A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase
June 5, 2015
Well, howdy and a rousing “how ya doin’?” from this former Jersey girl, slightly out of her element in Upstate New York. This trip was originated quite organically around the wedding of my dear niece Nancy. I had several items on my bucket list and threw them in the itinerary, making one fine travel plan I must say.
Yesterday we arrived in Westchester, New York after a lovely 2 hr. and 20 minute flight. This is peanuts next to the 16 hr. flight I will endure to Hong Kong in November. The airport is lovely and the whole process from start to finish was less than 10 minutes. We made our way to the lively Avis rental salesman who greeted us in a jovial manner, trying to sell us on Niagara Falls. No, sirree, we got a plan and Canada is not in there. Sprinting away in our little economical Ford Focus we made our way through the beautiful greenery of Westchester. The weather was a cool 65 degrees, practically winter for this Floridian. The rolling hills and plush trees were sheer viewing pleasure and brought me back to my Northern roots.
On a whim, we called my husband’s sister (mother of the bride) to conjure up the name of a delicious German restaurant her and her husband had taken us to. And, surprise, surprise, she suggested that we meet for dinner there. Only a hr. away and in the right direction, strudel and pig knuckles here we come.
Driving up to the quaint little German Alpine dwelling http://www.mountainbrauhaus.com/ one does not realize the Bavarian bounty which awaits you. As you enter the wooden, rustic restaurant which is in the shadow of a scaling mountain, the smell of hearty meat sauces and doughy dumplings fill the air. We were greeted with enthusiasm by a waitress in traditional German attire- a dirndl, braids and all. Dark, robust pumpernickel bread, chewy and salty held our attention as the pungent smells and mouthwatering plates teased us.
We caught up with the in laws, with flowing conversation and a “hot toddy” (apple cider & rum) that soothed my hoarse throat, as I was recovering from a bout of illness. I had the Veggie Gunksburger- a veggie burger thick and satisfying with Muenster cheese and savory onions. Alongside this was crispy, yummy potato pancakes-begging to be dunked in the sweet applesauce. My eating companions partook in traditional German cuisine- Sauerbraten and Wiener schnitzel. If you are ever in Gardiner, New York and find yourself having a little German craving- search no further!
After an amazing dinner (Oh, did I not mention the hubs Strudel???) we parted ways and made our way up into the Catskill mountains-destinations Cooperstown, New York http://www.thisiscooperstown.com/ – Home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. First item on me bucket list….
We were the only ones on the road, with the ever present mountain at our side the entire way. The sky was a cobalt blue, with stars twinkling their luminescence –helping guide our way in the darkness. 3 hrs. later, we made our way into the one traffic light bucolic town of Cooperstown. We had a reservation at http://www.innatcooperstown.com/ , which was wise as there were no vacancies. The Inn is a mid-19th century plantation style house with an inviting porch and lazy rocking chairs. It is 3 stories high, furnished in antiques, each room unique with its own character. Our room was cozy and clean and provided us with the rest we badly needed.
In the morning, we were greeted in the breakfast area with freshly baked muffins, a mushroom egg frittata and hot coffee. From there, after a few rocks on the rocking chair and some lazy daydreaming – we made our way to the National Baseball Hall of Fame http://baseballhall.org/.
Now, first- let me just tell you-this main street is straight out of a movie set. Screaming Americana and apple pie. The locals are friendly and talkative, and quite helpful. The whole village area is all centered around- you guessed it-baseball-baseball everything-baseball souvenirs and baseball trinkets, baseball t- shirts and yep- more baseball Knick knacks.
The Museum is a bit pricey at $23 a person, with no student discounts, but is essentially an afternoon of full entertainment. There is a 13 minute video that tugs on the heartstrings of any true patriot and a lively bit of Who’s on First by Abbott and Costello https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg – which I highly recommend for a good chuckle. There is a nice tribute to Babe Ruth and some of the other legends and wrapping up the tour with a pretty impressive Hall of Fame. My hubs is a big Yankees fan-born and bred- I sort of fell into this through marriage. Seeing his joy brought much happiness to my heart.
After a morning full of baseball utopia, one builds up quite an appetite. We strolled down the tree lined street, literally frozen in 1950, browsing store front windows with funny names like “Shoeless Joe’s” and an ice cream joint named “Brain Freeze”. Nothing particularly struck our fancy, but the window shopping was entertaining enough. In front of a restaurant browsing the menu, a lovely lady approached us and engaged in a very friendly conversation and gave us some food suggestions. We took her up on one and went to a hip place called Mel’s at 22 http://www.melsat22.com/ . It appeared popular with the locals. We sat in a quiet little corner and ordered some sandwiches. Lunch was mediocre, but at least we took a local’s advice.
From there, we had another moment on the porch in the rockers, listening to the whispering breeze and literally nothing else. We then said adios to Cooperstown. Bye, you will forever live in our hearts. Reminding us that there is a place in this world, where people are still good, cars let you walk across the street and strangers greet you. God Bless you, Cooperstown, New York.
We got back in our little Ford Focus and winded down the rolling hills and curvy streets tracing the edges of the Catskills. We had no reservation and at first there was a little freedom in this fact. But, as the minutes turned into hours and our options all had no vacancy signs, unease began to settle in -especially, when two of the options resembled Bates Motel.
Thanks to the savvy hubs and internet, and voila – reservation booked at The Sullivan http://www.the-sullivan.com/. Apparently, this is a “luxury hotel”. For $182 (oh and by the way, 30% tax—really—New York??) I expected a 4 star kind of deal. Well, granted it is clean, air conditioned and comfortable, as well as free Wi-Fi and breakfast. But, it is a drive right- up motel.
Regardless, the hubs was exhausted from all the driving and we were grateful to have a room- so no complaints here- just keepin’ it real, folks. After arriving, the hubs was soon snoring like a bear (very fitting in these parts) while I kept myself occupied entertaining the troops (you- my audience). After his hibernation ended, we went out to the drizzling night at a local pizza place http://pizzatherock.net/ that was quite popular with the Generation Z gang. The pizza was not up to my New York standards-pretty unforgettable. From there, back to the hotel to rest for tomorrow’s activities.
This morning we arose and set out on our journey to Bethel Woods, which is the site of Woodstock. The hubs back in 1969 as a young, innocent boy went to Woodstock. This has always been on the bucket list for him, and therefore -it has too, for me. Back in that feisty Ford Focus, we set out. A quick 20 minute drive from the hotel and we might as well been in another country. The rolling hills dipped and plunged, flanked by emerald green pastures on both sides. Cute, quaint houses with big peace signs welcomed us as we made our entry. Bethel Woods is also the home of many Orthodox Jews, as we saw many in their traditional attire- a sort of unique scene with this country backdrop.
Bethel Woods Museum http://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/the-museum is situated on the site of the Woodstock 3 day concert of love and peace back in August of 1969. Just in case, you have been living under a rock or in a time capsule prior to the summer of love….. The hubs has spoken fondly of this time, over the years, piece by piece sharing his experience with me. I have heard the story so many times, that I feel as if I lived it. Because of this, it was that much more special sharing this with him.
The museum opens at 10 am and is closed for a majority of the winter. It is situated on a massive field and from the outside is pretty unmemorable. I received a couple bucks off for being a student (I knew that MSN would pay off one day!) Immediately, as you enter you are greeted by the vivid colors, prints, photography and sounds. There is much going on, but it is very structured the flow of the exhibition. There are little alcoves with big screen TV monitors going through the history and events that led up to the concert. It is as much a history lesson as it is a music lover’s dream. Piping through the speakers are songs, taking one back instantly 4 ½ decades. The displays are unique and attention grabbing, and really encompassing all of one’s senses. I especially liked the magic bus, full with benches and a driver’s seat. The windshield was a TV screen that described further certain details, including actual footage.
At one point, you enter another room with a starlight sky and bean bag chairs. I reclined back, and let the nostalgic music wash over me. It was a total multi-sensory experience, fully capturing (minus the mud and hallucinogenics) a night on the farmer’s field back in 1969. Several times, along the way, volunteers approached us, happy to tell their stories and share their vivid memories. This additional piece was a treat and truly added to the comprehension and magnitude of this event in a young person’s life.
In a big theater was a 30 minute film that really brought everything to life. Current day musical artists shared their own thoughts on the talented musicians that impacted them and helped form their own accomplishments. Lastly, as we were leaving a lovely volunteer named Glenn escorted us to the actual field to point out some landmarks. It was here, where the hubs transported in time, a young teen on the cusp of adulthood, I could see it in his eyes, a reminiscent glaze, of a time where 3 days of his life was suspended and the only focus was good music, friendships and peace. Glenn gave us his accounts and insight and added once again another layer of this experience.
On the field, the hubs and I sat as the fluffy clouds overhead formed Rorschach prints. We sat in the center of the field and I quickly snapshot this moment in my brain- wishing it to last forever. The daisies waltzed to the cool breeze, swaying and swooning as they too, understood the allure of this sacred land. A tender moment was shared between the hubs and I as I realized life is hurdling by at an alarming pace, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and before you know it- the moment is gone. So, we sat on that grass, for what seemed like forever, but really just a blink of the eye. And, I shared all that was in my heart, as I did not want to waste another minute….
Glenn, our helpful volunteer suggested a lovely area for lunch. Not knowing the area, this was good advice. Just a couple minutes away was the beautiful area of Kauneonga Lake http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g47985-Kauneonga_Lake_New_York-Vacations.html. An absolutely hidden pearl, this street had several restaurants all on this beautiful lake. We pulled right up (easy free parking) and dined at Barrio Kitchen http://barriokitchen.com/ . We sat outside on the covered deck overlooking the shimmering lake. We were entertained by ducks gracefully swimming by with the occasional boat scooting through. We faced the water, feasting on salty tortilla chips, fresh salsa and a darn good quesadilla. The service was exceptional, prices a little high, but the view made it all worth it.
From there, back in our little Focus we drove to Danbury, Connecticut- the main purpose of this trip to begin the wedding festivities of my niece. A quick hour and thirty minutes riding along the lovely I-84, we arrived to our home for the next 2 days Residence Inn Marriott http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxrri-residence-inn-danbury/ . We were greeted with enthusiasm and a hearty welcome from Hanne Hogberg Raby, the director. She was so accommodating and friendly offering to extend our check out, and even coming to our room to ensure we were taken care of. I mention this, because in all my travels, I have never been extended this much offering of assistance. I even mentioned the hubs had a nagging cough and off she went providing him with an entire bag of cough drops.
The room is very spacious and has absolutely every comfort of home, down to a full working kitchen and popcorn. The rest of my time here is exclusive to family obligation (this is a good thing) and wedding hoopla. So, I am ending my blog now as I am certain, you do not want to hear about my sister in law’s electric slide debut or the best man’s speech (or maybe you will, in that case- email me and I will gladly supply you with the deets).
This trip, although short in time was jammed packed with goodies, long awaited wish list experiences and lots of good family love. I highly recommend either one of these museums as well as the charming cities and nice folk we encountered. This trip has renewed my faith in mankind and showed me that there are still amazing people out there, wanting to share their stories. It is up to you and me to listen.
And, on that note…thanks for listening to mine….
Tune in for Hong Kong, November 2015-