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!