09 September 2008

Road Trip VIII: Great Barrington

As I mentioned in the previous post we both fell in love with the Berkshires. We spent a weekend with a high school friend of mine and her partner who recently moved to the area from coastal Connecticut. After our GPS system tried to take us on roads that haven't been passable since the 1870s we managed to find the right streets to their cute, comfy home on the hill overlooking Great Barrington. Although most towns in the Berkshires have a lot going for them, GB has a bustle that makes it dynamic without losing its small town feel.

SoCo Creamery had some of the best ice cream we encountered on our trip and the food Allium, a great little neighborhood restaurant we excellent. (We also had pretty good sushi in Lenox...)

Road Trip VII: Culture Fantasy Camp

In the Berkshires John and I found a bit of a spiritual home. Beautiful scenery, charming towns, plenty of art, gardens, music, theater, food, etc. A place we could imagine retiring. On our way to visit friends in Great Barrington for the weekend, we started at the north end of western Massachusetts and made stops at MassMoCA, The Clark, and The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in Lenox.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA) in North Adams is housed in a complex of old industrial buildings. The large open spaces are perfect for large scale installations. Including a Jenny Holzer installation consisting of a dark room with scrolling text and gigantic beanbags to lounge in.

The Clark in Williamstown is a wonderful small art museum with an amazing collection and beautiful grounds. We were on a bit of a schedule and would definitely like to revisit The Clark to spend more time exploring the collection.

A little further down the road in Lenox is The Mount, a grand house and garden once the home of Edith Wharton. Since Wharton is one of my favorite writers I couldn't pass this one by and we made it just in time for last entrance. It was particularly good that we made it since there is a possibility that the property will face foreclosure in November. The house itself is certainly beautiful and the main floor has been meticulously restored, but the gardens and the setting are reason enough to visit this property.

Road Trip Part VI: Vermont

(Top to bottom: Middlebury, Middlebury, Middlebury, Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock)

We spent the night in Woodstock, Vermont. A charming and seemingly rather rich town that closes down quite early. My fantasy world is one where things are open all the time. So it was a bit disappointing that everything seemed to lock up tighter than a drum by 5:30. On the way we stopped in Middlebury taking a quick turn around the Middlebury College campus (home of tghe Break Loaf Writer's Conference) and a walk through downtown. There we found yummy ice cream, a good used bookstore, a bespoke shoe/sandal/boot maker, a raging river, and a Ben Franklin. I don't think I have seen a Ben Franklin since the mid-80s when the one in my hometown of Elk River, Minnesota went belly up. Who knew they still existed.

We also popped over into New Hampshire so I could say that I have been there. It was a state I needed to cross off my list. We ended up checking out the Dartmouth campus in Hanover. Took a look at Quechee Gorge back in Vermont, and had a very nice dinner at Simon Pearce. Perched right next to the Quechee River to take advantage of hydro-power, Simon Pearce makes beautiful blown glass and ceramics.

Road Trip Part V: Saranac and Lake Placid

We had a rainy day while we were at Elk Lake Lodge in the Adirondacks so we hopped in the car and drove north to Saranac and Lake Placid. If we had been smart and taken our passports on the trip we would have gone up to Montreal for the day, but alas that was not to be.
Like so many other places we stopped on the trip, Saranac was a nice little town. And we were lucky to be there while their public library was having its annual book festival. This meant lots of used books for sale. Interested in gardening books John had much more success there than I did. I had fiction titles I was looking for and at this kind of a sale that is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Lake Placid was semi-picturesque, but I found it a little swamped with tourists. Given the high profile of Olympic venues in recent years, it is hard to imagine this little burg being the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Olympic training center on the main drag in Lake Placid seems so modest it is hard to believe it was focus of the world's attention 28 years ago.