And to the third and final leg of our holiday: The Berkshires in Massachusetts. They run from, roughly, North Adams in the north to Sheffield and a little beyond to the south (ish). About 50 plus miles. The Berkshires even spill out a bit over MA to New York State.
Marie had chosen for us three very different types of accommodation for each town, and for our three night stay in Great Barrington at the southern section of the Berkshires we were staying at a good old fashioned motel. We very much liked it, and it’s almost a mirror image of the Shirley Motel we had stayed in in Canada last year. Comforting. We had a quick greeting with the very friendly Indian owner at reception, and on discovering I’m English he wanted to talk about curry and cricket. He and his wife were often tending the allotments at the back of the motel.
The motel was on a main road (but green all around), and the town of Great Barrington a few minutes drive. We had a lot near us too though. There is a Greek restaurant, pizza, a bright open-style large cafe opposite called Market Place, other eateries and the brewery also a couple of hundred yards down the road. Cushty!
To start with we drove to the town’s Main Street. It was mid afternoon but most shops, cafes and restaurants were closed. We took a few steps down to the wonderful River Walk, which is shaded from the street and runs along houses.
The Main Street itself looked very pristeen. Very nice, but it reminded us of the Hamptons in New York. A little too manicured perhaps, and I wondered if we might miss the relatively tourist-free parts of New Hampshire we’d enjoyed the freedom of so much up to now. When we returned to Great Barrington’s Main Street a couple of days later, though, we really enjoyed ourselves and got into the vibe a lot more once everything was open.
Back near our motel, we braved the busy road to walk over to Gt. Barrington Brewery. It was quite low key, with outdoor seating but reasonably busy and we had a nice time. We ordered up a kielbasa hotdog with onion rings, and I had their brown ale. We couldn’t resist a slice of their cosmic chocolate stout cake. We’d seen it on the way in, and it was about 8 inches high! Delicious, we ate a third each and took a third back to the motel.
Day 2 –
We had a very good breakfast at Market Place directly across from us, a sausage and egg large breakfast roll. And coffees, naturalmente. We liked the place very much.
I wasn’t sure what we’d do this morning. There are historic homes to tour if you want: Edith Wharton’s (who wrote The Age of Innocence in the 1920s) The Mount, and Herman Melville’s (Moby Dick) old home are both around mid Berkshires.
Marie had found a perfect way to begin though: Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Mass Audubon near Lenox. It’s a walking trail through woods and around little ponds.
It was like paradise. I’d often wanted to walk into the dapple-sunlit woods we so often passed in the car on trips like this. There are several different trails, the longest is quite steep and that takes about 2 hours. We chose the one where you can hopefully spot beavers, and is a mile and a half.
There were few other people around. As you enter the very user-friendly path into the woods, the air is so clear and sweet smelling and the scenery around is like nectar to city people like us. I took loads and loads of photos. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any beavers around their dams, even at the mother ship big dam. We did see a deer though, who stared at us to make sure all was safe and carried on munching. And a frog. And of course lots of chipmunks. They would be quite exotic to a Brit but we’re used to them now, although we love them.
Here are just a small wee handful of photographs I took…
Then on to the town of Lenox. We ate quiches outside a cafe, and sat in the small and beautiful park. It was hot (and sunny) now, a lot lot warmer than it had been a week ago in Ashland, NH but we had anticipated that. Weird weather, we’re ready for the true autumn to begin soon! Lenox looked nice. Some gorgeous houses. The food market was on.
Lots of dog walkers. We love bigger dogs mostly, and there were plenty of those.
Then Marie drove us a little further north to the town of Lee, which we liked very much. More down-to-earth, it’s one of the towns that the Americana painter Norman Rockwell used to frequent. You would find him in Joe’s Diner, which is in the town slightly away from the main area of restaurants and shops. And the archetypal white steeple church on the corner.
We ate at the Starving Artist Cafe, which quickly became a favourite.
The staff are busy making crepes at the open kitchen at the front. We had a wonderful lemon curd crepe, and Marie had a coffee and I an Earl Grey tea. Several little eating establishments occupy what used to the supermarket in town from way back. A Peruvian place looked popular too, though we tried to ignore that they have guinea pig on the menu! We can understand it being served in Peru, but here…how on Earth?!
We admired the look of the historical tavern opposite, The Morgan House, and reserved a table for early dinner tomorrow at 6pm. It has an interesting history, The archeologist who opened King Tut’s tomb held racoon hunting banquets there, and in more recent times (1970s on) Nat King Cole’s wife owned it.
Back at the motel, we watched a Taskmaster on the kindle then had a terrific evening meal at the vibrant Mexican restaurant across the road, Xicohtencati. We sat on the deck after dark and the place is always busy, and beautifully decorated with string lights. The margaritas were very delicious and large, and we had the guacamole and then steak tacos.
Back in our motel room again, another Taskmaster.
Day 3 –
We got up a little later, and had breakfast at Market Place again (10.00 am). Breakfast burrito.
We thought we’d try another distillery and see how it compared with Saxton a few days ago, in NH. The award winning Berkshire Mountain Distillery is impressive, and you can look around their shop when you order up your tasting flight. Again you sit outside, at a grassy area of picnic tables. Flights here are free! This time we chose all gins, and one rum to give a go. Truth be told, we thought the liquor at the Lithuanian brewery of Saxton to be much better and tastier (and quite a lot less money to buy full bottles). To everyone’s taste of course, but for us it’s Saxton all the way.
We stopped at an antiques centre on the drive back, and we bought a Cadbury hot chocolate, decorative tin and small jigsaw puzzle of some dogs and both are from the 1940s. Nice condition, and only about ten or twelve dollars each. We asked if they had any old picnic sets. You know the ones in the basket “brief cases”, often from the 1940s and 1950s? He said they usually do, but not right now. We fancy getting one.
Then back to Great Barrington Main Street, and this time it was lively and very pleasurable. We went in Lenox Patisserie, shared a cheese bechumel croque and a strawberry cream eclair. The main one is in Lenox, of course, and it’s run by a Frenchman. A decadent snack.
We went into the renowned and unique Western clothes shop, TP Saddleblanket & Trading. What an amazing place! There was an incredible sale going on. Marie bought a woolen, Native American style (?) skirt reduced from $190 to $15! And I a striking looking cowboy shirt at half price ($34).
In the evening we went back to Lee for our evening meal at the Morgan House. The place is terrific, and the food good apart from my babyback ribs. We’d very much enjoyed the melted brie and blueberry compote starter, and Marie was very happy with her pot roast but the ribs weren’t the tender fall-off-the-bone style I had anticipated but were as tough as the roughest Chinese take-out ribs. I couldn’t even separate the four ribs with my knife. The tavern looks great, but they could improve in the kitchen a little.
Then we walked around Lee’s residential side streets, which are full of grand old stand-alone beautiful houses. Dusk now. Marie took a photo of me outside Rockwell’s Joe’s Diner!
Day 3 –
We’d passed signs for places selling small batches of cannabis, by the way! Not that we went to any, but it’s interesting to note it’s legal here in Massachusetts!
For our last breakfast we were having a later one, at Starving Artist in Lee again. We stopped at Stockbridge, which is quaint, a little along the way too and bought a hand-made rabbit metal ornament.
The Starving Artist was super busy. We shared a savoury one with bacon, and a strawberry and maple syrup one and both were just the ticket to keep us full on the road.
On the way home we planned to stop at a recommended town in Connecticut called Kent, for a last hoorah.
Again we couldn’t get enough of the autumn colours en-route! Marie had a little secret stop for us, to see the famous Santarella “gingerbread” house in Tyringham. It was the home of sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson until his death in 1947. He’d transformed a colonial carriage house into what you see today. It’s astonishing! Just like something out of Lord Of The Rings. And it’s for sale! No idea how much.
Another scenic drive to Kent, CT. We liked Kent very much too, and it’s only about 90 minutes drive from where we live in Queens, NYC to Kent for a great escape. We had a coffee and cookies, took photos of the park and of the railroad station. There were many Harley bikers zooming through the Main Street, by the way, and we found as we headed out that there was a live, outdoor (social distanced, no doubt) music event going on!
We’ll certainly go back to Kent, which could be a do-able day trip or weekend.
We wanted the ten days in New England to never end, and will return when we get chance! I’ll throw a few more photos in here…