I was brought up on James Taylor’s music and the lyrics of “Sweet Baby James”:
“Now the first of December was covered with snow
So was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
The Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting…”
I was lucky enough to experience this on Valentine’s Day weekend, when my husband Cam and I were scheduled to participate in a writer’s retreat at the Red Lion Inn, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
But wouldn’t you know it: The trip coincided with a major snowstorm, and since people were coming in from all over the country…it was cancelled! I contacted the organizer and said that we were ready to go with our puppy Indigo in tow and new snow tires on the Mini. We were given the green light, and although it took us twice as long to get there from southern Connecticut, the drive up Route 7 was indeed “dream-like on account of that frosting.”
By the time we arrived, it was time for dinner. We settled into the beautiful, newly renovated room in the Maple Glen guest house where all rooms on the first floor are dog-friendly. There are 17 rooms in all in this “house,” which also features a common living area and is very popular for family reunions or hosting wedding party guests. The lighting was especially soothing to Indigo and romantic in warm orange glows.
We walked the puppy in the snow and then Cam and I sat down for dinner in the Widow Bingham Tavern where I felt like I was in a Gabaldon novel eating fish and chips and drinking brandy in the 18th-century tavern. There has been a pub on this very spot since before the Revolutionary War, and in fact, rebels met here to discuss their plans. The original building burnt down in 1896 but the new and present building was opened a year later with its birdcage elevator, which is still in operation.
I toured the main hotel, appointed with antiques and colonial decor and reminiscent of where our family used to take beach holidays at the old Ocean House Hotel in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. There are three types of rooms in the main hotel, including “Bed and Breakfast” rooms, which come at a lower cost as occupants share a bathroom down the hall and get breakfast included in the room rate. This is a great option for families.
Exploring the area
Not too far from the Red Lion is the Norman Rockwell Museum—and it was a wonderful surprise to visit the 31 acres covered in snow. The grounds could be a nature preserve. We visited on a Monday and used our iPhones to listen to commentaries on the paintings. The Norman Rockwell Museum has over 300 of his “Saturday Evening Post” original paintings. Especially moving for me were the “Four Freedoms” paintings inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech. “Freedom of Speech,” “Freedom of Worship,” “Freedom from Want,” and “Freedom from Fear” are particularly American and poignant now. Norman Rockwell painted his versions of the speech using people and events from his hometown.
Afterward, we snowshoed on the grounds with Indigo. Snowshoeing around the red studio of Norman Rockwell was really a thrill. His studio is open May-October. For the kid in all of us, see the Hanna Barbera exhibit “the architects of Saturday Morning” until May 2017. Cam really enjoyed some of the original drawings of “Gazoo” from The Flintstones!
MASS MoCA’s appeal has never been greater. The largest museum of contemporary art in the United States is about to become the largest in the world, housed in an old transformer factory in North Adams.
The Nick Cave exhibition is in a humongous space with all kinds of mobiles hanging from the ceiling and a center island accessible by ladders that held every nik-nak you can imagine. This has something to do with gun violence in the US and I believe the “heart” of the space, the nik-nak cluster, consists of all the familiar things lost to senseless gun violence (my interpretation).
Across the street we visited the Porches Inn, a sister property of Red Lion Inn. These former row houses are awesome! Every high-tech amenity is here. Sleeping lofts are accessed by spiral staircases. The rooms have a nostalgic grandmotherly design but with a modern twist. I loved the color scheme and the use of subtle analogous colors and particularly the vintage paint-by-number paintings!
Dogs are not allowed in MASS MoCA, but Indigo was permitted (as long as she didn’t make too much of a nuisance) in Tunnel City Café next to the museum. I was grateful to be able to alternate with my husband, sipping super cappuccinos in this laid-back café.
Back at the Red Lion…
Back at the Red Lion Inn, we took dinner in the main dining room, with New England baked haddock for me and shepherd’s pie for Cam. The Red Lion uses local farms, wild-caught fish and grass-fed beef for their restaurants. We grabbed Indi afterwards, where she was welcome to “hang-out” with us in the main salon by the cozy fire, where the adults savored port and Indi met other guests at the Inn.
Breakfast was so incredible among the antiques and flowered wall paper: blueberry pancakes, poached eggs, pots of Irish breakfast tea and coffee, and fresh blueberries and raspberries.
Heading home—and a few more must-visits
Before heading back home to Connecticut, Cam, Indigo and I went for a hike in nearby Lenox at Kennedy Park. The nice folks at the Arcadian Sports Shop at the trailhead recommended it and gave us a trail map.
Next to Kennedy Park we had the best hot chocolates since my Marie Antoinette trip in France at Chocolate Springs, where the café/shop was hopping for Valentine’s Day selling homemade truffles and other delights.
Down Route 7 is Berkshire Mountain Distillers tasting room in Sheffield, Massachusetts. Their Greylock Gin was voted the best gin in the country by The New York Times. Cam is a fan of the Ragged Mountain Rum, a Caribbean-style rum.
And further down Route 7 we had a visit with our nephew in northwestern Connecticut. All in all, it was a jam-packed two days and nights of art, romance, history, and indulgence with some healthy exercise and quality family time—even for Indigo.
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