New York’s per­fect week­end get­away

Head out of the Big Ap­ple for a river­side so­journ

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE DOLAN

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.

BEST BEDS

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

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