Little Town on the Hudson

This past weekend some friends and I boarded a train and set out for a day of fun in upstate New York. Fresh air is hard to come by on the mean streets of Manhattan, and when I read about a pretty town called Cold Spring, nestled at the edge of the Hudson beneath some mountains whose names I do not know, with streets full of Victorian clapboard houses and antique shops, I was sold. Just seventy minutes away from Grand Central, and we couldn’t have been in a place more different than the hustle and bustle of the city. As we disembarked the train and emerged into the sunny, snow covered street, I was in raptures as I saw signs for antiques swinging softly in the breeze and amazing white mountains rise from the frozen banks of the Hudson behind me. Proper nature! Shops full of brilliant old junk I don’t need but will buy anyway! Victorian architecture! Tea shops! Could Cold Spring be heaven on earth?! Indeed, I think it very well might be.

We strolled from ‘antiques’ shop to ‘antiques’ shop, enjoying the fact that these are the type of ‘antique’ shops where everything is less than $50 and you can buy anything from costume jewellery and old encyclopaedias to terrible 80’s Chanel jackets and vintage postcards. Rummaging amongst the piles of dusty books, I came up trumps with a fantastic old American history textbook – ‘The Story of Our Country’ – which stops in 1944 and is filled with maps and pictures and questionable ethics. I can’t wait to read it! I loved browsing amongst all the miscellany of abandoned and forgotten items, some of which I am sure meant a great deal to someone at some point, and I was also sorely tempted by a beautiful old patchwork quilt and some postcards, scrawled across with spindly sepia handwriting, telling of good times had and happy reunions to come, some as long as one hundred years ago. How did those treasured letters written from all manner of exotic locations come to be in a box marked $1 in an old junk shop in Cold Spring? It fascinates me to think of how objects are passed on and are parted from those who can explain their original significance, rendering something once so full of meaning, largely meaningless. This was the same of the boxes of old photographs I found in another junk shop; all those sepia faces smiling up at me, of children, of newlyweds, of families and picnics and seaside holidays; who now knows who those people were? To whom did those memories, frozen in time, once belong?

Much to think on, and all on an empty stomach, too. Still pondering those long dead faces, I led the march to the nearest cafe, and we settled down for a delicious lunch of organic locally sourced food in the newly opened Hudson Hil’s Market and Cafe on Main Street (so new it doesn’t have a website!). A BLT with homemade vegetable crisps and absolutely divine hot bread and butter pudding with creme anglaise later (not to mention the obligatory three cups of tea), I felt ready to continue, as did my similarly well fed friends. We headed for the pretty look out point over the frozen Hudson, and marvelled at the ice floes and white expanse of the flinty mountains looming above our heads. Strolling along the river bank, we came across suspiciously large, pointy footprints in the snow…could they be bears?! We had enormous fun running around in the snow, enjoying the opportunity to exercise our inner children while also taking some fantastic action photos, such as me, below, jumping off a rock!

All in all it was a wonderful day, and I so enjoyed getting to experience a real American town and also see some of the natural beauty New York State has to offer. The Hudson Valley is a truly gorgeous part of the world; in the winter, the light here is ethereal, and the bleached barrenness of the snowy landscape has a fierce beauty that takes my breath away. I hope I shall have many more adventures along the shores of this river before the year is out!

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46 comments

  1. I wish I could still do that! – jump so joyfully. Nowadays I’d come down with a thump, very inelegantly. You, however, look marvellous and full to brim with happiness.
    Not a single leaf in site but a lovely place to visit. Sigh!

    1. Oh Chrissy! Not true – I’m sure you could jump marvellously. It was well photographed; I wasn’t jumping from any great height! You are very kind – I was full of joy to be in Cold Springs!

      I know – but I can imagine it’s 100 x more gorgeous in the summer, and the autumn, too.

  2. Sounds like an absolutely lovely day, Rachel. And you are right about the ‘ethereal’ quality of light this time of year… it’s the perfect word to describe it!

    1. Thank you, JoAnn – it was a wonderful day out! The light in New York State really is something else – I’ve never seen the like anywhere in England. It’s so beautiful.

    1. Yes exactly – I’d love to go back up in the summer and enjoy a stroll in the sunshine with an icecream. But we actually had very lovely weather on Sunday – warm compared to the usual temperature we’ve been used to and the sun did come out somewhat weakly so it was a taster of things to come!

  3. Stunning photographs. I love the one of your mighty leap. I can relate to wanting to experience a real American town… we recently left the big city and relocated to a small town outside Madison, Wisconsin. This place is so scenic… rolling hills and lakes and snow-covered fields like your photographs. Since I am a first generation American, and barely that because I wasn’t born in this country, and after being raised in an ethnic community… Chicago is a city of ethnic neighborhoods really where people embrace new American customs but cling to their ethnic heritage… I feel like I am in a completely American place for the first time but even that isn’t true it’s just that a different ethnic group is well-represented here and my own not so much. Rachel, I really look forward to your posts. You are such a talented writer. How much longer will you be in New York?

    1. Thank you Margaret! How fascinating, and wonderful that you are now having the opportunity to experience a different way of life. It’s interesting that you think that about American cities – I agree. I think New York definitely has the American spirit written all over it, but culture wise, I don’t feel like I am experiencing anything quintessentially ‘American’. Life in big cities is always very different from elsewhere – having grown up in London, I don’t think I’ve really experienced ‘quintessential’ English life – I am English through and through, but I didn’t grow up in a place that had a distinct sense of Britishness about it, as there were so many different ethnic groups, as you say about Chicago. Maybe one day I might try small town life, and I might be surprised by the amount of Englishness I see!

      Thank you, Margaret! How lovely you are! I will be in New York until September, and then I’ll be heading back to London. So you have six more months of adventures in the Big Apple to enjoy reading about!

  4. Cold Spring is a beautiful, charming spot…be sure to visit in Spring when the flowers are in bloom and the grass is green. It does seem amazing that just a short ride outside Manhattan is a very different world! I love rummaging in antique stores such as the ones you found for old books, letters and postcards. You found some real treasures!

    I’m so glad you had a wonderful day exploring. Thank you for including the photos!
    ~ Amy

    1. I will be going back,Amy, don’t worry – I can’t wait for Spring and flowers and green grass again! Everything is so grey and has been so grey for sooo long!

      Rummaging is the best fun ever – you just never know what you’ll find!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos!!

  5. What a lovely weekend! It’s so nice to leave the city. Distance, even not very much of it, can really alter perspective and provide so much opportunity for adventure!

  6. The Hudson Valley is even more amazing in the spring, summer and fall. Hopefully you will get out there again. Seeing your pictures reminds me of how much of a climate difference between NY and DC.

    1. It is such a beautiful area – if I were thinking of staying in America long term, I’d definitely consider making my home there. It’s so gorgeous in every season. I can’t wait for spring and to see the colour come back to those rocky cliffs!

  7. I’m glad that, unlike many New Yorkers, you’re getting out of the city and exploring further afield. I have never been to upstate New York, but with your mentions of antique shops, coffee houses and really yummy small restaurants, I think it’s very similar to small-town Michigan- but no mountains here!

  8. Look at you, leaping for the joy of it all, I suppose. I love it!

    What a magnificent day trip for you and your friends, Rachel. The Hudson River Valley is so beautiful and it is amazing how close you can get to small town America just a few hours from the Big Apple. I love your pictures and the energy you bring with you little travelogue today and am envious of your antiquing. I would love to just antique my way across America sometime, stopping in little shops along the way. They tell so much about the people in the areas they live, these shops, and I just can’t resist them – especially if some favorite books or silver or china just happen to pop up and claim me. Sigh. I think I’ll brew a cup of tea and dream . . .

    1. Of course! I just couldn’t keep it in!

      The Hudson Valley is just amazing – the river and the mountains and the cliffs and the lakes and woods around there are just so stunning. It’s hard to believe that it’s so close to New York City! Thank you, Penny – so glad you’re enjoying the pictures. I’d LOVE to antique my way across America, picking up a little souvenir of each town…wouldn’t that be fantastic?!

      Hope you enjoyed that tea!

  9. Sounds fun! Although I am alarmed for you with all this antiques shopping — how on earth are you ever going to get all this stuff you have bought back home again??

  10. I love the Hudson River Valley. Rhinebeck is also beautiful, as is Bard College. Although I live in Los Angeles, I always travel to New York or New England in the fall, my favorite time of year back there. The Hudson River Valley is so gorgeous in the fall! Last year we went to Warren, Vermont, a small town in the Green Mountains (?) and stayed at a charming inn. Poking around antique stores and used book stores in these areas is my favorite thing to do. Love your exuberance!

    1. I hope to do more exploring in the area – Rhinebeck is another town I’d love to visit. It’s just without a car, I am limited to where public transport will take me!

      I am jealous – Vermont is a place I definitely want to visit. Having such a small amount of vacation time from work will make it hard for me to get to everywhere I want to go while I am in the US, but one day I will come back for a proper holiday in Vermont. I want to go to the Ben and Jerry factory and go mountain climbing!

      Thank you! :)

  11. Where are your hat and mittens, Rachel?!

    I feel the same way about gorgeous portraits of people from an era gone by. Surely there must have been some friend or relative willing to take a small keepsake box of photos! We’ll never know…

    That wonderful lunch coupled with fresh air and frollicking must have made for a quieter trip back home…or perhaps not. Glad you had a super day!

    1. Oh Darlene! I was naughty and didn’t wear them! BUT it was actually above freezing on Sunday…I was actually quite warm!

      I know, it’s so sad that there was no one left to want those pictures and treasure them. :(

      Everyone fell asleep apart from me on the train home! I had a scarf to knit!

  12. You’re having such a fun and interesting time! I’m so enjoying it vicariously through your photos and descriptions!

    I’d have been unable to resist those postcards! I love old ones with people’s messages on the back – a wee glimpse into a life from the past. I had one once which was addressed to ‘Master John Smith’ (or something) and said ‘Mummy and Daddy will be home soon and have bought you a present. What do you think of that?’ I thought it was so sweet and would love to have more…

    1. I know, I am so lucky! I’m glad you’re enjoying it from afar!

      Oh old postcards are so gorgeous, aren’t they? I had a lovely time reading through the ones I found. The one you have sounds adorable! Don’t you want to know what the present was? I do!

  13. What a wonderful weekend you had! I love those little day trips that turn into a memory. I’m sure you will want to return in the spring to view the changes. Your insight into antiques is touching. I too wonder about the people and their “stuff”. You will have to start shipping your belongings home ahead of you. I enjoyed your leap with mountains in the background and all.

    1. It really was lovely, Janet! I really will – there are so many pretty towns along the Hudson. I think next time we might drive up and then we can stop in a few places and make a real day of it.

      I know…don’t mention it! My mum is going to go crazy when she sees how much stuff I’ll be dumping in her house!

      Thank you, I’m glad! :)

  14. Sounds like a fun day exploring! Random question: how do you manage to get a book image to appear in your “Currently Reading” widget? I only ask because I run a similar “currently reading” blurb on my wordpress blog, tried adding images three or four different times a couple of months ago, and failed utterly :-).

    – Sarah (yellowpencilstub.wordpress.com)

    1. It really was! Well, my picture just shows up automatically so I’m not sure…are you definitely sure you’re using the ‘Image’ widget? If so, try messing around with the dimensions – you can change the width and height. Perhaps you’re using a photo that’s too big and that’s why it’s not showing up. I normally set my height and width at 140/120 and it works fine for me. But I am the least technologically adept person I know so you shouldn’t really be asking me!

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