Orchard Escape near Traverse City

Any day now, buds will appear, giving way to blooms, and almost overnight, the orchard around the yellow, gabled farmhouse known as the Country Hermitage Bed and Breakfast will be bathed in cherry blossoms. Life is simple and soothing at the gracious historic Williamsburg inn. It’s the perfect refuge for invigorating the spirit in the light of spring.

You’ve arrived. The quietude is delicious. The glorious downtime you’ve dreamed about is here. Unpack your suitcase, then take in the arresting view of the orchard and Grand Traverse Bay. Look to the north and see all the way up the coast to Charlevoix. Gaze westward to the tip of Old Mission Peninsula, a hint of Leelanau Peninsula beyond. Relax. Slip into the butter-colored spa robe waiting in your room, put your feet up and consider your evening ahead. Dinner could be at the Old Mission Tavern—a mellow choice, beginning with the drive, which wends past Traverse City’s hubbub out to the narrow peninsula that is famed for its vineyards, orchards and two-sided view of Lake Michigan bays. The scenery is lovely any time of year, but particularly during cherry-blossom time. Old Mission Tavern, with its white tablecloths, big windows and a menu that ranges from regional cuisine to Mediterranean, also boasts fertile gardens and two fine-art galleries—Belle Arti, where owner Verna Bartnick creates and displays her sculptures, and Bella Galleria, where local artists show their work.

After dinner, head back to the inn for a quiet evening. Put on a CD, take a long soak in citrus-lavender bath salts, page through a book by the fire, then drift off between a fluffy down comforter and 310-count Egyptian cotton sheets. The next morning,  an inspired breakfast awaits in the dining room. "We encourage people to hang out in their jammies," says the inn’s owner Nels Veliquette. The menu might include scones and muffins followed by a gourmet main dish like cherry-stuffed French toast made with the farm’s own cherries, prepared and served by innkeepers Lynn Blanchard and Patrick Panyard.

After breakfast, opt for an in-house massage by a certified massage therapist, or perhaps a facial and manicure. More spa choices? Just down the road, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s pool, whirlpool and sauna are free to Country Hermitage guests. Add a full-body herbal wrap or a cherry-and-milk hydrobath, and you’ll feel detoxed, invigorated and ready to roll. And always take time to step out for a hike around the Veliquettes’ 250 Wyeth-esque acres of meadows and orchards. Meander the two-tracks through the trees. In the evening, strike out for Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen, up U.S. 31 a piece in the village of Elk Rapids, for Cajun-Creole cooking. Indulge your cravings with spicy crawfish, blackened pork loin, cheddar mashed potatoes or red beans and dirty rice, then top it all off with a beignet sundae. You’ll leave Pearl’s bisqued, blackened and red-hot happy.  

When dinner is done, cap off the night on the 16th floor of the Grand Traverse Resort with a drink and live music as the city lights twinkle over the bay below. Afterward, head back to the inn and settle back into that quietude for one more night’s perfect rest. Your rejuvenation getaway is complete.

The Inn’s HistoryThe Country Hermitage’s past began with a promise. When John Pulcipher proposed to his future wife, Mary, in 1872, he vowed to build her a fine farmhouse. It took 13 years, but John delivered. The grand home, with its gables, bay windows, 10 rooms and gracious woodwork, set the standard for Williamsburg in its day. The family inhabited the home for the next 80 years, until the death of John’s niece, Jessie Pulcipher, in 1964. For the next 35 years the house sat empty. But the 150-acre orchard lived on, thanks to the Veliquette family, who purchased the land  to add to their neighboring 100-acre cherry farm. The old house came with the property. Growing up next to it, Nels Veliquette couldn’t help thinking it might have a purpose one day. So in 1999, with the help of friends, family and contractors, he plunged into the mammoth task of renovating the home—which had no indoor plumbing or electricity—into a bed and breakfast. By the time the dust settled and the gracious old home shone again, Nels had met and married his wife, Michelle. The young couple opened the Country Hermitage two years ago.

Contact the Country Hermitage at 231-938-5930, or go to countryhermitage.com.

Elizabeth Edwards is managing editor at TRAVERSE. [email protected]

This story was updated for the web in April 2008.

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