Hotel Review: The Red Lion Inn – Cohasset, MA

10K run, cuisine hunt, road trip and of course the prospective inn adjudication. Divine exhaustion! Actually, I was excited for the weekend of April 3rd and couldn’t wait to head down to The Red Lion Inn in Cohasset, MA. The Inn presented an intriguing puzzle and I am extremely fond of puzzles.

A few weeks prior, while hunting online for a suitable intermediate step between our routine runs and the Marine Corps Half Marathon my vivacious better half stumbled upon the Road Race by the Sea 10K. Perfect! We signed up for the race and reviewed the inn choices in the seaside town of Cohasset. Our only real choices were the Red Lion Inn and the Cohasset Harbor Resort so I did a little online digging and found out that the Red Lion Inn had a controversial review history with more than a few hostile remarks. We decided it was intriguing enough to warrant a stay, but just to be safe we would heed some of the advice.

The Red Lion Inn

The Red Lion Inn in Cohasset MA

I called and made a reservation with Elke, the Innkeeper and requested that she e-mail me some sort of confirmation. (More than one of the reviews had noted being quoted one price and charged another.) Well, the confirmation was bit of an ordeal….
After several follow-up phone calls and one questionable fax later, we received a handwritten confirmation stating the room number, price and date of stay. Hmmm, ok? (We got lucky though, she quoted us one price and included a lower estimate on our confirmation.) Needless to say our expectations were not high when we walked into the lobby on Saturday. Adding fuel to the fire, there wasn’t anyone at the front desk, how strange?! We poked our heads into the bar and asked the waitress if we could check in. She produced a room key and while we signed in the owner sashayed over and introduced himself. He came complete with a presumptuous step, French accent and ostentatious ascot. Oh my.

The Room at the Red Lion Inn

The Room at Red Lion Inn

Having reserved one of the inn’s “suites” with a Jacuzzi tub and fireplace we were anxious to get to the room and scope things out. The room was about what we expected, not the luxury accommodations the inn advertises but adequate none the less.The Jacuzzi looked nice, but we noticed that not only do they not provide conditioner with their mini shampoo but there were no bath bubbles either! (We later found that if you fill a Jacuzzi tub and substitute shampoo for regular bath suds, you get a significantly bubblier scenario with about 3-4 times the expected area covered in bubbles. Oops)

It was only about 2:00 when we checked in and the Road Race was pretty much the main event for the weekend so we took a drive up through Nantasket Beach to Hull and checked out Fort Revere. Fort Revere was built in 1776 atop Telegraph Hill as a defensive position for Boston Harbor during the Revolutionary War; it is also reputed to be haunted. We didn’t see any ghosts, but it was interesting to see the old bunkers and bases for the gun turrets. I think history is sadly a dying interest for our generation.

Dusk was creeping closer and we’d had our fill of history for the day so we headed back towards the Inn for cocktails and dinner. One of the reviews I read said that the food at the Red Lion Inn wasn’t great so we decided not to take our chances and stopped at the Atlantica Restaurant on the drive back. What a charming discovery! We sat overlooking Cohasset Harbor, sipped martinis, stuffed ourselves with superbly flavorful seafood and watched the sun set. Perfection. With our judgment impaired we haphazardly made the decision to try the restaurant/bar at the Red Lion, strictly for inspection purposes of course. Perhaps my close analysis of the bottom of my martini softened my opinion, but I quite liked the little restaurant. We nibbled desert and Elke, the Innkeeper and co-owner, kindly brought us a complimentary plate of some sort of sausage. (Is that a European thing?) The combination of Scandinavian chic décor, swanky French music and live crackling fireplace was unexpectedly cozy; it was the last little nudge we needed to head for bed.

Duxbury Beach

Duxbury Beach – Gurnet Peninsula

The next morning we stopped at the Atlantic Bagel & Coffee Co. for bagels, picked up our bib numbers from the friendly rotary volunteers and went for a drive down to Plymouth Rock via the exclusive Gurnet Peninsula. (Without an over-sand permit, we only made it as far along the waterfront as the Power Point Bridge. Boo!) The town of Plymouth was quaint and offered historical significance which we were regretfully out of time for that day. We breezed through the Plymouth Rock monument, snuck a quick peek at the Mayflower II (I guess the Mayflower I met its demise some time ago), and hustled back to Cohasset for the race.

Holy hills! I naively thought that a road race by the sea would be flat, which this one was not. Fortunately it was scenic and the salted wind was a perfect compliment to the sunny day. We finished in exactly an hour and helped ourselves to hot dogs at the finish line. It was an excellent conclusion to the weekend.

In retrospect I can see both sides of the coin at the Red Lion Inn. Would I have my wedding there, pay $200 to stay there again or suggest it as a destination south of Boston? No, but having been there and met the owners myself I can understand where a bit of the misconception is rooted. The Inn’s accommodations are not luxury, the food is not five star quality and I can see how many people are put off by the owner. That being said, we enjoyed our stay at the Red Lion Inn. The staff and owners were kind to us and it was clear that the business is family owned and operated. If this Inn were situated in the heart of Boston, New York City or D.C. much more would be expected but this is not the case in the little town of Cohasset. For the small town Inn, the Red Lion is acceptable. The owner, Gerd, would bring in more business I imagine if he spent more time on the restaurant menu (no microwaved deserts please), dropped the room rates (about $110 is appropriate) and got rid of the ascot; perhaps then we’d give the Inn another try. Cohasset Road Race 2012?

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