IF YOU HAVEN'T NOTICED YET, you no doubt will before long: In this part of the state, at least, "history" as a buzzword has crept into conversations about almost everything. It certainly crept into our consciousness as we put this issue together—heck, our conversations with historian Jim Johnson made it almost impossible to think about anything without reference to some historical fact, place or event.
The fact that this year marks the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's sail upriver (that was 1609, if you're math-challenged), commemorations of the event are planned for spring, summer and fall in just about every public venue up- and downriver. Around here the buzz is on, too, but, to be honest, the fact that Hudson discovered the river 400 years ago is less significant than the fact that the old fool set out to cross the Atlantic—on his way to China, by the way—in such a dinky little boat and survived.
Assuming the state doesn't drop the ball on promoting this, we should look forward to several months worth of activity on the river the likes of which we've seldom seen. If "history" hasn't been on your mind recently, get ready, because it will be.
We've been around the block a few times, so to speak, and there are few, if any, regions in the country that offer so much variety and so many historic legacies as does the Hudson Valley.
This year, in fact, Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (March 22 to April 3) rings with historic overtones—as a Quadricentennial Event, it's part of that historic commemoration and, as if we needed one, another reason to go out and enjoy the valley. Suddenly, we've got ourselves a tavern tour (call it historic bar hopping or pub crawling, if that helps.) Why not? Taverns, inns, bars have always offered respite to travelers and, as luck would have it, some of the oldest, historically intact and significant refreshment stations in the country literally are right down the road. The list could go on and on—pick your poison and pick a place and it's a pretty good bet that you'll find a one- or two-century-old watering hole (and some great food) nearby.
You could start with the Beekman Arms (Rhinebeck) or the Stissing House (Pine Plains)—each of which lays claim to being the oldest continuously operating inn in the country (depends on the weather or time of day, I guess). Then head over to the Depuy Canal House (High Falls), Iron Forge Inn (Warwick), Hudson House River Inn (Cold Spring), The Rhinecliff (Rhinecliff) or The Thayer Hotel (West Point)—each offers its own ambiance and, better: Overindulge and you can stay off the roads and get a room there or very close by.
Henry Hudson took a wrong turn and never made it to China. As we head out into the valley this year, there won't be any wrong turns and we won't have to look for history—we live it, work in it, pass by it every day. We will be looking for a another great old tavern, however—someplace we can toss back a few and, as Tom Waits says, "Toast to the old days, and DiMaggio, too."