The Inn is actually a campus of various buildings in this Connecticut River port town, and we stayed in a delightful suite across the street from the storied inn.
Our suite was clean, spacious and charming--even without a TV. These days, of course, you can get streaming TV on your computer (which I did, because I didn't want to miss Tyrant), so no biggie. All the rooms are different, so don't expect cookie-cutter accommodations like the big chains have. There is real character here.
But it was in the Tap Room, with its smoke-coated, domed ceiling made of clam shells and horsehair, that the past came alive. No chairs at the bar (a throwback to an earlier "gentlemen only" policy) and a handful of coveted tables surrounding an ancient wood-fired stove gave us all the historic ambience we needed. The perpetually lit and decorated Christmas tree atop the fireplace seems to say, "Welcome to continual good cheer!"
|The Tap Room|
The food is classic American fare, and the House Special Clam Chowder, seasoned with Bermuda-based Outerbridge Sherry Peppers Sauce was a work of art. The Gris even has its own beer--Revolutionary Ale--brewed specially by Red Hook in New Hampshire. It's a quality session brew that paired well with everything I had on the menu over two days.
The Gris also sports a collection of other quality craft beers on draft and in bottles. Two Roads Road to Ruin IPA was quite nice, as was the Charter Oak Pale Ale.
There is entertainment every night as well, and we stopped in to hear the stylings of a group called The Sea Chanteys, who sang, well, sea chanteys. The packed room obviously was full of Chantey fans as everyone knew all the words to all the songs and sang them with considerable vigor. Given the town's ancestral links to the water, the Sea Chanteys made great sense and added to the historic atmosphere.
The next night we were treated to a very good jazz ensemble as we dined in the Historic Dining Room adjacent to the room which has seen the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Billy Joel, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Richard Thomas, Henry Winkler and Rat-Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and others.
The food was fresh, of good quality and well prepared (if a tad on the pricey side), but socked in as the town is by marinas and yacht clubs, and with the roads chock full of Mercedes, Beemers and Porsches, that's to be expected.
There are also a few neat things to do near Essex, and one of them is riding the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, a combination journey that transports you back in time in classic, restored railroad cars and a river boat that tours up and down the river past stunning houses (like the Gillette Castle), amazing scenery and wildlife that even includes bald eagles. And the Connecticut River Museum, located at the water's edge at the foot of Main St., informs the visitor wonderfully about the history of the great river and the people who used it. You can even see David Bushnell'sTurtle, America's first submarine, and, if you aren't claustrophobic, climb into a mock up of it to see how it worked. Jockey-sized people will fit best.
And what's better than recounting your day's adventures over some excellent food and grog in a pub that was up and running in 1739?
Even if you have to stand at the bar?