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Changing Scenes

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Changing Scenes

 

Whether your tastes run toward a dude ranch in the country, a mansion in downtown Albany, or a mountaintop lair, the Valley¡¯s bed and breakfasts offer a host of thrilling opportunities to get away from it all

 

By Valerie Havas

 

 

SO YOU¡¯RE READY FOR a change of scene, but don¡¯t have the time or the inclination to hop a plane or drive for miles and miles? You¡¯re in luck, because the Valley has no shortage of scenes, ranging from bustling to bucolic. If the office walls are closing in, consider trading them for a glorious mountain hideaway, a Western-style ranch, the majestic sweep of the Hudson, or the pure relaxation of a spa. Tired of country life? Think about zipping over to Albany or Hudson for an invigorating city sojourn. All you need is a couple of days, and the desire to step out of your routine. Here¡¯s a sampling of the many getaways the Valley has to offer.

 

Stress buster

 

When life becomes too stressful, it¡¯s time to retreat ¡ª to an island of tranquility like the Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa in Milton, Ulster County. The circa-1764 inn, originally the home of a ship¡¯s captain who plied the waters of the nearby Hudson River, is set on 70 idyllic acres, replete with waterfalls and meadows, weeping willows and private ponds, and a slew of relaxing treatments and therapies.

 

The inn, owned by Robert Pollack, opened this past March under the management of Bruce Kazan, whose Main Course catering company is a perennial winner in Hudson Valley¡¯s annual readers¡¯ poll.

 

According to Manager John Goobic III, the inn offers a full range of massage therapies (focused, Swedish, deep tissue, shiatsu, aromatherapy, hot stone, sports, and reflexology), as well as eight facial treatments (including a seaweed wrap and a Sedona mud mask). Spa packages are also available.

 

Mornings, guests are treated to fresh-baked muffins, buttery croissants, whole grain breads, and perhaps a frittata or quiche. The herbs, fruits, and vegetables are organically grown, and the eggs are from chickens raised on the grounds. In late afternoon, tea is served, a delightful repast of scones, light sandwiches, pastries, and plates of cheese and fruit. Kazan oversees the menus and food preparation.

 

The 14 guest rooms are all beautifully appointed, with antique furniture, 19th-century quilts, Oriental rugs, and luxurious comforters. Some rooms have private balconies and whirlpools; all have gas fireplaces and air-conditioning. Among the choices are the Rook¡¯s Nest, a charming Adirondack-style room hidden away in a red barn, and the Grand Laurel, which features a king-sized canopy bed draped in French lace. The Maynor Flat, in the inn¡¯s carriage house, is named after Dorothy Maynor, an African-American opera star who lived for a number of years in the main house.

 

City fun

 

How can one not fall in love with a Victorian B&B that proclaims ¡°Hope is the anchor of life¡± written in Latin above the parlor fireplace? Given the state of the world today, such a sentiment may seem an anachronism, but then everything about the Hudson City Bed and Breakfast harkens back to another time, when houses were architectural showcases, featuring romantic towers, breezy verandas, patterned mansard roofs, and a generous helping of decorative millwork.

 

The three-story, circa-1865 home on Allen Street was built for railroad executive and Hudson Mayor Joshua T. Waterman, who lived there with his wife and 12 children. Today, the Second Empire¨Cstyle gem is the domain of innkeeper Kenneth Jacobs, an antiques dealer, who found many of the home¡¯s period furnishings right in Hudson, the mecca for antiques lovers.

 

Guests are greeted by a hand-carved, fire engine¨Cred door. ¡°It¡¯s so ornate,¡± says Jacobs. ¡°The whole house is full of grandeur.¡± A case in point is the dining room, where breakfast is served each morning. Formerly the parlor, the room features an intricately carved fireplace, a Tiffany stained-glass chandelier, and pocket doors adorned with cut glass. Weekday mornings, guests gather here for homemade granola, fresh fruit, and just-baked coffee cake. On weekends, pancakes, waffles, or French toast are on the menu.

The house¡¯s walls are crowded with watercolors, Impressionist- and Hudson River School¨Cstyle paintings, and photos, many featuring orchids. Artists on display include Tony Thompson, whose studio is in Watervliet, and Jane Bloodgood-Abrams, who lives in Kingston.

 

There are two guest suites (each with sitting room, brass shower, and claw-foot tub), three ¡°deluxe¡± guest rooms (with private baths), and one ¡°super deluxe¡± room (with soaking tub, separate shower, and king-sized canopy bed). Rooms are also available in a four-bedroom, Greek Revival cottage located nearby.

 

Guests can peruse the paperback library before heading to the front porch or the meditation garden out back. The garden, which features two ponds, running water, and a statue of Buddha, ¡°is like a secret garden,¡± comments Jacobs. Nearby attractions include the Hudson Opera House, hiking at Kaaterskill Falls and Taconic State Park, and, of course, the city¡¯s first-rate antiques shops.

 

Mountain majesty

 

Don¡¯t look for eggs Benedict at Onteora, the Mountain House, the B&B run by Bob McBroom and Joe Che in Boiceville, Ulster County. But you will be able to find eggs Hellmann, the innkeepers¡¯ culinary tribute to the home¡¯s original owner, mayonnaise magnate Richard Hellmann.

 

Hellmann, warned by his doctor at age 50 that he had only six months to live unless he moved to a healthier environment, was an obedient patient. He built a summer estate amidst the clean air and pine forests of the Catskills, moved in in 1930, and proceeded to live until the impressive age of 94. Today, his summer retreat has been transformed by McBroom (a former theatrical designer) and Che (a former fabric designer) into an extraordinary B&B.

 

The main attraction here is the scenery, which is stunning in any season. ¡°We have a 120-degree view, from the south to the northeast, of the Esopus Valley,¡± declares Mc­Broom. Perched on a promontory, the house also offers glimpses of the Ashokan Reservoir and Belleayre Mountain. Postcard views are everywhere ¡ª from the covered, Adirondack-style dining porch, the Great Room¡¯s 20-foot-high picture window, and from each of the five guest rooms.

 

Breakfast is another draw. ¡°We think people come to the country for big country breakfasts,¡± explains McBroom. Aside from their signature eggs Hellmann dish, the Mountain House offers such substantial fare as corn cakes with a roasted red pepper and shallot sauce.

 

When it came to decorating, the innkeepers turned to Che¡¯s personal collection. Born to a Korean family living in Japan, he owned a good deal of pottery and several chests from Korea, which now grace the B&B. In another nod to Asia, the men chose platform-style beds, which they consider to be more comfortable than antique beds. To round out the d¨¦cor, a number of American Empire pieces were picked up at auction houses.

 

Many of the rooms have cathedral ceilings, and all have queen beds. The North Dome suite, which features a gas fireplace, cathedral ceiling, and whirlpool bath, adjoins a sunroom with views of the Esopus Valley. Plans call for more rooms to be available in a nearby cottage by next spring.

 

Guests can sit by the fire (in a massive stone fireplace in the Great Room), relax in the sauna, or try out Hellmann¡¯s unique pool table, which can be converted into a billiard table. (Back then, McBroom notes, pool was considered rather d¨¦class¨¦.) The shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions of Woodstock are just a 10-minute drive away.

 

Horse play

 

For some people, ¡°getting away¡± doesn¡¯t mean leaving the kids behind ¡ª it simply means taking a break from everyday life. For them, the wild, Wild West, Hudson Valley style, may be just the ticket. At the Roseland Ranch Resort in Stanfordville, Dutchess County, guests can start each morning by cantering up a mountainside for a hearty breakfast, complete with ¡°cowboy chile,¡± scrambled eggs, country sausages, home fries, cantaloupe, and chocolate chip muffins.

 

¡°The food here is delicious,¡± asserts owner Frances Fichera. ¡°Everything is homemade: the pies, the cheesecake, all the desserts.¡± Prime rib is on the menu several times a week.

 

One hundred horses make their home at the 800-acre ranch, which is teeming with wildlife, including wild turkey, fox, deer, quail, hawks, and rabbits. A petting zoo offers youngsters the chance to mingle with a llama, a pig, ducks, and peacocks. When the weather is less-than-perfect, would-be cowboys can head over to the indoor riding arena. Need to brush up on your riding? Instruction is available.

 

There are two pools, one indoor and one outdoors, and myriad old-fashioned ways to while away the hours. (Think scavenger hunts and marshmallow roasts, shuffleboard and horseshoe-pitching, talent shows and hayrides). Come winter, there¡¯s snow tubing, skiing, and snowboarding. In keeping with the Wild West theme, there¡¯s also a rifle range, with ammunition available for a small charge, and a Western store where you can pick up a cowboy hat to complete the experience.

 

Capital connection

 

Old-World charm, and plenty of it, is what you¡¯ll find at The Morgan State House on State Street in downtown Albany. ¡°It¡¯s called Mansion Row,¡± says owner Charles Kuhtic, referring to one of Albany¡¯s most elegant residential roads. His 19th-century townhouse faces Washington Park, which was once a private, gated oasis reserved for the wealthy denizens of the neighborhood.

 

Kuhtic¡¯s B&B was formerly the home and studio of Alice Morgan Wright (1881-1975), a sculptor who studied art in Paris, London, and New York City before returning to Albany, where she devoted herself to sculpting and the suffrage and animal-rights movements. Her house was built in 1888 by Robert Wilson Gibson, the English architect of Albany¡¯s acclaimed Cathedral of All Saints.

 

Kuhtic has filled his inn with light and comfortable furniture to avoid detracting from the star attraction, the building itself. ¡°The house is an antique,¡± he asserts, pointing out architectural details like the seven beautiful fireplaces, red-tin roof, and gorgeous cherry woodwork.

 

The bedding is more European than American in terms of style and quality. Asserting that ¡°there¡¯s nothing like starched and ironed sheets,¡± Kuhtic has a person on staff whose full-time duties involve the care and maintenance of the 100 percent cotton sheets. Down pillows, feather mattresses, and custom-made comforters (which are enveloped between two sheets, to ensure cleanliness) are ¡°very similar to what you¡¯d find in Europe,¡± Kuhtic says. ¡°We¡¯re having the bedding custom-made because we wanted the best. Ninety-five percent of the people who stay here wake up and say they have never slept so well.¡±

 

During the week, guests are served eggs and omelets, while on weekends, a chef brings in casseroles (including an especially tasty one made of broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and eggs). According to Kuhtic, his clientele has included such celebrities as Carole King, Bill Cosby, and Garrison Keillor. Corporate-style housing, in kitchen-equipped condos, is also available in a nearby 1920s building.

 

The Morgan State House is just half a block from Lark Street, and about three blocks from the Capitol. If you have time, check out the Albany Institute of History and Art, where a piece of Alice Morgan Wright¡¯s sculpture, The Fist, is on display. ¡ö

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