Thursday, September 13, 2007

excursion--on the lake

There are magical places in this world. On the eastern banks of Lake Champlain is one of them. We make a pilgrimmage every year in September, right around our anniversary. It always seems to be raining, or about to rain, or there’s the scent of rain on the air. We arrive in the early evening. If the weather is still clear, we walk around the gardens that step right down to the water’s edge. Then we retire inside the great manor house, all brick and Tudor detailing and order cocktails to be taken in the Tea Room or Library.

We sit for a couple of hours, talking, reading, watching the sky over the Adirondack mountains through the big plate glass windows. The manor house, which is part of the wide expanse of land known as Shelburne Farms, has a restaurant, and while we’ve always heard very good things about the food, and they pride themselves on using as many local ingredients as possible, we’re never quite in the mood for the formal diningroom which is painted an elegant red with a black and white parquet floor and tall candlesticks on the tables. By this time it is usually raining, and the concierge at the house makes us a reservation down the road at one of the intriguing bistros we’ve heard about that’s a little closer to home.

This year, the sun came out for a brief stay while we walked around the stepped parterre. We’ve taken many ideas for our garden from here: the aborvitae, the tardiva hydrangea, the roses, the peonies. This time we saw the baptisia foliage, almost silvery with almost coin-shaped leaves and we noted the dahlias and other annuals spread through out the perennials.

Inside we ordered Campari and blended scotch on the rocks, and sat in the Library, first stopping in the Tea Room to admire a stately flower arrangement of hydrangea, baptisia foliage, Japanese maple, crimson lilies, and coral snapdragons. In the Library, we had a heated game of cards, and read from a small book published in 1908, Excursions Outside of Rome. I contemplated for a moment becoming a thief. Would they really miss this funny little time-worn book that would feel so at home on my bedside table? My conscience got the better of me, and we joked about the room being rigged with security cameras, or at least the gallery of white marble busts howling at the culprit who attempted to steal.

We watched a storm roll over the mountains and lake to lash the house. Lightening and thunder and heavy rain. We thought how nice it would be to just go into the restaurant to dine, then up to our room to read and fall asleep. Two hours or so passed, then we were on the road to a French-inspired bistro in a French-named village. We promised that next year we would stay overnight.


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