New York’s perfect weekend getaway
Head out of the Big Apple for a riverside sojourn
SCENES SETTER: The historic river settlement of Hudson in the Catskill Mountains is the favouri ite new weekend destination among New Yorkers. Just two hours by train north from Manhattan’s Penn Station, it also makes for a perfect day trip. Known as Brooklyn-on-the-Hudson, it blends the best of the Big Apple’s SOHO, Greenwich Village and Chelsea with a dash of the East Village and thus provides a whole lot of city living in one of the state’s most beautiful natural settings. Established in 1783 by whalers from Nantucket who sought safety from pirates, it was the first city to be chartered under the stars and stripes. Today, with fewer than 7000 residents and about 300 historic buildings, Hudson punches well above its weight. There are 40 antiques shops, 18 art galleries, 24 restaurants, eight vintage and five homewares stores, 10 B&Bs and nine live performance spaces, including a newly renovated opera house. Note that some Hudson establishments shut in winter but reopen in March. More: gotohudson.net.
MAKING TRACKS: The train trip there has been described as one of the most beautiful in the US. Early on a still morning, the expansive Hudson River has an ethereal glow made all the more charming by the beams of seven lighthouses. The beacon at Kingston looks like a miniature Palladian mansion and before the train pulls into Hudson there’s another one mid-river that’s been modelled on a Second Empire French chateau. Sit on the left of the carriage to get the best views, which include glimpses of West Point, the meticulously kept military academy, and America’s “Downton Abbey District”, where the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Astor and Whitney families built their stately houses. As the train glides under the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, it’s a sign that Hudson’s little red brick station is a mere six minutes away. More: amtrak.com.
T THE MAIN DRAG: Warren Street is a six-minute w walk from the station but first visit Parade Hill where there’s an outstanding view of the river and the tiny town of Athens on the opposite bank. Warren Street could be a backlot at a film studio, with dozens of building styles recognisable from classic American movies. There are simple Nantucket saltboxes, gothic and Greek revival houses, grand Queen Anne mansions, charming Victorian edifices, and Italianate homes with mansard roofs. Running under the centre of Hudson are tunnels built by residents to help runaway slaves evade the authorities. Before the American Civil War, Hudson’s Abolitionists helped hundreds escape to Canada.
LIVE ARTS: The live music and arts scene draws v visitors from across the state. Basilica Hudson, a solar-powered venue on the waterfront, was built in 1880s and was once a factory; now it’s known for its underground film screenings, dance events with international names such as Twyla Tharp and live music performances by the likes of Rufus Wainwright. The state’s oldest opera house is the venue for classical recitals and art exhibitions, and Club Helsinki hosts top-billing blues, rock and folk acts. More: basilicahudson.org; hudsonoperahouse.org; helsinkihudson.com.
IN GOOD TASTE: Thanks to a burgeoning local farm-to-table restaurant movement, visitors are spoiled for choice. At Fish & Game, New York chef Zak Pelaccio offers an eight-course tasting menu. The margaritas at Mexican Radio are said to be the best in town and the fish taco with guacamole, red cabbage and fried tilapia is pretty good, too. Step back in time at Grazin’ Diner, a burger joint in a classic 1940s stainless steel diner car. Nearby, Hudson’s oldest existing eatery, Red Dot Restaurant & Bar, serves Maine cod cakes and chicken pot pies. For Francophiles, the bistro fare at Le Gamin Country is served on funky formica tables among vintage gas pumps. At Ugly’s Bakery at Baba Louie’s Pizza Co, the selection of pizza crust includes classic, sourdough, spelt and gluten-free. And for tea, cakes and chocolate, visit Verdigris Tea & Chocolate Bar. More: fishandgamehudson.com; grazinburger.com; mexrad.com; reddotrestaurant.com; legamincountry. com; babalouiespizza.com; verdigristea.com.
A ALE AND HEARTY: At The Spotty Dog Books & Ale, formerly the city fire station, there’s ale on tap and books for sale. Whether it’s a pub that sells books or a bookshop with beer is difficult to fathom, but under an impressive wood-panelled ceiling are thousands of books, a long bar with stools and numerous comfy chairs between the shelves where customers can leaf through the tomes, ales in hand. More: thespottydog.com.
HOT TO TROT: For luxury homewares, mostly on Warren Street, Finch has a fine collection of vintage prints, occasional furniture and one-off lamps. Nearby, Valley Variety sells designer kitchen utensils, plus gardening and grooming items. Exquisite handmade fabrics can be found at Les Indiennes. A good rummage at Antigo could uncover treasures amid piles of vintage bibelots. For beauty, Face Stockholm offers skincare and make-up products. For local hand-mixed fragrances, visit 2 Note Botanical Perfumery. Drop into Vanessa Milu Vintage for preloved clothes, and Behida Dolic Millinery has hats, fascinators, fedoras and cloches inspired by silent films. More: finchhudson.com; valleyvariety.com; facestockholm.com; 2notehudson.com; lesindiennes.com; behidadolic.com.
RIVER CROSSING: From July to September, Hudson Cruises ferries people across the river to A Athens, a little town so untouched by time it would look perfect in Jane Austen’s county England. At the Stewart House hotel, there’s an excellent restaurant on a waterside terrace, and nearby is Crossroads Brewing Company, an alehouse and microbrewery. Hudson Cruises also organises tours to the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, that little chateau in the middle of the river. More: stewarthouse.com; crossroadsbrewingco.com; hudsoncruises.com.
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON: Just south of Hudson in the Hyde Park National Park is Franklin D Roosevelt’s country house, the setting of the 2012 Bill Murray film Hyde Park on Hudson. Next door is his Presidential Library and Museum and nearby is the Vanderbilt Mansion, a massive neoclassical pile where the priceless 17th-century History of Troy Tapestries hang. More: fdrlibrary.org; nps.gov/vama.
PERIOD CHARM: The Inn at Hudson is a Dutch Jacobean-inspiredJ house with exquisite mock 17th-century1 interiors and five beautiful suites. The plaster friezes, lead windows and wooden panelling would make Rembrandt feel at home, though what he’d make of the Warhol print of Jackie O in the main hall is anyone’s guess. More mini-mansion than B&B, it serves sensational breakfasts such as poached eggs with lime infused hollandaise over fried tomatoes, sausages and toast. A more modern ambience can be found at the 27-room Rivertown Lodge, a converted 1920s movie house. The Scandi-style interiors of pale oak floorboards and designer furniture are cosied-up in winter by wood-burning stoves. More: theinnathudson.com; rivertownlodge.com.
Rip Van Winkle Bridge crosses the Hudson River, top; Le Gamin Country, top right; Vanderbilt mansion, above right; Valley Variety, above; Warren Street’s diverse architecture, below