With the bad comes the good. By all accounts, this was the worst winter on record in the Berkshires...over 100 inches of snow and temperatures that averaged under 20 degrees for three months. That caused the snow to pile higher and higher, causing damage to pretty much everything: roofs, roads, shrubs...
Now the good: all of the melting snow and runoff has caused a saturation of the ground that is resulting in the greenest, thickest grass I have ever seen. Bare trees have exploded in foliage.
Yesterday, we took Susan fishing for Mother's Day. Yes, that is what she asked for....so we drove from Lenox down to Benedict Pond in South County. The vistas...the valleys, pastures and rolling mountains were so vivid that if someone had painted them in oil....you just would not accept it as real.
On a related note, the road to the top of Mount Greylock opens in a week, a chance to see all of Western Massachusetts in one sweeping panoramic vista.
See you soon.
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
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
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.
The Boston Globe has proclaimed the Berkshires "an aggregation of performing arts unmatched anywhere in the country."
So I would be irresponsible if I did not spend considerable energy letting you know the details.
Yesterday I covered the summer plans for Shakespeare and Company. But in doing my research, I ran into a website called "Berkshire on Stage" which essentially does much of my work for me. In that particular post, blogger Larry Murray was touting the line-up at Barrington Stage Company this summer.
But I noticed his blog several days ago which presents an overview of the summer. Since "going viral" is the dream of every blog, I am sure Larry will not mind if I lift directly from his post and share his research and opinions:
A Berkshire First-Timer Primer
You don’t need a theatre ticket to soak up the food, natural beauty, history, night life and fabulousness of the Berkshires during the summer. The Berkshires have plenty to offer, and are not only family friendly, but also nature friendly, gay friendly, pet friendly, vegan friendly and meditation friendly. In fact, the rural diversity of the area is surprisingly welcoming to all – both urbane and down to earth at the same time, a winning combination. There is no app for it. You have to come here to experience it.
Many who visit remark on the less frantic change of pace, one which lends itself for the one thing that distinguishes the area above all others, its wealth of arts offerings. Mention the Berkshires and most people automatically think of Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, when they think of this area. Or Jacob’s Pillow, the magnet for dance in America. And lately the Solid Sound Festival and Chicago’s Wilco at the mammoth Mass MoCA museum.
But quietly the Berkshires has become a buzz word among a new crowd, the serious theatre-goer. Not that theatre is new to the Berkshires, all of our companies have distinguished histories. But lately they have been creeping into the national news as the companies have been flourishing, expanding, and drawing ever-bigger crowds.
Once the theaters were thought to be for the summer crowd, but then , the locals discovered them too. These days you’ll find more residents than ever in the lines to get tickets for the really hot shows.
And local audiences can be tough audiences to please. They set the bar pretty high. Perhaps that is because the year-rounders, who endure the bitter cold winters, are hardy old souls, but once engaged by a play or musical, their hearts can melt like snowflakes under the spring sun. It happens a lot, and it is wonderful to see their smiles and hear their laughter. Makes living here year round even more enjoyable.
The Four Major Theatres and their Ten Stages
Located on the hilly and mountainous Western edge of Massachusetts, Berkshire County has a modest population of 130,000 hardy souls who benefit from being just a few hours from the bright lights of Broadway. In fact, many New Yorkers consider the Berkshires their summer hideaway, including dozens of performers, directors and playwrights. Even Bostonians, with their nearby siren call of Cape Cod are heading West to revisit the sometimes forgotten treasures of their own home state. I would gladly sign a petition to change the nickname from the Bay State to the Cultural State.
The four resident professional theatre companies contribute ten of the Berkshires’s two dozen stages to the culture count, with the balance at Tanglewood, the Pillow and three “presenting” organizations talked about below. And just behind this lineup are many more organizations who keep the Berkshires hopping from January to December.
Berkshire Theatre Festival (BTF) of Stockbridge and Pittsfield
The BTF is the granddaddy of the theatre companies, having been founded in 1928 and operating continuously since then, with the exception of 1942-45 which were the years when America fought WWII. Their main stage is a repurposed old casino which was dragged by oxen from Main Street Stockbridge, MA and has seen America’s greatest actors on its stage. It holds about 400 people. It is just a short drive from the famed Norman Rockwell Museum.
This summer the Fitzpatrick Main Stage will host Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, Period of Adjustment by Tennessee Williams, and the world premiere of In the Mood by Kathleen Clark.
The smaller Unicorn theatre only holds about 120, so every seat is close to the stage and because of its stadium seating angles, has excellent sight lines. Moonchildren will open the season there, followed by Dutch Masters and Finian’s Rainbow. Two plays will get world premieres at the Unicorn – the aforementioned Dutch Masters by Greg Keller and Birthday Boy by Chris Newbound.
The BTF recently merged with the Colonial Theatre and will share programming back and forth with it for the first time this summer. Thus three stages will be lit by this company.
The Colonial Theatre has its own extensive calendar of events and provides state of the art technical and production support for musicals and large dramas, like A Christmas Carol, while the Unicorn is being viewed as an ideal location for cabaret and jazz offerings, as well as solo performers.
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox
Also with three theaters, ShakesCo offers its usual mix of classics and contemporary plays in its 33rd Season. When not bringing Shakespeare back to life, they offer hilarious comedy and farce. So the Founder’s Theatre is where you will find the doomed lovers Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It, but their main house will also welcome the return of The Hound of the Baskervilles, a hilarious sendup of all things Conan Doyle with breakneck costume changes and cross-dressing spoofery.
The Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre is a smaller “flex space” where crowds will flock to see Red Hot Patriot: the Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivans alternating with two other shows. The outdoor Rose Footprint Theatre is a destination for families, and this year the commedia dell’arte includes The Venetian Twins and the brand new Everyman/EveryActor.
Also on their bill of fare are The 39 Steps, The Learned Ladies and Women of Will with Tina Packer.
Barrington Stage Company (BSC)
The ingenue in our cast of great theaters is the Barrington Stage Company, founded just fifteen years ago by Julianne Boyd, and attracting nationwide attention for its excellent work. It has already sent several shows to Broadway, including William Finn’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Whipping Man and Freud’s Last Session. With a special knack for musicals, this summer includes the evergreen Guys and Dolls and The Game on the Main Stage. Also on the main stage is the premiere of Mark St. Germain’s The Best of Enemies. Stage 2 will host the premiere of the musical Mormons, Mothers and Monsters as well as Going to St. Ives, My Name is Asher Lev and Zero Hour, a one man show about Zero Mostel.
Their youth company also attracts numerous fans, this year presenting All Shook Up, a celebration of Elvis Presley at St. Joseph High School plus another location TBA.
At several points during the summer they will have three stages lit at the same time. And in October they will present a staged version of Lord of the Flies.
Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF)
While the first three companies are year-round residents and offer programming in the September-May slot, the WTF is only able to perform during the summer when it avails itself of two new theaters at Williams College. In essence it was a company begun 56 years ago by the college, and its friends, and it has grown and prospered as a visionary company with impeccable quality.
Two classic plays will light the Main Stage at the 62 Center this year: George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t Take it With You and Oliver Goldsmith’s rowdy comedy, She Stoops to Conquer. Closing the main stage season will be the Revue-sical Ten Cents A Dance, celebrating the music of Rodgers and Hart.
The recently announced Nikos Theatre season is one in which two classics, A Streetcar Named Desire and A Doll’s House can be seen in the intimate confines of this smaller theatre, as well as several new works, Lewis Black’s One Slight Hitch, the East Coast Premiere of Bess Wohl’s Touch(ed), and The Civilians’ production of You Better Sit Down: tales from my parents’ divorce.
Other Berkshire Venues
You will find a trio of “presenting” theaters in the Berkshires as well. Down south, in Great Barrington is another glorious restored theatre, The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, whose marquee will feature names like Joan Rivers, Paul Taylor Dance Company, The Wailers, Peter Yarrow and soprano Deborah Voigt.
At Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre there is not only The Who’s Tommy, but Tommy Tune and Tom Paxton plus far too many others to detail here.
In North Adams the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts has more than visual appeal, it has the Hunter Center performing space and Club B-10 for cabaret sized offerings. During the summer it also schedules things outdoors, from their walk-in open-air cinema to the multiple stages and excitement of the Solid Sound Festival featuring Chicago rockers Wilco. They also play host to the Bang on a Can week long contemporary music festival.
With three stages, Jacob’s Pillow is the place to be if you love dance. The array of dance offerings is breathtaking. The Ted Shawn Theatre is their main stage, where dance companies from around the world show off their latest works. In the Doris Duke Studio Theatre, emerging companies, and those who are working on complicated new pieces allow audiences a preview of what will soon be hot, and what might not.
Families love the Inside/Out stage and its free late afternoon performances most summer days. Set in the open air in the woods, the stage is being completely rebuild for 2011 and offers both samples of the companies performing there, and showcases the students at its school. The quality is high, the experience magical.
The BSO’s summer home is the place that began it all in the Berkshires. SInce 1936 the small orchestra encampment has grown, with the famous Shed also playing host to such well known artists as James Taylor, though this year he will be performing in the more intimate Ozawa Hall. There is also a theatre where opera and other staged works can be performed. It took us four articles to detail everything happening there.
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four
The great lawn, meticulously maintained, offers concert-goers the delightful experience of a picnic with live classical music, overlooking the beautiful Stockbridge Bowl. The only question on some people’s minds is whether the BSO’s Music Director, James Levine, who has been struggling with back problems, will be able to fulfill his scheduled performances. Even so, the BSO has one of the most impressive rosters of alternate conductors I have ever seen, so while missing the maestro might be a disappointment, the joy of discovering a fresh and upcoming conductor makes the gamble irresistible.
Tanglewood remains the Berkshires best known attraction, but the crowds who are arriving for other events are – in aggregate – beginning to outnumber those of the reigning diva for the first time. These new audiences are younger, more adventurous and who knows, they may take a night off from theatre to take in a concert. Now that would be a switch to the conventional thinking, wouldn’t it.
With so much on the calendar, the Berkshires offer as much culture in the summer as you will find in most major cities, and in an idyllic setting that still is pretty tough to top.
I thought it might be fun to tell you who you are! Ready?
- Even though Berkshire County has only 139,000 residents, it hosts 2,500,000 visitors annually
- The average age is 52
- 80% of you are married....but 65% travel as a couple (no jokes, please)
- Median household income is $100,500
- You will spend $319 million annually in the Berkshires, employing 11,000 people directly, resulting in $86 million in local wages. You spend, on average, $1,190 while here.
- 55% of you are college graduates, and 45% have post-graduate degrees
- 80% visit historic sites, 60% cultural venues and 38% participate in outdoor recreation
- 59% of you are professional and 18% are retired
- 29% are from Metro New York (6% other New York), 22% from Metro Boston (8% other MA), 8% from other New England and 12% from other Mid-Atlantic.
Research also shows that you come back to the area year after year. This is certainly true of our Hampton Terrace guests...well over 50% of our annual summer crowd has stayed here before.
And here at Hampton Terrace, we are very fortunate to fall exactly in step with travel trends caused by recent economic events. People are still taking trips....but they are driving, looking to spend a long weekend a couple of hours away, and are wanting an "experience." "Turn Back the Clock to the Gilded Age," we say at Hampton Terrace.
Shhhh... Yesterday, Barack Obama gave the National Medal of Arts....the nation's highest arts honor...to 10 recipients. Four of them, James Taylor, Meryl Streep, Sonny Rollins and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival reside within a 25-mile radius of us... 40%!
And they join Yo Yo Ma, John Williams, Pete Seeger and James Levine, who also have Berkshire homes. Frankly, that could be the tip of the iceberg....which is also why I am asking you to keep this between us.
There are LOT of other famous people here. But unlike The Hamptons, Beverly Hills, Aspen.....these "celebrities" live here because they can actually have a life. And a life that is rural and authentic...but also possessing world-class natural surroundings, culture (art, music, theater and dance), museums, Gilded Age historic homes, restaurants (my last blog pointed out that 2 of the 4 James Beard nominations from Massachusetts this year live in the Berkshires), health and wellness (Canyon Ranch, Kripalu and Dr. Mark Hyman.)
I have stood in front of James Taylor in the grocery store line. Sat next to him in an empty coffee shop. He's hanging with his twin boys. Reading a paper. People are leaving him alone.
So here is my pitch to you. Come to the Berkshires to find out WHY people like James Taylor and Yo Yo Ma make this home.
But SHHHH! This stays between you and me. Our SECRET!