Archive for March, 2003

In search of a perfect Hudson Valley weekend, I grabbed my childhood friend, Betsy, of Chappaqua, NY, and headed north.

We started our day at Painter’s, an artsy cafe in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Over a Tortilla Scramble (my choice) and Chicken Quesadilla (for Betsy), we looked over a few guidebooks and planned our route. Rich with tempting travel options, we narrowed down our choices and drove along Hwy. 9 until we reached the historic town of Rhinebeck.

Colonized by the Dutch in the 1680’s, this village is packed with historical landmarks, great architecture and plenty of small shops and cafes. Centrally located at the town crossroads, <a href=Beekman Arms holds the claim to fame of being America’s oldest inn, in continuous operation since 1766. Famous guests over the centuries include Alexander Hamilton, Benedict Arnold and Philip Schuyler. And yes, George Washington slept here, as well as Horace Greeley and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Arriving in the late afternoon, we checked into the elegant country inn, which was completely restored and remodeled in 1995. There were several rooms available, each decorated with individual style. We chose a spacious upstairs room in the main historic section. A four-poster bed, overstuffed chair, writing table and separate day bed made this a good choice for two friends traveling together. Period furnishings, quilts and folk art gave the room a great colonial feel, yet cable television, phone line and other modern amenities kept up hooked into the present.

We dropped off our overnight bags and quickly headed out to explore the surrounding town. Just steps away, we found Foster’s Coach House Tavern, where we settled into a cozy booth and ordered appetizers and drinks. This eatery was originally built as “The Village Tavern” by Walter Decker in 1890. Wally Foster purchased the establishment after World War II and remodeled the interior. Cleverly, booths are formed from horse stalls and the public telephone is housed in a coach formerly owned by Levi P. Morton, Vice President under Benjamin Harrison. Racing pictures and accessories are mounted on the walls. A horseshoe serves as a bathroom doorknob. Plenty of character here.

Continuing our walk, we passed The Delamater House, a gingerbread-trimmed inn and conference center dating back to 1844, also owned and operated by Beekman Arms. Across the street an old church turned pizza parlor was under renovation. Weathered windows caught the last strands of afternoon light.

We reversed our strolling direction, catching up on recent times and browsing quaint shops. At Workers and Dreamers I fell for a blue and white mug with a pattern of soft white rabbits floating across its glazed surface like clouds. At nearby Oblong Books & Music, we were pleased to find copies of Quattrocento in stock, a romantic tale of art restoration and time travel by author James McKean, better known to us as Betsy’s brother.

Over crab cakes, butternut squash soup, caesar salad and mouth-watering muffins, we dined in the Traphagen Restaurant, located downstairs in the inn. Following this delicious meal, we had a chance to relax in front of a roaring fire in the lobby, surrounded by colonial furnishings. Soft music flowed from the sound system: Memories…Evita…New York, New York. Framed guest registers from the 1800’s were displayed on the walls. A deed from 1795 decorated the front desk.

With its ideal location in the center of town, Beekman Arms was the perfect base for exploring Rhinebeck. After a good night’s sleep and a complimentary, continental breakfast, we hit the streets once again. Betsy fell into some real treasures at A. L. Stickle, a classic five and dime with all the trappings of nostalgia. I spent most of my time across the street at Identities, a fabulous gift shop filled with extremely reasonably priced goods. From the cute stick figure logo on the front window to the delicate, hand-painted eggs that I picked up for Easter decorations, I loved everything about this shop.

Blondie’s Cafe was our meeting place after shopping, where Betsy and I compared our purchases. Chairs were backed with silver chrome, tables were covered with blue vinyl under glass, and images of Blondie and Dagwood looked down from the walls. A long counter served up refreshments to locals and cozy booths against a back wall gave us a place to sip soda and review our adventure. We agreed Rhinebeck served up a perfect weekend – great lodging, excellent dining, shopping and relaxation – as well as being a blast from the past.

Glimpses into history present themselves around every corner in this town. Impressive murals by painter Olin Dows cover the walls of the post office, depicting early scenes of Hudson Valley life. A plaque outside Beekman Arms commemorates the activities of troops on the property before the start of the Revolutionary War. Then called Bogardus Tavern, business remained open throughout the lawn drills of the 4th Regiment of the Continental Army.

There’s never enough time, it seems, to explore any travel destination. And so it was reluctantly that we dragged ourselves out of Rhinebeck, journeying southbound along the west side of the Hudson. Nearing twilight, we set off to drive straight back. But serendipity caught up to us with a delightful twist. As we drove through Marlboro, we pulled over impulsively at the Raccoon Saloon, well-known locally for excellent fare and energetic political conversation. It was irrestible. If the reputation of the business and character of the building hadn’t pulled us in, the glowing blue and yellow neon raccoon face would have.

We slid into a window table in the back – fabulous view – and ordered drinks and appetizers: sauteed mushrooms with fine herbs on toast points, black bean soup and mesclun greens with ground hazelnuts and hazelnut vinaigrette. As we told the waitress about the excellent time we’d had in Rhinebeck, a gentleman at the table next to us overheard and decided to introduce himself. Well, serendipity indeed. Our impulsive stop at the Raccoon Saloon found us shaking hands with Jerry Banta, who, along with his brother, George, is the new owner of Beekman Arms. It was a pleasure to meet him and to have the opportunity to tell him in person how much we loved his inn.

With memories of delicious meals, excellent hospitality, beautiful scenery and shared friendship, we pasted this perfect getaway into our cranial scrapbooks and headed home – the lower Hudson Valley for Betsy, and for me, Philadelphia – my temporary road lodging.

If You Go:

Painter’s Tavern
266 Hudson St
(845) 534-2109<p<

Rhinebeck Chamber of Commerce
(845) 876-4778

Beekman Arms
Rt. 9
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
(845) 876-7077

Foster’s Coach House Tavern
6411 Montgomery St.
(845) 876-8052

Blondie’s Cafe
34 E. Market St.
(845) 876-7271

24 E. Market St.
(845) 876-6607

The Raccoon Saloon
1330 9W
Marlboro, NY 12542
(845) 236-7879


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