Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hudson, an old whaling town on the Hudson River?

Having heard many diverse comments on the small town of Hudson on the Hudson River, two hours north of New York City by Amtrak, across from Catskill, New York, it was time to experience the place for myself.

I made a reservation at Country Squire B & B on Allen Street near the hub of the town's activities. The amiable inn keeper, Paul Barrett, welcomed me to his Victorian establishment. He explained the lay-out of this small town and I was off for a wonderful adventure.

Lunchtime encouraged me to try Verdigris on Third Street. A bustling tea room with many delicious looking desserts and an array of luncheon quiche and salads tempted me to indulge to the fullest. It was one of the best lunches I can remember. The apple/cranberry crumble was a superb finish to an amusing meal. I say amusing because the local garden club was there in force. Three women independently approached me with obvious ploys: "What is that book you are reading," etc. Yes, I was being hit on, and at my age that is a compliment! (My attire of a Nehru jacket clearly labelled me a visitor open for investigation.

Next on my agenda was a visit to the Opera House. Originally built as a City Hall in the 19th century, it later became a music hall for various entertainments. The top floor is a large space with stage but needing a complete overhaul. What interested me was the diverse use of space on the ground floor. There were art exhibitions, a room for music lessons or rehearsals, administration offices and the potential for diverse arts disciplines.

The greatest surprise for me about Hudson is that it was a thriving whaling town in the mid-18th century through the mid-19th century! Imagine whalers sailing their cargos of slaughtered whales from Nantucket, Cape Cod and Rhode Island down around New York City to the deep harbor of Hudson where the whales were dissected and oils extracted for shipment to the west!

Later a huge cement factory and other industries replaced the whaling business. However, the town sank into lean times. A depressed town along the majestic Hudson River resulted.

In the '80's this industrial town turned itself around with the influx of antique dealers who attracted trade from both Boston and New York, creating an unexpected gaiety and pizzazz. The main street of Warren is replete with interesting shops, purveyors of antiques and other quality goods. Much restoration of Victorian and Federal buildings have been undertaken giving the town a revitalized appearance.

There are excellent restaurants (my favorite being Ca Mea, and a choice of guest houses for the visitors. I mentioned the Victorian pleasant atmosphere of Country Squire earlier; in delightful contrast is the charm of Warren Street B&B with the chatelaine Carolyn Lawrence to make visitors comfy.

Just five miles south of Hudson on Route 9G is Olana State Historic Site. This is the Persian style home created by Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church. The original furnishings and house are on view from April through November. Church and his mentor Thomas Cole immortalized these spectacular views during the 19th century, leaving for posterity magnificent works of art.

This is a highly recommended over-night jaunt from New York City or environs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Preface: Making the impossible possible!

For years, I have enjoyed driving to Abiquiu and strolling around the outside of Georgia O'Keeffe's house and the penitente chapel above as the house itself has always needed special permission to enter it.

This visit, I called the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe to request admission to the house. The public relations person did not answer his phone but I left a message with my intention included. With no response, I drove off to Abiquiu and went to the gate of the house. Coming out were two men in a pick-up truck. I asked if the manager was available. No, as cell phones were out of range, I would have to go down to the village and use a public pay phone, calling a number they gave me with the name of the person.

Needing to mail a letter, I entered the post office and after making my small purchase, I asked the woman behind the desk where the nearest pay phone was to call up to the O'Keeffee house. She responded with the very words that I had hoped she would: "Here, use my phone."

I explained my request to the very cheerful voice at the house above. She informed me of the protocol of going through the museum for admission. Having patiently (and sweetly) explained that I had tried that without success, she said "Oh, come on up!"

A truly lovely time was had being shown around by this most amiable and knowledgeable woman. When I returned to Santa Fe later that day, a message was waiting for me from the public relations man. "It will be utterly impossible to grant permission to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe house, blah, blah...."

What fun it was to call him the next day to view photos for use in an upcoming article, having viewed the house on my own chutzpah. So much for things being impossible!

In a commanding position on a bluff over-looking the Hispanic village of Abiquiu and the Chama Valley sits the famous home of Georgia O’Keeffe, an icon of American painting. Now a national historic landmark, it houses the essence of this remarkable artist expressed by the furniture, art work and the everyday objects she used in her simple, but richly spirited creative life.

Though Santa Fe has the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, it is the drive of just a little more than one hour northwest to Abiquiu that best exposes the life and work of this artist. Surrounded by the bright, sun drenched stark mountains and mesas, multi-colored in strata, a deeper understanding of her work presents itself.

Familiar objects and natural formations used in her paintings present themselves at every turn: the black door in her courtyard, the mesa across the valley, the highway below her windows and such.

Further along the highway is the Ghost Ranch, where the great woman spent many a summer painting in the studio she used to escape from the heat of Abiquiu. Her studio there is not open to the public, but her residence in Abiquiu is well worth the visit. One must apply through the museum in Santa Fe.

At the house, a most gracious, affable Agapita Judy Lopez will take you around for a tour of the artist’s home, courtyard, and gardens which were rich in various vegetables, fruit trees and flowering plants. This live-in manager knew Georgia O’Keeffe and effectively guides the visitor, implanting a deep understanding of her environment and artistry.

Aside from the many books and DVDs about Georgia O’Keeffe, a wonderful place to search out other books, magazines and enjoy a coffee, tea or light refreshment is Collected Works. Owner Dorothy Massey recently moved her long popular bookstore from West San Francisco Street to 202 Galisteo Street , only a couple of blocks away.

On moving day, it was extraordinary to see a line of people passing books from hand to hand down the street from the old bookstore to the new location. Among the many supporters of the bookstore in line were prominent citizens, film stars, and enthusiastic locals and students. A wonderful notion, very Santa Fe style, but the action slowed down as members of the line began to get too interested in looking at the passing books, holding up the procedure.

Dorothy Massey is a strong supporter of the community. She installed a coffee house in the bookstore which serves light refreshments. A small stage was installed so that musicians could come to play; authors read; speakers discuss various topics of community interest. The Collected Works has a truly a lively atmosphere of people exchanging ideas or simply gathering to hear music, peruse a book, or sip delicious coffee. Open seven days a week; this is a useful place to enjoy in Santa Fe.

A major consideration for most travelers to “City Different” in “The Land of Enchantment” is accommodations. The Sage Inn at 725 Cerrillos Road and Don Diego is ideally situated for those who like to walk around to most places of interest. There is a Sage Inn shuttle available for other destinations that one might not wish to walk to. The cost of a large room, dressing area and bathroom with plenty of hot water at all times for the long bath is very reasonable. Longer stays earn lower rates. A diverse choice of breakfast items is available from 6 to 10 a.m. in the breakfast room, free of charge.

As a bonus, the staff is unusually helpful, courteous, and friendly making the visitor feel welcome and at home. You can not beat it! Enjoy!

This article will be printed in the 17 Recorder Newspapers on the cover of OUT & ABOUT on March 11th.