Contemplate nature and more at the centuries-old Troutbeck
Text and images by Katharine Fletcher
Deep in New York State's Hudson Valley, there's a home away from home, beckoning.
Snuggled in your wing chair across from a crackling fire, your eye is greeted by rows of books clustered along wooden shelves. Magazines sprawl across a coffee table, before a comfy sofa. The door of the game room is ajar, and the murmur of voices emanates from the ongoing poker game. You hunker down, cozy in your cocoon.
Idly glancing at your watch, you realize you have time for a swim or stroll and a before-dinner drink at the open bar.
You opt for a stroll. Out you go, into the hushed landscape of Troutbeck's muted colours and sounds.
Leaving the English-style manor house behind you, you follow the bend in the private road. Just before venturing along the nearby "beck" — the brook once filled with trout which gave the inn its name — you spy a historic sign.
It tells you that Troutbeck was the former home of Myron B. Benton, "poet-naturalist, friend of John Burroughs, Emerson and Thoreau." Images of Walden Pond leap to mind. The sign fails to inform you that this site welcomed the founders of the black movement, including Booker T. Washington, who helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).
Perhaps now, as you walk, you'll wonder if Emerson and Thoreau lingered on a stroll just like yours, today, over two centuries later. The sharp, cool scent of autumn pierces such reveries, and draws you onward.
Falling leaves swirl softly about. Suddenly invigorated, you start kicking at the piles of leaves, reliving that time-tested, joyous childhood pastime. Just possibly you'll break into a laughter-filled, heady run and, as your feet fly, you'll breathe in the cool, still air.
The sheer beauty of these eastern woodlands catches you. Here and there, tucked away in the woods, you'll discover private homes straight from the pages of Architectural Digest. For like many international inns and retreats, Troutbeck's ample acreage is a refuge for a private community. The artful architecture and gracious settings provide ample inspiration for you… for if you are like us, you're always on the lookout for great gardening or deck ideas for your own home.
Returning to your room, you'll marvel again at its unlocked door. There are no locks here and this lends an unexpected charm to Troutbeck, for once you've crossed the threshold into its serene world, you have entered a gentler, easier time.
But now the pool beckons… grabbing your swimsuit, you return outside, walking the short path to the outbuilding. Once you're there, you'll recognize that it's also the greenhouse! Plants and flowers provide welcome green borders to the turquoise water. How many laps are you up to? No one will be watching, no one will be counting, so take your time. Try floating in this interior, green world and let your mind focus on the superb meal awaiting you.
Typical meals at Troutbeck include fresh, seasonal and local produce. Who knows what Chef Robert A. Timan will be planning for tonight?
Consider these possibilities… (and do some more laps of the pool, first). A typical dinner menu might include wild mushroom bread pudding; mesclun with spicy walnuts, Anjou pears and champagne vinaigrette; followed by an entrée of ginger marinated duck breasts with a rhubarb chutney.
Dessert? How can you demure? After all, this is a holiday, so surely you'll test the bittersweet chocolate cake, triple lemon tart, or warm polenta soufflé cake with a molten centre… We dare you to resist.
Whether you opt for dessert or not, the ambiance of the dining room is enchant ing. Candlelight flickers on its exposed, stone walls while leaded glass windows reveal the last glimpses of garden for the evening. Eventually, the old glass shimmers, reflecting candlelight, glass and silverware. Troutbeck is charming, easy, relaxed. Go. You'll love its gentle ways.
That's Troutbeck for you, just a bend down the road from Amenia, New York, hidden in the Hudson River Valley's gentle hills and dales.
What else is there?
The Hudson Valley is packed with intriguing finds. Browse vintagehudsonvalley.com for gourmet cooking classes from world-class chefs, antique shops, galleries, historic homes and other things to do in the valley
Spooky Hudson Valley Sidebar
"If I could but reach that bridge," thought Ichabod. “I am safe.” (from ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' by Washington Irving)
"But the headless horseman relentlessly pursued him on his jet-black steed. Urging his mount to gallop faster, terrified Ichabod sped through the darkness trying to outrun the horrifying spectre."
Such is the imaginary stuff of legends and horror… or is it?
Especially come Hallowe'en, it is easy to let our minds wander fancifully, to imagine that sprites and goblins people winter's approaching dark nights…
American writer Washington trying loved the Hudson Valley so much that he penned the spooky 'Legend of Sleepy Hollow' near his home, north of Tarrytown, New York. Here, too, he wrote his other beloved masterpiece, 'Rip Van Winkle.' His home, Sunnyside, remains as a heritage treasure enjoyed by thousands of visitors yearly.
When in the Hudson Valley, visit Sunnyside, the 19th-century home of Washington Irving, near Tarrytown.
If you go
Troutbeck is a 71/2-hour drive from Ottawa…and a mere two-hour drive from Manhattan if you want to coordinate a business-and-pleasure trip to the Big Apple.
For information on the inn, and detailed instructions about the drive, check out the Troutbeck website.