we secured our bikes and began our tour of this fabulous estate. The property was impeccably manicured and the day was perfect parts sunny, breezy, and completely sans elbow sweat conditions! Wandering around the grounds, we explored the Elliptical Garden, meandered through the Wild Garden with its gazebo tucked romantically away among the trees, and ended up deciding on a brief hiatus at the Aquatic Garden.

Aquatic Garden
We paused here at the Aquatic Garden primarily (I thought) to enjoy the spectacular lily pond in front of us before heading home. It had the most majestic lily pads I have ever seen; I was certain they were fake. They had grown so large their sides had curled up creating saucer-like platters floating on the surface. But sure enough, upon further inspection, they were real! Accompanying the lily pads were other flora and fauna including koi fish, frogs, flowers, and wild grasses. The whole Garden was surrounded by a vine covered pergola creating an enchanting and picturesque venue.

Turns out that type of venue was exactly what The Boy had he'd picked this spot to ask me if he could become The Man...and me his bride! I said YES!!!!!!! Best Bike Ride Ever.

After The Boy popped the question!**
**There is a reason this photo is taken from very far away...while we wanted to memorialize the momentous occasion, we did not feel it necessary to capture our sweaty, dirty, helmet headed selves!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Cape Escape

Attending Boston College, we often escaped to the Cape (Cod, that is) for a quick weekend away. From Chatham to Woods Hole, we enjoyed many a day on the beach or ferrying over to the Vineyard or Nantucket. So many great memories!

For Labor Day weekend 2012, The Boy chose a getaway to the Cape, but this was a different one than that of my college years. For over 200 years, Easterners have been frequenting Cape May, one of the oldest seaside resorts in the nation. This charming beach enclave, a 3-hour drive from NYC, is located at the southern tip of my new home state of New Jersey!

Our goal was to leave by 8 AM Saturday, which meant we would leave by 10 AM. At 10:05, Starbucks in tow, we drove out of Hoboken and towards the turnpike. At 10:35, we hit traffic on the Parkway. At Exit 143. We were headed to Exit 0.
Skee Ball...I won (obviously!)
Despite the traffic, our spirits remained high - it was vacation regardless - and we rolled into our first stop, the newly founded Cape May Brewing Company. Opened last July, Cape May Brewing Company is still a small production team, catering mostly to the Cape May and Wildwood areas. Only open on Saturdays from Noon to 4 PM, we stopped by the brewery for a tasting. Located adjacent to the Cape May airport in an industrial row of buildings, the Brewery's minimalist style shows a lot of potential. For $11 a person, we upgraded from the free plastic cup tasting to a commemorative Cape May Brewery glass shaped like a beer can. Legitimately a cool addition to our future bar. From the Saison to the award winning Centennial IPA (Best IPA at the 2012 Atlantic City Beer Festival), we were impressed with the flavor profiles and breadth of their beers. Pick up a growler next time you're in the area or head to Sea Salt where they carry the Saison on tap!

Congress Hall, accommodating visitors since 1816
When The Boy and I go on vacation, we somehow get the perfect mix of adventure, activity, culinary treats, and relaxation all at once. For our Cape May escape, this ranged from skee ball shoot outs to sour salt water taffy bombs, body surfing in the ocean to cruising on our bikes around town. There are too many detail of our trip to list them all so I'll highlight a few dining spots I'd recommend checking out in case you're ever down at the most southern tip of New Jersey. 

  • The Rusty Nail:  Voted one of America's Best Beach Bars by Travel + Leisure magazine, the Rusty Nail does not disappoint. The perfect mix of dive bar, beach side location, quality cocktails, and perfectly greasy variety of scrumptious bar food. We also were lucky enough to enjoy some local Reggae music that played live for us while we sipped our Dark & Stormy's.
  • Sea Salt Restaurant: Located within the Ocean Club Hotel, which admittedly doesn't have the most curb appeal, the cuisine at Sea Salt was beyond our expectations. From a smoked trout with roe appetizer special and the succulent local oysters on a half shell to the pan seared red snapper in pea risotto and squid ink with shellfish entree special, there wasn't one thing we didn't enjoy. Our waitress, who looked like a naive college student, was surprisingly well versed with the menu and quite capable to adeptly describe each dish.
  • Peter Shields Inn: Disclaimer - we stayed here, which was NOT our best move (more on that later), and we only ate breakfast here, which was lovely, but the dinner menu and the presentation of the food that we saw looked pretty appetizing. If nothing else, the setting of the Inn overlooking the beach in this lovely 1907 Georgian Revival mansion is worth a visit. It's BYOB as well, so bring something tasty and try it out.
Peter Shields Inn
Without a doubt, I would go back to Cape May. It offered the perfect blend of upscale at one end of the beach with the right mix of approachable beach shack styling at the other end. Easily surmountable on beach cruiser, this small community offers a little something for everyone looking for a nice beach escape.