The Catskills are calling
Daniel used to think quick getaways were non-existent in New York. Any escape from the city required a long drive, an even longer time stuck in traffic, and then of course, all those absurdly priced accomodations. In Rio de Janeiro, his native city, a secluded beach is just a short drive away and winding streets lead to secret waterfalls.
Then we spent a long weekend in the Catskills for our recent five-year wedding anniversary, and well, let’s just say he's had a change of heart. The area already held special meaning for us since we'd exchanged our vows in Wurtsboro, a small town close to, but not officially a part of the region; a lengthier visit proved that it truly is a little piece of paradise.
Searching for the perfect place to stay, we discovered The Villa at Saugerties, a hip bed & breakfast opened five years ago by a twentysomething couple from Manhattan. Aimee Szparaga, the former editor-in-chief of Playgirl and her then boyfriend (now husband) Richard Nocera, an aspiring artist were sick of spending all their money on rent and restaurants (welcome to my life), so they left the city after 10 years for a simpler life in the sticks. When we arrived at their new home in the late afternoon (after a painless, traffic-free drive, I might add), I felt the stress of the city instantly melt away.
The 4-bedroom stucco house sits on a couple acres and is surrounded by stone footpaths, a small pond and a converted barn where Aimee and Richard work and live. There's even a beautiful, blue-eyed horse named Diego.
Richard’s striking oil paintings and black and white photographs adorn the walls inside the villa and chic furnishings such as a vintage Knoll sofa, mid-century chairs, and Jonathan Adler pillows make it a truly modern retreat. Unlike other B&Bs that force guests to share their life stories over breakfast together in the morning, Aimee and Richard carved out a few cozy nooks in the airy, open kitchen, and even added a hot pink pantry that I wouldn't mind having in my own chic country home some day.
Our room wasn’t incredibly large, but I loved its antique iron bed and the bathroom’s soothing lilac walls (which I got to know fairly well after Daniel shoved me in there so he could set up a surprise). Somehow he'd managed to pack our car with two types of cheese from Stinky on Smith St., a bottle of champagne and the cutest piglet balloon (in honor of this very blog!).
Aimee’s delicious country breakfasts (we had omelets, pancakes and extra fluffy scrambled eggs during our visit) prepared us for the hiking that we did during the day (the North-South Lake loop offers a stunning view of the fall foliage), and Cafe with Love, a skinny sandwich spot satisfied our afternoon cravings.
Tomato red walls, an antique tin ceiling and brisk but efficient service reminded me we weren't too far from the city, and unbelievable soups and sandwiches made it clear that people in Saugerties are serious about their food. I had every intention of splitting the pesto, tomato and mozzarella toastie with Daniel, but after one garlicky, gooey bite, I selfishly decided to keep it all for myself (happy anniversary, honey!).
Since all good meals must end with dessert, we were happy to find the Hudson Valley Dessert Company hidden at the end of an alley next to Cafe with Love (a sign advertisting cupcakes helped us find our way). We were in Saugerties for just three days and I still managed to sample almost every single cookie on display.
I loved these little piglets, but if buttery sugar cookies aren't your thing, the chocolate chip with walnut, doughy thin mints and chocolate chip biscotti all tied for second.
For dinner, we went to Terrapin in Rhinebeck (about 40 minutes from Saugerties), and discovered what our waiter referred to as “Flinstonian” portions with a maple-brined, double thick pork chop the size of a brick and at The Bear Café in Woodstock, we gazed out at babbling brook while devouring homemade butternut squash ravioli in a tangy cider nage. Our only disappointing meal was at Miss Lucy’s. I loved the shabby chic decor and long list of homemade desserts, but the sloppy service and cold food would keep me from going back.
On our last day, we climbed trees at the Stone Ridge Orchard in search of Winesap, Rome and McIntosh apples and stopped off at a local farm stand to buy pumpkins and locally grown eggplant and kale.
And with just a few hours left, we went searching in Wurtsboro for a long, winding road that felt familiar.
The view was still as stunning as we remembered and though we'd last stood there five years ago, it didn't feel like that much time had passed.
The drive home was far from easy. The Columbus Day parade clogged up all the city streets and our car was hot and sweaty due to sudden summer weather. So we talked about the Catskills, our little piece of paradise and how we couldn't wait to go back.
The Villa at Saugerties
159 Fawn Road
Café with Love
85 Partition Street
Hudson Valley Dessert Company
87 Partition Street
Tel: (845) 246-1545
The Bear Café
Miss Lucy’s Kitchen
90 Partition Street