“On the road again, just can not wait to get on the road again.” — Willie Nelson
This week Gary and I celebrate our first year anniversary in our 1930s Colonial. What a year it has been. Renovations, multiple trips (sometimes daily) to Herzog’s (Kingston’s local True Value Hardware Store), meetings with carpenters, electricians and more delays than one could possibly imagine. At one point it seemed as if our renovation was on a slow boat to nowhere. To say we had become home bound was an under statement. Though I am a collector of antiques, furnishings, books and porcelains, being home bound for long stretches of time is stifling. I love to explore, cover unfamiliar ground, and yes scavenger for antiques, porcelains, books, and more.
Around this time of year every autumn our phones begin to ring rather frequently. Generally it is a friend from Manhattan, enthusiastically declaring how much they would enjoy coming for the weekend to go apple picking. As child every member of my maternal grandparents families had large farms, with apple trees, pear trees, fig trees, peach trees, plum trees, blueberry bushes, and various varieties of grapes. Though I have very fond memories of my great aunt’s and uncle’s farms harvesting season was not my favorite time. Therefore my initial reaction when I receive one of these calls, is quite similar to the proverbial finger nail on a chalkboard: a cold chill runs down my spine. But as a gracious host, who has not entertained guests for over a year, I find myself acquiescing to my friends desires to weekend upstate and hit the apple picking trail… or not. I actually have a few tricks up my sleeve, which just might distract my apple picking friends attention. Who knows? They might become so distracted they completely forget about the apples all together. As an aside, it should be noted that for just such occasions I have a secret stash of recently purchased Hudson Valley apples tucked away in the pantry. Like I say I do hate to disappoint my guests.
Frankly, for guests and area residents the opportunities for day trips abound in the Valley in every direction. Through beautiful scenic drives along stunning vistas, brilliant skies and meandering roads one is easily captivated by the Valley. One of my favorite day trips is the drive through the Catskills from Kingston to Cooperstown, via Middleburg, Sharon Springs, Cherry Valley and Tannersville. Or as Gary often refers to route, it’s “Haynes, quiet ride through the countryside purchasing antiques or anything else that is not nailed down.” Recently, in anticipation of future outings with guest and a desire to escape the home front, Gary and I, along with the Scotties—Mister Frazier, Heather Clementine and MAC—hit the road again heading to Cooperstown. As we left the driveway, Gary commented, “you notice we are in the sedan and not the station wagon, so there will be no repeats of last Fall’s experience.” Seems last year along this same route I managed to collect a massive rosewood gallery table, four 1820’s Windsor chairs, several boxes of porcelain and quiet a few other items. To say the three Scotties were a bit miffed would have been an understatement. Antique shops, tag sales, flea markets, and craftsmen’s shops abound at every twist and turn, and the prices are a shopper’s dream. One stop is always Tete’s Wood Shop, which has an amazing array of handcrafted copper weathervane’s and roof cupolas.
En route to the American Hotel in Sharon Springs (where Gary and I regularly spend the Thanksgiving Holiday), there are numerous quaint shops and antique shops. In Sharon Springs there is a wonderful collection of such shops, such as The Beekman 1802, which has its flagship store anchored there. From cheeses, to farm-to-table products, to handcrafted linens, to garden boots, to a stunning collection of their own furniture and floor coverings, the Beekman has it all. Additionally there are shops specializing in handmade soaps, art galleries and a terrific holiday shop.
For dining, my favorite choices are the American Hotel and the Black Cat Cafe. Doug and Garth of the American Hotel are hilariously congenial hosts who make each visitor, hotel guest, and diner feel welcome. Over the last few years Gary and I have dined (and lodged) in the American Hotel on numerous occasions. Each time the quality of the service and the seasonal menu offerings have been excellent. After luncheon we typically continue our drive through the ever scenic rolling hills and peaks of Cherry Valley. Once you begin to approach Cooperstown you have the Alice Busch Opera Theater, home to the Glimmer Glass Festival, and Hyde Hall, a stunning neoclassical mansion which in the early 19th Century was the largest home in America. Arriving in Cooperstown you have the Fenimore Cooper Museum, the Farmers Museum and the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Fenimore Cooper with its collection of American Indian Artifacts and Hudson River School paintings is one of my particular favorites.
Another terrific Hudson Valley day trip is a visit to the Hillsdale General Store in Hillsdale, NY. Just 15 minutes out of Hudson, NY, Hillsdale is a charming little town with one major outstanding feature, the aforementioned Hillsdale General Store. Though there are numerous art galleries and other shopping venues, the Hillsdale General store stands out. Antiques, transfer ware vintage items, handmade wrapping papers, hand- forged shovel handles and iron skillets of every size abound within the walls of this marvelous shop curated by Matthew White.
Just recently, the Hillsdale General Store expanded its 1855 flagship store to include the HGS Home Chef, (housed in a restored 1870s Victorian Home). HGS Home Chef’s extensive offering of culinary tools of every variety is further enhanced by two culinary teaching kitchens. The dual kitchens afford customers the opportunity to enroll in classes with renowned culinary experts.
As the weekend approaches I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my favorite destinations and shopping experiences in my own Ulster County backyard this weekend: Field and Supply. Field and Supply, the brain-child of acclaimed Manhattan-based designer Brad Ford, is in concept similar to a well-curated handmade crafts fair. However, this fair has been curated by an interior designer known for his discriminating eye. Last year’s Field and Supply attracted not only discerning shoppers, countless designers for the Architectural Digest 100, and a few celebrities but also many searching for the very best of handcrafted items and delicious food. The setting for Field and Supply is Ron Sharkey’s stunningly restored Black Barn.
As the leaves start to turn in the Hudson Valley, the natural landscape is turned into natures canvas accentuated by hues of gold, red and burnt amber. Music festivals, fairs and a variety of events dot the landscape. From Millbrook to Rhinebeck to Kingston to Cooperstown the endless appeal of the region abounds. Perhaps this weekend, you, like many of our Manhattan friends, will decide to take a road trip up to the Valley. While the Valley does have a limitless supply of apples this autumn season, it also has an endless array of unique shopping experiences and opportunities to explore. Hopefully, I might just bump into some of you along the way.