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A few weeks ago, my boyfriend asked me if I'd be interested in going to the Hamptons for a fun weekend. I was excited at the idea. I had only been out there once, and it was when I was many moons ago when I was in my college party phase. Now, I envisioned my boyfriend and I walking along the beach, going for a bike ride through town, and waking up to something other than the sirens and traffic noise we so often hear in New York City. My first step was to book a place, so I started browsing Mr. & Mrs. Smith, a travel website out of the UK with an amazing collection of boutique hotels. After a quick search, I came across The Maidstone Inn and knew I had to go. My boyfriend was equally excited when I told him about it—and with good reason. The rooms are decorated with a style that's the perfect mix of cozy, romantic, and modern—and the inn is within walking distance to East Hampton's charming downtown area and a quick bike ride to the beach. (There are bikes at the inn, so we wouldn't even need to haul ours out there. Fantastic.) But then... then... something for work came up and he had to schedule. Enter Tia, one of my closest girl friends, who was more than happy to pack her bags and join me for a last-minute girls' getaway. Which brings me to my first rule...
1. Invite a friend who's travel style matches your own.Now, don't get me wrong—I can be as type-A as they come, but when it comes to anything vacation-related, I just want to relax. This means sleeping in, not stressing about where we're going for dinner, and generally just taking the day as it comes. (Luckily, Tia is the exact same way.) I do not want to be woken up at 6 a.m. by someone holding a clipboard with the day's itinerary. But that's just me. If youarethe type that likes to pack in as much as you can into your vacations, that's cool. Just make sure the friend you're traveling with shares your philosophy, or you'll want to strangle each other before the weekend's over.
2. Adopt a "no call" policy.When Tia and I first walked into our room with the glasses of lingonberry juice the staff handed us (the owner, hotelier Jenny Ljungberg, is from Sweden), I felt a little pang of sadness that my boyfriend wasn't going to see it all. I wanted to call him and tell him about the fur blanket on the bed, the matching robes hanging on the bathroom door, and the PlayStation propped up near the TV (not exactly romantic, but I thought he'd be excited about it). But even if this was initially a romantic weekend, it was now a girls' getaway—so I snapped myself out of it. Tia and I decided to leave our cell phones in the room for the rest of the weekend so that she wasn't constantly checking in with her fiance and I wasn't texting my boyfriend about how all the work was going. It was a simple step, but it was that much nicer walking through town and catching up without our purses buzzing.
3. Don't go all Girls Gone Wild (unless you're into that sort of thing).Sometimes when friends get together, there's unnecessary pressure to go all out with cocktails and dancing and glittery eyeshadow (okay, maybe not the last part, but you catch my drift). But this isn't The Hangover. And frankly, Ihatebeing hungover. Instead, Tia and I made a list of things we wanted to do that we'd actuallyenjoy.They included: Having brunch in town (we went to Babette's on Newtown Lane; good, but not worth more than a 15-minute wait), seeing a flick at the quaint movie theatre walking distance from the inn, relaxing on the beach, and having dinner at The Maidstone's amazing restaurant, The Living Room.
4. Splurge where it counts.East Hampton is not a cheap place (try not to die of shock), but it's also no fun to pinch pennies on vacation. The trick is to decide beforehand what you'll splash out on and where you'll pull back. For me, this was a no-brainer. Instead of renting a car or borrowing a friend's car and paying for gas, I took the just-under-three-hour train ride from New York City to Penn Station. It wasn't glamorous, but for round-trip, it wasn't horrible either. Then, instead of buying popcorn and snacks at the movies, we tucked into a little candy shop next door and grabbed a few sweets to tuck into our purses. (Oh come on, you've totally done that.) And since neither of us was actually going to buy anything at any of the expensive shops in town, we ditched the window-shopping idea all together and strolled along the much prettier beach instead. Hey, it's the little things.
As I said before, Tia and I both knew we wanted to eat at The Living Room, so we decided to put our money where our mouths are—literally. We treated ourselves to a bottle of red wine, which the staff sommelier helped us pick out. And then we ordered our entrees, which were both in the range. I know, I know—it's a little extravagant. But my Swedish lamb meatballs were worth every penny (seriously, if you ever go here, do not leave without ordering this dish), and because we had saved in other places, I didn't feel an ounce of guilt.
Thinking about checking out The Maidstone for yourself? Here's what else you should know:
- Rooms start at 5 per night, and include a full breakfast—easily per person in town—plus free yoga in the inn's garden, unlimited use of the inn's bikes, and beach parking passes (which can be hard to come by elsewhere, if you're from out of town).
- If want to bring your kids along but also want some alone time, just let the manager know in advance. The inn will actually arrange for a sitter to watch them while you're out and about. (How amazing isthat?)
- Got a dog? No problem. Some of the rooms are pet-friendly. Also, if you don't want to bring Fido with you, the staff will have him walked while you're out. Oh, and there's even a menu for dogs at The Living Room!
- If you bring a guy instead of a friend, book the sexy Thor Heyerdahl suite, the Alvar & Aino Aalto room, or, if you really want to go all out, the Carl Von Linne freestanding cottage. Did I mention all the rooms and suites are named after famous Scandinavians? (Bet those room names make more sense now, huh?)
- Believe it or not, The Maidstone's rates are right in the "normal" price range for upscale inns in the area, but if you still can't swallow the pricetag, take a day trip out to Long Island's beaches and stop at The Living Room for dinner.
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