Saturday, August 29, 2009

SPRING STREET


Once in awhile, I get time off from the 1896 House. I get a kick out of the attention-loving Airedales and doing those general office tasks and room inspections, but I really enjoy ME time … well, at least for a day or two each week.
Exploring Williamstown and its surrounding area has been a lot of fun. One rare, “bright & sunny” (i.e. not raining) August morning, I decided to check out the “town” part of Williamstown.
This seems to be centered on a ONE WAY road off of Route 2 called SPRING STREET.

Williams College looms throughout the town and the majority of foot traffic is their student and staff population, but Spring Street harbors some really interesting shops and restaurants for the rest of us to also enjoy.

Park at the very end of the street in the somewhat small (and free yay) public lot and walk around. It’s not a huge hike, or I wouldn’t do it myself …(see Mt Greylock post).
If you manage to find an elusive parking space on either side of the actual street, test out your parallel parking skills (a fun challenge if you attempt a spot on the left hand side).
TUNNEL CITY COFFEE is tucked way down at the end of the street, where tourists and locals alike hang out, parking themselves on the benches and chairs wrapped around the inside and outside of the building. They drink barista creations from over-sized white cups, whilst noshing on bagels, pastries and quiche, catching up on the gossip with their neighbors.
Stepping inside, it is a spacious, thoroughly modern room with 2 very long glass cases full of artfully-displayed sweet and savory treats.
Lining the wall behind the cases are rows of freshly bagged (and locally-roasted) coffee beans of various flavors and strengths, as well as an impressive variety of loose teas.

Dotted amongst the shelves is beautiful pottery and handmade mugs created by Tunnel’s very own coffee roaster, Josh. I fell in love with the prehistoric looking coffee mug (you will know it when you see it), but alas, did not have enough funds to cover the cost. Art comes with a price tag… (sigh)
There are bookshelves housing many reading options, ample indoor seating and a sunny bright atmosphere (when it's not raining).
I ordered a small “drip” coffee which enabled me to select from a line up of carafes’filled with pre-brewed teas, decafs and coffees of the day. After debating between the Tuscany and the House blend, I poured me-self a House, then meandered over to the fixins counter to add in the cream and sweetener. FIRST SIP… aaahhhh...wonderful, balanced character, with not too harsh or acidic a finish, and a great coffee flavor. It was just right for a picky coffee connoisseur like myself. Enjoyed my java on an outdoor bench, flanked by flowerpots, as I surveyed shops up the street.
WHERE’D YOU GET THAT? Lives up to its funny name. Crammed chock a block with whimsical games, toys, odds n ends and “stuff” that would appeal to tots, immature adults, folks with a sense of humor and assistant innkeepers who write blogs like this.
I LOVED this store! French chanteuse music on the overhead speakers, as I poked and prodded through the merchandise. Off the wall humorous greeting cards and stationary items like “GREAT IDEAS” pads, sticky notes with smart-alecky slogans, (just made for cubicle-bound comedians), along with postcards and writing tablets.
Super selection of bagged candy, one in particular, labeled “Williams Cow Poop” drew a smirk from this non-native.
A complete collection of knights and damsels action figures, along with dragons and armor and castles n stuff.
Super costume essentials, like way cool wigs, eyeball glasses, fairy wings, body parts and my favorite costume piece…hats! A king’s royal crown, a Cat in the Hat, a Mad Hatter, a Renaissance Queen…you decide how to cover your head.
Nice stack of puzzles and brain teasers too. One that caught my eye was a 1000 pc NY City jigsaw that came in a retro tourist suitcase. I enjoyed the decorated tote bags (some with built in toy dogs), and banks that read stuff like “Saving up to Become a Better Man”. Too cute.
The PICK YOUR NOSE cups were tempting. You drink out of one of these and the animal nose printed on it appears to be extending from your face. There were functional, “educational “toys for tots and younger kids and decorative items and ornaments for the house. The Melody Harp I picked up and put down about 4 times, may soon join my musical instrument collection by the fireplace. Had I not been too lazy to carry it thru the rest of my journey, it would be gracing my livingroom shelf as I type.
The stuffed animals caught my eye because they were refreshingly unique. I held onto the stuffed chicken lovingly for the rest of my tour of the shop, but put her back with her friends at the end of my visit. (pouting).
LIBRARY ANTIQUES is one of the biggest surprises (and now my favorite shop) on Spring Street. This shop extends into 3 large rooms and is a joy to schlep through on a lazy afternoon. This is not some dusty ole junky store manned by a cigar smoking humbug seated at a manual register glancing condescendingly at you over his bi-focals whilst pretending to read the paper….this store ROCKS!
The clothing and accessories are unbelievable, from silk scarves to alpaca sweaters, and beautiful jewelry and adornments, fit for the artsy, the rich and assistant innkeepers who write blogs like this.
Textile pillows line one wall,
and I oo’d and ahh’d at the collection of unique coasters, most impressive being the hand painted Peruvian ones. I spent an agonizing 10 minutes debating purchasing either a set of 4(less money) to use as coasters or one of these to use under a candle.
Here and there were pieces of furniture or decorative items, like globes,
and the walls were graced with carved wood, photos, paintings and interesting doo-dads.
Men are not forgotten in this store. Their clothing is housed in the next room, along with the finest selection of canes I have seen this side of London’s Portobello Road.
A sea of clocks covers a hall that leads into a 3rd room, full of magnificent art and larger furniture pieces anyone would dream about having in their own homes.
Indonesian pieces were quite striking. The paintings, in the $1500 range, (out of my range, lol) were a joy to gaze at.
I saw several items that could very well be my future family heirlooms, many very affordable, such as the mass assortment of bookends sets on 2 separate wall shelving units.
Lordy that Polish pottery is pretty!
They have the usual “smalls” (as they say in the trade), as well as antique knick-knacks, but I plan to return for those coasters and maybe a scarf and a pair or two of earrings. Oh, what a treasure this place is!
HELEN’S PLACE is one of the better deli-type restaurants on the street, with the “HELENs DAGWOOD” heading up the list…piles of roast beef with horseradish on fresh bread. Mmm. Nicely displayed were the array of cold salads and deli meats and Shetland Salmon just waiting for you to take them home. Clean and simple, like a deli should be. I heard they cater too!

IMAGES is Spring Street’s cinema. It shows artistic, “director films” and “actor’s films”, indies and foreign movies. I have not made it in to see a flick here yet, but it sure looks trendy, heavy and interesting.
MoCA SHOP is a sister extension of the gift shop from the actual Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art which is located in North Adams. Great postcards, way cool artist books, as well as unusual creative toys and educational materials for children and adults.

There are other places...a Post Office, a Newsroom (grab a racing form or a NY Times!), a Packy (Liquor Store), a Law Office, a Framing/Artist Shop (in the alley!), a Pharmacy, a Barber Shop, a Tourist Depot, a Bank, and a Jewelers.
PAPPA CHARLIE’S DELI is a celeb sandwich shop. Just walk in and you are awestruck by the huge “wall” signboard menu, filled with movie and television star names next to sandwich descriptions. You are expected to read and remember each one in your food group category, regardless of the fact it makes you dizzy to do so. Remembering your sandwich is much like cramming for an exam....
No, don’t just ask for a turkey sandwich with mayo…it has to be a STEPHEN COLLINS, a FRANK LANGELLA or some other “star” listed on the board (and then you can add "hold the pickle, or olives or extra SPAM"). The rest of us had to do this, so get with the program Ace.
Brisk and efficient staff take your order in a very non-reactionary manner. You could be the Queen of England or Homeless John and they would give you the same greeting.

After ordering, get out of the way so the line can move, but don't stray too far to hear your name called to get your sandwich because they will not take extra steps to wave you in from outside when your GEORGE HAMILTON (hold the mayo, with a side of kettle chips) is ready.

A flurry of activity at almost any time of the day, this is the deli to try at least once. There is outdoor seating and some limited seats inside, though it tends to be higher stress atmosphere in there, due to the mass line of signboard readers backed up outside, holding the door open.

I am not sure if the celebrity sandwiches are named because a celebrity actually likes and/or ordered that particular combo, but I’d like to think I connected, eating the same sandwich as Mary Tyler Moore or have bonded with Gwyneth Paltrow in some tiny spiritual way while consuming her veggie wrap (hold the pickle, with a side of cheezy poofs).
THE EUPHORIUM is a super place for tourists and students alike to stock up on the basics for a road trip or a long study night at the dorm. The smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies wafting from the ovens mixes well with the aroma of their freshly brewed “Joe” coffee and the great selection of fresh fruits, pre-made sandwiches and energy drinks is perfect for Grab-n-Go folks in a hurry.
Homemade breads and brownies, gourmet items, teas, snacks, candy, potato chips, cereals and canned goods, granola bars and pasta, rice, sauces, soup, cake mix…even laundry detergent, dish soap and brillo pads. They sure packed a lot of stuff in this oh so tiny space. I love this little shop and am sure I will need something from here come Winter when I am snowed in and the WonderCar won’t budge from the driveway. UPDATE: Yep, sure enough, stranded in town in December and this place came in mucho handy!
GOFF'S SPORTS-Crossing the street now kids, this is where you load up on your college logo gear. Nightshirt, sweatshirt, team shirt, stuffed mascot, coffee mug (or Chai vessel) and a custom football…it’s all here in sparkling (and tasteful) blue and white (and purple). Feed your inner preppie heart. WILLIAMS COLLEGE stuff galore!
SPICE ROOT…now yer talkin! My favorite restaurant on the block is this Indian place. Golden toned d├ęcor with warm, slightly dark, atmospheric lighting (great for middle age dating), the slow pace (a little too slow at times) and excellent cuisine, makes this a MUST - TRY place.

Unlike American cuisine, it is really hard to get bad Indian food. If you are not familiar with Indian food, ask for some plain Nann with some dipping sauces as your appetizer, then try the gentle Chicken Tikka Masala and Jasmine Rice.

If you like “spice”…they can do it well, especially with their lamb dishes. Hot stuff is marked on the menu and you will be warned by the ever polite waiter in case he thinks you didn’t mean to order something so strong. The recipes here are different than most Indian restaurants (regional?), and I enjoyed every last bite of my 2+ hour dinner. They have some nice dessert offerings too, so if you have room in the tumtum, DO TRY the tapioca tropical thing, or one of the other cultural sweets.

SUSHI THAI GARDEN is next door to SPICE ROOT and has a wonderful menu with a variety of Thai food. Not being a lover of Sushi myself, I did not try any of that. Got chicken satay and a spring roll for appetizers, jasmine rice and their wonderful Yellow Curry Chicken and Vegetables. I always view Thai food as the most definable and freshest of the Asian food types. I feel healthy after I eat in here and encourage you to try their lunch specials if you happen by ‘round noontime.
HUDSONS is THE place to go for wall art and decorative items. Rugs, postcards, bar glasses, serving trays, LP (long play) records (40s war era right on up to 1980s Nu Wave), jewelry, clocks and even some coffee table items. Chewing Gun Wrapper Handbag> Wayy coool!
Friendly helpful staff and a no-pressure shopping environment. I loved looking at the autumn scenes and other wall art, stacked for browsing on the floor.
THE HARRISON GALLERY is a formal art gallery with great pieces (and prices) of oils, watercolors and pottery. Have a looksee around and get inspired to find the perfect piece to place over that mustard yellow Corinthian leather sofa you picked up in Spain circa 1977.
The PURPLE PUB RESTAURANT & SHOPS… is still in the construction phase. I happened by while the workers were having a pep rally of sorts out front. It is expected to be open for the Autumn season and promises to have an exciting line up of shops and a great food venue. I’ll let you know when it opens. UPDATE: As of December 18th, 2009, the shops in this venue are still not open!
I finished my tour of Spring Street by going to LICKITY SPLITS, the town’s ice cream shop. The Herrells (of Northampton) ice cream they use is high in butterfat and amazingly rich, so any flavor you finally decide upon is sure to be a winner.

They also serve lunch food and I scored a grilled hot dog on a delicious toasted bun and potato chips for under $2.00! Lunch grillin closes by 1:30, so order during peak lunch hours, or you will only be able to get ice cream. Their ice cream takes on several formats, including shakes, sundaes, cones and banana splits. There are only 12 flavors featured daily to help narrow down your selection time, with almost as many toppings offered.
Indoor seating is available, but ice cream is a great touring food, so get yourself out into the fresh air if it’s not raining and walk off those serious carbs.

Back to the WonderCar, I drove away with my newfound treasures, a slightly lighter wallet, and a full tummy.
What a great afternoon! What a neat Street!
This is the life…

DIRECTIONS:
From Brookside and ‘6 House Pub, turn right onto Route 7 North and follow 2 miles into town. (From Pondside, it is a Left turn onto Route 7 North). At the rotary, follow the signs for Route 2 East or Mohawk Trail and proceed about ½ mile. Spring Street is on your right.

Once you are on Spring Street, you can turn into the parking lot at the very end and take that road on the right over to the end (Hoxsey Street) and take a right which will put you back onto Route 2 West back to 1896. To go East, drive around the Tunnel City building and follow that road to the end and take a left and follow to Route 2.

Happy Shopping!

XX
Kathy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

OUTDOOR ART

You (Moose) think I'm crazy...


but (Eye) love this stuff!


Talented artists were busy as a (Beaver) making this outdoor art!



No (Lion), some of these statues really stand out on the road!



What a (Tree-t) to discover them!
(Hail) to the artists!


Do (Ewe) like this stuff too?


Where the (Elk) did I get all these bad jokes from??!


I (Totem) to get you interested in the art!


Where oh where are these gems located?...


MOOSE (Many in front of stores on the main streets) in nearby Bennington VT


EYEBALL (several different, some have blue lights in them and some are even chairs!) Williams Art Museum Route 2, Williamstown


BEAVER (south Berkshire) on Mt Washington Road in LEE, MA


UPSIDE DOWN TREE (Mass MoCA courtyard) North Adams, MA


INDIAN (Across from a Camping Park) Route 2, Charlemont, MA

LION (actually there are two and they are in different positions with different facial expressions) Rt 2 Williamstown, MA

SHEEP (Route 7) Pittsfield, MA

ELK (Memorial dedicated to Elks who died in WWI) Route 2, Florida, MA

TOTEM POLE (There’s also a giant Indian Chief statue painted just as “dainty”!) Route 2-Charlemont-Mohawk Trail, MA


Have a creative day!

xx

Kathy

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

MT GREYLOCK IN AUGUST









I am not am not what you would call an “athletic” person.
A “hike” to me means parking more than 10 rows from the mall.
Having recently moved to the Berkshires, I have discovered an unspoken truth-that to be a native here means you have to enjoy the out of doors on a more active, physical level.
Well, the heady scenery actually makes the laziest of us want to be outside and DO SOMETHING.
I’m game.

It’s so easy to rent equipment like bikes, water tubes, kayaks, boats, horses, and camping stuff. Makes one feel guilty if they do not partake.
So...rather than remain fishbelly white all summer hiding behind the computer, I have decided to “just do it” and meet the trees and the sunshine (and muscles I have never used before).
Hiking seemed the easiest activity for me to try first.
It’s just like walking (I think).

“Go to the mountains!” my co-workers urged….
I decided to explore Mt. Greylock.
I pumped plenty of gas into Barney & checked the oil. (Hindsight tells me I should have put a big jug of water in the trunk). Made sure to have my SD-carded, charged up camera, the right CD selection (for a perfect background soundtrack), bug repellant, sunscreen, granola bars and trail mix packets, (most with some form of chocolate in them).

I bought fancy hiking shoes with a coordinating “outdoor” outfit, used some industrial strength hairspray & donned weather proof makeup.

I was a former girl scout after all…

Needing nourishment before attempting this great feat, I decided to eat at our own ‘6 House Pub for lunch.
I gobbled down a turkey club wrap, fries and an iced tea and sat outside on the patio to help get acclimated.







YUM!

The Visitor’s Center off the Route 7 (Lanesboro) entrance, is chock full of interesting stuff.
There is a large, lumpy replica of the mountain range, with all the roads marked in gold. This is a HUGE mountain and it covers several towns. There are vending machines for water/ juice/iced tea & sodapop.

Well appreciated are the restrooms (especially when gravity has taken hold of that morning coffee).

Helpful staff will give you advice on hiking, camping, driving, photo spots and describe all the route particulars. Some of the road "pull offs" had hikes attached that took about 90 minutes to complete. Some "regular" mountain hikes were 4 or 5 hours long (I DON'T THINK SO).

The trail map had terms to describe how “hard” they were to walk…some were rated “strenuous” or “moderate”, which frightened me.
I decided to drive to the top of the mountain and maybe hike one of the more “wimpy” rated trails later.

I enjoyed the gallery room of retro Norman Rockwell-ish 1950s and 60s B & W photos, showing local folks camping, skiing, etc, on the mountain.

There is a small section of historical artifacts and newsy signboards that will entertain you (while you wait for your friend to get out of the restroom). Learn how to carve an ax handle… see how the forest was plundered, etc. etc. etc.

DRIVING UP TO THE TOP

Began the slow drive up... “18 minutes” they had told me, but you definitely won’t speed on THESE corners, and there are hiker crossings every few feet.

You will want to stop at least once or twice at those pull off spots on the way up to either have a picnic, take a photo, or uh...go on a hike.

I “oo’ed & ahh'ed”, pointing from the window, creeping slowly, all the way to the tippity top. Took half an hour. The long-abandoned farms that used to dot the hillside (42 crazy farmers!) left an amazing array of fruit trees and vegetation. Years of humans passing through with their “manmade additions” have created some interesting landmarks. Some “pull offs” have paths that lead to waterfalls, ponds, rock formations, and even an airplane wreck.




There is a campsite for hikers, but you can only access it by walking.



No Winnebagos or Airstreams..."sorry Lucy".











Once at the top, I gaped over the airplane-high edge of the road, clinging fearfully to the telephone pole fencing. I managed to snap photos, tho one arm was firmly wrapped around the fence at all times.
I was really blown away by this place! It is so spectacular a view, it seems unreal.


The very peak of the mountain is crowned with a building dedicated to war veterans. I call it “the spike”. It was originally built in 1932. Weather ravaged the foundation over the years and it had to be rebuilt.




It is still wet on the bottom floor, but DO slosh your way inside and have a look up at the ceiling and read the words along the walls.


Climb the somewhat creepy circular ladder to the top landing, where you can look out 60-90 miles in every direction.



Breathtaking views await!






Stop to pose for the cheesy picture everyone needs in their collection...yes, the one where you are standing by the elevation sign.
You are now at the highest point in Massachusetts. WOW! Your friends will be mighty impressed.

Have a walk over to the Bascom Lodge, where friendly folks will cook you up a burger or hotdog while you sip a flavored water or sodapop.
Buy a bag of chips (because you scarfed all the granola bars on the drive to get up here).
There is dorm-style lodging there too if you are staying overnite (or still feel faint from looking over the edge earler in the ride up).

DRIVING BACK DOWN
Going down the northern side of the mountain to exit in North Adams was great for sight-seeing, spotting little undefined animals scooting around in the lush woods, growing numb to the numerous pretty overlooks…maneuvering cool and plentiful hairpin turns…such a wonderful journey!

Ummm…but… lots of hard braking… my poor WonderCar ! About ¾ down the steep incline, I looked suspiciously around (with furrowed brow) at my companion. “What’s that smell?” I said, my nose crinkled.

It was apparently the car brakes smoking! NOTE TO SELF: Use LOW GEARS when driving down steep hills instead of riding afore-mentioned brakes….DUH!

After we nervously made it to the bottom, I parked Barney in the shade to cool down, and went for dinner (and drinks) to celebrate one fine day on the mountain.

My bad …. did I forget to hike??? Maybe next time…

DIRECTIONS:
Southern Approach (the Visitor’s Center is here)
From our driveway, go 7 South (a Left turn out of Brookside/Barnside, a Right turn out of Pondside) and drive 13.7 miles (Lanesboro) until you see a VACATION VILLAGE sign on your left.
JUST BEHIND THAT SIGN is the brown MT GREYLOCK sign. It is a sharp left. Follow the brown visitor center signs up the hill and it is just on the right.

Northern Approach
From our driveway, go 7 North (a Right turn from Brookside/Barnside, but a Left from Pondside) and get on 2 East at the rotary-square (Williamstown center) and drive 3.7 miles into North Adams. Turn right onto Notch Road and follow brown signs 2.5 miles to the Mt. Greylock park entrance.

There is no cost to hike or drive Mt. Greylock, but if you park your car at the very top to walkabout, (and why wouldn’t you?), there is a $2.00 parking fee Big Spender.

Here is their official website for more factual info:
http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/mtGreylock/index.htm

Happy Trails!
Kathy