Monday, August 12, 2013

Travel Diary: The Berkshires, Massachusetts

I know most people wouldn't consider the Berkshires a destination for your typical 'girls' weekend,' but that's where my friend and I headed last week for a couple of quiet days in the mountains. We're not hikers and we didn't attend any Tanglewood performances but there were plenty of things to keep us busy in the forty or so hours that we were in town.  The region is a mere two-hour drive from us, but with the surrounding mountains serving as a gorgeous backdrop, we felt like we were much farther from home.

We wasted no time and headed to the Furnace Brook Winery in Richmond as soon as we arrived in town.  Apple orchards surround the country store with plenty of walking trails for exploring. It was only noon but we started off with a wine tasting.  The wines were all so light and refreshing, most made with grapes from Long Island. The hard ciders were delicious, barely tasting alcoholic. We purchased a bottle of the Sweet Muscato (and a bottle of their French Cidre for later) and headed out to the picnic tables with a half-dozen fresh cider doughnuts. Yes, we had wine and cider doughnuts for lunch. It was fabulous.


From there, we headed through Stockbridge to the Norman Rockwell Museum, located in a little white house on manicured grounds. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this museum. Rockwell's works when viewed up-close are true wonders. His brush strokes are so delicate and strategic that his paintings almost look like photographs. There were several Civil Rights era paintings that were achingly beautiful; these were projects he worked on in his spare time because there weren't any publications that would buy them. The images are still poignant fifty years later.

"Gossip," my favorite Rockwell painting.

Driving through Lenox on the way to our hotel, we stopped for a walk around the center of town and found ourselves drawn to Najaime's Wine, which is essentially a liquor store with a huge selection of fancy cheeses and crackers. We each picked two cheeses (how could I pass up horseradish cheddar spread?) and several boxes of crackers, which wound up being our dinner the next night. Did I mention that it was a low-key trip?

Horizontal apple tree branches at the Great Barrington Co-Op.

The next day, we explored Great Barrington a bit, visited the life-size Stations of the Cross at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy and relaxed at Lenox Coffee for part of the afternoon, but our evening was spent at The Mount, the estate of Edith Wharton, one of my favorite writers from the last century. The grounds are beyond lovely with lush flower beds and wooded paths. Modern sculptures are scattered around on the edges of the trees and there was a live show of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" being performed as we explored the grounds. As we walked through the manicured gardens, it almost felt like we were transported back in time.

Those two days went by so quickly but we really enjoyed the Berkshires.  It reminded me so much of Southern Vermont (my family used to spend so much time in Brattleboro when I was growing up).  I'd love to go back again to visit MASS MoCA or even to make the drive up to Mount Greylock State Park.  I may be wrong but this really seems like a region that's beautiful in all seasons. xo

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