Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Williamstown, Massachussets - a.k.a. Stars Hollow, Connecticut


Small-town life can either be considered depressing or idyllic. It used to have a kind of more negative connotation until the ever popular (and one of my favorite shows) Gilmore Girls showed how much character, individuality, and just how FUN living in a tiny town could be. I wondered to myself all those years watching that show where on earth such a cute, quirky town could be found in real life. Could something so utterly adorable simply be a figment of imagination?

Seems that it's not.

My baby sister has been attending a tiny college in the Berkshires of Massachusetts for the past couple of years called Williams. It's a little-known school to the masses, but among the elite of high education, it's a prestigious institution (ranked #1 consistently for liberal arts colleges in the U.S.) well known for its fun quirkiness, innate preppiness, and complete and total disregard for giving a damn that anyone that can't get in has no idea what a purple cow is.

But back to the point -- like I said, baby sis has been a student of this school nestled hidden in the hills for the past two years. However, for those two years, I've been living in New Orleans, and thus, heading to the obscure foothills on the corner of Mass and Vermont was never part of how I thought of spending my vacation days. Well, no longer! This Labor Day weekend past, I packed a tiny bag, Boy, and little Baxterbear and drove up to visit the mountain village of Williamstown, Massachusetts. Little did I know, I was about to find out that Stars Hollow DOES exist.

Beautiful mountainscapes met beautiful mountainscapes in gorgeous panorama, as puffy clouds in pure blue skies -- the brightest blue I've seen in a long while -- cast shadows over the leafy green valleys. Clean, pure air, local spring water that tasted crisp and fresh, and great farmhouses on rolling fields that were peppered with horses and cows all made me feel invigorated at the total purity of the land. This was Very Cool.

I know that latter statement may cause some confusion, as I'm always raving on and on about cities. Here's the thing -- I proclaim myself a city girl, and I have a deep affection for them, but I also do love the rural landscape in all its rustic simplicity and erstwhile unspoken glory. There's something just wonderful about the novelty of cleanliness, organic, natural smells, and colors more vivid than can be found in any man-made landscape. It makes you feel good and brings you back to a more domestic frame of reference, where husbandry is actually a career path, and time slows down. In short, I am both a country girl as well as a city girl, but despise the urban sprawl, generic commercialism, and depressing facades and Stepford architecture of suburbs. I am anything but a suburban queen.

Anyway, I just wanted to devote a post to the charming, idyllic village in the mountains of Massachusetts and its picturesque -- albeit also tiny -- downtown Main Street, USA, Spring Street.

This town is Williams College central, where all the students get their grub on in little boutique restaurants, the one bar, the beloved and cute Lickety Split ice cream shop, and the somehow funnily named Sushi Thai. Little coffee shops, a Williams College clothing and memorabilia shop, colonial New England style post office, and et cetera fill the picturesque storefronts, and a public parking lot at the end of the one-way street made going "downtown" stressless. There's also a Water Street that's similar as well, but as of this writing, I hadn't been there yet (I'm time-delaying this post since no one'll be reading this Labor Day weekend! And my lengthy Nautical Mile post is a good read ;).

Another cool thing about getting away to the rural small towns of New England, other than its obvious charm and novelty, is the presence of B&Bs. I always feel better about giving my money to the Mom & Pops of the world, since my stay makes a difference. I mean, yes, they're probably making good money as a successful bed and breakfast, but I can pretend to myself, at least, that I'm contributing to a family's welfare in return for a personal service well-rendered.

I got a great rate at the Clover Hill Farm, a beautiful horse boarding facility and farm at the top of a hill with 360 degree views of an absolutely stunning vista. Steep drops into lush fields with lustrous animals switching shining tails can be seen through every paddock rail surrounding the farm, and the village of mismatched ducks and geese is just adorable. There are also a few beagles in residence (they're a pet-friendly inn), but since we're not staying in the main house, I didn't get to meet them.

Anyway, they have a cash-only policy on their obviously prosperous farm (the main house is absolutely beautiful) and so I secured the apartment over the garage/wood-working shop for a night. It looks like a dormered cape, and has a wonderfully open floorplan from an open kitchen with breakfast bar into a large dining area and a living room that opens up off onto a raised deck. With a twin bed, a queen bed, and a sleeper in the living room, it sleeps five comfortably, and I just love the high ceilings. It's really a surprisingly considerable amount of space -- if I were single and living out here, I'd rent it out as an apartment!

No breakfast, like some of the other charming and also pet-friendly establishments in the area, and I opted for this farm since they said I could leave Baxter unattended in the room while we went out. Unfortunately, this made no difference since within half an hour of being there, in his panic at being left behind, he broke a vase and we were obliged to take him with us for the rest of the day -- thank God it was cool out today!

I'm not too concerned about not having a home-cooked breakfast; plans for our second and last day include a visit to someplace named the Apple Shack or something, where apple cider doughnuts are the specialty. Who needs eggs when you can have something that seasonal and novel? I mean, why not? Hiking up these hills are burning more calories than I've even attempted since moving back to the Northeast, and so I can justify further fattening my fat ass that way. And finally, I can exert my energies in scenery worth exerting it for.

Wholesome weekends, I've decided, are restorative and cute. Next time, though, doggy's staying home unless we bring the crate for Mr. Abandonment Issues!

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