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The author’s vacay

July 22, 2014

“New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.”

I just returned from a visit to the Big Apple state but I didn’t go anywhere near the sites mentioned in “New York, New York,” the Leonard Bernstein/Betty Comden/Adolph Green tune from the soundtrack for “On the Town.” New York is more than bright lights and big city. There are farmlands and forests, mountains and valleys, lakes and rivers. Not the least of those rivers is the Hudson and the mid-Hudson Valley is where I spent a week’s vacation.

Walkway over the HudsonRunning north to south through the eastern half of the state, the Hudson River is 315 miles long and over two miles wide. I know it is because I walked across it on the world’s longest footbridge, the Walkway Over the Hudson, a state historic park. Formerly the Poughkeepsie Bridge, a railroad bridge that burned in the 1970’s, it has since been restored and converted for pedestrian use. The view is stunning.

Culinary Institute of AmericanCulinary Institute of AmericanAll that walking worked up an appetite which I sated at the Culinary Institute of America. The CIA’s gorgeous Hyde Park campus is planted with not only trees, shrubs, grass and flowers but also herbs, fruit and vegetable gardens and has a number of student-staffed restaurants and cafes. Reservations are suggested for all of them except for the Apple Pie Bakery Café but I managed to get seated at the Ristorante Caterina de Medici. I had a Portobello Panini with hummus and goat cheese followed by tiramisu and washed down with Prosecco, all served by Diane, a most charming student. Now that’s a lunch worth writing home about.

The Hudson River is the site of a lot of history. Named for Henry Hudson, the Englishman who explored it in 1609, it became the gateway to the American interior. It inspired an entire school of landscape painting and writers like Washington Irving. The Hudson’s lower half is tidal so the river flows both ways which makes it hard to navigate. Nevertheless it became important to shipping, trading and industry and its control was hotly contested during the American Revolution. Originally home to the Mahican and Munsee Native Americans it became the address of wealthy families whose estates still line the shores. Many of those have been turned over to the state or federal government and now serve as parks, such as the mansions of the Vanderbilts, Ogden Mills and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I did quite a bit of touring at the FDR home, now a national park, and the FDR library and museum, a National Archives and Records site. It’s not that I’m a big FDR fan or a history buff. My trip to the mid-Hudson Valley was primarily to visit family. I am, however, working on a novel inspired by a trip that I made over 20 years ago and for which the FDR park and library are important settings.

My trip took me to other mid-Hudson Valley cities like Rhinebeck, Kingston and Saugerties, to which I’d been before, and to Hudson for the first time. Once a major New York city (as late as 1820 it was the fourth largest city in the state), Hudson acquired a reputation in the late 19th and early 20th century for drinking, gambling and prostitution. Now it’s undergoing a revival. I really liked strolling Warren Street and reading the placards on the multistory brick and clapboard facades that gave the buildings’ ages and named the architectural styles which ranged from Dutch, Federalist, Greek and Gothic Revival to Italianate and Victorian. I had a wonderful cup of coffee in one of Hudson’s fine coffeehouses and a terrific lunch of falafel, hummus, cucumber salad and olives at the Pita Palace.

I was fortunate to be visiting during a week of splendid weather. Daytime temps in the 70’s and low 80’s were perfect for long walking tours.

No, I didn’t see any Broadway plays or shop Fifth Avenue or visit MoMA. Instead, I made my sister squire me around to obscure locations like Staatsuburg so I could absorb local color. That’s the price she pays for having a sibling who’s an author. I came home with lots of photos and notes for my current work-in-progress, a historical thriller slated for release this winter. Meanwhile, my latest novel, “The King’s Redress,” is getting five star reviews. If you missed my July 4th weekend launch parties, you’ve got another opportunity to get a signed copy. I’ll be at the Family Center IGA, 416 S. Alister St. in Port Aransas on Saturday, July 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I’ll be signing copies of “The King’s Redress,” the latest release in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam, as well as all my other books, and I’ll have some specials on hand like discounts and handmade bookmarks. Come on by. I’ll see you there.

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