Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My Memorial Day Weekend

I arranged a weekend getaway for Mrs Vache Folle and myself in the hope that a change of scene might help us talk things out. We had a very nice time, but I don't know if it did any good in the marriage saving department. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I have to rave about our terrific experience in the Berkshires. Every aspect of the trip was wonderful, and I would like to publicize to the world (or at least to my three or four readers) how much we enjoyed the bed and breakfast, restaurants and other amenities in the area.

First off, let me state that I chose our B&B based on its very helpful and professionally designed website. The same went for the horseback riding stable and one of the restaurants where we dined. Being able to transact business and make inquiries by e-mail is important to me, and the businesses I chose had that capability.

We drove up the Taconic to Route 23 to Route 7 on Saturday morning. Although the day was overcast with intermittent rain, it was a lovely drive. We drove through Great Barrington and stopped for lunch in Stockbridge at a little bistro called Michaels. We shared a bleu cheese burger. The staff was attentive, and the sandwich was enjoyable. Stockbridge was quaint and picturesque as just you'd expect from a New England town.

It was too early to check into our B&B when we got to Lee, so we decided to take in some attractions. We were turned away from the Mount, Edith Wharton's mansion, because of a private event, so we made our way to the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield instead. This is a well preserved example of a once thriving Shaker community with extensive gardens and buildings and lots of Shaker artifacts. Knowledgeable docents are positioned throughout the site. I bought a Shaker style straw hat which came in handy when the sun came out.

We then checked into The Applegate Bed & Breakfast in Lee. This is a 1920s Gatsbyesque structure situated on 6 acres of gardens and manicured lawns. We were booked into the carriage house in a well appointed suite with modern conveniences and antique charm. The television was hidden behind a wall painting. There was a very comfortable king sized bed, a kitchenette, a sitting area with a gas fireplace, and a huge bath with a walk in shower and oversized jacuzzi tub. I had arranged for wine and cheese in the room, and the innkeepers supplied brandy as a matter of course. The room was very comfortable, and I could imagine spending a great deal of time in it.

Wine and cheese are served in the parlor of the main house at 5:00, and this presented an opportunity to mingle with the other guests and share stories about our holidays and suggestions for sightseeing and dining. A delightful breakfast was served from 8:00-10:00 in the dining room. In back of the main house is a heated swimming pool which we enjoyed on a very hot and sunny Sunday. The innkeepers, Len and Gloria Friedman, and their manager, Pam, were hospitable and helpful in every way. We enjoyed our stay very much and will (if we don't get divorced) return.

On Sunday morning, we made our way up to the town of Lennox and the Aspinwall Equestrian Center. This riding stable abuts Kennedy Park, a square mile or so of bridle/hiking/biking/jogging/dog walking trails on the former site of a luxury hotel which burned down in the 1930s. Our guide, Dan, was a local man who was both amiable and capable. Based on a phone converation we had had some days earlier, he had selected a pair of horses, George aka Jumbo for me and Shadow for Mrs Vache Folle. He rode the lead horse Lucky and I followed on George with Mrs VF's taking up the rear on Shadow. George was an enormous beast, and I towered over my wife and her steed. Both our horses were well mannered except for trying to stop to eat all the time if we did not check them, and we had an enjoyable two hour ride through the park, up and down hills, and in the woods. I liked it so much that I booked another one hour ride for the next day.

The stable boasts a number of Icelandic horses which look like living versions of My Little Pony. All of the animals, even down to the Manx barn cats, appeared to be well looked after.

We dined Saturday at Chez Nous in downtown Lee. This was a very busy French restaurant. The service was excellent and the food was remarkable. The atmosphere was a little crowded and bright for my liking, but I would definitely eat there again. Mrs VF had pan seared scallops with a heavenly sauce, and, unheard of for her, she cleaned her plate. I had a very nice locally grown Berkshire pork loin with truffle mashed potatoes and a bowl of seafood soup.

On Sunday we dined at Perigee, a continental restaurant in South Lee on the advice of some of our fellow guests at Applegate. Mrs VF had scallops again, this time with shrimp with risoto and a delicious cilantro pesto. I had the jamabalaya and would place my meal in the top 100 meals in my lifetime. The lighting was more romantic at Perigee than at Chez Nous, although it was just as busy.

For lunch on Monday, we ate fish and chips and fried oysters at Salmon Run in Lee. It was quite nice.

We finally toured the Mount on Monday on our way to the stable for our second ride. The house and grounds have been very nicely renovated, and the tour affords an opportunity to learn a great deal about Edith Wharton. The nearby Morgan mansion Ventfort, which is in the early stages of renovation, provides an interesting contrast to the elegant simplicity of the Mount.

Our Berkshire weekend was a great success on a number of counts, not the least of which is our belated discovery of the existence of the Berkshires as a destination not an hour and a half from our home. I did not give a moment's thought, however, to the war dead.

No comments: