A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vacation in the Berkshires

My wife and I left Aberdeen on Friday morning and spent the week in western Massachusetts. We met in Northampton to visit our daughter at Smith College, which was having its annual Family Weekend. My wife's parents met us in Northampton and joined us on our vacation. We stayed at the Hotel Northampton, ate dinner at Mama Iguana's and had breakfast at Sylvester's. It was raining for most of our visit, so we spent much of our time at the Campus Center and Haven/Wesley.  We had a wonderful walk through Smith's botanical garden and toured the 2nd Annual International Photo Exhibit.

We left Saturday afternoon for Hancock, where we stayed at Wyndham Bentley Brook resort. It's mainly a ski resort, but there was no snow while we were there. It has an indoor-outdoor pool and plenty of lounges for relaxing by the fireplace. Our room had a full kitchen, dining area, and living room. My wife and I had a king-sized bed, jacuzzi, and private bath, while the in-laws had two queen-sized beds. Each room had its own tv. We got ourselves unpacked and went over to John Harvard's Brew House for a late lunch of burgers and fries. We watched the American League Championship Series later that evening between the Yankees and the Angels.

On Sunday we had breakfast at Bob's Country Kitchen in nearby Lanesborough. Seating was tight but prices were great. The place was obviously popular with both locals and visitors alike. We ventured into downtown Pittsfield, but it was Sunday and most of the shops were closed. We found a grocery store and picked up food for meals to be prepared at the resort. We had pork chops and potatoes for dinner. I ventured out to find dessert just south of Stephentown in nearby New York State. We watched the last game of the ALCS. Go, Yankees!

We got a late start on the day on Monday and missed the operating hours of the Hancock Shaker Village. The tour is extensive, so you'll want to allow half a day or so to see the whole place. We dropped into Chapters Book Store in downtown Pittsfield and picked up a few books, then dropped in at Walmart for some staples for making meals in our room back at the resort. We had dinner salads at Bennigan's in Lanesborough, then returned to the resort.

A note: Downtown Pittsfield is heavily featured on the local tourism maps, but as of this writing many of its shops and attractions are closed due to the horrible economic climate. With 40% of the local economy  made up of non-profits, the tax ratables must be dreadfully low. I recommend calling ahead to make sure any particular restaurant or hotel is still open and that museum hours remain the same as in your brochures. Cut backs and closings are everywhere.

We ventured out to Bennington, Vermont on Tuesday. We toured the Bennington Museum, which houses a fine collection of art by Grandma Moses, as well as various artifacts of history and culture from the region. I particularly enjoyed a painting called Preaching in Old First Church by William Tefft Schwartz (1939), which depicts Lemuel Haynes, an influential African-American minister, preaching to the First Congregational Church of Bennington in the early 19th century.

We stopped at the Old First Church's graveyard, which is adjacent to the museum, and saw Robert Frost's grave. We had a fine lunch at Izabella's Eatery in downtown Bennington.

Wednesday was a lazy, rainy day. We found a local Friendly's and spent a leisurely time wandering the shelves of a Barnes and Noble. Our daughter came up from Northampton to overnight with us at the Wyndham resort. We returned to John Harvard's Brew House for dinner. My daughter and I tried their beer sampler. We caught part of Game One of the World Series at the bar and finished up the game back at our room at the resort.

We returned to Country Bob's for breakfast and conversation on Thursday morning. Our daughter headed back to Smith and we left for Stockbridge to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. We spent several hours there with many of his original works and learned ever so much. I highly recommend stopping in for a few hours. A docent gave us a fifteen minute survey of Rockwell's story and art and answered many of our questions. There was a looping video that told his biography. Galleries showed his paintings upstairs and a whole gallery downstairs showed off his 300+ Saturday Evening Post covers. Rockwell's Four Freedoms rightfully had their own dedicated gallery. I especially liked his painting of a dejected boxer slumped in his corner of the ring and his outraged golddigger girlfriend standing at ringside shouting for him to get up to fight and win the evening's purse (or else). I've included a copy of his painting of an elderly lady saying grace over a diner meal in New York City. On the way back to the resort we stopped briefly in downtown Stockbridge then headed down Route 7 to Pittsfield, where we stopped at the Crown Plaza Berkshires Hotel and ate a wonderful yet surprisingly affordable lunch at its One West restaurant.

There is a very nice book on the area called Along Route 7, A Western New England Journey, by Stephen G. Donaldson. We perused the book at Barnes and Noble and found many highly representative photographs of the area. It would make a wonderful coffee table book. You can buy it used online at B&N for under $30, btw.

It will be nice to get back home in our own bed, but we've had a great visit to the north. I guess I'm almost ready to face the commute again when it rears its ugly head on Monday morning.


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