Monday, October 25, 2010

And it all ends at Yale

Our final destination was New Haven and Parents' Weekend with Claire. Always a fun trip, somewhat nostalgic this time, as she is a senior and this is our last Yale Parents' Weekend! We drove here from the Hudson Valley on Thursday and are just getting around to leaving today. If pressed for our activities while in town, mostly we sat around in coffee houses, drinking cappucinos and reading or doing crossword puzzles. We enjoy this activity so in many ways it was a perfect weekend. Interspersed with seeing Claire for meals or other events, it was ideal.

Highlights - Friday afternoon seeing Edward Albee in a conversation in a lecture hall with students and drama types. He talked for a good hour and answered questions for 30 minutes more. Fascinating. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but he exceeded my expectations. He was charming, engaging, funny and witty. None of that is surprising, but it is truly impressive at 80-something to be so on top of things.

Couple this with seeing A Delicate Balance the next night with Kathy Chalfant, followed by drinks with her and her artist husband, Henry, and it was exquisite.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On to the Berkshires and Hudson Valley

Lake Placid Lodge is a place you could stay for a long time. Our little cabin was ideal. Still we dusted
ourselves off and headed out for the Berkshires with the lure of theatre at the end. In Pittsfield, MA at the Barrington Stage Company, we had the privilege of seeing Maggie Donnelly perform in The Crucible. She stole the show. It was an excellent production, lots of Broadway experienced actors. Arthur Miller amazes me. How was he able to write like Nathaniel Hawthorne? (speaking of whom, I just finished House of Seven Gables, very Salem-like and entertaining).

Pittsfield has not much to offer. Smallish town, bit down at the heels. We took off to explore more of the Berkshires and found a fabulous hike in the Pittsfield State Forest called the Hawthorne Trail, which seemed a good sign given my reading material. We had our doubts after going what felt like straight up for an hour or so. But then the trail ended and we turned around and went back down. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. This was my fantasy of fall foliage. Walking under the canopy with all colors of trees and leaves around us.

Ate at the Red Lion Inn (no relation to Fess Parker), rumored to be one of the oldest inns in the country. The tavern looked and felt the part. Worth a return visit. Dinner at Bistro Zinc in Lenox, which is a really pretty little New England town (and expensive per our Pittsfield chatty innkeeper).

Next route - stay off the interstates and find our way to Hudson, NY. Now we are there, staying just across from Olana, Frederick Church's gorgeous homestead which outshines his art in my opinion. He virtually painted with trees of all types all around his home, Moorish in style, and beautifully furnished in every way. We ended up spending a goodly part of two days in and around Olana. The first day touring the house, and the second hiking the grounds. More walking on leaves under colorful canopies.

Thanks to Susan, who has a house in Hudson and knows it well, we found the Spotty Dog -  a bookstore and beer place - yes, they have both. Does it get any better than that? Great beer and books all around. This is our second day here as well. (We tend to return to a good thing.) Had dinner at a restaurant called Da Ba last night, with a Swedish chef. Tonight is Italian at Ca Mea, super yummy. We were all geared up to go see Prairie Home Companion HD at local theatre until we figured out today is Wednesday and not Thursday as previously thought. Aging is such fun. Ended up at PM Wine Bar where Pat got to drink real absinthe!

Still trying to figure out how to see Susan and John. Tomorrow we are off to New Haven to see Claire Bear!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


For reals. It snowed on us as we drove from Woodstock to Lake Placid (backtracking through New Hampshire to see the Shaker Village). A few tense moments as we are not used to travelling in snow and our little bright blue Toyota Corolla rental has no special equipment for same. The trip was beautiful nonetheless. Still amazing leaf vistas as we crossed Vermont on highway 4 (staying off the big interstates has served us well).

We are at the Lake Placid Lodge, right on the lake, with incredible views. The snow is melting, and it is still raining. A fabulous rainbow landed smack in the middle of the lake. This lodge is glorious. We have a cabin with a wood-burning fireplace, couch and comfy chairs, and views to die for. The building is old craftsman and every touch is perfect. Turned this into a zero mile day. Why leave?

Tomorrow we are off to Pittsfield, MA, and a production of The Crucible with Maggie Donnelly, daughter of L&W friends, Jean and Tim of same name.

Here's a picture of our new friend from the bar at Lake Placid.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Leaves, leaves, leaves

From Maine to Vermont there is a beautiful parkway called the Kancamagus. It goes through the White Mountains and beautiful leaf changes. Which were our favorites? The red ones spoke most to me. I think they are maples. Put them in a row with yellow/orange hues and wow. The mountains have a fair number of pines in between which add a fantastic evergreen background to the excitement of the fall changes. The funniest bit, as we reached the top of the range and started down towards Woodstock, we tried to figure out what was up with the forest. Why is it grey? Was there a fire? No city kids. This is the end of the leaf season. The leaves have fallen off already! Sheesh. How did we manage to miss that? As we pulled into Woodstock, it was dark and the Woodstock Inn is big! We were thinking smaller, oh well.

Next morning we took to town--a cute New England village that somehow didn't speak to us as much as other places. Still we found a terrific lady at Laundry Room who would actually do our laundry by the pound! Yippee! From there we shopped for coffee shops and tried out a couple before heading out to Simon Pearce where they make glass things using hydroelectric power from the river next door. They also have a restaurant with great food and killer views. Yum. From there we sat on the green nearby and did the crossword before heading out to explore.

The Quechee Gorge was our unexpected find of the day. Billed as the Grand Canyon of Vermont, I wouldn't call it that but it's amazing and stunningly beautiful. There is something I really love about a gorge. Deep and dramatic, with textured cliffs on the sides sprinkled with trees
and a river running through it all. Breathtaking. We started walking along the path to the dam and then to the bottom of the gorge. Hey, this is why gorge is the root of gorgeous, right?

Tomorrow we are off to Lake Placid NY. Mixed emotions because we would both love to be in Amherst with friends Susan and John. Cancellation policies are a bitch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kennebunkport - really!

We've landed at the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. So far no sightings of my least favorite President or his family. Guess he spends his time in Texas these days. Our drive to Maine from Cape Cod took us on some interesting frolics and detours. On the Presidential trail, we went looking for the Kennedy compound at Hyannisport and got close. It's pretty unassuming as neighborhoods go, but then I may still be recovering from the excesses of the Vanderbilts and Astors along the Newport shore. We spent a nostalgic 30 minutes in the JFK Memorial, a small museum of mostly photos and videos of JFK, some with his voice, others his mother Rose, and my favorite, Walter Cronkite. Best thing in the museum for me - a quote by E.B. White: (to be added when found). Took my breath away. Best photos: the young JFK and Jacquie with Caroline and John John as fun-loving little kids. Carpe diem.

We exit the Cape after a final lunch of fried fish and french fries and beer. Next stop Walden Pond - how can we drive by the place that Thoreau found so inspiring. Google maps tells us how to get there and we arrive at what we think is Walden Pond, but find no signs. Walk down to the lake and think, oh this is kind of interesting. Must have been more powerful when Thoreau was here. Go back to the car and look at Google again. We are at the wrong Walden Pond. Ours is by Lynne, MA. The real one is by Concord, MA about 30 minutes away. Come on Google! Why would you send us to the fake Walden Pond, when the real one is nearby (but not that nearby). This leads us to reconsider our route. It's already 5:00 pm (based on our rigorous travel schedule). We decide to save the real Walden Pond for another trip to Boston and head off to Marblehead, MA and Salem to look for witches.

This turns out to be a good choice, as our route takes us along the coast of Masssachusetts just as the sun is heading down. We have late afternoon light on assorted bays and ports filled with sailboats. The best of these is Marblehead, the quintessential sailors' paradise. My sailor guy is happy in these parts. Every time we get near a bay filled with boats, his spirits lift and I can almost see him travelling back in time to when he sailed these waters as a college boy. Quite fun to share. We spend enough time at Marblehead for the sun to set before heading off to Salem. There we find the House of Seven Gables, which indeed looks to have 7 gables. The Salem Witch Museum is closed, so we just have to imagine what it was like.

Our current lodging has a window out to the woods with leaves beginning to turn. It's another beautiful sunny, crisp fall day. The plan is to bike or hike or do something outside. Some movement is definitely required as the food here is plentiful and fantastic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cape Cod has a lot to offer

Sunday, perfect Sunday. The sun shines again. Each of these mornings I think about the Fun Club and our wet biking week in Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Dampness now past, we spend Sunday morning enjoying Newport Rhode Island, home of the perfect view of the perfect port from the roof of Vanderbilt Hall. A fun breakfast with Willie Brien, vacationing with his buddies from Harvard 1L, and we leave town across the famous Pell Bridge headed to Jamestown, which provides another angle on the now well-loved views of Newport Harbor (the east). Unexpected - we come across a girls' softball team playing ball in mid-calf length skirts! Fantastic.

Next up, a drive to Cape Cod, to the very tip to see the windswept beach where the Pilgrims first landed (before Plymouth Rock - who knew?). Apparently the water supply wasn't to their liking, so they soldiered on to Plymouth for the famous landing we learned about in school. Gorgeous space out on the tip, windy, filled with sand dunes and grasses and a bit of forest remaining. Also a great place to see whales (although we didn't see any). From there we drove back a short way on MA 6A to Provincetown (called P-town by those in the know), a rainbow sanctuary which was a little too crowded for our taste. Stopped for coffee at the Wired Puppy (I'm loving the names of coffee shops in this part of the world). Then started looking for our dinner place - scored big time with Blackfish in the town of Truro, on our way back down the Cape towards Orleans where we spent the night at A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay (yes, that is really its name, and yes it is a place to come back to).

Our room has windows on three sides, one side overlooks Pleasant Bay and the row of Adirondack chairs on the lawn for enjoying the view. The other side overlooks a beautiful English garden filled with flowers and birds and chipmunks (feeder hung low to take care of both). We woke to the sound of birds bathing in the gutters outside our room.

Today we drive to Maine and Patrick is anxious to get on the road.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The sun still shines in Rhode Island

Another gorgeous day. We almost rented bikes to explore until our hotel hostess talked us into driving to First, Second and Third Beach roads so we could hike more once there. Something very elemental about these Rhode Islanders. Who names their beaches one, two, three? Cracks me up. Once on the road we stopped at Purgatory Chasm and hiked up the rocky point to a spectacular view of a beautiful bay filled with surfers (surprise, tiny waves). Unexpected was the deep narrow ravine we almost missed. It turned up as we crossed a small wooden bridge towards the sea. Whoa! There it was. Not sure why it's called Purgatory Chasm, but it's worth a visit.

Then to the Sachuest Point Wildlife Refuge for another hike. Not much wildlife on the trail, but some nice cormorants and gulls hanging out on the rocks just off shore. A better hike followed at the Norman Bird Sanctuary on 3rd Beach Road, a natural sequence. This one has great trails through light woods with occasional drop dead gorgeous views of the coast and the mansions across the bay. Felt like fall, leaves starting to turn, acorns covering the ground. Not a lot of birds in the sanctuary, but we didn't care. Did see two snakes! That's more than either of us have ever seen on any hike ever.

Out of the corner of my eye - the sun glinting off the water in the port just before sunset. Unexpected - Purgatory Chasm and snakes on the trail at the Norman Bird Santuary. Joy - found over coffee doing the crossword puzzle in the garden off the gazebo at our hotel.

And Stanford just beat USC with a field goal in the last 4 seconds!

The sun shines in Newport Rhode Island

Spending Columbus Day weekend in Newport, RI, home of the America's Cup (back when a 12 metre was a 12 metre). Thursday night at Castle Inn which reminded us once again why we like Relais et Chateaux. OMG. Our room was part of a row of cozy cabins overlooking Pell Bridge and Newport Harbor. Sailors are serious here. The wind was strong, major red flag stuff where we come from. Here a constant stream of sailboats of all sizes took to sea, sails full and plentiful. I'm not used to seeing fully rigged schooners with 4 sails up at once, awe inspiring. Meanwhile back at the hotel, we took a nap and went to dinner in a dining room surrounded by windows to the sea and a view of Pell Bridge lit at night. We ordered the five course meal with wine pairings, to save money. The theory was we would save all that money not ordering wine. Really?

Next morning breakfast in the same amazing room before heading into Newport to explore. We walked the Cliff Walk--3.5 miles of shoreline on one side and mansions from the Gilded Era on the other. Over the top enormous homes built by the scions of industry from the turn of the century (the last century). Bill Bryson describes them as the confluence of a wedding cake and your public library. Mrs. Vanderbilt's place, called Marble House, looks like she told her architect, "I don't care what it looks like, but make it BIG! Especially make it bigger than Mrs. Astor's place down the street." Bellevue Avenue is filled with these places, each more outrageous than the last. But Vanderbilt's tops them all.

Fittingly, we moved into town and the Vanderbilt Inn, built by some Vanderbilt to house his mistress and affair until he broke it off and she went back to England to kill herself. Mr. V gave the building to the YMCA, where it stayed until some Brit came along and rescued it, turning it into a lovely comfortable classy hotel, filled with an amazing art collection, mostly vintage illustrations.

Cocktails in the bar, delightful French rose (shades of Provence). Dinner at Fluke restaurant, worth it just for the name, food also good and cocktails to die for.

Rain, rain, go away . . .

Much excitement these last two days - mostly related to weather - some related to Patrick getting lost. He may add his own version of the "lost" story, but I'll try to preview it here. Suffice it to say, it has been raining. A lot. And windy. I decided to spend our last day in Nantucket cruising town and hanging out at "The Bean," my new found local coffee spot. Just bought Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" and I am enjoying it immensely. Patrick biked off with the group, spirits undampened to ride to 'Sconset where we spent our first beautiful night on the island. I relaxed, read, drank coffee and went to a yoga class before dinner. Arriving at dinner at American Seasons (a fantastic restaurant), I noticed the absence of my husband. No worries, he was on the second van (wimps took a van to dinner after riding all day in the rain. I walked in the rain.)

Upon arrival I learned that Patrick had been lost - for a while - on the island. After dropping some of the group at The Bean, he headed back to the White Elephant to rest before dinner and ice his torn calf muscle (we brought that with us). Somehow he ended up on the wrong street, going the wrong direction and found himself a ways out of town without a clue where to turn. Being a guy, he waited a while to look for assistance, but finally at 5:30pm, he reached into his bike bag for his cell phone to call the leaders. Oops. IPhone sitting in a pool of water. Apparently those gale force winds with water blowing into the bike went right through the bike bag. IPhones do not like water and his was no exception. Looking around he found an immigrant worker who didn't speak English, but did have a phone. Somehow Pat talked this kind-hearted soul into letting him make a call on his phone. Got our leader Joel's message machine, so continued down the road. Except - now he has a flat tire on his bike. Meanwhile it is getting colder, darker, wetter, and no one is around. Fortunately the fire marshal came by about then in his fancy red truck and asked Patrick if he was all right. Fortunately, Pat said that actually he was not all right (good job not manning out on this one), and fetched a ride back to the hotel, giving the trip leaders a heart attack when they saw the emergency vehicle approaching with their charge inside.

A bath, some ice on his leg, a van to dinner, and a glass of wine later - it's a great story that turned out just fine. Lucky. I did have a twinge of conscience when I realized I was ohming my way through a restorative yoga class while Patrick was lost in the woods, literally. Glad it all worked out. Oh, along with drowning his phone, our camera also got soaked on this venture, so pictures for now are limited and all taken on my iPhone (which has managed to stay dry--mostly because I am a wimp and stay off the road when the weather is particularly wet).

Yesterday we took a boat to Martha's Vineyard and I actually did bike from where we docked in (name of town) to our B&B in Edgartown. Our first impression of Martha's Vineyard was something like seeing Eureka, CA in the rain. Why is it that all places in driving rain tend to take on the same characteristics? The scenery became much more beautiful on the ride to Edgartown and I felt very virtuous riding in what really was a drizzle. Once here, we set out again to find the best coffee shop. In Edgartown, it's called Espresso Love (quite a good name for a coffee hangout I think). Dinner was at a little place called Detente in the village. It took quite a sense of detente to get us to make the decision to go there. Bruce and Suzie and I scoped it out, then decided and told the rest of our group. Food was terrific and interesting.

Today we woke to more driving rain, still the hearty took off on their bikes this morning and many of our group rode for 34 miles total! Patrick and I rode in the van - first to a gallery, which was fun, then to see some cliffs, which we didn't see because of the rain. But we were able to greet the warriors as they slid into base.

Joyce and Guy, soaked
Timmy T and Steve - winners!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nantucket - First Day on the Bikes!

It's been a good day. We biked 10 miles to Cisco Beach (pretty much flat and straight). No rain. No injuries. I'd call it a good day. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain. We'll see how that sorts us out.

Out of the corner of my eye today I saw an old graveyard with headstones dating from the late 1700's and early 1800's. Made me want to go back and explore. Unexpected was a stop at Cisco Brewery. Great beer. Lot of locals hanging out and listening to a fantastic band (who happened to be from Seattle). The band came out for a wedding a couple of weeks ago. Now they are playing the gigs they've picked up. We could have stayed there all afternoon. Found joy in the same place and in riding a bike along country roads on this beautiful friendly island, feeling the wind at my back on the way out and pushing through it the way back.

Great session of friends at a little coffee shop in town called appropriately enough, "The Bean." Fantastic lobster, conversation and Meursault over dinner at Le Languedoc. Tomorrow starts at 9am.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


We're back! Yes, I know, we spent 5 weeks in Europe this summer, which would have been a great time to blog. No good excuses (except I can't figure out how to blog on my iPad). Now Patrick and I are on an East Coast driving trip to see the leaves (and other things). We're starting in Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard where we are meeting up with the Fun Club (Pat's law school buddies) for a Backroads bike trip. Bike trips are fun, although we didn't train at all for this one and Patrick tore his calf muscle a couple of weeks ago, so is walking like Chester and spending a lot of time on ice.

The flight in yesterday was far from uneventful. Made it to Boston without complication, arrived to learn our Cape Air flight to Nantucket had been cancelled because of rain. It was pouring -- a lot. Our options? Stay in Boston and try again tomorrow, or take a bus to Hyannis and catch the ferry to Nantucket. That's what we did. Total time for this phase of the trip - 6 hours. Arriving at the Summer House Inn at the beach in Sconset at 10:15pm, we were delighted to have welcoming innkeepers and a working bartender. They had dinner for us (oysters, tuna tartar, chowder, carpaccio with arugula and William Hill chardonnay). Our spirits lifted once fed and we dried out in no time.

Today brought a beautiful sunny day in Nantucket - which looks the way we both always imagined it would look. The houses are grey clapboard with white trim and shake roofs. The beaches are gorgeous - white, long, uncrowded except for the birds, and bordered with gorgeous grasses. We spent the morning on this beach. I walked with the birds, while Patrick sat on the shore and nursed his ankle.

On to the town of Nantucket for a walking tour of the town, including the Second Unitarian Church with a trompe l'oeil ceiling, the Episcopal Church with Tiffany windows, the First Unitarian Church with bell tower and Brotherhood of Thieves, the perfect place for a break and a beer. Tonight we went to a restaurant called "Figs," the brainchild of Todd English (chef at Summer House). Fantastic food for a really reasonable price.

Observations out of the corner of my eye: seabirds eating fish on the shore, flying away with lunch hanging out of their beaks. For Patrick - a group of groomsmen at the First Unitarian Church, all dressed Nantucket style - blue blazers, white pants, blue and white check shirts - young, handsome, and all colors. Wonderful. Today we found joy doing the crossword puzzle on the veranda of the Summer House and taking the bus from Scanset downtown. Unexpected to find fans in a basket in the Episcopal Church beneath the stained glass window, and ducks flipping their bottoms up looking for food underwater in the bay. 

Tomorrow we meet up with the Fun Club and the Backroads folks. That's where the rubber meets the road.