February 09, 2006

Our weekend away

We were adults last weekend. Childless adults. If you have kids, you know the kind I'm talking about. The kind who dress beautifully for dinner (because nobody is there to smear food on you by accident), the kind who goes to museums to spend as much time as they want there, the kind who gets up an hour before breakfast is served at their quaint b&b so that they can read Civil War history without fear of interruption or demands that other books by read to small critters, the kind who can imbibe adult beverages whenever they felt like it, the kind who could sleep without baby monitors buzzing away, the kind. . . No. Here I stop. You get the idea and if I keep this up the memories of my pre-child days, most of which I have carefully locked away, will return and drive me batty. No, instead, I will simply review our weekend.

Since it is a very long entry, the rest is below in extended entry.

We escaped, not without tears shed, on Thursday. The Girl Child was quite reluctant to see us go. In fact, the only way we escaped, I think, was to tell her that if we didn't leave, we could not return with a present. That, in a nutshell, was sufficient consolation. This was our first trip away from the kids in about a year.

The drive up to the Berkshires was lovely and took me through a part of Connecticut and Massachusetts I have never seen before. Must be terrific in the summer months. There is something to be said for going off season to a popular destination. The people are simply more relaxed, the traffic less frantic, the restaurants less crowded. It feels half empty and a little sad, sometimes. Sort of like everyone is waiting for something and you know that something ain't you. Its a slow time, made worse for the locals by the lack of snow, I perceive. No snow? No skiers.

We arrived at our b&b without incident. We stayed at the Applegate Inn. It was delightful. The breakfasts were yummy and copious and the room was luxurious and faintly decadent -- a bathtub in the middle of the bedroom overlooking the gardens and a shower with two shower heads. A gas fired fire place lit the room at night and they thoughtfully provided a full decanter of not bad brandy, which I availed myself of shamelessly. This was our room. The pictures don't really do it justice.

We had drinks soon after unpacking. The Inn has 5:00 wine and cheese. We met and chatted with some of the other guests, who we actually enjoyed meeting. Then off to dinner and an early night.

We started our day on Friday, our first full day, with a little shopping at the nearby outlet center. As with everything, we spent more money than we intended but got some good and useful stuff -- new winter boots (probably for next winter at the rate this one is going), for example. It was pissing down pretty hard that morning and I think we benefitted since, in many of the shops we went into, we were the only customers.

lion inn.jpg

Then, off we drove to Stockbridge for lunch. Stockbridge is the home of the Red Lion Inn and pretty well known. A little history first. The Red Lion Inn, operating since the late 1700's, claims to have been the headquarters for the 1786 Shays Rebellion during which "Daniel Shays led a group of more than 100 local farmers and citizens in protest to British oppression and unfair taxation".

Or so claims the Inn's site. I kind of doubt it myself. Firstly, the Brits were gone from Western Massachusetts in 1786. There was a little thing called the Revolution in 1776 so I doubt the Brits were still oppressing the farmers. Second, it was a bit more than a protest. In fact, it was an armed insurrection. The Supreme Judicial Court Historical Society has a well written write up on it. Second, most of the action was in Springfield, a good distance from Stockbridge. So, call me a sceptic.

Lunch at the Inn, however, was very nice and then, off we went for a post-prandial stroll, since the rain obliged and went away. Then off to the Norman Rockwell Museum. It so happens, we arrived in time for the Viking Bride to partake of some of the birthday cake they had out for Mr. Rockwell's birthday. Neat.

Before my visit, I sort of didn't really think much of Mr. Rockwell. My mistake. His work has a breadth and a depth of intellect and emotion that blew me away. Mostly, you have to see it yourself in the oils. The prints just don't do him justice. He was an American genius.

Some of my favorites include:

Freedom of Speech


The Gossips

After our museum visit, and more shopping in the bookstore, we rambled our way back to our Inn for wine and cheese and to dress for dinner.

We dined at another Inn, tucked away, far from everything. It was called the Williamsville Inn and it was perfectly charming and merits a return overnight stay, especially since they are very welcoming of kids. The dinner was excellent. First, they had mulled wine. I limited myself to one because, I don't know, but there must be something in the mulling process because I always find mulled wine to be much stronger than the unmulled variety. The Viking Bride and I had almost the undivided attention of the chef, there was only one other couple dining there that night. If you care, I had the: Trilogy of Duck Foie Gras on Corn-Raisin –Port wine sauce and the Sauerkraut Platter with sausage, boiled bacon, smoked pork loin & roasted vegetables, close to a choucroute, which I adore. The Viking Bride was happy with: Cheese Spaetzle with roasted onions, with Emmenthaler & Gruyere Cheese and Wiener Schnitzel, sauce tartar, roasted vegetables, and mashed potatoes followed by the Bavarian style warm apple strudel with vanilla sauce. Did I mention it was a German restaurant? If not, I'm sure you twigged to it by now. We ended up having just a lovely chat with the co-owners/chefs. We got back to our Inn on the late side, but not too late for a brandy.

Saturday was gorgeous and warm. We spent the morning limbering up, stretching the stomach muscles and getting ready for what I was sure would be a highlight of the trip. The Superbowl of Chili. That's right, sports fans, Chili. One of my top 3 foodgroups. Turns out a local art school was holding a fundraiser to build a salt kiln. You showed up at the school, picked out a handmade bowl for $10, filled it with chili, to your heart's content, and ate until you were sorry. It started, officially, at 11:00. We arrived at 10:45. I immediately scooped up the single largest bowl on the table. I grabbed a few more that I thought were just plain beautiful, paid, and made my selection among the five or six homemade chilis on offer. I filled the big boy with chili and looked around for my bride. She was still picking her bowl, carefully weighing them in her hands for balance and feel. I added sour cream and went back for hot sauce and grated cheese. She was examining the glazing for a pleasing consistency. I sat down. I waited. She selected between two bowls. I went back for coffee. She made her selection, chose a chili, and joined me. My chili was still warm, thankfully, although I think it was a much closer thing than this description might indicate.

We ate too much. Ok. I ate too much. I ended up having thirds. We also had a very nice chat with the director of the ceramics department and admired the girl with the blue hair.

It was pretty much perfection. How could we top that? By a beautiful drive up county to Williamstown to visit some art museums.

First up, the Clark. This is a gem of a place. A first rate collection of impressionists and some other lovely paintings. Including, this Monet:


Not necessarily worth a drive of more than 2 hours, we concluded, but a lovely place to visit just the same.

I cannot, however, say the same for the Museum on the grounds of Williams College. That museum was a wonderful example of everything that is soooo wrong with art historical scholarship today. It was a huge disappointment. If you visit and see the visitor comment book at the end of the exhibit on pain in photography, look below the gushing comments for mine. I left: "Contrived and terribly self conscious." See if they left it in. I'd be curious.

This exhibit, purporting to juxtapose the works of "contemporary artist" Lalla Essaydi and 19th-century French painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme in particular was atrocious. Let me quote from the press release:

This exhibition marks the unveiling of bold new work by contemporary artist Lalla Essaydi in which she challenges the worldview of 19th-century French painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme. Her large and provocative paintings are juxtaposed with Gérôme’s iconic painting The Slave Market, generously loaned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. All of the paintings in the exhibition depict classically rendered figures and evocative architectural settings; while the French picture invites voyeurism and stereotypes the so-called ‘Orient,’ Essaydi’s paintings will not allow it. All her figures gaze right back at us and command respect, be they male, female, or hermaphrodite. Complementing the monumental photographs of women, for which she is already well known, these paintings challenge our assumptions of North Africa to foster cross-cultural awareness.

If you thought that was perfectly sensible, I invite you to leave. Now. The essays that went along with the "paintings" selected for this were mere recitations of popular buzzwords and jargon, devoid of actual thought or first class criticism. It was enough that the paintings "transgressed", as if transgression was a goal in and of itself and as such worthy of praise and genuflection. I walked out angry and, at the same time, happy I did not end up in the field as a professional, which almost happened. A narrow escape indeed.

We then amused ourselves with a hot chocolate on Spring Street and a gentle stroll around parts of the pretty college campus, where all of the students looked to be no more than 15. 16 at the most.

At this point, our plans for the evening changed. The Viking Bride, who had been quite the trooper up to this point, felt that attending the Beethoven piano concert at the college that night was just beyond her. So we left, went back to the Inn for wine and cheese and had a perfectly forgettable dinner.

Sunday arrived and we departed. We left on the early side so as to enjoy the peace and solitude in our empty house, something of a novelty for us, I assure you. We had a happy drive down and went out for lunch, again, just the two of us.

We picked the kids up from my parents' tender care after naps and in time to join everyone for dinner. My dad, bless his heart, made yummy beef goulash and we ate too much and watched the first half of the Super Bowl with them. Then, home for baths and bed.

All in all, it was a lovely weekend.

Posted by Random Penseur at February 9, 2006 11:20 AM | TrackBack

That sounds absolutely wonderful.
Now I'm envious and hungry.

And since you requested it: skeptic.

Posted by: phin at February 9, 2006 12:33 PM

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Instead of letting those pre-child memories return to make you batty, let weekends like this remind you of what's to come, in the blink of an eye. It comes back to you, you know, those days of being, firstly, a couple again. With a lifetime of shared memories to enjoy, as a bonus.

I attended a seminar on Rockwell during my retreat last summer. The things I learned and the appreciation I gained were stunning. I've not ever looked at his work as simply as I used to since.

Posted by: Jennifer at February 9, 2006 12:51 PM

Sounds wonderful! The hubby and I need to do this soon.

Posted by: oddybobo at February 9, 2006 01:17 PM

What a grand time? And Norman Rockwell? Oh yes, he was indeed a genius. When I was a child, his work was regularly featured on the cover of a magazine (I think it was 'Saturday Evening Post'). I could barely read, but I remember how I used to immerse myself in those pictures for hours on end. Even as a child I could relate to those common-place situations he captured with such skill - a family dinner, facial expressions on people and even animals that told the rest of the story. For all time, Rockwell has been my hero. Thanks for including that special bit in your post including a couple pictures for me to embed myself in for an hour or two.

Posted by: Roberta S at February 9, 2006 02:58 PM

Sounds divine! We haven't done anything like that since my son was born six years ago. I keep saying we will eventually, but it never seems to happen.

Posted by: Jordana at February 9, 2006 05:28 PM

Oh, how wonderful!!

; )

Posted by: Christina at February 9, 2006 08:25 PM

Oh wow! How wonderful! I'm so happy for you both. And yes, we used to bribe the kids with presents too. After they got older, they'd be trying to shove us out the door. Heh...

Norman Rockwell; yes, I remember not thinking much of him for the most part and then one day, I saw a print somewhere and I was stunned at the depth.

Lovely lovely getaway, RP!

Posted by: Amber at February 11, 2006 03:04 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?