New York’s Hudson Valley
When I hear the words “New York” the images of a giant, metropolitan city fill my imagination. Being a west coast native whose experience of The Empire State has been limited to the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the notion of going “upstate” never really entered my head until a recent work trip took us in that direction. After reading about the modern art museum “Dia:Beacon” we were intrigued to see what other treasures New York’s Hudson Valley might hold and decided to take a few days after the job to find out.
Our first stop was in the tiny town of Pocantico Hills (25 miles north of Manhattan) where Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is located. If you’re a foodie or interested in sustainable agriculture, then Stone Barns is a must. It’s an amazing place to hike around for a couple hours (an added bonus: they recently launched an iPhone app that acts as a self-guided tour). If you fancy the group thing, there’s an ever-changing calendar of events and plenty of workshops to attend.
Stone Barn’s boasts two farm-to-table eateries. If you plan far ahead, you might get a reservation at the famed and very posh ‘Blue Hill at Stone Barns’. If you’re not feeling so fancy or are looking for the perfect après farm tour bite, the Café is where you want to be. Fresh baked scones, quiches made with ‘straight from the farm’ eggs, and a few specialty sandwiches & salads – we happened upon ramp season and enjoyed an unusual and most delicious sandwich filled with braised ramps & farro on fresh baked wheat bread. Before we hit the road, we bought some jams as gifts, and loaded up on snacks and coffees for the drizzly drive north.
Continuing along on the highway that hugs the banks of the Hudson River, our next stop was the post-industrial town of Beacon. In the last several years, Beacon has seen a cultural renaissance of sorts–with artists paving the way–restoring and converting old brick buildings and run down storefronts into hip galleries, artist’s studios, eateries, and coffee shops. Just a short walk from downtown is Dia:Beacon, a contemporary art museum located in a converted 300,000 sq. ft. Nabisco printing factory on the banks of the Hudson. Dia:Beacon houses major works, most of them of massive scale, from the 1960’s to present by the likes of Richard Serra, Dan Flavin, Joseph Beuys, and Louise Bourgeois.
Back on the road, we aimed the rental car north passing tiny town after tiny town. We made a quick pit stop in Kingston, where we stumbled upon the ‘Hudson River Maritime Museum’. If you have an appreciation for anything nautical, you’ll probably find yourself geeking out on the old photographs and paraphernalia showing 200 years of American life on the river.
As we continue on along the winding highway soaking up the natural beauty, flanked by fields of wild lilac, old red barns, and historic mansions, we finally reach Hudson — a city with a long and storied history which pre-dates the founding of our country. Walking along its streets you see old mansions and mercantile shops capped with the dates the buildings were erected. Almost every building on Hudson’s main thoroughfare, Warren Street, is pre-1900 with some dating back to the early 1800’s. There seems to be a historic church on every other block. Vintage and antiques shops abound. It’s the kind of small town that conjures up romantic thoughts of leaving city life behind, changing gears and slowing down.
After the several days we spent along the Hudson River I could feel the city tension washing away and began to understand why so many seem to be immigrating upstream like salmon for a slower and sweeter quality of life.
Other sites not to be missed:
See: Storm King Center for the Arts in Mountain Ville
Eat: The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park for lunch
Visit: Olana – the 250-acre historic home of artist Fredrick Church in Hudson
Union Street Guest House
Feel itchy in impersonal hotels? Can’t stand shabby-chic, grandma run B&B’s where you’re forced to talk to the owner about their cats for hours? Us too! And that’s why we were so happy to have discovered The Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York.
Made up of a main house, which was built in 1830, a brick house next door that was built even earlier, and two additions built sometime in the mid-century, it’s the perfect antidote to the B&B. The tiny, two-story main building houses the cozy and elegantly eccentric lobby. There is a small stairway next to the reception area that leads you up to a beautiful and quiet lounge with a self-serve honor bar…a perfect spot to meet friends or tuck away with a book. Outside awaits a grassy courtyard sprinkled with gardens, vintage statuary, Adirondack chairs, and a BBQ.
The owner, Chris, was one of the pioneers who saw potential in the dilapidated neighborhood about 10 years ago. He’s lovingly restored the spacious rooms, decorating with quirky antiques and Egyptian cotton bedding. The feeling it conveys is less hotel–and more like you’re house sitting at your brilliant designer friend’s home — complete with two incredibly friendly chocolate labs who freely roam the main house and grounds. It is located just a block off of Hudson’s Warren Street—in perfect walking distance to some of the best food, drink, and shopping the Hudson valley has to offer.
x Stephen Zeigler
Photos by Stephen Zeigler