This study is as scientific as you can get. A large sampling over time.
We are staying at the Grand Paradise Samana in Dominican Republic. It is a large, all-inclusive resort so far from population centers that there is no cell service or internet.
Which is how the hotel is getting away with charging $10 for 15 minutes of internet access on their two very-outdated computers. You have to buy a password from the front desk and wait in line for your 15 minutes of access to the world.
And what are people doing with their 15 minutes? FACEBOOK. Every one of them.
I know...because I am here for 10 days and I had to negotiate with the hotel manager for a 10-day unlimited password. That took a full 24 hours, as the manager on duty the afternoon we checked in said to come back the next morning at 9...and it was noon before the property manager came in. It seemed what I requested had never come up before...a negotiated fee for 9 days of access. Fortunately, the little area with the computers also has wireless so I can set up my laptop at a counter in the back of the room and spend a hour or two each morning and the same period late each afternoon checking my e-mails and responding to reservation requests. It actually took four different user names and passwords before I got one which would let me log in more than once. It is like Internet 1996.
But I am now online without problem...and I am observing those who accessing the internet in front of me. Every ONE of them is going straight to their Facebook pages. Every one. And considering the expense, these are not casual surfers.
The hotel is large and very full. There are tour groups from Canada, France and Italy. I hear German, French, Spanish, Italian....I am sure others. There are so few English speakers here that we have begun approaching couples at the pool and at the beach only because we hear some English.
So in my little observation perch in the "Internet Center" as the sign says, I have witnessed probably 100 different people going on-line and like I said. Facebook. Only Facebook.
I know that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs BOTH have invested their fortunes and energies in trying to find a platform that the world would adopt as a standard. No such luck. It had to happen virally...and it did.
And here in Samana, Dominican Republic, I can tell you, it's Facebook all the way.
I have always said come to our inn in June or September. The rates are still off-season, for most part, and almost everything is gearing up for the summer or still going full strength.
I have to admit...at the moment, I am in a place that is SO FAR from civilization that I have no cell service (Verizon..what happened?) and I am paying for internet by the minute using a card I purchased from the front desk of our hotel.
Yes, we are in Dominican Republic...and for those with Google maps in front of you...we are in the upper right corner, at the end of the Samana Peninsula. Hola!
We are neck deep in the third world for 10 days. Hola!
But this is our break....so onward soldiers, onward...
I know the importance of staying in touch with those who need to call or e-mail me, so thankfully I paid my credit cards down and my sister-in-law Lynn is running the inn and managed to unforward the inn phone from my cell to hers. So the calling part is handled. And I have some internet.
And I know how important it is to try to stay in touch with our guests and prospective guests via our blog.
So imagine my relief to find a link today that I can send you to which describes a LOT of good reasons to consider a June trip to Lenox, the Berkshires and Hampton Terrace.
Called BerkshireLinks.com, I highly recommend checking this list out. And then check our website for availability. Our pool will be open and our rates will stay below $200/night for every night in June except for June 17/18, June 24/25 and June 30.
A lot of guests who come to Hampton Terrace bring their bicycles, and others probably will once they read an article that I happened to find on-line.
Hancock Shaker Village: Soon after setting out on the 26 mile round trip from Lenox, a short climb over Lenox Mountain yields a panoramic view of Stockbridge Bowl and the craggy face of Monument Mountain. Spend a couple of hours at Hancock Shaker Village, with its wonderfully preserved shops, kitchen, barns and heritage garden cue sheet map
Stockbridge, Monterey and Tyringham: We start out past "Gilded Era" mansions in Lenox and through rural farmland on our way to popular Stockbridge. The ride continues along the edge of Beartown State Forest to tiny Monterey, then drops down to the Tyringham Valley. Have lunch in Lee before returning to the Apple Tree Inn along Undermountain Road, for a total of 45 miles. Cue sheet map
Alford and Stockbridge: We check out of our rooms at the Apple Tree Inn in the morning, but leave our cars here as we head out on a 35 mile ride through Stockbridge and past the Norman Rockwell Museum. After cycling along the rapids of the Housatonic river, we pass through tiny Alford and stop for lunch in West Stockbridge. We often take a break from the 2 mile moderate climb out of West Stockbridge for a walk through the Berkshire Botanical Garden. This ride is 35 miles. cue sheet map
This ride heads east to Becket MA, one of the Berkshire "hilltowns" with some steady climbing and a long descent to Pittsfield before returning to Lenox . cue shee
t map Housatonic River ride
Follow the course of the Housatonic River from Lee and Lenox to where it enters Connecticut, then back for a complete loop. cue sheet map Lenox-Williamstown
This long ride starts similarly to the shorter Hancock Shaker Village ride but continues past two large lakes through Pittsfield, Lanesborough and New Ashford before circling back after entering Williamstown. cue sheet map
We give all the credit to you, our guests...with extreme appreciation. Hampton Terrace has earned a 2010 TripAdvisor "Certificate of Excellence."
With over more than 300 reviews, you have made us #1 in Lenox for years...with a "satisfaction index" of 99.3 over the last 6 months and 98.8 over the last six quarters.
This is a full six points over the average score in Lenox....which many, including USA Today and BedandBreakfast.com consider the highest concentration of upscale inns in the country.
TripAdvisor is far-and-away the #1 source for evaluating lodging properties. 400,000 properties are listed with 45+ million reviews. Reviews are posted anonymously...and everything is accepted, unless fraud can be proven. It is the ultimate empowerment of the traveling public.
Google considers public-offered content...especially reviews...the most relevent social interaction possible. Therefore a MULTITUDE of travel-rating platforms have been created....but TripAdvisor has become the Facebook of this genre. At this point, there is such a critical mass at TripAdvisor that the race is over.
And the lodging industry fought it. Obviously. Transparency has changed the face of travel. No longer can someone renting out their spare bedroom pass themselves off as an inn. No longer can the flea-infested motel on the side of the road take your money without remorse, knowing that there are plenty of drop-ins after you. Now you....on your computer or on your phone..have the ability to see what percentage of guests before you posted "do not recommend."
Nowhere has this been most felt than the bed and breakfast industry. There are tens of thousands of b&bs and inns. You have expectations...and frankly until now...some of those properties had no way to fill them, and you had no recourse. Ask for your money back? Contact the local BBB?
Now your negative review is feared by every one of them who hopes to stay in business. Their options are to close, or upgrade. You win.
Several weeks ago I covered this subject in Romantic Getaways: Four Ways to Pick the Perfect Inn or B&B.
I also covered the subject of b&b stereotypes in Nailed It! Parks and Recreation's Take on B&Bs.
So, thanks again to you....our guests for your feedback, positive and negative. We ask for your opinions, and we do act on constructive comments.
Here's the deal. Yes, you can go to Fenway in Boston. There are no tickets left so you pay 3 times face from Ace Tickets or StubHub.
Now that the Red Sox have their 0 and 35 start behind them, nothing that they could throw at us could be worse, right?
That was on purpose, I know. For the typical Red Sox fan, the sky is always falling. Theo Epstein is thinking...let's start with the season in the toilet...that way.....if the season ends that way...no one feels like the rug was yanked (pardon sincerely the pun).
Back to my point. After all, I run an inn, not a sports column.
The Boston Red Sox are on television just about every night. NESN, channel 1849. Every one of our rooms has a tv. But that also is not my point. The Berkshires have numerous sports bar options, so stay at Hampton Terrace, watch the game at a local watering hole, and use our terrific breakfasts to cure the hangover.
If you want to walk...the Olde Heritage Tavern down the street from us has cheap beer, good bar food and plenty of televisions, which will all be turned to the game.
Five minutes north of us is Halpern's Pub and Grub, voted the Best in the Berkshires in the sports bar category, and five minutes south of us is Lee's Locker Room...a place where I have personally watched many football playoff games and Superbowls with my twin boys. Great Barrington has "The Well," and if you are really serious about this, I will help you research a list that could be 5 times longer.
I mention Yankees in the headline. While it is probably true that the typical sports bar in the area will NOT be showing the YES Network....this IS a great area in which to WATCH a Red Sox-Yankees game. Why? Because the Berkshires are pretty evenly split RED/BLUE.
We are literally ten minutes from the New York state line and Albany television is more pervasive than stations in Springfield or elsewhere. So there ARE a lot of Yankee fans here. I would say until the Red Sox recent run, it was 50/50. Now, it is probably more 60/40 Red Sox...but that does not mean the bars are any less fun during a game.
So on Red Sox-Yankee nights, you will find the bars full and the crowd mixed, making a raucous atmosphere probably unlikely either in Boston or New York where only a brain-damaged (or soon to be brain-damaged) fan would walk into a bar in the other team's garb.
Welcome to the Berkshires...where we can help you have a great sports bar experience and provide the bed you need afterwards.
James Taylor lives in Lenox. We see him in the coffee shop, grocery store line.... of course, every summer at Tanglewood for multiple shows.
Many of our guests know this and ask.... why here? Notwithstanding the fact that among his most famous lines...
Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go
So why does he live here, in a town of less than 5,000? I ran across an interview with him in Berkshire Living Magazine. Rather than paraphrase...here is the link.
Taylor's wife, Kim, was marketing director for the Boston Symphony, and much of her job centered around promoting Tanglewood, down the street. She is from Albany, an hour away, and went to college in North Hampton, an hour the other direction...so landing in the Berkshires was natural for her.
And for James as well, having spent part of his 20s in Stockbridge. He met Kim at Tanglewood in 1993 at a John Williams conducted Pops concert. They married in 2001.
But the deciding factor was when they had twin boys in 2002. They started looking for a place to raise their sons...and after careful consideration, and a couple of false starts in other places, they landed in Lenox.
Tanglewood itself is the major beneficiary of this decision. James performs multiple shows every summer, with the majority of the cash flow remaining at the venue as a contribution. This has amounted to millions of dollars.
But going beyond Tanglewood....little known is the fact that Taylor jumped into action within days of the Haiti earthquake to do what he could to help.
He arranged a private show at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington (680 seats), and said he would match all ticket proceeds with a personal donation. WAMC Northeast Public Radio broadcast the show live to solicit call-in donations. When the show sold out quickly, Taylor added a second show the next night. Total donations collected: $600,000. From the concept of the idea...to the end of the second show...less than a week.
Welcome to the Berkshires...where there the quality of life never ceases to amaze. Come visit!
Photos by Stan Grossfield/Courtesy of the Boston Globe
Okay. I know we are supposed to be adults here. But come on...who can turn this down?
This weekend through May 8th at Hancock Shaker Village, near Lenox in the Berkshires. For INFORMATION
I promised when I started this Hampton Terrace blog that I would share reasons to come to the Berkshires. PARTIES.....outrageous parties....that anyone can attend.... is a HUGE reason.
This past weekend the art school, IS183, did it again. Themed "Anime Hothouse," and held in one of the very few remaining Vanderbilt mansions left in the world.... Every year this crowd throws the party to beat all parties. The thing is.... everyone dresses the theme.
I used to throw parties for a living in a community of 250,000 people. I always knew that throwing a party where people felt like they had to dress up..... was the path to a disaster. Whether people were too busy to think about costumes, too insecure, too pigeon-holed in their Polos and Talbot's outfits...I cannot know. They just did not work.
But not true here. Probably it is the fact that the Berkshires are a little Bohemian...lots of actors, artists, musicians, general crazy people...enough to create a critical mass that causes the rest of us (including me - yeah, button-downs, khakis and boat shoes) to drop the pretenses, grab a Scotch, and cake on the make-up.
Past themes have included "Hair Ball," and "Radioactive Bodega," both of which we attended. We could not go this year...but I am looking at hundreds of photographs, and the only one I do not see dressed to the hilt is Governor Deval Patrick... I can only assume that a photograph of him, dressed in Japanese anime', taken out of context, could be disasterous. A nice sensible blue sportcoat for the Gov...
So back to Berkshire parties. To get on the IS183 mailing list and learn more about the art school, its programs, and its parties, CLICK HERE.
Although the IS183 parties are the most "out there," other organizations in the area also have galas and events at least once per year which should be on your radar.
Shakespeare and Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Berkshire Film and Media Commission....I could go on and on.
They each take advantage of the great mansions available, the beautiful vistas, the "crowd that is willing to do anything..."
I did not mention this party in my blog as something to watch out for. I promise I will do a better job in the future of giving you a heads up.
Meanwhile, I suggest going to BerkshireLiving.com and signing up for their free newsletters and upcoming event notices.
Photographs by Kevin Sprague
My old friend Jim Benson knows how to do it.
We share a background in that we both lived in Georgia and attended the University of Virginia. And Jim employed both of my daughters when he managed Bistro Zinc in Lenox and Pearl's in Great Barrington.
A few years ago, he opened Mission Bar and Tapas on North Street in Pittsfield....at that point, showing blind faith in George Whalings vision to turn North Street into a hip stretch of restaurants, boutiques and loft apartments. They both won.
Mission Bar and Tapas is what it sounds like: a wide selection of Spanish tapas choices and Spanish wines, in a space designed to look like the interior of the Alamo (as if I knew what that looks like...but the theme works).
But Mondays were slow...so Jim came up with a promotion that draws upon his roots in Virginia, Georgia and Kansas City: barbecue.
This morning's Berkshire Eagle features "Blue Monday" at Mission...a selection of pulled pork and ribs with a choice of sauces from South Carolina, Kansas City and elsewhere. Also fried chicken and off-menu specialty beers.
To complete the shift from Spain to "somewhere down South" Mission features live music: jazz with a touch of blues.
While teaching a program at nearby Kripalu, Rodney Yee stayed at Hampton Terrace in one of our king suites, with his wife, Colleen.
Rodney has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, and in the PBS special "The Practical Power of Yoga,” as well as many other television broadcasts. He contributes to a variety of yoga and healthy lifestyle publications regularly, including Yoga Journal, Self, Shape, and Fitness, and has been featured in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle, O-The Oprah Magazine, New York Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
This brings us to an important point. Hampton Terrace is an option for everyone who attends or teaches programs at Kripalu Institute.
Kripalu is one of the largest and most recognized yoga centers in the world. They program 12 months a year and do provide housing on-site.
But many of their attendees find that staying in a local inn makes more sense than their two primary options:
A Kripalu room for a single with a private bath runs from $366 to $422/night. Double occupancy raises that from $550 to $630/night. The rooms are simple, consistent with a yoga philosophy, with a low double or queen bed...or two twins.
They also offer a dormitory option, $155 to $180/night, 6 to 22 people in a room with a bath down the hall.
Our private rooms are $175 to $189/night PER ROOM....nothing extra for double occupancy. Our rooms include breakfast, a fireplace and a Jacuzzi. Kripalu is located one mile away...a two minute drive.
If you stay off-property, you will pay a daily Kripalu fee of $75 weekdays and $100 weekend. That includes three meals and all activities.
Still, many people do the math and realize they can stay in better accommodations and save more than 50%....including the daily fee.
Why don't more people do this? Veterans of Kripalu know about this. The Kripalu brochure and website do not mention it as an obvious option.
We hear great things about Kripalu, their programs, and their food. Consider Hampton Terrace for your sleeping options.
Rodney Yee did.
Earth Wind & Fire. Yo Yo Ma with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Opening night of the Boston Symphony Season.
Whoa! And that is just from June 25 to July 8.....and does not include four performances by some local guy named James Taylor in the middle.
At some point I will wake up from this dream....that entertainment of this level is happening literally a walk from my front door. And yours too, if you stay at Hampton Terrace.
This morning, Tanglewood sent out a link for easy on-line purchase of tickets for these four performances.
We still have rooms at Hampton Terrace for all except the Saturday night Garrison Keillor show.
For a complete Tanglewood Summer Schedule, CLICK HERE.
To CHECK AVAILABILITY at Hampton Terrace, CLICK HERE.
It is no secret to the locals....and probably not to a large percentage of second homeowners. And judging from the crowd last night: a dreary, cold, April Saturday night, maybe it is no secret at all.
What is indisputable, though, is that it is in the middle of nowhere. Their website asks you to ignore your GPS (although mine got me there last night just fine). Located in the woods near Becket, the Dream Away is tucked somewhere on October Mountain. Their history...according to the website:
The Dream Away Lodge has been a Berkshire legend for more than 90 years. Rumored to have been a brothel and speakeasy during the great depression, this two hundred year old farmhouse at the edge of October Mountain State Forest is renown for its larger than life founders, Mamma Maria Frasca and her three musical daughters, and a colorful history, rich in music and local mythology.
The 1975 visitation by Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and the Rolling Thunder Review, led to the Dream Away's prominent role in Part Two of Dylan's epic film Renaldo and Clara - enhancing an already unmatched reputation as one of Berkshire County's best loved and most closely held hilltown secrets. Since the lodge's purchase by former actor and theater maker Daniel Osman in 1997, the lodge's legend has been rather spectacularly reborn. Part restaurant, part bar, part music venue and all theater, the Dream Away features locally grown and sourced food, an imaginative and affordable menu in its own inimitable style, and a wide range of music, art, theater, cabaret and spoken word events.
"We make it out there a couple of times per year. Last night, Susan I took Susan's sister, Lynn for her first visit. The food has always been "part of the experience" but last night, the food stood on its own. We had a great meal. In the past, the food has been more "family style," price fix, with several choices in each category. Now there seems to be an effort to upscale the menu choices and the wines.
So what did I mean "part of the experience?" I got off subject because last night's meal blew us away.
The "experience" starts with the fact that you have to be a Boy Scout to find the place. Once you see the neon Coors sign in the distance you know you have found it. Then there is always a campfire in the front yard, attended by the parking lot guys. Walk in and you are greeted with a collection of kitch that does not end. It really does not end. The place is a rambling set of room after room...most of them extensions of the original house, and every wall and shelf offers something to ponder....including the interior's first impression: a framed copy of Marilyn Monroe's nude Playboy centerfold (along with a disclaimer asking children to avert eyes). Not that children come here....this is an adult playground.
And by playground, I get to the main reason for the Dream Away's reputation and repeat business. The entertainment.
As you enter the Dream Away, you go left for the bar and the dining rooms. But if you go right, you are in the living room. Old couches, pillows on the floor. Roaring fire. And music. Every night there is music. Some nights are professional entertainers. Some nights are open mike...which really consists of people who bring their guitars, or sit down at the piano. On those nights you will hear a professional musician just passing through...or a 12-year-old kid making his first attempt to perform beyond his bedroom. All get the same respect from the patrons who bring their wine and after-dinner-drinks into the living room for the third act of their "experience." For a list of upcoming performers at the Dream Away.
Welcome to The Quiet Corn, serving all of your bed & breakfast needs, as long as you behave yourself and obey our rules. Take a look at our property's features, and if I approve of your phone voice and can confirm your lack of cat- and horsehair-insulation allergies, I'll be happy to consider taking your reservation.
Elsa Clack, Proprietor
Visit the QUIET CORN BED AND BREAKFAST website, and see what Amy Pohler and the Parks and Recreation writers consider your typical bed and breakfast experience.
They absolutely NAILED the stereotype that I referred to in my blog entry called Romantic Getaways: 4 Ways to Pick the Perfect Inn or B&B.
In the entry I stated that 97% of the traveling public had never stayed in an inn or b&b....and never will. Why? Afraid of the above.
So to prove that most (and notice I said most) b&bs live in the modern age and provide guests at least what they hope to find in a hotel (good beds, private bathrooms, satisfying breakfasts, cleanliness, Wi-Fi, and on....), the Professional Association of Innkeepers has created a new website called BetterWaytoStay.com. Check it out.
Jay Karen, PAII's CEO performed a Facebook survey yesterday, which shows the problem and the solution. EDUCATION. He asked everyone under Age 47 (Generations X and Y) to answer 5 questions.
1. For your next leisure trip, are you considering a bed and breakfast for lodging?
2. Open a new tab or browser window and go to the website www.betterwaytostay.com. Then, please come back to the survey.
3. What did you think of the site?
53% Funny or Cool
4. Did you click on anything?
5. After seeing or exploring the site, would you now consider a bed and breakfast on your next leisure trip?