Field Trip: The Berkshires: Thurs-Sat.

(Part I of the Berkshires Field Trip is already posted.)

Here’s what we ended up doing for the first few days:

Thursday: Arrived around 3. Tea at Inn. Walked around the little town of Lenox and decided on dinner at Bistro Zinc. Went back to relax a bit in the room before walking back to the restaurant. Dinner was lovely — I had trout meuniere and T. had soft shell crab. [Forgot to take photos!] We sat next to a tall window that opened onto the sidewalk. Very good food, service, atmosphere. Expensive, but worth it. We also went to the local liquor store (Nejaime’s Wine Cellar)to get some wine and a 6-pack of beer.

——–

Friday: Walked the dog in the cemetery for 1/2 hour before breakfast at 9 at the Inn.

Breakfast sidebar: The breakfasts at the Birchwood are scrumptious: over the course of our week, we had cheese blintzes with a Maine blueberry sauce on top, a lovely spring omelette with peas and asparagus, lemony stuffed French toast, fondue Florentine soufflé, and fabulous ginger pear pancakes.  Each came with bacon, sausage, or ham, if desired, different depending on the day. And the first courses were all fruit dishes, also yummy: a berry fruitini, a watermelon and kiwi stacked on a crumble with a lemon curd topping, a melon fruit cup, poached pears with a lovely sauce, and some others I’m forgetting now but enjoyed at the time! Plus: a loaf of warm homemade bread and either muffins, quick breads, or cornbread.

After breakfast, T. and I walked for an hour or so in Kennedy Park and along a town road with some expensive and expansive houses on it (walk recommended by asst. innkeeper), and by 11, with the dog settled in her new digs, we were ready to head out to the outlet shopping in Lee. We drove by way of Stockbridge, through its main street, and then through the industrial part of Lee, which was interesting for its contrast to the more quaint parts of the Berkshires.

After an hour or two at the outlets, we were back to Lenox where we grabbed some food (breads, cheeses, a berry tart) for a late lunch from the Lenox Farmer’s Market in full swing in library park.

Farmers Market lunch
Farmers Market lunch

We ate lunch on our Carriage House porch with the dog, adding some olives and beer we’d brought.

Birchwood Inn - Carriage House porch
Birchwood Inn - Carriage House porch

After lazing about in the afternoon, we took tea at the Inn, then ate dinner a bit early, sitting outside at the Olde Heritage Tavern, an inexpensive spot in Lenox with a lot of local activity. (Note: Lenox seems chock full of teenage boys! They were everywhere, on skateboards, scooters, bikes, dribbling basketballs, just back from a soccer game, walking and standing in clusters of 3 and 4 along the street.  Nice.)  I got a garden salad and a helping of Waldorf salad — just wanted something light after our excesses all day.

Then back to change and head over to Shakespeare & Co.’s Bernstein Theatre, in Lenox, for a preview performance of Julius Caesar.  We got there early and took photos of some dilapidated buildings on the property, which we were told by the asst. innkeeper are being renovated, one per year, by Shakespeare & Co.  We also took photos of a fence surrounding a pond in front of the theatre — it may be the one we use for our backyard patio area!

Shakespeare & Co. house
Shakespeare & Co. house
Shakespeare & Co. house
Shakespeare & Co. house

The theatre was small and hot. We were three rows back (of perhaps 8 rows) and I could see the actors’ spit fly through the air during dramatic speeches. We had found a copy of the play in the Inn’s library the night before and skimmed it to refresh ourselves on the plotline, so the play was easy to follow. Each of five actors played multiple roles.  I really liked it and was surprised so many people left at the interval — maybe the heat got to them?

——–

Saturday:

Saturday was garden day, as Sunday was forecast to be a bit rainy. After our dog walk — the dog getting progressively harder to coax along with each passing day — and breakfast at the Inn, we headed off for Naumkeag, a 44-room Gilded Age house in Stockbridge designed as a summer home by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, & White (mostly Stanford White) in the 1880s for Joseph Choate and his family, with many gardens designed by his daughter Mabel, who lived there for over 30 years.

This was their opening day for the season and they weren’t quite ready for us or the other visitors (no water features or fountains, no signs, garden tour devices not working, etc.) but they were gracious and welcoming, and the house tour was excellent. No photos allowed inside but I did take outdoor photos:

Naumkeag - front
Naumkeag - front
Naumkeag - back, with tree peonies in bloom
Naumkeag - back, with tree peonies in bloom
Naumkeag - pink tree peonies
Naumkeag - pink tree peonies
Naumkeag - Chinese Garden
Naumkeag - Chinese Garden
Naumkeag - view of lawns
Naumkeag - view of lawns
Naumkeag - maples
Naumkeag - maples

After a few hours here, we returned to Lenox to let the dog out, then headed for lunch, outside on the deck at Church Street Cafe. Again, all I wanted was a mixed greens salad — and of course a bowl of asparagus bisque! T. had the turkey wrap.

Fortified, we went back to Stockbridge to the Berkshire Botanical Garden. It’s only 15 acres, divided by a state road, but that was the perfect amount of ground for us to cover in a couple of hours.  Considering the time of year, the gardens were quite lush — in bloom were allium, some roses, brunnera, peonies, irises, geranium, baptisia, hellebore, dianthus, tall phlox, amsonia, and others. There were also many woodland gardens whose prime attraction is foliage, my favourite sort of planting.

A few photos:

BBG pond and lawn
BBG pond and lawn
BBG Allium walkway
BBG Allium walkway
BBG poppy
BBG poppy
BBG wooded garden
BBG wooded garden
BBG Iris and Amsonia
BBG Iris and Amsonia
BBG wall with sedums
BBG wall with sedums

Back to the Inn for tea, then dinner in West Stockbridge at Rouge, a fabulous place I highly recommend for ambiance, service and food. (The website is misleading — almost everything in the place is red or black and it’s quite striking.)

Rouge - bar
Rouge - bar
Rouge - food
Rouge - food

We had a bottle of wine and tapas — including mixed olives with fava beans, roasted asparagus with a lemon dressing, smoked salmon and capers with crostini, sauteed broccoli, and something else divine. Portions were surprisingly ample. A chef from NYC was sitting next to us. The place was packed by the time we left around 8. Very nice experience.

Travelogue continues with next post!

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