Monday, August 8, 2011

Tivoli Diary, August 2011

Tivoli is a village on the east bank of the Hudson River in New York. This is the Middle Hudson Valley, as the tour guides generally refer to the area where Tivoli is located. For the second time it was my base for roughly a week's stay with nearby Bard Summerscape as main objective. (I last visited in 2008.) I will post an overview of my latest visit here, and maybe we can plan a little group event next time!

I found Tivoli and its Madalin Hotel on the Internet in 2008 when I was looking for lodgings that would be super-convenient to Bard Summerscape. Bard and the village of Annadale-on-the-Hudson are just a few minutes' drive south on Route 9G from Tivoli. There are larger tourist hubs with more hotels and restaurants at nearby Red Hook and Rhinebeck. Beyond this Internet find, my main guides to the area have been Fodor's New York State and Tim Mulligan's excellent, personable "The Traveler's Guide to the Hudson River Valley". (Latest edition is 2007, but the book indicates a web site, which I'll seek out and link later.)

Madalin Hotel

Anyway, Monday, August 1: I drop Ollie off at his boarding place and head up I-83 and I-81 through Pennsylvania, as I did in 2008. I'm avoiding the congested corridor of I-95 and other more eastward roads, but there are still some road work back-ups and detours in the middle of Pennsylvania. By late afternoon, I'm on I-88 East in New York State approaching Oneonta and Glimmerglass Opera country around Cooperstown. I decide to stop in Oneonta for the night and discover that it's not a good idea to travel like this in upstate NY during the summer without booking lodgings in advance, even if you only need a place for one night. Hampton Inn refers me to the Clarion Hotel, which has a few rooms left, and this turns out to be the better deal for convenience. The Clarion is right on Oneonta's main street, and I'm able to leave my car in the lot and walk up and down this classic American small city street with my pick of restaurants for dinner. I finally choose the little Greek place right next to the hotel (Athens?). Typical of many places where I eat on this trip, the windows are all open, ceiling fans are turning, there's optional outdoor dining, and it's still comfortable inside in spite of summer heat. Very nice.

Tuesday, August 2: One of the reasons for my Oneonta detour on my way to Tivoli is the chance to visit Beekman 1802 at Sharon Springs in the Mohawk Valley. After a huge fruit platter for breakfast at the Oneonta Clarion (I really need it after yesterday's road trip food), I drive up one of the country highways north from Oneonta and come to scenic Highway (Route?) 20. All through the whole vacation, I'm thinking that I'm seeing small towns and houses that I thought were inhabited only by movie or literature characters. And shouldn't they be either in black and white or Technicolor? I reach tiny Sharon Springs well before noon, and the town clerk and the mayor (speaking Oz-like from behind an office partition) at the community center tell me how to spot the Beekman 1802 mercantile store on the village's main street down in its hidden dale. Neighbors have put me on to Beekman's, and I want to investigate and make purchases from their selection of goat milk products. (Presents!) One of the owners or staff members helps me select goat milk soap and jars of various sauces based on goat milk. There are also locally made craft items. The farm where the goat milk items are made is not open to visitors, but apparently this is quite an enterprise and orders can be made on the Internet.

The Beekman store shares a sprawling old white-painted timber building with the Roseboro Hotel, which is being renovated. I also need to check out the American Hotel up the street, and there's a Paradise Inn with rainbow flag behind the Roseboro. While still in Sharon Springs, I had a nice sandwich and carrot cake at the Black Cat Cafe, also on the main street.

I head down 145 and into the Catskills area and soon I'm on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and looking up at Olana high on the slopes on the other side of the Hudson. Only a dollar toll to use the bridge (and they didn't charge toll coming back across). I'm checking into the Madalin before 3pm (and later realize this is before the official check-in time of 4pm). I decide to drive down to Bard, where I discover the new sculpture-installation, the Parliament of Reality, by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, near the Gehry-designed Fisher Center where the opera is taking place.

My first dinner in Tivoli on this trip is at the new Panzur down Broadway, the village's main street. The Madalin's owner suggests it and expresses an interest in keeping this newest place in Tivoli in business. It turns out to be a novel dining experience for me -- besides tapas, a prominent feature of the menu is several varieties of gourmet ham and an Iberian pork that is 100 percent acorn-fed. I go for the "jamon serrano" and a side dish of very nicely done mustard greens that have some other ingredients in them. Dessert is homemade blueberry cobbler and homemade lemon and (thyme?) ice cream. And my choice of wine is a lovely Spanish Ambar Torrentes. Don't ask how much it all cost, but I do hope Panzur is still there on my next visit to Tivoli.


Wednesday, August 3: Anticipating Richard Strauss' "Die Liebe der Danae" at Bard this afternoon. I meet other Madalin Hotel guests over the continental breakfast. If I name one of them, I'd be dropping names. I think he would be well-known in some circles, and I don't want to intrude on his privacy. We chat a lot during the next couple of days, and I don't reveal that I write a blog. What I will share is that this wonderful gentleman attended the "official" premiere of this opera in Salzburg in 1952, and he is a curator and archivist at the Percy Grainger House in New York.

Another guest is/was a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and she tells me about the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center further down Broadway in Tivoli. Some prominent dance companies have been at the Madalin recently or have staged events at Kaatsbaan, and there is much talk during this breakfast about the secret lives of dancers. They are amazing people. (I don't discuss them lightly. Please see my blog labels for ballet and The Red Shoes.)

Kaatsbaan International Dance Center

Where did I go this morning before the opera? Ah, Clermont, which I didn't see on my last visit. It's very close, north on 9G. This is the oldest surviving estate on the Hudson and home of one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence. (Sorry about my sketchy history notes, but I might get something wrong.) Clermont is beautiful, a relatively modest all-white mansion, and the park with lots of picnic tables offers a close-up view of the River. The formal walled garden seems a little drab, perhaps because of late summer, as did other gardens of this type that I saw, but the butterflies, hummingbird moths and real hummingbirds are not fussy about that.

By the way, on a budget note, all the estates and gardens have either free or very low-priced parking and admission if you just want to see the grounds. I didn't do any guided house tours on this trip. I sometimes switch into serious garden exploration mode, and guided indoor tours sometimes seem TMI to me, though some are on my list for future visits.

The opera that afternoon is superb. I might write a separate post about it, but for now I'll say that the updated setting worked well, the singing and playing were wonderful and the stagecraft and effects also wonderful. Jupiter's Golden Rain and the scene in which Danae turns into gold, both supported by Strauss's glorious score, are most memorable moments.

I'm back at the Madalin after 6pm after the 3-hour opera. First dinner this trip at the famous restaurant, Madalin's Table. No tables are available, or it seems so, so I eat at the bar. Note, by the way, the wonderful outdoor dining on the wrap-around porch -- I want to call it a veranda -- but the bar indoors, beautifully restored by the owner, is also a fine place to eat. There are some nice gourmet things on the menu, but tonight I have the generous plate of buttermilk fried chicken with hockey-puck-sized cheddar biscuit and other delicious items accompanied by a Hooker Blond Ale. (The menu could change before my next visit. I'm not sure how fluid the menu selection is here. You better hurry.)

Thursday, August 4: Well, it might have been yesterday afternoon or today when I drove onto the grounds of Kaatsbaan. I learn that it's not really open to the public between events, but an administrator shows me around a little and gets my name for their e-mail list. (Yes, I'm already getting Kaatsbaan e-mail.) This looks like an interesting destination for presentations and performances in future visits. I get to see the lobby of the new studio and theater building, and a query about the rather distinctive old stables and barns all over the place reveals that this was once the estate of a Polish count who raised thoroughbred horses. (There are still many other such horse farms in the area.)

Either yesterday or today for a late lunch, I find another new business on Tivoli's Broadway. Actually, Murray's is an older place which has been bought and remodeled by enterprising young partners since my 2008 visit. They just opened this summer and thankfully provide a place where you can get something to eat at lower prices than elsewhere on this street. Also, they might be the only place for lunch in Tivoli other than the village's excellent bakery across the way. Murray's had homemade sandwiches, muffins, coffee cake....and some of the best scones I've had anywhere. Sorry, but I raved about the scones while I was in Tivoli. They also serve as a small grocery store, as did the former establishment.

home page for Murray's

So today's big destination is Innisfree Garden, which I learned about in Tim Mulligan's book only after my previous visit. It's further south but really worth the drive. I use the somewhat scenic Taconic State Parkway to get there in the morning. Only 4 dollars to park. I spend at least three hours exploring and viewing the rather special Chinese concept used in Innisfree's design, built around a large glacial lake. Expect to be awed when you go. Personally, I left my little digital camera in its pouch for a long time as I first appreciated what Innisfree had to reveal to the beholder before any kind of documentation took place. Nearby Millbrook is another one of the area's larger tourist hubs. I park along the street and walk by crowded restaurants and several antique stores. Yes, I think this is when I headed back to Tivoli for a late, small lunch at Murray's.

Innisfree Garden

Perhaps it was today that I make a first quick visit to Olana just to look around the grounds and buy some books in the excellent museum shop. I did do this house tour on my last visit, well worth it for any admirer of the Hudson School painters. This time, I make a point of buying a membership (40 dollars a year at basic individual level). This gets me discounts in the shop and admission any time without further payment.

Dinner again at Madalin's Table. I learn that the restaurant will be closed Saturday evening, because the staff will be working at a wedding (lucky wedding guests), so I want to enjoy it as much as I can. Salad with blueberries and ricotta cheese, hangar steak, more Hooker Blond Ale, pear tart. I'm spending upwards of 40 dollars at each dinner, though it's worth it and the hefty meals are needed after lots of walking on estate grounds or in gardens. Lunches are either at Murray's or quick snacks I'm carrying with me and bread from that excellent bakery.

Evenings, I'm collapsed in my room either perusing new art books and guides or surfing the TV stations. Thanks to comedian Daniel Tosh for putting our Founding Fathers in perspective for me as I explore some of their estates. (Tosh is definitely not for everyone.)

Friday, August 5: My friend from the Percy Grainger House left yesterday. We had a longer chat at breakfast and I learn more about his own opera adventures. It must be mentioned that he liked the updating of the Bard production of Danae.

I walk around the grounds of nearby Montgomery Place this morning, then I head down the Taconic Parkway again. This time, I'm visiting the Mary Flagler Arboretum and associated Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Well, the store at the Gifford House, which Mulligan's guide claims that no "gardener worth his salt can leave empty-handed", has been closed for several years. However, a huge plot of blooming perennials at the Cary Institute center is swarming with butterflies and I pick up several pamphlets from the center. One of these identifies one of the more stunning species of butterflies on the flowers as the Great Spangled Fritillary. My own photos are not so good, but I might post later.

Fern Glen Trail on the Cary grounds is good to see, and I learn that the Hudson Valley is not immune to tornados -- one touched down in these woods in 1992. Note deer tick and Lyme disease warnings here and everywhere else. I avoid paths and trails where I might be brushing against any tall grass or foliage.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Also note deer along the roads day and night. Coming back from Olana on 9G around 5:30pm, I spotted a doe who looked for all the world like she was teaching her fawn how to cross the road safely.

Last dinner at Madalin's before they do their wedding duty. After today's hiking, another plate of the buttermilk fried chicken and a tall bubbling glass of Warsteiner beer is just right. However, this time I skip dessert and any appetizers or salads.

One of these evenings, I find Tivoli's Village Books and Artists' Co-op open. Watch for Village Books' big OPEN flag to catch when he is open. I think he's avoiding the heat of mid-day during the summer. This is a great used book store, and opera cats should note that there is a selection of vintage opera and music books. Nearby Bard College assures a selection of other interesting older volumes here. You'll have to ask me what I found on this visit that I had to have when you see me.

Village Books of Tivoli ... Tivoli Artists Co-op and Gallery

Saturday, August 6: Anticipating the featured operetta at Bard this evening. I spend the day revisiting Montgomery Place, Olana (see picture and links in preceding post) and Clermont. And then I'm too tired to go to the operetta, and I'm trying to decompress before tomorrow's long road trip home. I'm wondering if a ticket to an afternoon peformance, such as I had for the opera on Wednesday, elminates the urge to go out and about during the day before show time.

The repeated visits to the estates pay off with discoveries of new things and purchases at the shops. What species is that huge green butterfly that wafts through Montgomery Place's formal garden area on this second visit today? It's not in the Cary Institute pamphlet. Also, the ancient black locusts at Montgomery are amazing. And so are the locusts at Clermont, but that's a black walnut growing right over one corner of the house (the third largest of its kind in the state). I spend a lot on books and gifts at Clermont and Olana and try one of the shorter Olana trails near the house -- more spectacular views of the River and its Valley.

The shop at Montgomery Place and Merritt Books in Red Hook are no longer open. I think the shops at Olana and Clermont are the best sources (only sources?) near Tivoli for new publications and art books about the Hudson.

With Madalin's Table closed tonight, I wanted to try Panzur again, but instead I was drawn to Santa Fe across the road from the Madalin. This is Tivoli's only Southwestern-Mexican-Tex-Mex-Texican restaurant, and it's better than many Mexican places I've tried before. Anyone after strictly vegetarian fare should note Luna 61 next door to the Madalin. There is also a Japanese sushi place called Osaka that I have not tried yet and a bar called the Black Swan.

Sunday, August 7: Check out from the Madalin Hotel. I opt for Highway 23 along the northern edge of the Catskills to get back to I-88. It was 23-A right through the Catskills Park when I drove out of the area on my 2008 visit, but either way offers great scenery. When I reach 88, it's interstate driving all the way back to Maryland, but I make it home without having to stop for the night anywhere.

Monday, August 8: My short drive to go get Ollie shows me how fatigued I am from yesterday's long drive. But I typed this long post. I hope we can use it for planning for another Hudson River Valley visit. I might include links later and maybe more photos in new posts.

Historic Hudson Valley ... Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area

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