When Day Trips Fail: Upstate New York Edition

View of the Hudson River from Olana.

View of the Hudson River from Olana.

I want to preface this entire post by saying that I grew up north of New York City, in what people would technically refer to as “upstate,” and I believe that it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. That said, I’ve spent very little time in the equally beautiful, but much less population-dense, up-upstate New York…until last weekend.

The trouble started when I read Tom Lewis’ book The Hudson. It was lent to me about two years ago, by my friend Todd, when I first moved to New York City, and I didn’t pick it up until the beginning of this month, when I had finished everything I could possibly read about the history of the British royal family. The Hudson is a beautifully written, yet short, history of the Hudson River, starting from lower Manhattan and New Jersey, all the way up to its origin at Lake Tear of the Clouds. Toward the end of the book, Lewis discusses Frederic Edwin Church’s mystical mansion, called Olana, which still stands overlooking 60 miles of the Hudson River in Hudson, N.Y. I had to go to there.

This desire to take a trip upstate was compounded by the fact that my boyfriend Jeff and I have been looking for a fun, weekend trip to take. He suggested Cape May, and I suggested the humid Hudson River Valley. Not recalling the disastrous Governors Island trip I spearheaded the weekend before, Jeff caved. I blame him for the following incidents.



We got up to Hudson at about 11 a.m. We took a tour of Olana, which was really cool and bizarre and if you’re interested, you should take a look at its website. Afterward, we decided to drive down into the village of Hudson, which, according to all those “day trips from New York City” websites, is supposed to be super hip and trendy. Well, that may be so on a normal day. But not on Flag Day, which the village of Hudson takes very seriously.

Jeff and I got stuck on the village’s main thoroughfare, which of course, was the parade route. People stared us down. Old ladies in rockers, strategically placed on the sidewalk to see their favorite local firefighter or Little Leaguer, gave us evil glares. I think children threw things. We had to get out of there.

I suggested the village on the other side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, Catskill. It was another quaint town I had read about in all my research (my research is usually so accurate), and I thought we could find a bite to eat there. On the contrary. Everyone from Catskill must have been at the Hudson Flag Day parade, because there wasn’t a soul on the street and most shops were quiet. There was a movie theater, playing some old movie and The Fault in Our Stars, which I refuse to see because, too many feelings. There was a bank. There was a gaming store where kids were playing Magic: The Gathering. And there were the cats.

For anyone that’s never been, Catskill is milking the cat branding for everything it’s worth. I don’t know how this came about, or how many times a year they do it, but at some point in the not-so-distant past, Catskill held a contest to see who could best decorate cat statues, and then post them all through the town. It’s called “Cat-n-Around Catskill: In the Dog Days of Summer,” and it is…interesting.

This cat has antlers.

This cat has antlers.

I found some of the cats endearing. There was a Kat-niss with bows and arrows. There was a cat dressed up in a kilt and bagpipes, which made me feel like I was taking part in my heritage. But as far as a nice sunny day with your boyfriend goes, I’m embarrassed to say we spent an hour taking pictures of ourselves with cats decorated like pirate ships and Spider-Man. It was sadly the highlight of the day.

We then drove down to the water and found a little cove that had a bar and a patio for drinks. I got drunk and sunburned and that’s really all I want to say about that.

Later, Jeff and I checked into the Holiday Inn Express in West Coxsackie. West Coxsackie is fine, except that we couldn’t find a place to eat that suited vegetarian Jeff. So we drove to Albany. Yes, Albany, N.Y. The capital of the state. Which was another 30 minutes north of us. Halfway to Canada. For dinner.

Of course, when we got to the restaurant I had picked out, it was closed for “renovations,” or by the health department. It wasn’t clear. We weren’t in a great neighborhood, and it was approaching dark, so we drove around a bit to find somewhere else to eat. We ended up in the middle of a Pride March, which was great, except that we were hungry and there were just too many roadblocks to getting food. Who goes to two parades in one day without eating?!? I usually don’t do anything without eating. It was all getting to me, and my scalp was turning a bright tomato-red from the sunburn.

By the time we finally settled in our seats at El Loco, a Mexican restaurant in the Capitol District, the waitress informed us that they had run out of guacamole, but gave me a jalepeno corn muffin to make up for it. These things are not the same. But the corn muffin was good and I ate it with gusto. I washed it down with sangria. Apparently peppers and red wine can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night with the sweats. I’m not saying this happened, I’m just saying I know that this happens.

So, the point of my story is that I’m the worst person to travel with. I also never let anyone else make plans, which is something I’m working through but if I’m being totally honest I don’t think that’s ever going to change. But, Jeff has the patience of a saint when it comes to me making terrible decisions, and while I would recommend a lot of these things as interesting outings up north (especially to Albany, great city), I can’t say I recommend the cats, jalepeno muffins, or parades. Too intense.


Filed under Field Trips

2 responses to “When Day Trips Fail: Upstate New York Edition

  1. Kelly Z

    I am so glad the blog is back just in time for my maternity leave, this was a fantastic reminder of all the fun in store post-vow renewal!

  2. Aunt Binkie

    So happy to start the day with this read!! Yes…Jeff is definitely a saint!!

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