Where did you go? Massachusetts's North Shore, for a weekend with my mom in Ipswich.
Where did you stay? The Inn at Castle Hill. With all the charm and none of the overdone chintz of a classic inn, this elegant cottage sits on the 2,100-acre Crane Estate. We stayed in the pale-green-and-white Choate room - $215 a night included a delicious continental breakfast and afternoon tea.
What did you do? A welcome respite from television (which won't be found at the Inn), we spent hours reading by the fire. For a change of pace, we walked a brisk three-mile loop across the Estate's grounds and along a nearly empty stretch of Crane Beach, where large swaths of white sand abut grassy dunes.
Where did you eat? The 1640 Hart House. Walk into this quaint restaurant and return to the 17th century - the ceilings are low and the floor boards tilt at a convincingly ancient angle. The fare includes steak and seafood. But if it's seafood you're craving, don't miss the Clam Box in Ipswich. A local landmark identifiable by its red-and-white-striped awnings, the Clam Box is famous for fried clams, fried haddock, and fried calamari.
Would you go back? Yes. Though more crowded in the summer, Ipswich and Crane Beach are delightful year round.
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