Weekend Getaway: Hudson Valley

Escape to grand vistas, historic homes and outstanding antiques just an hour north of New York City.
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The only thing money can not regrettably buy you is time, which causes deep anguish in the depths of our souls and also, incidentally, can put quite a crimp in weekend plans.

A two-day romantic getaway in, say, northern Vermont can easily mean a total of ten hours of rapidly dwindling conversational topics in the car with your partner, at least for the average New York area resident.

And no sooner do you settle into your romantic inn than it's time to fire up the GPS, say a prayer to the god of conversation, and trudge home.

Even if you have the money, who has the time?

But for the better part of three centuries -- starting before stocks were traded under the buttonwood tree and even surviving and improving after being purchased at auction several years ago --

The Bird and Bottle Inn has been a high-end establishment that seems transported in time and place from old world New England.

It is actually less than an hour's ride from modern New York City and comes complete with unlimited opportunity for local antiquing in as quaint and throwback a setting as you can imagine.

At the mention of quaint antiquing, though, it may be time to drop some pretense.

While any time away with a companion has its obvious rewards, many have their limits with nights spent in rooms decorated with candles and dried floral arrangements like some VH-1 acoustic music stage set, followed by an afternoon spent buying dusty footstools at top dollar. But there is more to be had here.

The Bird and Bottle Inn is in Garrison, N.Y., otherwise known as Governor George Pataki's hood, and right near the picturesque village Cold Spring -- the Detroit of antiques stores.

A nearly undocumentable number are set right on Main Street, which slopes down to the Hudson.

If you're into antiques, you'll be in heaven; if not, you may be hard-pressed to distinguish one from another after the first five.

The inn itself, about five minutes from Cold Spring, had many incarnations as stagecoaches and taverns, and spent more than a century in private life as farm and gristmill.

But it eventually turned back to its lodging roots, in that classic old New England form, though still just a rock-skip away from Manhattan.

When the inn was purchased at auction two years ago, the new owners would not comment on their plans and there were fears that the inn would be transformed into a private home, or some unknown other business (antique store, anyone?).

But, in the end, the owners simply revived what was, which includes one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the Hudson Valley.

The prix fixe menu and Sunday brunch are highly recommended. As a general guideline, with the Hudson Valley a center of the reborn small farm industry, stick as local as possible. Dishes such as the scallops, braised short ribs and duck do make up for the limited wine selection, and the service is always attentive.

The inn has a small selection of rooms -- three upstairs and one that stands in its own little house, away from the main building. They range from $165-$230 a night.

But as attractive as the rooms themselves are, let's get back to that prime location.

In addition to being close to New York, the Bird and Bottle Inn is right off of Route 9, which puts it in close proximity to what is essentially a driving version of

Newport, R.I.'s, Cliff Walk, taking you past the extravagant homes of Industrial Revolution moguls.

For the Hudson Valley version, you can start on your way on Route 9 in Tarrytown at

Lyndhurst.

The estate, now a museum in the National Trust, bills itself -- not unduly -- as one of America's finest Gothic mansions.

Railroad tycoon Jay Gould was one of its owners, which can cause anyone with a sense of both humor and business to image how the trains that run directly down the banks of the Hudson, which can be heard all over the landscaped grounds, were owned by the Vanderbilts.

If that was not a quiet form of torture for any self-respecting monopolist, I don't know what is.

From there, head for

Kykuit, the Rockefeller mansion which is five minutes to the north.

Art on the wall includes Picasso and Matisse; and don't miss the

Stone Barns, the Rockefeller's organic farm/tax shelter, which includes

Blue Hill, perhaps Westchester County's top restaurant.

Here, you will find a stellar wine list and for $95, the Farmer's Feast, an extensive tasting menu that revolves around the most fresh, seasonal produce and meat the farm has to offer. Standouts include the grilled brook trout with pistachios and pumpkin sauce, and the sweet potato and ricotta gnocchi.

For those just looking to take a stroll around the Stone Barns grounds, there is also a more casual cafe for a quick break of coffee and pastries.

For a slight change of pace, though sticking to the theme of the splendidly rich and their homes, drive just a touch west to

Philipsburg Manor, named for Frederick Philipse, once the richest man in the colony of York.

This, unlike the others, is a living history museum -- one of those places with costumed workers with fantasy-reality disorders making like it's the old days to you.

It's a great place for kids, if you've been foolish enough to bring them along.

All in all, though, a weekend getaway to the Hudson Valley offers a perfect opportunity to combine New England inn elegance, mogul-house peeping and enough antiquing to keep your partner happy, but with hope not cause anguish in your soul.

A journalist with a background on Wall Street, Marek Fuchs has written the County Lines column for The New York Times for the past five years. He also contributes regular breaking news and feature stories to many of the paper's other sections, including Metro, National and Sports. Fuchs was the editor-in-chief of Fertilemind.net, a financial Web site twice named "Best of the Web" by Forbes Magazine. He was also a stockbroker with Shearson Lehman Brothers in Manhattan and a money manager. He is currently writing a chapter for a book coming out in early 2007 on a really embarrassing subject. He lives in a loud house with three children.