Earthy Luxury in New York

Confirming our reservation at the gate, we continued the drive up the hill, passing trails and a greenhouse, a putting green and horse barn before reaching the actual hotel. Made of wood and stone, the building is majestic in an earthy way; its turrets and balconies and chimneys adding to its character. We were staying at Mohonk Mountain House, a resort located in the Hudson Valley near the town of New Paltz, 90 miles north of New York City.

Mohonk Mountain House was first built in 1870 by the Smiley brothers who were excited to find a lake on top of the mountain. They bought the property and immediately built the first rendition of the resort. Future additions eventually increased the number of rooms to over 250 on six floors, most with their own balconies and fireplaces.

The building meanders, its unsymmetrical chimneys looking like a child’s Lego-made tower, its height and silhouette reminding me of sand dripped castles at the beach.

We left our car and our luggage (I needed two bags to carry all my required gear and clothing) and followed the valet’s directions to the lobby and check-in.

Our room was small but charming. With a king size bed, a bureau and desk, a fireplace complete with firestarter and logs, our own private balcony and bath, what more could we need? We got lost in the long hallways with their nooks and uneven floors leading us to stairs and elevators, the spa one direction, the dining room the other.

With a rounded glassed-in view of the Catskills, the dining room has several two-person tables along its windows. We sat one table back from the window, still able to enjoy the view, and sampled some of the many options in Friday night’s seafood buffet. Shrimp scampi, clam chowder, bouillabaisse, oysters on the half shell, scallops, and clams as well as beef tenderloin and a chicken curry were available. There were vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free choices, salads, a dried fruit and cheese platter, and an assortment of desserts. We had a buffet lunch on Saturday and a buffet brunch on Sunday. Saturday night was a sit-down dinner.

Besides eating, there were so many things to do. We could row the boats, attend yoga or aerobic sessions, swim in the Olympic size pool, hike the trails, and ride the mountain bikes. For a little more, we could putt the green, ride a horse or get a massage. Summertime adds a beach with swimming, fishing, and other boating options. Winter adds potential cross country skiing and ice skating at its outdoor skating rink with large stone fireplace.

As it rained and was in the 40s our only full day, too cool for the winter activities and too warm for the summer ones, we elected to swim laps in the indoor pool before getting a massage and enjoying the outdoor stone mineral bath. Sunday we enjoyed a hike and yoga before brunch and check out. The sun came out too, but it was time to go. We drove away, hoping to return some day for a longer, warmer stay, maybe even with the kids.

Trip Taken April 2011

Where Are We Going?

It was a mystery. My husband planned a weekend away for the two of us, without the kids, to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, but he wouldn’t tell me where we were going. “It’s a surprise,” he said and gave me the following instructions: “Bring a bathing suit, a nice dress for dinner, clothes to hike, bike and exercise in, and dress nice for when we arrive.”

Since it was only for a weekend, and we live in New England, I was able to narrow it down a little. Another clue: the climate would be similar to our home near Boston. It was mid April so I planned accordingly, wondering if we were heading north to Maine,Vermont or Quebec, west to Lenox or somewhere in the Berkshires or south to Connecticut or Rhode Island or even New York City.

We left at 1 p.m., right on schedule and took a left out of the driveway eliminating the northern choices. As we drove, he kept the map hidden.

Have you ever been surprised? Usually I find the anticipation can be more fun and exciting than the actual event itself, but since I didn’t know where I was going, and the roads kept changing, the options narrowing, and the hours increasing, I began to find the mystery a little frustrating. As my voice expressed incredulity as we passed yet another option, and I asked, emphasis on the where, “Where are we going?” My husband laughed. “This is more fun than I thought it would be,” he said.

In New York, the grass was greener than at home. Mountains appeared to our right; his answer to my question confirmed their identity, “The Catskills.” As the roads became smaller with several twists and turns, he was forced to have me navigate. But there was no “Aha!” By this time I knew I was in New York and near the Catskills, and I knew we were going some place new, to a place I had never been or even heard of before.

We drove by stone walls and through small colorful towns where buildings on the main streets were painted a variety of bright colors as they paralleled a river. We saw signs for SUNY (State University New York) New Paltz and double backed after taking a wrong turn and up and away from the Catskills toward the Shawangunk Mountains (aka The Gunks) eventually turning up a hill toward Mohonk Mountain House, our destination for the weekend.

Trip Taken April 2011