Friday, August 22, 2014

weekend getaway: the berkshires

This past weekend, J and I spent a few days in the tony vacationland known as the Berkshires - a vast swath of quaint towns, farms, and theaters in western Massachusetts. I have to confess, though, that the reason for the visit was a gastronomical one - we were accompanying our good friends to a food tasting held by the caterer of their upcoming wedding. The chef had generously agreed to serve a party of four, and we didn't need much prodding to accept the offer. Saturday night's dinner had our tastebuds dancing. We were treated to heirloom tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, skewered beef tips, chilled tomato gazpacho, roasted butternut squash soup, salmon baked in asparagus vinaigrette, sirloin steak and hash browns (incidentally, the best potatoes I've ever tasted), pasta served with a mushroom medley that included rare chanterelles, a deconstructed wedding cake, and a blueberry cobbler that I had to force myself not to lick clean. Food coma FTW.

In preparation for the calorie-fest that would be our dinner, we spent Saturday afternoon reconnecting with nature and reminding ourself what it was to take an honest-to-goodness walk in the woods. Or rather, woods that happened to also be on a mountain. Though it took some huffing and puffing (on my part, mostly; our friend Alexis woke up early on the morning of our hike to go for a "quick seven-mile run"), we eventually made it to Squaw Peak, the summit of the 1,642" Monument Mountain. The view was pretty great, but what stood out more to me was the noise level - or rather, lack thereof. Once we had walked a few hundred yards onto the path, highway noise ceased to exist, replaced only by the sound of twigs under our feet, the click of a camera, and the occasional chirp of a bird. I can't remember the last time I was so relaxed while simultaneously exerting so much energy.

Each evening, the four of us would congregate on the back lawn of our hotel. We'd sit in Adirondack chairs underneath giant oak trees and watch the light turn from golden to purple to black. The clouds would float away and reveal more stars than I remembered existed. Nightcaps were slowly sipped, stories were lovingly shared, and laughter rang out over our little circle. Every once in a while, there'd be a lull in the conversation and we'd drift into our own thoughts, accompanied by a symphony of crickets. No screens, no technology, no digital devices of any kind. Just the Great Outdoors. At no point did anyone declare it to be a media-free weekend, but the marvelous thing was that after the GPS was no longer needed, we all naturally put our phones away, focused on each other, and just talked. Like in the old days. And I have to say that it was really quite lovely.

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