Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mansion Hopping in the Hudson Valley

 Inside Vanderbilt Mansion
 The back end of Mills Mansion at Sunset
 View of the Catskills and the Hudson from the Vanderbilt
  Formal Italian Gardens at Vanderbilt
More of the Gardens

With the busyness of the holiday season, my adventures have been cut short. I managed to get a few nice walks in however, and some historical sightseeing to boot.

The Hudson Valley is rich with the treasures of historical mansions. Olana, The Thomas Cole House, Clermont, Montgomery Place, Vanderbilt, Wilderstein, The Roosevelt Estate, Mills Mansion. And that are only the ones in a one hour radius from my Kingston home.

Because my adventure friend is over 62, she has a National Parks Pass which can be obtained at any National site for 10.00. That gets you into the Federal parks for free, such as some of the Cape Cod beaches, and other parks around the country - and up to three other guests I believe FOR FREE. So, in the spirit of saving and not spending, we opted for Vanderbilt Mansion which is a Federal site (which also means you can take photos anywhere in the house!) The second adventure was to Mills Mansion aka Staatsburg Mansion, which is a state site,  where we could not use the Parks Pass, AND, no interior photography allowed.  Senior admission  6.00, other adult 8.00. Admission gets you inside the mansion, as well as use of acres and acres of grounds.

Each mansion has its own stories, and was decorated for the holidays. Vanderbilt had a fabulous tour guide, and Mills was a self guided tour (which I like) with tons of volunteers stationed throughout the mansion. The Mills mansion also offers several special events where you can have a themed tea in the grand dining room on Sundays!

The grounds contain paths to wander that have views of the Hudson River, and Vanderbilt has a formal Italian garden, which even in winter is beautiful to walk through. They both have lovely gift shops, which is one of the places that I go to do some holiday shopping. Our purchases help support these stately examples of the Gilded Age.

I am hoping to visit a few of the other mansions over the next week or two, although I don't know how long they keep up their decorations. I suspect with the New Year, they strip it down, and some close until the spring.  Some of the sites charge for parking, some have free parking, with free use of the grounds, most charge for a visit inside the mansion.

I have a real affinity for the history, art and architecture of these places, and know that somehow these places will play an important place in my life, though I have not figured that out yet!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Ashokan Reservoir

I cancelled today's afternoon painting class as there was only one student. I went home after my drawing class at the School of Art to do some chores, and ponder my walk route when
Meredith knocked on the door, nearly threw me into her car, and we head to the mountains.  First a stop at  Kenco,  a FAB outdoor/sporting goods store that is family owned, on Route 28 to check out some winter walking shoes,  then to the Ashokan Reservoir.  (jury still out on what I am going to get shoe wise- feedback welcomed).

The reservoir is one of several that collects and transports water to New York City. The history of its construction is fascinating, though very sad for the 1000s who farmed in the valley, surrounded by the majestic Catskill Mountains.  I would have not left easily either.

I have gone there many times in my life -  practiced driving in Driver Ed there, walked, photographed and painted the views. I have stood in the spray of the aerators on a hot summer day, picnic-ed on the grassy lawn, watched the fishermen float on it's glassy surface in a zen-like trance. I have watched birds of prey swoop down into the water to catch an unsuspecting fish, and watched meteor showers, far from the lights of the Kingston.

The walkway is blacktopped, 2+ miles round trip from the parking area to the guard house;  I have not ventured past that point, to the other road that disappears into the dark woods.  It's flat and even for the most part, and an excellent course for walking/running/biking/ in-line skating/strollers/walkers/wheelchairs. It is a stunning vista whose cool hues titillate my not-so-secret love of blue and purple.

There are two parking areas; one for the walkway, and another for the aerators. There is also the spillway, which as of this writing, did not have any water going over it. The reservoir seemed low, so a good winter snow pack is needed to fill it back up in the spring. 

Off to search for a key to the mountains names. I saw one once---and regret not buying it.

I feel a painting coming on...

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

A New Focus.

In the past 10 years post tri-malleolar fracture of my ankle, I have descended into a gradual but steady decline of my body.  I used to be a runner, skier, skater before the literal trip down the stairs bought me a dislocated fracture which changed my life, and left me with a body that was getting weaker with back spasms, hip bursitis, ankle pain and foot issues! I had a hard time doing some everyday things, and, I was gaining weight.

It was the gift of a Garmin Vivofit from my daughter that changed my life. After doing some research, I discovered that a fit person walks about 10,000 steps a day. I was appalled at the fact that I walked far less.   So off I went to Montanos Shoe Store , and bought myself a pair of very comfortable and very purple Vionic sneakers.

I have a dear artist friend who has become my adventure walking partner. We try to walk, whether together or on our own, 5 times a week. We walk the rail trail for convenience at times, but we find a new paths and adventures at least once a week. I have always wanted to chronicle these adventures, and doing so was a perfect way to get this blog back to life.

So stay tuned for my "slogs" around the Hudson Valley, and other places of adventure.  And what is a slog?  - as paraphrased from the Miriam's online dictionary- it is to keep doing something, even though it is difficult or boring; to work at something in a steady, determined way.

These trips are taken by a 58 and 70 year old, and are perfect walks and hikes for family and elders.  They offer inspiration and fabulous views for the artist, poet, photographer, and nature aficionado. And, since we LOVE to eat and shop, we will review places that we come across on our adventures, which offer healthy inexpensive food (after all, we are living on fixed incomes...and art is a fickle career) and interesting buys of things made local or in the USA! 

(photo of the Hudson River from a sailboat adventure)