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Ellwanger Estate, Rochester, New York

An urban retreat hidden just off the beaten path

When you travel a lot, hotel rooms blur into one another, the most remembered moments being, sadly, a breakfast delivered hot or an ice machine that actually works. When I'm able, a bed and breakfast that's loved and attended to by the owner can make me feel like I've come, well, home.

Ellwanger Estate, Rochester, New YorkEllwanger Estate, Rochester, New YorkThis summer, I stumbled across Ellwanger Estate in Rochester, New York. I needed something simple but I wanted something unique. Never an easy line-up to satisfy. I found a delightful treasure, cherished by an innkeeper with as much character as the house she watches over.

Ellwanger, simple luxury

Ellwanger Great RoomEllwanger Great RoomOlder homes converted to inns are the ultimate cliché in the travel industry. Dusty rose and sea-foam green furniture punctuated with a chaos of flowers strewn on the walls can overdo a room faster than Celine Dion can over-sing the Titanic song. Thankfully, Ellwanger cracks open that cliché and lets you live (even if only for one night) inside its history.

Ellwanger Hastings OrganEllwanger Hastings OrganThe landmark 115 year-old estate house was completely redecorated in 2008, thanks to a fundraiser from the Rochester Philharmonic. While they collected a fee for tours, the Ellwanger enjoyed the benefits of a fresh look that paid homage to its history. What I love about the décor of this inn is that it's not forced or frilly. The furnishings compliment the sweeping expanses of hardwood floors and cathedral ceilings rather than competing with them. And the pipe organ that presides over the half-landing (and actually works) is a story worth asking Rosemary, the innkeeper.

Lay me down to sleep at Ellwanger

Ellwanger Serene Room BathEllwanger Serene Room BathCalling the night before we were to arrive meant we were lucky to get a room at all - Rosemary had only one vacancy. We stayed in the Serene Retreat, a spacious room above one of the outdoor patios. It looked out over the garden entrance, far enough from the street to buffer the sounds of traffic.

The website described the bed as a "palatial" double -which I admit, I had to look up. It means palace-like. Turns out that a double bed can feel a little like a palace, especially with a canopy overhead and enough pillows to satisfy even a queen's whims. The room also included:

  • A walk-in closet with matching robes and slippers
  • Two chairs for lounging
  • A Roman bath - meaning claw-foot tub with a handheld nozzle. No shower.

Noshing at the Ellwanger

Ellwanger Dining RoomEllwanger Dining RoomA bed and breakfast can live - or die - by its gastronomical offerings. The Ellwanger Estate thrives. Upon our arrival, we found lemon squares in our room, which were made with fresh lemons and seriously made me want to ask if we could just stay forever.

In the morning, coffee was ready early and breakfast served at a pre-agreed upon time with all the guests. A table set with elegance and pampering in mind, it felt nice to be attended to - without being hovered over. The meal was well paced and afterward the couples we shared our meal with lingered and chatted - the surest sign of a great meal.

Ellwanger Landmark GardensEllwanger Landmark GardensI stumbled on the Ellwanger by chance, enroute to a press trip, but it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. If you find yourself driving through Rochester, stop in for a night at the Ellwanger and tell Rosemary I sent you. Staying in a hotel will never be the same ...

To comply with a whole bunch of governing bodies, possibly even Geneva Conventions, our stay at the Ellwanger was sponsored by the owner, but the commentary and perspectives are those of GoGirlfriend.

Got a favorite bed and breakfast in the Finger Lakes in New York - or anywhere else in the US or Canada? What's your favorite? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook and let's start talking!

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