Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Favorite Weekend Trips from NYC

NYC is a truly fabulous city! But sometimes, you just have to get away for a little while. Unfortunately, as with every aspect of life in the city, leaving NYC can be just as arduous. Nevertheless, once you are able to get a (rental) car, work through the maze-like streets, and endure a 2-3 hour traffic jam across the bridge of your choice, there's a whole different world waiting to be discovered, with uniquely different cultures, atmospheres, and more importantly, rich history.

Washington DC
Although only 2 ½ hours away, Washington DC is a city that is polar opposite from NYC.  This is where New Yorkers go to see and experience mainstream America.

The great thing about DC is that you can easily get there by train, a bus or by car, but train gets my vote. Not only is the NYC-DC Acela Express train the best public transportation in the nation, DC’s subway is easy to use and extremely efficient. Some areas outside the main tourist attractions are a little trickier to get to, but there are plenty of cabs, and if you’re willing to walk a bit, it’s not that difficult to get around the city on foot.

One thing that I really love about DC is that all Smithsonian Museums are FREE! And there are a lot of them, enough to keep you busy for a week. Then, there’s Adams Morgan, a vibrant and culturally diverse neighborhood filled with unique and charming shops, restaurants and cafes, an area that I always enjoyed exploring.
Boston, MA
Boston is a picturesque city about 4-5 hours Northeast of NYC. As with DC, I highly recommend taking the train, as the traffic on I95 (all the way up to New Haven) is awful … still have nightmares about the time I was stuck in a traffic for 4 hours when I was less than an hour away from the city.

Boston is a beautiful city, filled with lovely turn-of-the–century red brick townhomes and great selection of restaurants, cafes and neighborhood bars that would put Cheers to shame. Especially in autumn when the entire city is covered with the brilliant colors of the foliage, it's such a treat to take a quick jaunt over to Boston to fill up on clam chowders, lobster bisque and rolls, and crab cakes … oh, and I can’t forget about our favorite little hole-in-the-wall Daily Catch, where I’ve had some of the best seafood pasta and Italian dishes I’ve ever had.

There are plenty of charming … and expensive … hotels and B&B’s in Boston. The few we’ve stayed in were acceptable, the Chandler Inn, John Jeffries House, and Newbury Guest House. However, I was not impressed with their service, as the staff lacked hospitality that is essential in running and working in a B&B or a hotel. Then again, warmth is something that is seriously lacking in Boston … period.
The Berkshire, MA
The foliage routes in New England are spectacular! They offer one of nature's finest spectacles: the changing color of the leaves on its maple, beech, birch, oak, gum, willow, and other trees. Vibrant reds, briliant yellows and muted tans and browns cover the branches, and countryside panoramas become blazing sweeps of color. And some of the most beautiful display of fall foliage can be seen in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. Fittingly enough, Norman Rockwell spent the last 25 years of his life there, and the landscape can easily be one of his paintings.

During the foliage season, there are outdoor festivals and markets selling a wonderful selection of produce, and there are many apple orchards where you can "pick-your-own" apples as well. There are quite a few charming and rustic B&B's and antique stores in the smaller towns. Our favorite is Race Brooke Lodge in Sheffield.
Cape Cod & Plymouth, MA
There are quite a few lovely little towns and scenic beaches in Cape Cod. However, you’ll need over a week to check out the entire area. Therefore, it’s ideal to base yourself in a small and historical town like Plymouth.  However, almost every town we'd visited in Cape Cod offered its own charm and was interesting in their own way.  You can visit and experience a historically significant town like Plymouth, where pilgrims from the Mayflower landed in 1620, and stay in a B&B Whitfield House, a historical building which is on the National Register of Historic Places; or a vibrant eclectic artist community like Provincetown.
Newport, RI
If you want to know where Mr. Gatsby lived, you’ll have to go to Newport, Rhode Island. This beautiful little town became a summer resort and a sailing center for the wealthy at the end of 19th Century. Wealthy industrialists, railroad tycoons, coal magnates, financiers, and robber barons built their summer cottages, which were more like mansions. These mansions, many of them designated National Historic Sites, still exist including the Rosecliff and Marble House mansions, which were used for the movie, "The Great Gatsby".

We really enjoyed strolling through the town or biking along Ocean Drive. Some of the other great places to bike are in the Point and Historic Hill sections of town, where you can look at one of the largest collections of pre-1800 architecture in the country, and on Bellevue Avenue where all the mansions are located. There’s also a nice selection of restaurants and shops along the waterfront, and there are quite a few charming B&B’s as well, our favorite being La Forge Cottage located in a lovely neighborhood close to the waterfront.
Chesapeake Bay, MD
Like Cape Cod, Chesapeake Bay is full of picturesque little towns. On top of the scenic landscape, you’ll find restaurants that serve some of the best seafood dishes in the area. Of course, we can’t forget about the lovely B&B’s, especially the Inn at Michell House in Chestertown.
Westport & Elizabethtown, NY
I remember the first time I was in Westport … or more like passing through it on our way to Montreal. It looked like a town I’d only seen on TV, one of those reruns of sitcoms from the 60’s. I could not believe Mayberry actually existed, and it was just few hours outside NYC.

Ever since then, my husband and I have frequently done weekend trips to Westport and neighboring Elizabethtown to get some much needed R&R. We loved staying in one of the lovely little B&B’s overlooking Lake Champlain, our favorite being All Tucked Inn, and enjoyed antiquing and spending the weekend kayaking on one of the many smaller lakes in the area.

Also, Westport and Elizabethtown are an ideal base for seeing the autumn foliage, usually 1st or 2nd week of October, and be sure to check out the outdoor auctions and harvest festivals.
Lake Placid, NY
Lake Placid is anything but placid. It’s an outdoor enthusiasts’ dream come true. Even if you don’t own a mountain bike or are not an avid hiker, the Adirondacks offers a wide variety of sports or leisure activities for all seasons.

There are endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, or kicking back during the dog days of summer. My favorite was biking around the serenely picturesque Mirror Lake and Saranac Lake, stopping at quaint little restaurants and cafes for breaks. It is a breathtaking setting, and not nearly as touristy as other areas in NY.
Montreal, CANADA
I know Montreal is a bit of a schlep from NYC … more like a long weekend trip, but if you don’t want to make the 8-hour drive, there is a commuter train, or very often, reasonably priced flights to Montreal as well. No matter how you get there, Montreal is a terrific city. It’s a vibrant city full of culture and excitement, and the hospitality of the Quebecois is exuberant.

There are so many great neighborhoods and sites to explore, but my favorite is the Saint Louis area near the university. It’s not as touristy as the Old Town, but filled with plenty of little cafes, restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops that will charm you into coming back again and again.
My recommendations:
  • B&B Petite Auberge Les Bons Matins – a little hidden gem, a little ways from the center and the touristy area; a wonderfully charming place.
  • B&B Pierre and Dominique, 271 Square Saint Louis 514-286-0307 – located on peaceful square, within close proximity to everything, the Metro, the university, and the downtown (about 20 minute walk)
  • Restaurant Ozeri, 4690 rue Saint-Denis 514-845-1336 – I just love this place! Ouzeri is a traditional Greek restaurant that offers a refined dining experience in a great ambiance.


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