Day Trip to Beacon… or Cold Spring?

Yesterday, my friend Pip and I decided to catch the train somewhere and get out of the city. Here is the list of possibilities we came up with in a message exchange on facebook (surely the best form of communication between a thirty-something and forty-something who live in the same city as each other?):

1) Beacon looks good even if the thing* you wanted to see isn’t open – but you might want to save the trip? It takes an hour and a half on the train from Penn Station and the journey is meant to be stunning.

2) Can you do Friday instead? Governors Island opens on Friday… free ferry and, er, beer garden…!

3) Take the subway up to The Cloisters to pretend we’re monks for the day… or go and check out Harlem and have some lunch?

4) Can you get the train to Montauk? A la the Jim Carrey movie (hold the snow angels)

*The thing is DIA Art Foundation, which holds one of the best contemporary art collections in the US, apparently – but is closed on Thursdays. There’s more about it here from the New York Times (the article is a bit old, but you get the idea).

Governors Island has many, many exciting events – including the Jazz Age Lawn Party, which I’m particularly looking forward to – so we decided to save it for warmer weather, plus it’s not actually out of the city so missed the point of the day.

Montauk is 3.5 hours on the train (slow train!) so despite the filmic reference potential, we decided a visit really warranted a night’s stay.

The Cloisters is, well, a bit worthy, being about mediaeval art (it’s part of the Met) and men of the cloth and all. Plus it’s also really in the city (but way up, past 190th street)…

So, Beacon was the only remaining option and had the advantage of catching a train from Grand Central Station (not Penn as thought), which has a certain charm, and the H1B had told me that the Hudson Valley train line is particularly beautiful, as it runs up the immense Hudson (see the schedule/journey planner here – trains leave every hour and off-peak starts at 10:45).

However, in a fit of wild spontaneity we decided to disembark at Cold Spring instead – a few stops earlier (it took about an hour and fifteen minutes).

Cold Spring is a pretty 19th century village, which used to be a whaling and Post Office station. There are brick buildings and plenty of American clapboard houses, with the stars and stripes hanging outside. Nowadays, there is less blood and blubber and Main Street is instead full of antique shops (more bric-a-brac) and coffee shops and particularly good brownies at GoGo Pops – try the caramel one with pink Himalayan salt, which I’m eating as I write this. Yum.

It’s touristy – but rightly so, as it’s charming and makes a good day trip for lunch and a mooch, and the backdrop of the awesome Hudson River, which was so essential in the rise of New York City.

(Try The Foundry Cafe, a few buildings up on the right as you leave the train station – it’s run by one of the most enthusiastically upbeat women I’ve ever met and I had a drink of dandelion and burdock, the first in about 25 years when the milkman used to bring it to our house in Cambridge.)

This was my favourite bric-a-brac find, in the old Cold Spring National Bank, which has a real old vault in it. I got my cinematic film reference after all….


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