Let’s Get Away from It All

27 05 2008

The thing about New Yorkers is that they rarely, if ever, leave New York. And Manhattanites? Good luck even getting most to leave their little island. For many, it’s a big deal even going to Brooklyn. When I first moved here, I had major island mentality. Manhattan has a way of becoming the world at large, and leaving seems as though it might cause a bit of a shock to the system. Or at the very least, it seems difficult.

And yet. Recently I’ve found that, though I love New York City, getting away from the crowds and the traffic is sometimes incredibly appealing. (Not to mention that when I moved I did so with the intention of exploring the East Coast at large.) And, more importantly, getting away is often as simple as the purchase of a train or bus ticket.

And so, a list of the not-so-far, getaways I’ve taken in the past few weeks, and how easy it was to reach them:

  • Newport, RI. Because as one of the oldest (and wealthiest) towns in the country, it is picturesque scenery and rich history all rolled into one: a pretty part town, craggy cliffs, and mansions that drip with class. Who wants to be a millionaire? The Peter Pan bus runs to Providence, or it may be worthwhile to rent a car. DestinationNewport.com is a helpful site for transportation and activities.
  • Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Yes, it’s still New York, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. There’s nothing like a little flower power to stimulate the senses and the imagination: it’s the fastest changing fashion in New York. Because cherry blossoms were so last season. A quick subway ride away. It’s close to the Q train.
  • Boston, MA. I actually went to Middleboro, a peaceful town not far from historic Plymouth but it’s easy to get to Boston, even just for the day, that I’m planning to go again soon. Plus, I have to see Plymouth Rock, which happened to be (in great anachronism) closed for renovation. The Fung Wah Bus runs from New York’s Chinatown to Boston’s Chinatown in just three hours and costs just $15 each way.
  • Cold Spring, NY. This pretty town on the Hudson is great for antiquing or exploring the great outdoors. Take a hike. Or a kayak or a bike ride. The Metro North train takes a little over an hour from Grand Central.
  • The Hamptons. Even if you’re not one of the lucky few with a “Hamptons connection” it’s not hard to get Out East for the day. If driving’s an option, it takes just two hours when there’s no traffic (we left early Sunday morning and came back late that night). The quiet alone is worth it. Then there’s the hot sand between your toes, the extravagant mansions peeking out from behind hedge fences, and the a night sky that beats even Grand Central’s rendering. Driving is great if possible, but the Hampton Jitney runs most of the day.




Cold Spring, Warm Day

20 05 2008

Not Henry Hudson. Rebecca, mountain woman.

It’s been unseasonably cold in New York of late. With the exception of a few lovely days, it’s been a lot of rain and gloom, and since I’ve been pining for summer since, well, February, it’s made me only slightly annoyed. Friday was one of the worst; I actually got caught in a torrential downpour with the kind of winter winds make it impossible for New Yorkers to keep an umbrella nice for any length of time (I watched helplessly Friday evening as poor Libby’s Elvis umbrella was sacrificed to the wind). It was an especially bad sign since we had a hike planned the next morning.

But Saturday morning arrived bright and clear. I met the girls at Grand Central Station, just an hour later we were in Cold Spring, a tiny historic village just 50 miles north of New York on the banks of the Hudson River. There was some sort of street sale going on, making small town Cold Spring more small town than ever. A few rickety tables had been set up on the sidewalk and a couple of ladies had started laying beaded jewelry on them. Across the street, the antique store displayed treasures on the sidewalk.

But cute as the town was, we were headed beyond it to Mt. Taurus. Along the way we passed beautiful country homes, many of which had big covered porches with rocking chairs on them, or massive yards overlooking the river. One such house was a large white one with a sign pointing out that it was once the home of Emily Roebling, the skilled woman who supervised the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband Washington fell sick. A woman with that much strength in 1883 was no small feat.

Once on the mountain we felt right at home. The lush, foresty trail was certainly different from the misty, jungle of Peru, but it made us remember, nonetheless. There were several shout-outs of “Amigos, just 30 minutes more, no?” in reminiscence of our guide Roberto, who, for all his patience and utter brilliance on the trail, had absolutely no sense of time (30 minutes meant at least two hours).

The first hour of the hike was pretty much all uphill, but after Salkantay this was nothing. And well worth a little sweat were the views of the Hudson, with the stately fortress of West Point (which we decided looks a little like Hogwarts) in the distance. We stopped for lunch on a big rock overlooking the river, and then kept climbing up the rocky terrain, until the trail plateaued and we were literally just out for a walk in the woods.

Yes, we are hardcore, and on a house.

The weather was ideal, the scenery stunning, and the company sublime. The trees were so thick their green leaves looked almost technicolor, and save for the trickle of the river (which we decided was just a stream compared to Salkantay) and our voices, there was a vast, peaceful silence. We crossed two bridges, both made of logs and a little on the treacherous side, but I didn’t cry. And after only three hours of hiking, we made it back to town.

My feet, which earlier that morning almost refused to be stuffed into my still-a-little-muddy hiking boots, were by now screaming, but the rest of me was happy. And a beer and some flip flops later, my feet joined the rest of me in a state of bliss. We drank beers on the patio of a restaurant by the river before catching the 5 p.m. train back to Manhattan, a lovely end to a lovely day. (And Sunday the rain returned.)

After-hiking dancing in the rain.

For more information on Cold Spring, this site is helpful. Metro North trains from Grand Central take about an hour and run every hour, off-peak $10.50.