Saturday, November 9, 2013

Olana State Historic Site

We headed back toward Hudson and found the correct turnoff for Olana, the home of the famous landscape artist Frederic Church.  Church was one of the more well known artists of the Hudson Valley School, a group of painters who were friends with one another and worked in the same style between the 1830's and 1870's.

According to the website, "Paintings of the Hudson River School are characterized by fidelity to nature; clarity of detail; skies sometimes glowing at sunrise or sunset, sometimes shining a sunny, clear blue; nearly invisible brushstrokes; an overall feeling of tranquility; and a presentation of the American landscape as a new Eden in a benevolent universe, blessed by God and providing an uplifting moral influence."

Frederic and Isabel Church were well traveled and envisioned a home that had elements of design they'd seen in Beirut, Jerusalem and Damascus.  The Persian style home encompasses many of the ideas they loved from their trips to the Middle East.

 It is said that Church searched for three years to find the perfect property upon which to build his home.  The website goes on, "Like his painted landscapes,  the physical landscape at Olana is composed of foreground (the house environs), middle ground (the rolling fields and forest), and background (the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains). As in his paintings, the foreground at Olana was a much more detailed landscape, where canopy, understory, and ground plane were created with richly layered plantings of choice native species. Spatially, these plantings – along with natural landforms, the very windows on his house, and the careful layout of miles of carriage drives – were used by Church to reveal exactingly framed vistas of his own property and the wider Hudson River Valley."

 These truly were the most spectacular views we experienced on our trip!  Look at those colors!

 Interesting bench and fence on the property
 Imagine living here and looking out on these sights every day. 

Church died in 1900.  The home remained in the family till 1966, when the Olana Preservation organization and the State of NY combined forces to fight a great-nephew who'd inherited the property with plans to sell all of the original furnishings through Sotheby's.  Apparently, down to the wire, the organization finally raised enough money to purchase the home and everything in it. Thankfully.

You can read much more  about Church and Olana at There's even a virtual tour of some of the rooms in the house. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Autumn in the Hudson Valley

 Mom and me relaxing in the living room before breakfast at the B&B
We were too busy enjoying our breakfast to get any food photos, apparently!  It was great!
We asked where we might get some nice fall foliage pics and our host Duncan suggested we visit Olana, not too far from Hudson.  Of course, we managed to miss our turn and kept on driving.  We noticed a sign for the Clermont State Historic Site and decided to take a little detour. 
According to the Friends of Clermont website, "Clermont was built between 1740 and 1750, by Robert Livingston, Jr., on land acquired in 1686 by his father, just a dozen years after New Netherland finally became British New York.  A royal patent secured by Robert Livingston, Sr. granted him the privileges of a manor lord and 160,000 acres, stretching all the way from the Hudson River’s east bank to the border of present day Massachusetts."
"In October 1777, the Revolutionary War arrived on Clermont’s doorstep via a British armada sailing upriver from New York City to provide support for General John Burgoyne’s army, whose march from Canada was foundering north of Albany. That same force had already stormed two forts in the Hudson Highlands and burned Kingston, the first capital of the new New York State. The next target was the riverfront seat of the rebel Livingstons.  Learning of the imminent danger, Margaret Beekman Livingston — the wealthy (in her own right) wife of Clermont’s owner — took action, after refusing the offer of protection from a wounded British soldier recuperating at Clermont. (She steadily declined aid from an enemy of her country.)"
The site continues, "The British courteously gave her time to vacate, which she did, with most of her prized possessions, before burning the house to the foundations. But she returned, and, calling in favors from the governor who she helped to elect, succeeded in rebuilding her grand house — in the middle of the Revolutionary War."
 "Margaret’s son, Robert, is perhaps the most famous Livingston. He administered the oath of office to President George Washington, co-invented the steamboat with Robert Fulton, established the rights of a monopoly that lasted for decades and continued the line of Livingstons which lasted until Honoria (Livingston) McVitty gave the last of the Clermont lands to the state at her death in 2000."
On the road back to Olana, we pulled up behind this bus.  The Bread and Puppet Circus!  My people!  I wanted to know where they were going and what they were doing!  From their website: "The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. More complex theater pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger. Annual presentations for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day often included children and adults from the community as participants. Many performances were done in the street. During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people."
 Lovely stone church along the road

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Road Trip to Hudson, NY

We had a lovely drive from NYC to Hudson, NY. I was hoping the fall colors would be out in all their glory and I was not disappointed. I took a ton of photos through the car window along the way but, in the end, the best ones were those we took when we stopped and wandered around.
A few from the car
Scenic outlook along the Hudson River

We started looking for a place to stop for lunch and pulled off the road in Poughkeepsie.  I'm sure it's a lovely town but we did not see a restaurant that appealed to us (or should I say "to me" since I am the picky one?)
We kept going.
 Maybe we should have gone into The Derby!
I liked this attempt to make the boarded up windows more appealing.  I think maybe Poughkeepsie has seen better days.
 Next stop, Rhinebeck, and I thought The Terrapin looked just right!
It had a pretty extensive menu and for some reason, I was really craving the soul food plate.  Now, I have had some great soul food in my time and I am not sure why I thought a little place in Rhinebeck NY would necessarily be able to match it, but I couldn't resist.  I never eat like this any more--fried chicken, mashed potatoes AND mac & cheese, plus greens!  It was actually pretty darned good, the mac & cheese especially.   Chicken could have used a little more seasoning but I was happy with my choice!
We arrived in Hudson right around 3 PM, check in time at our lovely B&B, the Croff House.  Mom had the only room on the first floor, luckily, because the staircase to the second floor was steep and winding.  One of the owners, Duncan, met us at the door and showed us around, gave us lots of info, and provided us with some dinner suggestions.  He and his partner Russ were very friendly and welcoming. They live in a beautiful Victorian home right next door and popped in several times to check on guests and take care of business.
We've always enjoyed our B&B stays--it's nice to have a common area to sit and read or chat, especially when you have more than one room.  Lots better than having to cram into one bedroom and sit on the beds to talk.  And, of course, the breakfast is usually quite a bonus!
When my friend Susan and I were in NYC many years ago, we ate at a place called Mexican Radio and LOVED it. I remember the atmosphere being super cool and the food delicious. We talked about that place for a long time after.  To my surprise, Mexican Radio has expanded to Hudson so I pretty much insisted that we eat dinner there the first night.  While the restaurant was just as cool, the food was not as fabulous as I remembered.   Funny how it's so hard to duplicate one's experience, or maybe our memories just get embellished over time.  Either way, it was a disappointment and I am sure Mom and Rich wondered why I raved about it so much!
They even advertise that their flan is "the best in the world" and it has been given an award by Latina Magazine.  It was good, but it was not outstanding. At the risk of seeming completely biased, I will say that Rich  makes much better flan, so perhaps I should have the magazine folks come and taste his!  :)

We were tired after dinner so hung out in the living room of the B&B for awhile and then said our "good-nights" with anticipation of the nice breakfast we'd  have in the morning and the sights we'd see in the Hudson Valley over the next couple of days.

Lots of beautiful foliage photos coming up next!

24 hours in New York City

When we were planning our trip back East, Rich noticed that the New York City Wine and Food Festival was scheduled for one of the weekends we'd be in the vicinity.  We purchased tickets for ourselves and Mom to go for one day, and then planned a little road trip into the Hudson Valley afterwards.

The fest started at noon so we decided to drive almost all the way to the City the night before to save an early morning wake up and a rushed drive in on the day of the event.  We found a reasonable hotel in the town of Avenel, NJ, for the night. We'd never been to Avenel before and found its crazy one way streets to be quite a nuisance.  The hotel was on the opposite side of the highway from where we were driving and it took us forever to find a cross street to backtrack to our place.  Any time we saw a road, "no left turn" was allowed.  Later we went out for dinner and had the same issue going both ways. Whew! I guess everyone who lives there knows all the shortcuts and side roads but we sure did not!

We got up and drove into NYC the next morning.  Rich did a great job, we found our way with no problem and the traffic was not too terrible.

Claustrophobia driving through the Lincoln Tunnel

It was too early to check into our hotel so we stored our bags, handed the car over to the valet, and took a cab to the food and wine show.  We had to stand in line for about 40 minutes before it opened for the day, but luckily the sun was shining!  Finally we were let into the huge building which was crammed full of booths with samples of various food and drink from every vendor imaginable.  Where to begin? What to try?

 We spent several hours sampling all kinds of deliciousness
 Mom and Rich discussing something important, I am sure!
Taking a little break

We wanted to watch some of the demonstrations by famous chefs but the seating area stayed full and there was no chance of getting a chair.  After wandering around a little more, we called it a day and headed back to the hotel to chill out for awhile.

 The view from our room on the 33rd floor
Nobody was too hungry for dinner but Rich and I took a walk later that night and stopped in at Charlie Palmer's  restaurant Aureole for some fancy desserts while Mom rested in the room.

 Chocolate Cremeux, sablee, thyme ice cream
 Lamington, blood orange, pistachio

 Out on the street
The rush of Times Square

After our quick visit, we were up and on our way to the Hudson Valley the next morning.   I heart NYC and can't wait to go back again!