Checking out the Spa at Inns of Aurora

by Sandra Hutchinson

Earlier this year, I wrote on this blog about my short springtime getaway Aurora, in New York’s Finger Lakes. I returned there in November because I had some family business to take care of nearby. I took the opportunity to visit the newly opened Spa at the Inns of Aurora.

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The small village of Aurora is home to both Wells College and the headquarters of the home decor company Mackenzie-Childs. The village is situated on the east side of Cayuga Lake, about a half hour’s drive north of Ithaca and an hour southwest of Syracuse. It makes a nice base for exploring the wineries of the Finger Lakes, as well as the upstate New York landmarks associated with both the suffragist and the abolitionist movements.

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Blessing of the animals, New Skete Monastery

by Sandra Hutchinson

If you’re looking for a blessing of the animals service, traditionally held in October, on the Feast of St. Francis, there may be no better place than the New Skete Monastery, perched on a mountainside in Cambridge, NY. An Orthodox Christian community, New Skete has both monks and nuns in residence, as well as a community of lay companions.

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Perspectives on the pandemic

by Sandra Hutchinson

One of the wonderful things about hosting a blog is that you have the potential to connect online with people who share your interests. Among my “blogger friends,” as I call them, is Janet Simmonds, an Oxford-educated geographer and art historian, travel consultant and writer who publishes an intelligent and well-researched blog called The Educated Traveler. She offers fascinating insight on places and experiences in Italy, throughout the Mediterranean and England. Here’s the link to her blog: www.educated-traveller.com. I urge you to check out her site. It is a joy to read and I always learn something new! Plus, her photography is stunning.

Janet splits her time between England and Italy, largely Venice. She hosts small bespoke tours in Italy, and leads writing workshops. Here’s the link to her tour site: https://www.grand-tourist.com. I’m dreaming of the possibility of participating in one of her trips.

Earlier this year, Janet reached out to me and asked whether I would contribute a piece to her blog concerning how the pandemic has affected my family in northern New York State. She graciously published my piece on The Educated Traveler and I am grateful to her for her kind comments. While admittedly, some things have improved in my neck of the woods since I wrote the piece last spring, there is still great concern about ongoing infections and the long-lasting impact of the pandemic. Please click on the link below, and comment on either my blog or Janet’s with your own perspectives, from wherever in the world you are!

https://educated-traveller.com/2021/08/16/an-american-perspective/

Lake George, New York

Cheap Old Houses — new HGTV show debuts with upstate New York roots

by Sandra Hutchinson

As seen on HGTV’s Cheap Old Houses, hosts Ethan and Elizabeth at a historic home in Gasport, NY.

Elizabeth Finkelstein says that “even as a two-year-old I understood the magic of old houses.”

Her parents, Dr. Joel and Gail Solomon, raised their family in one of the most historic homes in Queensbury, New York, on Chestnut Ridge Road. Called the Nehemiah Wing house, it was named after one of the 19th century owners, a descendant of Abraham Wing, a founder of nearby Glens Falls. The original clapboard part of the home is believed to date to the 18th century. The brick addition was constructed in 1852.

Ms. Finkelstein’s appreciation of old homes has turned into a lifelong passion for her and her husband Ethan; an Instagram account with 1.6-million followers; and now a TV show Cheap Old Houses that will debut on Monday, Aug. 9, on HGTV and Discovery Plus.

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A drive through Cary Hill Sculpture Park at Salem Art Works, in Washington County, NY

by Sandra Hutchinson

In New York State’s bucolic Washington County, on the edge of the hamlet of Salem, is a beehive of artistic activity known as “SAW,” for Salem Art Works. Founder Anthony Cafritz, writes “In a time when a lot of artwork is created in a reductive, ‘hands-off’ approach, SAW’s mission is to blend and create an atmosphere where all methodologies, approaches and concepts are equal. This fluid, investigative curiosity is a timeless pursuit which underpins a large part of the human experience.”

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Finger Lakes getaway — Aurora, New York: wineries, MacKenzie-Childs outlet, boutique inns

by Sandra Hutchinson

During the last week of May, I headed out to New York State’s Finger Lakes region with one of my oldest friends. Destination: the charming village of Aurora, on the east side of Cayuga Lake. After we arrived, we were joined by another friend of mine. We spent several laughter-filled days visiting wineries, shopping at the newly opened outlet store at the headquarters of MacKenzie-Childs, and staying at a beautiful property owned by the Inns of Aurora.

Zabriskie House, part of the Inns of Aurora collection.
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Spring weekend in Grafton, Vt.

After my husband and I were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in March, we were thrilled to celebrate our new status by having a weekend away, in the sleepy picture book village of Grafton, Vermont. My husband wrote a piece about our escape for our newspaper, The Chronicle. I have reproduced it below, accompanied by my photos.

—Sandra Hutchinson

The 19th century Tuttle House we rented in Grafton, Vt. for a spring weekend

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A holiday visit to Gardenworks, Salem, NY

by Sandra Hutchinson

Last Sunday, we headed out to Gardenworks Farm, in Salem, NY, to visit with our good friends and the farm’s owners, Meg and Rob Southerland, and to select our Christmas tree. It was just like old times, piling into the car with our two sons, worried about whether our younger son would feel car sick on the drive over hill and dale to get to the farm. Surprise — our “boys” are now in their mid-twenties, having returned home during the pandemic to work from our home, yet both were enthusiastic about accompanying my husband and me on our tree venture — and no one got car sick! Indeed, I had hoped to go to the farm a few days earlier, but my sons complained that their work schedules didn’t allow them to go then, and how could I even consider not including them in such a classic family tradition?

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A Yorkshire break — Fountains Abbey, York, heritage trains, moors and more!

A ruined nave at Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

by Sandra Hutchinson

Last fall I spent a magical week taking an adult education course at Oxford University, in Oxford, UK. Following the conclusion of my program, I headed to London and met up with my husband, who flew in from the States to meet me. After a couple of days that allowed him to acclimate to the time zone, we hopped on a train at Kings Cross Station and took the two-hour ride north to the city of York.

After spending a few days in York we rented a car and stayed on the grounds of Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage Site. During our stay, we explored the ruins of the Abbey and the adjacent Studley Royal Park. We spent a day taking a historic steam train through the Yorkshire Moors to Whitby, a coastal town known for its fish and chips, as well as being the location of a ruined abbey that was an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We also explored some of the beautiful landscape in this part of Yorkshire, which is England’s largest county.

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Missing Martha’s Vineyard


by Sandra Hutchinson

For nearly 35 years my closest friend from childhood, who now lives in New York State’s Dutchess County, has rented a place on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard for an August getaway. She has been generous in her invitations to me to stay with her, and I’ve been blessed to spend time there. This summer, 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of her plans, and mine, were cancelled because of concerns of being in crowded spaces in a place that attracts visitors from across the world. 

Aquinnah Cliffs (formerly called Gay Head)

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