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Historical treasure offers a peaceful respite

WYOMING, N.Y. -- Henry David Thoreau once said, "He enjoys true leisure who has time to improve his soul's estate." After having spent the afternoon at The Hillside Inn in Wyoming County, Thoreau could have had this particular inn in mind.

Rolling hills of white pristine, snow-topped pine trees, quiet country roads and cross-country skiing through silent meditative trails are just a few of the stress-relieving options there are to enjoy. While visiting this lovely old mansion you not only feel as though you are stepping back in time, you also envelop yourself in a sense of tranquility that few of us have the opportunity to experience or take the time to enjoy. And it's only a 60-minute drive from Buffalo.

High-definition televisions, texting, laptops and iPods are all part of our daily lives and help keep us connected. However, during this long, very cold winter when everyone and anyone can get in touch with you at a second's notice, don't you hunger for a real getaway? To bathe yourself in a little well-deserved solitude. I don't mean checking into an inn where the television is hidden inside an armoire, and you can hear the bustle of the town right outside your window. I'm talking about real peace and quiet, the old-fashioned kind.

As my friend and I drove up the long driveway to the Inn, we realized that this was truly the well-kept secret that their brochure suggests.

"Our guests don't come here to watch TV, or to shop," says Paula Hade owner of The Hillside Inn. "We have regular guests who come here three or four times a year and stay for a few days. They want to rest and relax and take time to get away from it all. When it's time to check out, they don't want to leave. They tell us what we have to offer is unique."

Our initial intention was to visit the inn first and take in the shops in Gaslight Village afterward. Unfortunately, Hade explained that most of the shops were temporarily closed (our ever-fluctuating economy strikes again). You can check ahead to see what shops are open by calling Eccentricity Jewelers at (585) 495-6522.

Had we brought our cross-country skis we could have spent the afternoon at the Genesee County Park which, Hade says, is close by in Batavia. Winter hours (through April 30) are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the summer (May 1 to Sept. 30), it is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For information, contact the Genesee County Park office at (585) 343-9303.

Letchworth State Park (www.friendsofletchworth.org) in nearby Castile, also offers cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and tubing.

Renewing health through body, mind and spirit, was what Hayes had in mind when he built Hillside in 1851 as a health spa. It witnessed many incarnations through the years, hosting summer workshops for artists, musicians and writers. Susan B. Anthony, John Muir, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charles Kellogg, Booker T. Washington and the Roosevelts were just a few of the fascinating guests who visited Hillside.

Before we had lunch, which is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Hade took us on a tour of the mansion. The Hillside Inn offers six rooms, three with whirlpool baths, and three private guest rooms in the Hollyhock Cottage, which is a separate building. The cottage offers a deluxe suite with a whirlpool bath and fireplace.

The rooms are warm and inviting with beautiful views of the grounds from every window. All three dining rooms have woodburning fireplaces, and there is a charming pub with a small library for those who would like to enjoy an after-dinner drink or meet with friends after a day of cross-country skiing.

Dinner is served 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. During the summer and fall, guests can enjoy dining on the veranda.

Hade and her husband, Joe, have owned The Hillside Inn for four years and have made extensive renovations.

"My husband owned a pizzeria in California for several years and we decided that we wanted to make a change," he says. "We traveled all over the country visiting over 150 inns until we walked through the door of the Hillside Inn. It's a historical treasure that gave me goosebumps the moment I saw it. We immediately felt as though we were home."

It appears to be a family effort, as her daughter is the dessert chef who made my friend's pineapple creme brulee and my delectable strawberry-covered cheesecake. Hade is an artisan in her own right as she designs and sells jewelry which is sold in the intimate gift shop found as you enter to register. Hade has encouraged local artisans to fill her shop with their work.

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If you go

Hillside Inn, 890 East Bethany Road, Wyoming. Info: (800) 544-2249, (585) 495-6800, www.hillsideinn.com.

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Directions

Take the State Thruway I-90 east to Exit 48 (Batavia).

Turn left at the light on to Route 98 South.

Take Route 98 South to Route 63.

Turn left and get into right-hand lane. Stay to the right as Route 63 and 33 split. Continue on Route 63 South for 7 miles.

Look for East Bethany United Presbyterian Church on the left and East Bethany General Store on the right. Then turn right on East Road. The Hillside inn is 6.7 miles from this turn. The name of the road will change to East Bethany Road at the intersection of West Middlebury Road.

Turn right into driveway for the Hillside Inn.

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