Whenever I have time off, I run away to a foreign country and write about my adventures. (See Cheese for Breakfast: My Turkish Summer)
Last year Time Magazine listed the area where I live, the Hudson Valley of Upstate, New York as one of the "World's Greatest Places," which makes it ironic that I hop flights to faraway places where I search high and low for places when one of the greats is, literally, my front yard.
It's no accident that I returned to paradise after living around the world. I missed the lush, green vegetation and the many trees that frame every photo. And besides: my extended family lives here.
When friends come to visit, it gives me a chance to show off my favorite places on my home turf.
Friends of friends from Denver, Paul and Vicki, have been traveling in their RV for over four years. They were in the area, so I invited them to stop by so I could hear about their dreamy retirement.
They parked in my driveway, hooked up a hose to my water and plugged in to my electricity.
What a fun way to have friends come for a visit without having to make the bed in the guestroom.
I had sent them a possible itinerary of things we might do, and they answered that they like to do everything 'interesting and local' to the place they are visiting.
On our way to dinner their first night in town, we stopped for a drink at the Hudson House & Distillery that boasts an upscale art collection and epic views of the Hudson River while you sip on house-made bourbon, rye and/ or vodka.
Though we didn't have a reservation, we snagged a river-view seat. The sunset was on point. So was the view. So were the drinks.
What a gift to spend time with friends I haven't seen since I returned to upstate, New York.
We went to the Falcon in Marlboro for dinner, a stellar selection of local beers and to see the Canadian band, Durham County Poets. They kept our toes tapping all night.
The Falcon is my favorite music venue in the Hudson Valley: What a treat to share it with friends.
After the show, we checked out the Avalon Archives: A Rock 'n' Roll Museum in the Falcon's underground space. The memorabilia is displayed on every wall from floor to ceiling and leaves you in a state of awe as you point out posters, tickets and instruments: oh, my.
As we drove away, Paul said, "This is exactly the kind of place we look for in our travels. Something local and interesting."
Vicki added, "and with a great beer menu."
We would see if I could continue to curate activities that interested them in the area where I grew up.
We started our Saturday at the Kingston Farmer's Market to buy some organic produce for lunch.
Then we walked around uptown. I took them to two "Must See" places in Kingston: The first was the Old Dutch Church.
The Old Dutch Church which was first built in the 1660s is known as the "Cathedral of Kingston." It was burned down twice, once during the Esopus Indian raid of 1663, and again during the American Revolution in 1777 by British forces.
The history is enough to make this church interesting but going inside to swoon over the architecture of long ago is well worth your time.
The other main attraction in uptown Kingston is the County Courthouse where former slave Sojourner Truth, a woman who emancipated herself from slavery, sued her former owner for selling her son to a plantation down south after she was free.
She won her lawsuit; her son was returned to her.
I am proud to come from the area where a strong woman stood up to injustice, with all odds against her -- and won.
We returned to my house and ate lunch on my deck that overlooks the Esopus Creek.
For years I had two kayaks on the creek that my friends could have used to paddle around. But there was a storm last year that carried one of the kayaks away.
It's not as much fun paddling alone.
While we ate, we gazed at the changing reflections of my creek that looks like a river but acts like a lake.
My friends happened to visit at the right time of year: this very weekend was considered peak: most of the leaves were turning colors at the same time, affording exceptional views everywhere we went.
Paul let me know that he was pretty handy around the house. He asked if I would like him to check out any concerns.
Um, okay. There is this one thing.
The guestroom sink.
I told him that a few days ago I found that the toilet paper that I store under the skink was moldy, inside the plastic packaging.
How could that happen?
No. Really. How could that happen? Did it get wet in a factory somewhere?
I didn't see a leak under that skink, but could he check?
He checked it and found a major leak with a steady stream of running water.
**This is why we never trust my leak-checking abilities.
Sigh. Oh water, how you drip in all the wrong places.
Paul turned off the water and took some measurements so we could buy a new faucet later.
It amazed him that the leak did zero damage to the house (Yes, he checked.), other than ruining many rolls of toilet paper.
In other words, that surplus toilet paper absorbed all of that puddled water and saved my house.
Ode to Toilet Paper: Thank you so.
After lunch we took an easy hike along the river to the Saugerties Lighthouse and marveled at the majestic Hudson River, yet again.
This area isn't called the Hudson Valley for nothing: that river shows up a lot.
You can rent the remotely situated Saugerties light house through Airb&b, but I don't know if I would welcome the isolation or be scared that ne'er-do-wells would know we were out there, alone.
The hiking path runs close to the river and at times the path floods. I had no idea what the timetable was for high and low tides; (Yes, the river follows tides.) we got lucky, the water was low, and the path was dry
This is one of the most beautiful hikes in the valley: highly recommend.
After our hike, we stopped in Saugerties for a wander.
One of the draws in the valley are the many small towns that dot the landscape.
Saugerties is a perfect walk-around town. If we didn't already have dinner plans, we would have eaten here.
Paul geeked out in the local hardware store; they didn't have the faucets I needed, but there was plenty of other gadgets for him to consider.
Paul and Vicki travel with a full set of tools, a bbq grill and even extra linens and blankets so a guest can come for a visit. And though he doesn't have room to buy more stuff, he sure likes to look around.
We ate dinner at my house.
Vicki is allergic to dogs, so they had to barricade themselves on the couch--away from my dog, which confused my puppy.
We headed to the Rosendale Theater, a community owned theater that has an eclectic calendar of events with art movies, lectures and live theater in a picturesque small town.
What a treat to see the newest play by the local playwright David Gonzalez: Hard Dinero that showcased the trials of undocumented Spanish speakers in our area.
We had a lot to talk about on our drive home. "Did you know...? Did you think...? Are you bothered by...?"
The next day we went to Olana, my favorite attraction in the area and the one thing I take every visitor to see.
It was the home of the artist Frederic Church and is filled with his art and the treasures his family collected from around the world.
On the tour you see his paintings and hear stories about how he built the mansion and then planted thousands of trees to make this a true sanctuary.
Though I have been to the mansion countless times, I have never had the same tour guide twice; each guide gives a personal spin on the collections.
On this tour, I loved hearing more about his friends' artwork that hung in the galleries.
We toured the first floor where Church's art is displayed as are the many museum-quality pieces of glassware and art.
It is my favorite part of the mansion.
Several years ago, the tour included both floors of the house. Now you can buy a ticket to the first floor only, which was perfect for our busy schedule.
Whenever I visit, I always lag behind the tour to get better photos of the house and of the Hudson River views.
Such amazing views.
Remind me to become a member of Olana one day soon so I can support the work they are doing there.
We headed to the city of Hudson, the top place in the country that the most people moved to during the Pandemic.
We found a gluten-free pizza shop (for me) Baba Louie's for interesting pizza topping combinations while we planned more exploring in the area.
Paul insisted that he had never seen a place with such a variety of independently owned shops.
By the time we got home, I was so tired from a day of sightseeing that I skipped dinner. Luckily, they brought their own kitchen with them so they wouldn't go hungry.
On Monday morning, which was Columbus Day: another day off of work for me, Vicki needed a haircut. My hairdresser was kind enough to stop painting her basement so she could give her a cut.
That's one of the things about traveling full time, you have to find a new hairdresser every time you need a haircut.
Sometimes Vicki tries to wait till she returns to Denver to visit friends so she can go to her favorite hairdresser.
Not this time.
She now has a favorite hairdresser in upstate, NY.
While Paul stayed home to fix my sink and also update the faucets on two more sinks, (what a gift!) I took Vicki to the Ashokan Reservoir for a walk.
This reservoir is a water source for New York City and is open to the public under certain conditions.
We walked from the Frying Pan parking lot and enjoyed the Catskill Mountain views.
I took her to see my favorite pond in the area, Temple's Pond.
When I moved to Denver years ago, my aunt made me an oil painting of this very view. It's one of my most treasured possessions.
I think someone changed the name of this beauty, but it will always be Temple's Pond to me.
And I couldn't resist taking her to Yankeetown Pond, another beautiful and scenic stop on our tour.
The cattails were in bloom and the leaves were turning. The amazing thing about this pond is that you can drive right up to the edge and get amazing nature photos by leaning out of the car.
There's not always time for a hike through the woods to see a pond. (I'm looking at you, Onteora Lake.)
We drove along the backroads, past the now closed Bearsville Studios that recorded music for everyone from the Rolling Stones to 50 Cent.
We ended up in Woodstock, the small town in upstate, New York where I grew up. Rather than paying for parking, I showed her where to park for free, then we walked along Tinker Street as we visited every interesting shop, of which there are many.
We had lunch at Yum Yum Noodle Bar in the center of town, because their food is always good and there was an open table.
Before we left, I had her pose on the Green, a small park in the center of town that's bordered by roads on every side.
If you come to Woodstock and don't pose on the Green, were you really there?
The Green has always been a place for demonstrations, live music or hanging out.
And so ended our tour.
That night Vicki and I went to a movie while Paul tweaked some fixes on the RV.
I mistakenly drove to Saugerties for the movie, and it was showing in Red Hook.
So we drove miles back, then crossed the river and found the correct movie theater. We missed the opening credits and the first two minutes of the movie.
I hope she didn't want popcorn: no time.
The next day I would return to work, and Paul and Vicki would head to Albany for the day, then they would point their RV south for a slow journey towards warmer weather.
I told them that my driveway is their driveway, whether they want to come for a visit or park the RV here while they hop on a plane to find a new adventure.
There are so many more things to do in the Hudson Valley. When friends visit again, I'll have to choose between showing them more places that I know and love (Crafts People, The art museums at Bard College, SUNY New Paltz and Vassar, The Walkway over the Hudson, a stroll through Rhinebeck, brunch at Mohonk Mountain House + a hike along the Lemon Squeeze,)
Or maybe we'll check out some of the places I haven't visited yet (The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, Sunset at Ferncliff Forest, Saratoga Race Track and Manitoga)
So, either I wait until I stop traveling so I can take in the beauty of this area, or more friends with adventurous spirits will come to visit me, which forces me to stop, look and absorb.
Either way, I am incredibly fortunate to live in the Hudson Valley where I don't have to change time zones to enjoy the beauty.
Thanks for reading.
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Cheese for Breakfast: My Turkish Summer
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In this photo, Holly is posing with the "Lucky Statue." Lore has it that if you rub his knee, you will win the lottery. Check back often to find out the outcome of this visit.
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