I’m invited for a weekend in the Berkshires. The lure of Tanglewood, museums, theater, tastings, and progressive politics is so compelling that I welcome the hellish drive. John Pizzarelli’s jazzy Radio Deluxe helps the hours and miles be-bop and fly.
We begin at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s country estate. I tour the kitchen, grand interiors and vast formal gardens at a rapid pace. Phew. I rest against a pale celadon wall. A sympathetic guard says, “Please feel free to sit.” Although I’m sure he is mistaken, I sink into Edith Wharton’s elegant, tasseled upholstery in a grateful, writerly swoon.
Oh my, and then there’s Tanglewood. From the sprawling grounds to the world-class musical lineup, Tanglewood is a must. I admire the stately main building and take in the pastoral views — gorgeous. The hills are alive at the Boston Symphony’s rambling summer home in the Berkshires. And don’t miss the competitive picnicking. Game on.
The summer season includes world-class talent like resident pop legend James Taylor, plus Joan Baez, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, John Mellencamp, Emmylou Harris, Sting, Melissa Etheridge … and of course, the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Go.
At Shakespeare & Company is 4000 Miles, an intergenerational conversation about growing up, growing old, and moments of connection in between. At nearby Barrington Stage is Kunstler, the radical lawyer who defended the Freedom Riders and Chicago Seven — right up my left-leaning alley. Sadly, it’s wildly popular and completely sold out.
I hit the Rockwell Museum for Inventing America: Rockwell and Warhol, the oddest couple since Oscar and Felix. The more time I spend at this exhibition, the more synchronous their connection becomes. A fascinating pair — surprise!
Just walk down the street — art in bloom, everywhere.
Don’t miss MASS MoCA in North Adams, the largest museum of contemporary art in America. Building 6, their newest space, is a re-purposed factory complex where exhibitions of all sizes coexist in sprawling industrial harmony.
Robert Rauschenberg’s Monogram and Portland’s own Tanja Hollander’s Are You My Friend? sit quietly alongside an enormous twinkling installation by Nick Cave. Again, the space is as vast and impressive as the work — do not miss MASS MoCA.
We recharge at the family-run Gateways Inn. If you’re looking for sleek, high-end or modern, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a well-run, comfortable inn with endearing frumpy flourishes like a teddy bear in a dressing gown that matches your bedspread. Wonderful breakfasts like Challah French Toast (recipe here!), friendly hosts, and a folky, fizzy, jazzy bar scene are unexpected pleasures.
Refined or Rustic
After an afternoon wandering the farmer’s market and downtown shops, pop into Bistro Zinc, a modern French resto-bar with an upscale, welcoming vibe. The bistro’s trademark zinc bar is a lovely place to sip a martini, share a plate of moules frites and watch the world go by.
Our final evening brings a moonlight hike, wine tasting and bonfire at Furnace Brook Winery and Hilltop Orchards. I bail on the hike (bring sensible shoes), but enjoy the tasting and moonlight. We marvel at the constellations — stars are extra bright here.
Lenox-Stockbridge is a great destination for arty, jazzy, literature nerds like me. Explore the museums, walk the gardens, taste the wines and enjoy local fare — followed by an evening of music or theater. It’s all here in the beautiful Berkshires. •