Travel

By Hannah Joseph

For the thoughtful gift giver, the holiday season is often anything but a holiday. As soon as November hits, New York transforms into an onslaught of commercialized holiday gimmicks. And the simple act of giving becomes an event that must be prepared for by months of excessive consumerism. By the time all the wrapping paper is put away and January hits, you’ll need a vacation from all the winter festivities. This year, give your significant other, friends or even family members a present that – between the mall war wounds, feigned “Oh, this is what I always wanted!” gratitude and long lines at the gift return counter – won’t require a recovery period. Give them a getaway at The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. Hell, go with them if you can. After all, memories do make the perfect gifts – especially if you can share them.

As I debated over what I should give my boyfriend, I went through a series of options and rejections in my head. Clothes? Generic. Cologne? Also generic. How about some clothes, cologne and that really great watch I caught him eyeing at the mall? Forced (and generic). That’s when I found The Porches Inn. Located in North Adams, Mass., this little bed and breakfast offered a cozy retreat for a reasonable price.

The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA

Like many bed and breakfasts, The Porches Inn has a domestic, friendly atmosphere, with quaint lodging amenities and homemade cookies (and cider!) offered in the main lounge every evening. It also has lodging options for every type of guest: single rooms for independent travelers or budgeting couples, master guestrooms with bear claw bathtubs for romantic weekends, and double room loft suites for double-date weekends, family retreats and girlfriend get-togethers. Added bonuses include a clean outdoor pool, a year-round outdoor jacuzzi, a beautiful fitness center and a quaint steam room/spa area. The property is impressive, to say the least, but not why I decided to drag my boyfriend across state lines.

As the real estate motto goes, it’s all about “location, location, location!” And the North Adams/Williamstown area has everything you could want from a mini retreat destination. It’s a beautiful mountainous nature escape with an up and coming artisan community. The combination gives you a wide range of day activities to choose from. To list all the things you can do would take forever, and prove ultimately pointless. So instead, I will tell you what we did when we went, and for more information you can always visit http://www.porches.com and http://www.berkshires.org.

We arrived at Porches around 3 p.m., after a three-and-a-half hour drive on the Taconic State Parkway. It was a breathtaking trip. We checked in and explored the property a bit and fell completely in love with the aesthetics of it – the property is a row of houses built in the Victorian era and renovated with a contemporary art “granny chic” sensibility. After drooling over the steam room and jacuzzi we would never have time to enjoy, we retired to our room where two bottles of champagne awaited us. The champagne came with the “Date Night” package, which also includes dinner for two at a fine dining establishment and tickets to a nearby indie theater. The inn offers several different packages including “Weekend Romp” which includes in-room massages, “Dharma Days” which is a two-day package that treats you to four yoga classes.

Row houses are adjoined to form indoor hallways, but the original exteriors are preserved.

After a hearty dinner and a night’s rest, we headed out the next day. We started at MASS MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). As it turns out, a nearby abandoned warehouse wasn’t exactly abandoned. Built in the late 1700′s, it functioned as a manufacturing site, then a textile mill in the ’80s and ’90s and an electric company from the mid to late ’90s. When the companies shut down, the town ceased to thrive. Now the space is a museum and the town of North Adams has begun to flourish with its rising art community. MoCA is known for its contemporary installations – our favorites were Jenny Holzer PROJECTIONS, a darkened room with projected poetry moving over its walls and ceilings and Badlands: New Horizons in Landscape, which includes a series of suspended greenhouses that you can stick your head into to breathe fresh oxygen.

PROJECTIONS is a moving poetry exhibit, and a nice resting spot.

Escape the polluted city and get a breath of truly fresh air at The Badlands exhibit, where you can wear a greenhouse helmet.

We took a long hike through the Berkshire Hills and then capped off the evening with an early dinner at a Thai restaurant before heading home. I wish we had stayed for an extra day because there are a few more highly regarded art galleries I would have liked to visit such as the Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art. (That’s the one downfall of leaving New York City: everything closes by 6 p.m.) But there is always next time and seasonal festivals that come through pretty regularly. Plus there are countless outdoor activities to try year-round and many more people to bring to my new favorite spot: The Porches Inn. And my boyfriend? He loved his present. We have tons of pictures and a weekend full of funny, sexy and interesting memories to look back on.

The Berkshires.

Originally published December 2008
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