I had nothing on the agenda today so I decided to head out of the city for a quick trip – somewhere with clean air and fewer people. There are plenty of places upstate – from castles to stately homes – but after a bit of googling, I learned that most tourist-friendly places only open in April or May, and I didn’t think it wise to go for a hike alone.
Undeterred, I decided to head to Beacon – a small town on the Hudson River that’s home to the Dia art museum, a quaint high street, lovely views across the water and, best of all, plenty of that clean air.
You can get to Beacon by car (it takes about an hour and 15 minutes n good traffic) but I headed to Grand Central Station and jumped on the Poughkeepsie-bound Metro North train (which cost $30 for a return ticket). It’s so easy – it takes an hour and 45 minutes without transfers and it flies by because you’re traveling along the Hudson. (If only Metro North cleaned their windows once in a while I might have actually been able to see it.)
Once I reached Beacon, I walked the 10 minutes to the Dia museum. You might remember that I’ve been to a couple of Dia exhibits in Manhattan – the bizarre Earth Room and the similarly confusing Broken Kilometer. And while the art work here was less strange, it was housed in similarly huge spaces.
There were plenty of artists I’d not heard of before and, among their work, my favorites were Agnes Martin’s calming pastel lines and John Chamberlain’s clunky car parts that were melded into sculptures. There was also On Kawara, who’d painted the date on a canvas every day since 1966 in the language corresponding to the country he was in at the time.
One artist I had seen before was Sol LeWitt, whose Drawing Series commandeered a large section of the museum. He’d drawn simple lines in pencil on the white walls to create these hypnotic, detailed and mathematical works. But as I reached the back of the museum, I glanced out one of the tall windows and spied the purple mountains on the horizon. And I wondered why I wasn’t out there breathing in some of that glorious air. Thankfully, Dia had that covered too. Back near the train station there’s Beacon Point, a river viewing platform by George Trakas that looks like this in the summer.But this is what it looks like right now. Despite the chill, it was gorgeous. Those purple mountains loomed behind a toy town across the river, which was covered in bobbing slabs of ice. This was the best part of the view; down in Manhattan the rivers have thawed out, so seeing the iced-over Hudson was quite a sight to behold. Then it was time for some caffeinated warmth.
I followed the signs to Main Street, which is the hub of the town. It’s larger than I had imagined and has a great selection of wares – from artisan breads and beers, to chocolate shops, delis and vintage clothes. Occasionally, there’s a church or a mural thrown in.
Halfway along Main Street, I found Ella’s Bellas, a cosy gluten-free coffee shop that was just what I needed. I bought a latte and the world’s smallest sandwich (which was slathered with a gorgeous spicy tomato relish) and settled down to do some work for an hour. The staff and snacks were great, but I also spotted plenty of other places that looked tasty as I walked through the town – lots of vegan cafes and Bank Square Coffeehouse, a crammed coffee shop right out of Brooklyn.
Tired out, I headed to the train station, but I think I got a pretty taste of the place – the only thing I didn’t do was take Dennings Point Trail for a longer nature walk. But it was a bit cold and that cup of coffee was calling.
The trip made me realize just how easy and cheap it is to get out of the city for the day – or even just for a few hours if you fancy. Everything moved at a different pace in Beacon, and I loved that I did too.
As much as I adore New York, I definitely need a day off every now and then. And now I can start the week happy that I breathed in some fresh air, if only for a few hours.