Tuesday, June 28, 2022

What to Expect at a Bed & Breakfast

Many of our guests regularly stay at Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) and seek them out whenever they travel. But even those who routinely stay at B&Bs, there was a first time. For those who have never stayed at a B&B, I will try to explain the benefits of a B&B and why we excel at what we do. While every B&B is different, and we cannot speak for all B&Bs, we tend to share similar standards, values, and atmosphere. And for those who are familiar with B&Bs, don’t write this off as not being for you, because the Bridges Inn has its unique flavor of ambiance and atmosphere. (One of our guests found the inn so inviting that he made a painting of it.)

Painnting of the back (west) of the Bridges Inn by David Ignaszewski

As a B&B, the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House has a food service license, a NH Meals & Rentals Tax license, we comply with applicable local, county, state, and federal regulations, and we are insured, which might set us apart from Airbnbs. The Bridges Inn first became a B&B in 1996 and it keeps evolving for the better – we have been learning and improving for over 15 years since we bought it in 2006.

A B&B merges the benefits of a hotel with the benefits of a home. Many of our guests tell us that the Bridges Inn feels like home. It’s more personalized than a hotel and the guest rooms are all uniquely furnished and appointed, just like home; there are no cookie-cutter rooms. Our rooms are comfortable, attractive, and have private bathrooms.

Coombs Bridge Room

We have the amenities that you’d expect when traveling, such as TVs, hair dryers, ironing board and iron, plenty of towels, soap, shampoo, self-serve coffee and tea 24/7, and WiFi. We have a computer and printer for those wanting to print their boarding passes or other documents.  Also, because the B&B is our home, we have items that people don’t tend to pack but might need when traveling such as scissors, Band-Aids, scotch tape, thread and needles, corkscrew, magnifying mirror, and distilled water.

Our guests like our environment, offering the benefits of home, unlike an Airbnb, where you might feel like you’re in the middle of a family’s living room or kitchen, but not institutional like a hotel. You can find the balance between privacy and opportunities to socialize with others. We have many common areas, where you can play board games, read, watch a movie, sit by the fire (seasonally) or enjoy the yard and gardens (seasonally) in our porch or gazebo (seen below).

Pink flowering bush with gazebo and inn

We are a family-run B&B, known for our hospitality. We can help you with your travels, but we are not intrusive – you have as much privacy as you want or need. Because we live on the premises, we are always available to assist you or answer questions, providing a friendly and warm atmosphere not available at hotels. We can help by making suggestions about activities that interest you from outdoor hikes and recreation to shopping and restaurants. We customize our recommendations to your specific interests and needs. We are here to serve. On our website, our “About the Area” page has an abundance of information about activities, restaurants, day trips, and other pertinent information about the area. The Thompson Covered Bridge can be seen from our front yard and five more covered bridges are within easy driving distance.

Ashuelot Covered Bridge - white bridge with red roof
Ashuelot Covered Bridge

Meeting other people is something that our guests enjoy. You might be joined at breakfast with people from Europe, Canada, Australia, or any of the states in the USA. People treasure the connections they make here, but for those who prefer a bit of space, we can seat you in a separate dining area or at a different time where guests don’t have to mingle with others. We used to schedule breakfast at a time when people can dine and socialize with other guests, but since the pandemic, we have been more cognizant of allowing people to eat separately.

We take guests’ dietary requirements and preferences into consideration. We serve a scrumptious, multi-course breakfast in the formal dining room on bone china with sterling silver and cloth tablecloth and napkins. We use many locally produced ingredients and products, such as local maple syrup, locally roasted coffee, and in season, fresh herbs and vegetables from our own garden and locally grown produce. Breakfast fare is abundant. In addition to plenty of fresh fruit, we serve baked goods such as homemade bread, muffins, scones, fruit breads, apple crisp, pancakes or waffles; an egg dish; a breakfast meat, such as sausages or bacon; and often potatoes and/or vegetable accompaniments. Breakfasts are typically served family style with numerous options, so you can pick and choose, from options customized to your likes or restrictions.  

Breakfast table with china, floral centerpiece, and lots of food

At the Bridges Inn, you can come and go as you please. People sometimes ask if there are curfews. After you check in, you can schedule activities according to your needs, as you can gain access to the main entrance and have a key to your room. And if you want to leave before typical breakfast hours, we can usually make arrangements to accommodate you.

While a B&B is not for everyone, especially those who prefer the anonymity and seclusion of a hotel room, most of our guests tell us that they love it here, and many are repeat guests who come back year after year. If you haven’t yet stayed here, you might want to give us a try. Don’t just go on our word – see what our guests say about us. Below are a few samples of reviews.

     Reviews on booking.com:

     Reviews on the Bridges Inn website

Visit our website (www.bridgesinn.com) for detailed information about the inn or give us a call at 603-357-6624 if you have questions.

















Thursday, October 21, 2021

Taking a Piece of New Hampshire Home with You

When guests come to the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House, they don’t just experience our bountiful breakfasts and warm hospitality, they also get a taste of New Hampshire. We use many locally made products in our breakfasts and throughout the inn. We also sell many products in our small gift shop, allowing guests to take remembrances home with them.

Gift shop cabinet at the inn with mugs, maple syrup, books, soap, and many more locally made products
Our gift shop / showcase is visible at the entrance of the inn

We’ll start with the food products. We have been getting preserves, elderberry syrup, and mustard from a local organic farm, Cheshire Garden in Winchester, NH, for many years. Their products are delicious, made of fresh ingredients, and not too sweet. Our guests love the fruit preserves – peach, Damson plum, and many varieties of berries.

Shown are some of Cheshire Garden's tasty preserves

We serve local maple syrup at breakfast-time with pancakes or waffles. We also sell local maple syrup, some of which might come from our own maple trees. We have two major sources of maple syrup, one of which is the Slate Bridge Sugar House, located here in Swanzey, who taps our maple trees each spring. Our other source of maple syrup is Crescendo Acres Farm in nearby Surry, NH.

Plenty of maple syrup plus gluten-free granola 

Speaking of maple, a local company, Maple Nut Kitchen, just down the street from us, makes many flavors of tasty gluten-free, vegan granola, which we offer to our guests, particularly to those with dietary restrictions. The granola includes a variety of ingredients such as dried fruit, nuts, lavender, and toasted oats.  

Recently we began stocking our guest bathrooms with Sunflower Herbal Soap, locally made in small batches in Surry, NH. Scents include golden ginger oat, lemongrass, lavender, herb garden, sweet mint, and orange cinnamon. Our guests enjoyed the soap in the bathrooms so much that we decided to offer it for sale in our gift shop in both small and large bars.

 
Sunflower Herbal Soap in many scents and two sizes

And we love Badger natural body care products, which "blend organic plant extracts, exotic oils, beeswax, and minerals to make the safest, most effective products possible to soothe, heal and protect." Our gift shop carries Badger products such as lip balm, headache soother, foot balm, hand balm, anti-bug balm, and sunscreen.

Some of the Badger products we carry

We also have mugs, which are a favorite remembrance of a stay at the Bridges Inn. One series of mugs features the covered bridges of Swanzey, two bridges per mug. The other series features the Bridges Inn with photos of the inn at various seasons and other shots inside and outside the inn.


Many patterns of Bridges Inn mugs (shown, 11 oz.)

We have ornaments, one of which is a  3-D covered bridge with "Bridges Inn" etched on one edge of the roof and "Swanzey, NH" etched on the other edge of the roof (shown below, left). We also carry the New Hampshire series of Country Christmas Eggs ornaments (shown below, right).


We also have alpaca finger puppets from Crescendo Acres Farm. These adorable animal puppets are particularly popular for guests to buy for their children or grandchildren, but to be honest, they appeal to people of all ages -- they're so darn cute!
Adorable finger puppets for people of all ages

Plus, we have magnets, note cards, books, and other mementos of your New Hampshire visit. If you can't make it to Swanzey but see something that you want, contact us (innkeeper@bridgesinn.net) because we can ship it to you,

 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Burst of Spring

With the seemingly never-ending pandemic and few guests at the inn, I have not been inspired to write blogs. But suddenly, with a burst of spring and a surge in reservations, it’s time for an update on what is happening in the region. Flowers are always a warm welcome when approaching the inn.

Azaleas, gazebo, and view of the inn
Azaleas in bloom near the gazebo

Occupancy at the inn was sparse over the winter months; so we used the time to make improvements to the building, such as interior painting to spruce things up a bit.

We have a new sign at the entrance to our parking lot to greet you. Not than anyone ever missed our Bridges Inn sign, but the old, chipped sign certainly needed replacing. The new sign even matches the colors of the house, much of which was painted last summer.

Green lettering on white background - Bridges Inn sign

We bought some new TVs, so now all guest rooms have TVs, ready for streaming.

We put effort into landscaping, coupled with help from Mother Nature, resulting in some beautiful grounds. In early spring, we enjoyed forsythia at the rear of the parking lot, daffodils in the front yard, and the magnolia tree in full bloom on the side, near the parking lot.

Side-by-side photos of forsythia (left) and daffodils (right)

Magnolia tree in full bloom

Then came the lilacs, irises, azaleas, and peonies. Fortunately, our gardens were planned so that something is in bloom throughout the summer. 

In addition to all the flowers, spring seems to have brought many visitors to the Monadnock Region. While life has not returned to normal, more businesses are open and there are fewer restrictions. To keep visitors and residents as safe and healthy as possible, we are providing some information below to help you plan your trip.

  • New Hampshire has seen COVID numbers decrease, due to more and more people being vaccinated, social distancing, and wearing masks. Although the governor lifted NH’s mask mandate as of April 16th and the City of Keene’s face covering ordinance ends on June 1st, residents and visitors are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for safety. Also, individual businesses might have policies for wearing masks in their establishments.

  • If coming from outside the area, please see NH COVID-19 Travel Guidance and information for out-of-state visitors.

  • Any NH State Park that normally charges an entrance fee will be open via reservation only this year. It's best to call ahead before venturing out.

  • Some businesses are currently operating with restricted hours or capacity, so it is a good idea to call ahead of time and make a reservation if needed. Most restaurants offer outdoor dining and take-out service as well as safe indoor dining, following CDC and State guidelines. Some restaurants have limited seating or limited hours.

  • Not all programs and attractions may be open at this time, so it’s a good idea to be informed before making a trip. Even during a normal (non-pandemic) year, some attractions do not open until after Memorial Day.

If spring has gotten you thinking about a get-away to the Monadnock Region, please check us out. We can be reached at (603) 357-6624, via our website (or make an online reservation), or by email. We are vaccinated and taking extra precautions during to ensure your safety and ours.

If you visit during the warmer season, you'll probably be greeted by beautiful flowers.















Friday, September 11, 2020

Progress during a Pandemic (Part 2 of 2)

The pandemic continued on, guests were few and far between, and we continued to make progress here at the Bridges Inn. Our recent blog, Progress during a Pandemic (Part 1 of 2) discussed some of the projects we worked on, with the spotlight on the redesigned Bridges Inn website.

We also made many improvements to the property, both inside and outside.

Painting

During the colder months, we painted some interior areas, such as woodwork/molding and closets. Then when the weather improved, we focused on exterior painting. Much of the exterior is vinyl siding which is essentially maintenance-free. But the north section of the building, at the garage end, really needed painting. After a lot of scraping and gallons of paint, our casa blanca against the deep blue sky is striking!

Large white house being painted


Large white house freshly painted

New chandeliers

The double parlor is graced with new chandeliers! This was a huge project both because of the difficulty finding lighting fixtures that are suitable for the décor of a house built in 1792 and because of the electrical updating required. Also, the ceiling is not exceptionally high which meant the chandeliers could not hang too low. But we finally found the right chandeliers.

Our electrician has been here many times over the years to update the electrical wiring, which meant replacing knob and tube wiring, and in some cases doing a bit of detective work to locate the wiring behind the plaster and find the path to the circuit box. Thanks to his skill, the installed chandeliers are a beautiful enhancement, adding charm to the double parlor! 

The double parlor with Victorian wallpaper and two new antique-styled chandeliers, each with five pink etched domes, visible

Close-up of one of the antique chandeliers with five pink etched domes

Yard and Garden

Warmer weather also gave us a chance to work on the grounds. Our biggest accomplishments were the landscaping and the gardens. We have carefully selected flowering plants so that something is in bloom at all times from late spring until fall. For example, we have daffodils, magnolias, lilacs, rhododendrons, peonies, lilies, irises, hosta, roses, hydrangeas, daisies, morning glories, phlox, and sunflowers, to name a few (plus some that I don’t know that they are called). Our guests love sitting out front in the gazebo or out back in the screened-in porch.

Currently, we are enjoying our burst of sunflowers and phlox, some of which become out centerpiece at the breakfast table.



 

And last but not least are the blueberries, vegetables, and herbs. Our herbs this year consisted of chives, marjoram, oregano, mint, basil, dill, cilantro, and rosemary. The basil was plentiful enough to make many batches of pesto, which we freeze for use in breakfasts. We’ve had cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, pea pods, and more. Whenever possible, we integrate the fresh items into breakfast, and whatever we don’t grow here, we get from farmers markets or local farm stands. Summer 2020 has been a real treat in terms of fresh edibles!

A bowl of freshly picked basil
 

A pint of cherry tomatoes from the garden

Whether you’re a regular guest or simply thinking about a trip to southwest New Hampshire, please check us out. We can be reached at (603) 357-6624, via our website, or by email. We are taking extra precautions during the pandemic to ensure your safety and ours. If you check out our reviews, you’ll see that others have greatly enjoyed their stay here.





Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Progress during a Pandemic (Part 1 of 2)

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a strange year. No matter where we live and what occupation or stage of our life we’re in, day-to-day routines have been greatly disrupted, from how we shop and where we can go, to the people we can see. Travel was one of the industries that came to a screeching halt during the pandemic. From mid-March until mid-June, the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House had no B&B guests and, of course, we didn’t know how long this stay-at-home order would last. Other than going out for food and essentials, we stayed home during that period.

But we didn’t remain idle. Realizing we were fairly powerless over events and circumstances outside our immediate environment, we decided to take control of some of the things we can do at the inn. We used the time to spruce up the inn, do extra cleaning (such as windows and curtains), and do some of the projects that we never seemed to find time to do, such as updating our website. This blog focuses on the updated website.

We had been working with a web developer long before the pandemic but never found the time to provide the content and direction needed to wrap it up. In the spring, we delved into the changes and released the new website. Because of the extent of the changes, it really was an “overhaul” instead of a mere update, but the web address remains the same: www.bridgesinn.com.

          Part of the home page screen dump of the Bridges Inn home page, showing a photo of the inn

Perhaps the biggest change was making the website responsive, optimized to fit any size device. That means whether you access our website from your phone or a desktop computer with a large screen, our website will be usable. We also improved the content, enhanced the usability / user experience, added new photos, and added functionality. The new design is one that we can update and maintain ourselves, which means that the changes will be ongoing instead of waiting to submit a batch of changes to the developer.

There are five general categories:

·     Home page:
General information about the inn
General information about the area
Our breakfasts
Special COVID-19 message

·    About Us:
How to contact us
About the inn
About the innkeepers
The inn’s history
How to find us - driving directions from many major cities and airports
Guest reviews

·     Rooms & Rates:
Guest rooms, including amenities, rates, and 
photos of the rooms
Check Availability by room and by date
Buy gift certificates
Our policies
Make a Reservation*
* Note that during COVID-19, we request that you check availability and make reservations by calling (603) 357-6624

  Check out our rooms and amenities!

Part of a screen dump of the Rooms & Rates page, with photos of four of the guest rooms

·    About the Area:

Food & Drink:
Places to Eat
Wine, Beer, and Spirits
Desserts and Sweets

   Part of the screen dump of the About the Area page, with Food & Drink - a photo of a dinner, a photo of beer and wine, and a photo of chocolates

      Things to Do:
Outdoor Activities
Area Attractions
Arts, Culture, Education, Heritage
Shopping

      Suggested Day Trips:
Within an hour’s drive
Within 1.5 hours drive
Within 2 hours drive

Covered Bridges: details of the local covered bridges plus directions for the covered bridges loop

·     Photo Gallery: Inside the Inn, Outside the Inn, and Breakfast at the Inn

As the pandemic lingers on, we are happy to say that we are accepting guests, with minor changes to adapt to the current situation. We hope you’ll find our new website helpful in planning your trip. You can select nearby activities, attractions, and places to eat before you even get here.

Our new website will give you a glimpse of what to expect. Call for a reservation (603-357-6624) so you can see for yourselves what we have to offer. 

An image with the Bridges Inn logo and contact into


Friday, February 14, 2020

Antiques, Antiques, Antiques

Until I bought the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House over 13 years ago, I had little interest in antiques. I had always lived in a newer home but moving into the fully furnished inn, built in 1792, chock full of antiques and vintage items, gave me new reason to be interested in antiques. Over the years, antiquing has become a passion.

As much as I like antiques, I’m definitely not a connoisseur, because I primarily judge the value of a piece by such factors as how well it will go in the room, the condition of the piece, and whether I like it, not by how much I could sell it for some day. Sometimes functionality matters but some beautiful antiques are meant to be observed, like a museum piece, and not used. My collection of antiques might be considered eclectic.

My favorite piece that I have acquired thus far is the four-poster king bed frame, with detailed woodwork and inlaid wood in the headboard, that graces the Thompson Bridge Room. I bought this from the Cheshire Curio Shop on Route 12 in Swanzey, at the Cheshire Fairgrounds. I have since bought many items there, such as a bureau with mirror for the Coombs Bridge Room.
Four-poster king bed in the Thompson Bridge Room
I love this king bed frame, not because of its value as an antique, but because it looks like it was made for the Thompson Bridge Room. If you think about it, there’s probably no such thing as an antique king bed frame – it’s an antique reproduction – because “historically most beds were ‘twins’ or ‘doubles’ but in the mid-1940s larger mattresses were introduced by manufacturers. These were later standardized as ‘queen’ and ‘king’, and first made a significant impact on the market in the 1950s and 60s." [Bed sizes/North America,Wikipedia]

In our first-floor bathroom, we have a functional antique tin tub built into a wooden enclosure. It came with the house and I do not know how long it has been here – I’m guessing it was installed in the mid 1800s but I have no information on its history other than being told it’s “the oldest tin tub in Swanzey.” I suspect that’s true and that it’s likely the only tin tub in Swanzey. What I do know is that people love filling it with hot water and bubble bath (and sometimes rose petals) and soaking in there. A glass of wine is a nice accompaniment, too.

Functional antique tin tub
Another little gem that came with the inn when I bought it was this antique ice cream maker, patented in 1910. While I’ve never attempted to make ice cream using this hand-cranked ice cream maker, I appreciate such antiques as a reminder that it wasn’t until the 1940s that refrigerator and freezer units became common in homes, and as technology advanced over the years, ice cream became readily available commercially.

Hand-cranked Ice Cream Maker 

Inside the ice cream maker says, “Pat. June 21, 1910 Made in USA”

The dining room might be my favorite room in terms of antiques. Not only did the inn come with several sets of antique and vintage china that we use daily for our B&B breakfasts, but also an antique tea wagon (shown below, on the left of the highchair) and an antique sideboard buffet with mirror (shown below). A few years ago, I bought an antique wooden highchair and stroller combination chair with cane-woven seat (shown below, on right) from Colony Antiques in Keene, where I have found many treasures over the years.

Bridges Inn dining room 

And there's also our old Christmas cactus that came with the inn when I bought it. The giant Christmas cactus is about 75 years old now which I think qualifies it as an antique. I do not have a green thumb, so it is a bit of a miracle that after over 13 years of living at the Bridges Inn, the Christmas cactus is thriving. When a branch falls off, I just stick it in dirt and water it; it forms roots and the offspring become beautiful, blooming plants. We have given away numerous plants over the years. More information about this amazing plant can be found on our blog.

The giant Christmas cactus (rear) and the offspring in a separate pot (front)

To observe the antiques and vintage items at the Bridges Inn, please visit us. You can reserve by booking direct at https://www.bridgesinn.com/reservations.html (you can Check Availability first) or by calling us at 603-357-6624. You’ll find treasures throughout the inn, some vintage and some antique, such as doll carriages (prams), saddle shoes and old clothes, a handmade wool quilt, marble-top bureau with mirror (in Coombs Bridge Room), and a Magee Oxford wood stove which is now used as our our "desk" and rack card display. 

 
 
 

The Monadnock Region has numerous antique shops. If you’re interested in antiquing, refer to the list below for some of our favorite antique shops in the area:
  • Bowerbird & Friends, Peterborough, 18th through 20th century antiques and furnishings, a selection of new accessories and décor; a unique collection of casual farmhouse style furnishings, ironstone, glassware, linens, uncommon accessories, re-purposed & painted furniture, glassware, jewelry, rare books and ephemera, illustrated children's books, and unique and hard-to-find trees, shrubs and perennials (Spring through Fall)
  • Cheshire Curio Shop, Swanzey, offering unique and special items, from furniture to antiques to new items and artwork; often offering collections from estate sales; new acquisitions posted on Facebook weekly
  • Colony Antiques, Keene, multi-dealer antique shop offering a variety of items including antiques, vintage items, collectibles, books, jewelry, and eclectic items; note that Colony Antiques will be closed for renovations until April (2020)
  • The Simple Nest, Keene, offering antiques, furniture, home furnishings, timeless décor, dwelling essentials, new and vintage finds, gifts, jewelry, and linens
About an hour from the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House are two of southern New Hampshire’s largest multi-dealer antique shops that antique lovers won’t want to miss. The New Hampshire Antiques Coop and the Antiques and Collectibles Mall of New England, LLC are about 15 minutes apart, and could easily be visited on the same trip.
  • New Hampshire Antiques Coop, Milford, NH, offers period furniture, fine art, country antiques, porcelain, silver, jewelry, coins, vintage, collectibles, books, mid-century modern, affordable home furnishings and distinctive décor; featuring more than 200 dealers and 2,000 consignors selling quality merchandise in showcases, room settings, booths, display spaces, and fine art gallery
  •  Antiques and Collectibles Mall of New England, LLC, Greenville, NH, multi-dealer antique and vintage collectibles and home décor, such as furniture, hunting, fishing, militaria, gold, silver and costume jewelry, artwork, toys, coins, glass, pottery, hardware, musical instruments, tools and lamps 

Written by Susan Karalekas, who owns the Bridges Inn at Whitcomb House.