Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Day In the Hudson Valley Where Nothing Went To Plan and Everything Was Perfect

A month ago, Hamilton and I planned a group trip to the central Hudson Valley region.  The city kids were going to train up and I was going to drive down and everyone would meet at the Poughkeepsie train station.

The day, despite it being the end of October and often rainy or even snowy, was perfection!  Warm sunshine and clear skies from start to finish made for the most magical day outside!  Global Warming is a bitch for the polar bears but this October has been unbelievable here in Upstate NY!

After I managed to get lost circling the train station parking lot, we met up and headed directly towards our first stop of the day.  The Walkway Over the Hudson.

I've blogged on here numerous times over the years about visiting the Walkway Over the Hudson as it's a personal favorite way to spend an afternoon.  It's a great little walk, a great view, great people and dog watching {I literally ran into people while watching a cute dog...so typical}, and makes for a great, albeit always windy, photo op.

What made this visit for me fun this time though, was that it was a first visit for everyone else in the group.  I loved being able to share a bit of the bridge's history, some of my favorite random musings, and see it through their eyes!  And I'm fairly certain it was an all around win!  I always say when I'm down there that I would be at the Walkway every weekend if I lived in that area.  It's a nice, safe spot to walk and jog.

Next on the agenda was lunch at the Poughkeepsie Ice House.  I have a thing for ice houses.  They fascinate me and I love spotting them along the Hudson River.

{For those less nerdy...ice houses are brick structures along rivers that once housed...wait for it...ice.  Blocks of ice were cut out of rivers and stored in these cool, dark, buildings all year long.  In the case of the Hudson River, the ice from Upstate was shipped down to the city.  Once refridgeration made it's way to the masses though, ice houses became a thing of the past and for the most part have fallen into piles of bricks.  Like coal or horse carriages or those spiral corded house phones that we all grew up with on our kitchen wall.}

Because I tend to tell Hamilton all about my things in life, I once rambled on and on to her about ice houses.  And that grew to yet another inside joke.  So when we found an ice house turned restaurant, it didn't really matter what kind of food they were serving.  We.  Were.  Going!

And here's where things fell apart.

We walked in, asked for a table, and were told that they were no longer seating customers as a wedding was happening soon.  But it was chaos and there was no signage and tons of wannabe customers walking in asking for tables.  It was just sort of an odd situation.  That said, there's another restaurant right next door that also had outside seating with fabulous Hudson River views.  So off we went to River Station.

The view, the weather, the company, and the food did not disappoint!  I was sitting in my seat to take the photo above!  Stunning, right?!

The food was great, however should you find yourself at River Station in Poughkeepsie, NY, they are not lying about the length of time it takes to get orders out.  Order more wine and oysters and just embrace the experience!  You're going to be there a while.  It's worth it though for a casual lunch with your favorite people.

Hamilton is the best sport every time I hold up my phone and demand we take an us-ie.  I'm pretty sure she appreciates these cute gems as much as I do!

After lunch we wandered down by the river to check out these whale sculptures.  I'm not sure what or why but gosh we had fun playing on them like five year olds.  Couldn't stop laughing.

I mean...they're ridiculously cute!  I love my Hamilton and Eliza something fierce!  And I love that we all finally took off our purses for a proper photo {where I look terrible because I'm laughing but the other three loves look great}!  Can you believe the leaves and sunshine and water and bridge in this photo?  The entire day was surreal.

Our next adventure was also a bit of a miss.  We had hoped to make the last tour of Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt's home up in Hyde Park, NY.  However, lunch took ages and then my demand for 47 photo shoots added to it and we missed the final tour.  

Hamilton and I kind of predicted this might happen though and were happy to just walk around the property for a while.  What we didn't predict was how perfect it would feel to be the last visitors for the day just wandering around at our own pace.  We basically had the property to ourselves and it was entirely magical!

I've long known it was rumored that Eleanor Roosevelt was something other than straight, however it wasn't until a week ago that I read some excerpts from her letters to her long time love, Lorena Hickok.  It leaves nothing to question really except that I want to know so much more!  

Did Eleanor have partners before Hick or after Hick?  Did she not act on her feelings until after Franklin had his affair?  Did any of their six children know?  And which other men and women in history have similar stories?  

We got none of those questions answered.  And I doubt we would have on the tour either as the property is owned by the National Parks Service.  But we did walk around and imagine what life must have been like to entertain politicians and world leaders and your not very secret, but shh it's a secret girlfriend all in that same space.

I was surprised to find the gardens open to the public.  They were small but perfectly maintained and basically my dream gardening space.  Poughkeepsie is a zone or two warmer than here in Troy and I am curious to know if those artichoke plants over-winter down there.  They do not up here but it was the first thing I thought of upon seeing them still in the garden.  The rows of dahlias were a delight!  I most definitely need to plant some in my own garden next spring.

Let me paint a picture for you.

Hamilton and I are sorority sisters from the University of Georgia.  We reconnected over a year ago, both living in New York and both something other than straight.  And we spent Saturday romping around the country home of the original power lesbian couple while the Georgia Florida football game was being played.  

The entire experience was a full circle moment.  

Val-Kill is actually composed of several buildings.  A main cottage, a smaller cottage, and several other buildings.  It's a very humble estate compared to the FDR mansion and Vanderbilt Mansion, both just a few miles down the road in Hyde Park.  Val-Kill is not at all fussy or grand.  It's beautiful and sweet and looks like it made every visitor feel very much at home.  

We were all charmed by the sleeping porch {below}.  It overlooks one of the gardens and the beautiful pond and I can imagine how lovely it was to sleep out there on warm nights!

As I mentioned, we missed the tour.  But that didn't stop a bunch of nosey nellies from trying to peek in all the windows.  Big hugs to The Neighbor for capturing this photo of Hamilton, Eliza, and me!

I have a real weakness for stone.  I love that those rocks were created over time in rivers, dug up, and carefully jigsaw puzzled together to create this special home.  I am incapable of passing a stone house or stone wall without telling everyone in earshot how much I swoon for them.

And the white shutters!  The white shutters against the dark stone.  The white shutters against the dark stone against the blue sky as the sun sets and we pay homage to Eleanor and Hick...

Four perfectly placed chairs overlooking the pool with the stone fireplace in the background just beckons for us to sit for a quick photo.  And a chat about the lives that were lived around this patio and pool.  Who came for a dip and who stayed for a nightcap?

Of all the things we saw and imagined, this door handle was my absolute favorite part of Val-Kill.  First, because it's beautiful.  I've never seen a handle quite like it and was just really drawn to the shape and patina.  But second, because I imagine it's original.  Eleanor, Hick, FDR, their kids, their friends....and again...Eleanor and Hick...touched this door handle.  They walked in and out of the smaller cottage to the patio through this door and using this likely unnoticed piece of hardware.  It felt like I was getting to share a tangible piece of their history.

This is the Doll House.  I have no idea of it's purpose but it was cute and to me looked like a pale shade of pink and green {everyone else in the group swore it was cream...but I stand by it being pale pink}.  It overlooked the bar-b-que pit, pond, and tennis court.

I can find a moss covered stone to stand on everywhere I go.  This one was the bottom step of the Doll House.

Another sweet moment happened here on the back porch of the main cottage.  Eliza and The Neighbor got separated from us, so Hamilton and I sat down to wait for them.  And that's sort of a nothing story.  But it was an unexpected quiet moment with my best girl just watching a chipmunk and me wondering aloud about Eleanor and Fredrick and their relationship.  And again wondering...did our newly appointed mascots sit on this porch once upon a time too?

Val-Kill is humble but beautiful.  It's such a peaceful place with lots of space to relax and wander.  

There's even a small apple orchard!  So...this property is basically my dream home.  Please forward my mail to Hyde Park, friends!  I'm sure the government who owns the property will be cool with that, right?!

I will definitely make my way back down to Hyde Park and Val-Kill again soon to get the proper tour.  But until then, a quiet little toast to my girl ER and her girl, Hick!  Way to be pioneers for racial and gender equality.  Way to be smart and active and dedicated towards causes that still we're still fighting for today.  

Eleanor was a visionary and ahead of her time.  And you should expect more on her covered here because I have fallen hard down a rabbit hole and am crazy pants fascinated by the life of Eleanor Roosevelt!

The only part of the day we didn't have planned was dinner.  At one point we thought we would get a reservation at the Culinary Institute of America, but weekend reservations need to be made more than three days in advance.  However, without a plan and just a few miles away from the CIA, we thought we'd at least go walk around before the sun completely set.  

The CIA campus is beautiful!  I've driven past it a few times but this was a first time walking the campus for all of us.  One of my favorite sights was this fish sculpture made out of silver cutlery.  It was amazing to see all the spoons and fish knives and forks pieced together so perfectly to sculpt this fish!

Another personal delight was how the landscaping incorporated so many edible plants.  Boxwood hedges surrounded a large bed of lavender.  Planters with grasses and eggplants or sweet potato vines and rainbow Swiss chard.  I wonder if the students get tickled by that too or if they're busy 20-somethings just trying to get through the daily grind of a busy culinary education.

Our quest to get a drink at the CIA was a bust, but the little walk around the the campus and stopping to admire the sunset more than made up for it.

So Hamilton found a bar in Poughkeepsie where we could catch the last quarter of the amazing Georgia Florida game together and grab some dinner.  We got there and parked and as we were walking to the bar though, we passed what was essentially a restaurant mirage in an urban desert.  

We had to walk in.  Even though it meant giving up our only chance to watch what seems to be the greatest game in Georgia Florida history with one of my dearest friends from UGA.  We all just knew this beautiful and unexpected spot was the right choice.  

In a crazy turn of events though, not a single one of us took out our phones to snap a photograph.  But please trust me that if you are ever in the Poughkeepsie area, you must go to Brasserie 292.  The atmosphere, cocktails, and food are outstanding!  It was the perfect way to end our girls day trip in the Hudson Valley.  We left with just enough time to get the city friends to the train station for hugs before they had to catch their lift back home.  

{Shout out to Molly who out actually recommended Brasserie 292!  I didn't realize it at the time because we were walking past it when we stopped to look in the window.  But when I got home, went back to your email and realized it was one of your tips!  Kismet!  It was delicious and so pretty!}

I am so grateful to have Hamilton and Eliza and The Neighbor in my life!  We lived a week of adventures in less than 12 hours.  We had great chats and big belly laughs and took hundreds of photos to remember every last minute.  Nothing went to plan, but our day together was sublime.  My cup runneth over!



MCW said...

You all so lucked out with the weather!!! Looks like a perfect (and exhausting) day and evening. Glad you stumbled upon one of my suggestions :)

Alayna said...

I'm a new follower - I think I found you through MCW. Thanks for sharing these gorgeous pics. I haven't spent time in the Hudson Valley, but I think I need to put it on my list. Loved the history lesson, too!

Becky said...

We’ve walked over that long footbridge on a trip from Maine to NC! It was a great diversion from the long trip and now nice to have some restaurant recommendations! I love your friend’s red pants! Can you find out where she got them? Sounds like an absolutely beautiful and fun day... thanks for sharing!


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