Where to begin?
When I was driving to the Stone Arches guest cottage, having found it on Homeaway on short notice, I told myself that there was no way it could be as good as it looked online. I was confident from the pictures and the write-up that it would be nice, but I thought it would be wise not to let my expectations get too high.
In fact, this cottage was even more wonderful than I could have imagined.
Where to begin? The outdoor shower? The claw-foot tub? The spectacular gardens? The view of the pond teeming with interesting birds (herons, kingfishers), frogs, turtles and fish? The comfy leather chairs and high-quality bedding? The footpath to the cottage through a woodland garden? The stone patio with a cup of tea in the morning? Dinner on the balcony, overlooking the pond at dusk?
I have been lucky enough to see a number of private gardens in the northeast and have been suitably impressed, but the gardens at Stone Arches are truly unique and wonderful. They are mature, meticulously cared-for without being fussy, with unusual specimens and a sophisticated but not overly-formal design. The most highly designed garden is within a hundred yards of the cottage and is incredibly private; a person could spend all day watching the light changes through the hours. If you are there in summer and are really lucky, it will rain one night, and you can take an outdoor shower in the rain and then sleep with the balcony doors open, listening to the rain falling on the tall pines and the pond.
The owners are charming and friendly, but will leave you to yourself entirely. The cottage is reasonably equipped for cooking (which is good, because there aren't a lot of places to go nearby to eat out). Within a five minute walk is a good swimming pond, and within a ten minute drive is a big wildlife management area with trails, a river, and a waterfall (I actually got a little lost there, through no fault but my own--take a photo of the map at the trailhead before you set out).
The nearby town, Monticello, is not particularly appealing, but it doesn't really matter because as long as you are well-supplied with food and books and ready for some quiet time to reflect, relax, or work, there's really no reason to leave the property.
If you need a quiet place to write or work (presuming you don't need cell service or wifi), to read or study uninterrupted, to be alone or with a companion, this is an incredible place to be. I hope I get to go back sometime.
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