Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Working For the Weekend

The Inn VictoriaNot quite two weeks ago (on what was the last nice day of spring that I can currently recall), Jamie and I took an almost 2-1/2-hour drive north to the charming small town of Chester, Vermont where we would be joining a group of strangers and working for the weekend. Sounds like great fun for a teenager, huh?

Our adventure began when I had been fortunate enough to be sitting at my computer one day when an email came in offering the opportunity for a lucky group of people to spend the weekend at the inn with free room and board in exchange for a little elbow grease in getting needed projects and cleaning done. Now ... we all know how much I love to travel and we also all know how much I can't really afford to travel (at least nowhere near as much as I'd like to!) so this seemed like the ideal situation to me as it would give me a chance to stay at a lovely historic Vermont inn for free - FREE! I immediately shot an email back asking if there was still a spot available and within moments I had an answer back and Jamie and I were signed up to join ten other people who would be participating in Inn Victoria Work Weekend 2011. When I excitedly told Jamie about it I was met with skepticism and "are you kidding me?" but that didn't really surprise me - after all, she is 17!

Porch PaintingLeaving Connecticut around 10:00 on Friday morning, we made the very pleasant drive up to Chester in absolutely beautiful weather and arrived at the Inn Victoria right around 1:00 (we made a couple stops along the way) where we found five other "guests" already hard at work at some of the weekend's projects.

After being introduced to Penny & Dan, innkeepers of the beautiful Inn Victoria, we were given t-shirts and coffee mugs and shown our room for the weekend which was currently undergoing renovations ...

Prince Alfred Undergoing Renovations!
Prince Alfred Prepared for Painting

We would be staying in the Prince Alfred room (all of the inn's rooms are named for the children of Queen Victoria) which had just received a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling and whose walls would be painted in a light shade of pink as soon as the paint arrived from the hardware store where it had been taken back to be tinted a little darker.

As there was plenty for us to do, we simply left our luggage in the car and jumped right into the spirit of the weekend.  Jamie was going to be planting flower beds in the front of the inn so she and Dan took off to pick out whatever flowers and other supplies she was going to need and I was assigned the task of cleaning the crystal chandelier in the dining room.

Me Cleaning the Chandelier

When I was given the task I rather had to smile to myself being that I recently had a chat with Donna at the Captain Lord Mansion about how difficult it was for the staff to clean the antique chandelier there and now here I was, doing my best to make the Inn Victoria's antique chandelier clean and sparkling!

Cleaning the Chandelier

Let me just say that chandelier-shining isn't for the feint of heart or easy! If you really want the chandelier to shine, you've got to make sure that you clean each crystal individually which is time-consuming but well worth it in the end.  Matter of fact, I think Jamie took these pictures towards the end of the project and I think the chandelier was looking pretty good!

A Clean & Shiny ChandelierBeing a bit of an ultra-picky perfectionist Virgo I wanted to make sure the task was done properly so it ended up taking me close to two hours before the chandelier was done to my satisfaction. After all, if you're going to do something - do it right, right? See? It sparkles even with the lights off!

Just about the time I finished cleaning the chandelier, the ladies that were painting our room had finished up with their task. I am totally amazed at how quickly they got that room painted as that's a project that seems to take me forever but they had done a lovely job and the new pink paint added a warm glow to the room.  The paint had dried quickly so after finishing up in the dining room, I made my way to the second floor and helped put the room back into order by re-hanging the assorted pictures and drapes.

Prince Alfred Room

This is part of what was under those sheets you saw earlier. What a difference, huh?

Bed of FlowersMeanwhile, Jamie and Dan had returned from the local plant nursery with a truck bed full of beautiful plants that were really going to brighten up the front of the inn. They had also gotten brick for lining the flower beds and several bags of what was touted as "udderly the best" potting soil/fertilizer in Vermont.  Jamie had been given more or less free reign in deciding what she wanted to do with the flower beds and she was actually having - gasp! - a good time. The actual planting wasn't going to start until Saturday, though, as we were told that all work was going to come to an end at 4:00 Friday afternoon - which it did. Shortly afterward I took the time to roam the inn with my camera so that I could take pictures for a post about the Inn Victoria itself for my new travel blog, The Distracted Wanderer. After all, I wasn't going to have the chance to stay in a beautiful romantic bed & breakfast in a very quaint New England town and not write a travel post! Hopefully I'll be getting that post done soon - I'll let ya know!

Dinner that night was an assortment of delicious pizzas that were served on the back deck of the inn where I had the chance to talk to Penny a bit about the town of Chester and how much she and Dan liked it there before excusing myself to go take some pictures around town as it was an absolutely gorgeous evening and I wanted to take advantage of that as rumor had it there was going to be rain back in the forecast on Saturday.  My "tour" around town can be found at my post Charming Chester on The Distracted Wanderer just in case you missed it when I first posted it!  It really is a lovely little town and I can see why Penny and Dan like it there as much as they do!

An interesting side note to the weekend, one of the other couples - Dave & Denise - were not only also from Connecticut but worked in Emergency Medical Services, too!

Dave & Denise Enjoying Lunch on Saturday
Denise & Dave at Saturday lunch break taken by Rachel of the Inn Victoria
Denise currently works at Gaylord Hospital but prior to that she was a paramedic at Hunter's Ambulance Service in Middletown where Dave still works as the Director of Operations and knows a lot of people at the ambulance company that I work at.  Talk about a small world!  Denise said that they were supposed to have gone to the Inn Victoria in February to celebrate their anniversary but their plans had fallen through so when she got the email about the Work Weekend she immediately jumped on the chance and told Dave that they were going no matter what!  They were both a true pleasure to meet - especially being fellow Nutmeggers and EMS types!

Saturday Morning BreakfastBreakfast on Saturday
Saturday Morning Breakfast pictures taken by Rachel of the Inn Victoria

French ToastSaturday morning started out at 8:00 a.m. with an absolutely scrumptious three-course breakfast that consisted of fresh-baked muffins, a strawberry-rhubarb dish that was accompanied by the best whipped cream ever, and French Toast stuffed with jam and mascarpone cheese that was absolutely to die for.  Having not brought my camera down to breakfast with me, the only picture I have is an iPhone shot of my French Toast and bacon, but trust me, I learned my lesson for Sunday morning breakfast!

Sunday Morning Work Meeting
Morning Work Meeting by Rachel of the Inn Victoria
After breakfast we had a meeting in the living room where everyone was given their tasks for the day before we all scattered to various parts of the inn to apply that elbow grease I mentioned earlier.  Jamie and her "crew" went out to plant flowers, several of the men went to the back of the inn to work on the back deck area, a few of the ladies broke out buckets to clean windows, and I tackled the doorways with wood putty and paint.

Jamie with her crew, Fred and Sally
Fred, Jamie, and Sally
Jamie and Fred
Jamie and Fred
Jamie & Dan
Jamie and Dan discuss much placement
Dan, Fred, & Jamie
Dan, Jamie, and Fred mulch one of her flower beds
Jamie & Sally
Jamie and Sally work on a flower bed
Working in the Back of the House
Working in the back of the inn by Rachel of the Inn Victoria
Dave Gets Ready to Do Bike Maintenance
Getting ready to work on the bikes by Rachel of the Inn Victoria
All Hands on Deck!
All hands on deck! by Rachel of the Inn Victoria
Window Washing
Denise Washing Windows on the Third Floor
The ladies attack the windows by Rachel of the Inn Victoria 
Myself Painting the Door Thresholds
Myself hard at work by Rachel of the Inn Victoria 
Dan Mowing the Lawn
Jamie, Sally, and Dan in the front yard
In the midst of all the work we took a break for a delicious lunch of salads and sandwiches and then, having finished all of my puttying and painting, I went outside to take a few pictures (some of which are above) before I helped mulch a few flower beds and place a couple of bricks.  Jamie really had it all under control and I am proud to say that she did a beautiful job along with Fred and Sally and Dan who were her primary helpers.  By the time they were done, the front of the inn looked totally amazing!

Another Flower Bed
Penny and I in front of the inn on Saturday afternoon
Myself and Penny by Rachel of the Inn Victoria
The Inn Victoria & St. Luke's Church
The Finished Product - tada!
Fortunately the rain managed to hold off until we were done outside though it was a pretty close call!  Before it started to pour, Jamie and I took a short walk around town and poked our heads into some of the shops along Main Street and then took a drive around the further parts of town just to check things out a little bit.

Chester Depot Station
The Chester Depot
By the time we got back it was starting to rain pretty good and my muscles were starting to protest all of the ups and downs of painting door jambs all morning; I had never realized it was so much work!  Our evening plans called for a trip to a private mountainside home for a special French dinner with some of our co-workers as well as the "paying customers" that were at the inn for the weekend and fortunately I had time for a nice long soak in a hot tub beforehand while Jamie checked out the internet in our room.

Jamie in Our Room

This seems like a good place to end this post before I tell you about the lovely dinner that we had at the home of the Gilberts as well as our Sunday morning activities before we had to head back to Connecticut. Before ending, though, I'd like to say a big thank you to Rachel for the use of her pictures from the Inn Victoria's Facebook page.  Rachel is Dan & Penny's youngest daughter who made us all smile by saying "Pickles!" before every picture rather than "Cheese!" She and Jessica, a staff member at the inn, made our weekend just that much better with their bubbly personalities and radiant smiles!  Thank you, girls!

Rachel & Jessica
Rachel and Jessica of the Inn Victoria


  1. Wow what an awesome place!

  2. What a lovely place Linda!

  3. what a great idea!

    smiles, bee

  4. This is not something I would ever want to do, but I'm glad you had a great time. Great idea for the inn though. Very little overhead for them to get the work done.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  5. This is something I would LOVE to do! Everyone is different I guess, because I would pick this over a cruise any day.

    Looking forward to the next instalments :)

  6. Yay, I can comment... fingers crossed. So far so good...

    I loved this idea. Why is it that helping someone else is so much fun, when if you had to do the same work at home, no one would be smiling. I dread painting, cleaning, windows at home, but with a group like this it would be a blast!?

    Love the depot picture! Gorgeous. And the picture with the church behind the inn...love it, too. Just screams New England to me!!!

  7. What a great way to get projects done on a budget!


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