Just a mere two hours from New York City, there is a place that perfectly embodies the charms of small-town America — steeped in history, with majestic views of the Catskill Mountains and nestled in the lush rolling hills of Dutchess County in scenic Hudson Valley — Rhinebeck. It’s an all-American town that was founded in 1686 as a result of a land transaction of 2,200 acres between four Dutchmen and six Indians. Today, trees line the town’s sidewalks fronted with gaily colored plants and interesting specialty shops that beckon you to come browse. Both fine and casual dining spots celebrate the valley’s thriving locavore movement of boutique farms and orchards. Gracing this entire timeless scene is the grandeur of the stately Beekman Arms Inn. Directly behind the property lies a two-story barn — the Antique Market — a multidealer emporium with more than 30 merchants offering high-quality collectibles.
Touring the town, I enjoyed visiting Hudson Valley Pottery in the center of this historic village. I was able to monitor a class where students were making large vessels and sculptures. My long-harbored hope to one day learn this skill and just maybe create something wonderful (at least to my eyes) was rekindled.
I have a keen interest in aviation, planes and flight that I chalk up to my deep-seated fear of flying. I feel if I dive deeply into this subject, perhaps I can, one day, actually look forward to flying. Of course, I had to check out the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, a true “living” museum of antique aviation. Here I found one of the largest collections of early aeroplanes anywhere, many of which, my guide said, still take to the air for demonstrations during weekend air shows.
I had been told to check out Rhinebeck’s Farmers Market, which is considered one of the best around. The market began back in 1994 when a group of residents and business people organized it with the goal of creating a venue to promote Hudson Valley agricultural products and to enhance the social and economic life of Rhinebeck. I found a place where neighbors meet and mingle and visitors can sample the best of the Hudson Valley. Sample is precisely what I did, especially with lovely goat, cow and sheep’s milk cheeses, honeys and jams. I picked up two bright yellow and orange Celosia plants to brighten my doorway for the next several weeks.
This cultural mecca boasts galleries, museums, performing arts, independent film, historic homes and architecture as well as the new Mirbeau Inn & Spa, whose Willow restaurant WAG featured in November. Back in the mid-’90s, Linda and Gary Dower noticed that many American hotels had little to do with “hospitality” and were simply convenient and predictable places for travelers to sleep as they passed through. Recognizing that today, instead of long vacations, many people opt for the quick, easy getaway, the Dowers envisioned gracious inns where guests could enjoy classic comforts, a facility where they would totally relax and, more important, a place that was close to home. They opened the first Mirbeau Inn & Spa in 2000 in the village of Skaneateles in the New York Finger Lakes region. Later, another property opened in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which WAG wrote about in 2017, then a day spa in Albany. And now, lucky Rhinebeck.
Upon first sighting Mirbeau, I was charmed by its graceful circular cobblestone drive leading to the mansard roofed, French-inspired resort. The property is residential in character and each of the 50 guest rooms has its own fireplace and mini-spa bathroom with clawfoot bathtubs and high-end showers. “Zen machines” on each bedside table work as oil diffusers and white noise players. The color palette is inspired by French Impressionist Claude Monet and prints of his paintings are featured throughout. In the lobby, pristine white floors are bordered in black, and plush carpets lead to the dining room where windows open onto a wild forest bordered by willow trees.
As we’ve noted, Willow, restaurateur Charlie Palmer’s dining room, is an important feature of Mirbeau. Palmer has said that the restaurants, including the lighter fare Aqua Terrace and Willow bar, are “attractive to the people who live and work and visit in the surrounding area.” Palmer’s name is on the shingle of a dozen restaurants across the nation, so he doesn’t run this kitchen on a daily basis. That task is handled laudably by executive chef Thomas Burke, whose résumé includes French Laundry, Per Se and Le Bernardin.
Mirbeau’s 12,000-square-foot spa is the epitome of luxury. Locker rooms, showers, saunas and a salt cave are all tastefully appointed. The Motion Studio with yoga mats, pillows and blankets lined up in neat rows on a shiny laminated floor made me want to downward dog right then and there. Reading through the menu of treatments, I learned that “whether you seek rejuvenation or relaxation, we are here to create an experience that both satisfies and inspires.” How could I resist? So many appealing treatments and only an hour to spare. I finally chose the Mirbeau Signature Ritual — body exfoliation enhanced with a sugar scrub. By the time the treatment was over, my sweet tooth was sufficiently satisfied and I left relaxed, rejuvenated and, yes, inspired.
Right about now as I gaze out my office window at snow with a forecast of possible sleet, I can think of nothing more tempting, nay more inviting, than a visit to picturesque Rhinebeck and the Mirbeau Inn & Spa. Good food, cozy surroundings — and a blazing fire. Mirbeau and Rhinebeck: Take me, I’m yours.