The Idyllic Lifestyle: Apple Picking at Cedar Heights, Rhinebeck NY

When I was a kid growing up in India, the concept of “farm” was just about as vivid and clear to me as the internet would be to a Roman philosopher. I knew I loved reading stories about farm life and idyllic suburbia, but much of it was abstract to me — just like integral calculus. When your imagination runs wild like horses and you feed on just the text books, your mind becomes a veritable jungle that imaginatively interprets stories and spits out images, Inception style.

I had been introduced to the concept of farm life and apple picking through idyllic books like James Herriot’s Dog Stories and children’s classics like Little Women. You can imagine that in the coastal city of Chennai, India, there’s not an apple tree for miles (maybe mango and coconut trees for sure, but not apple trees).

One happy dad

The delicious discovery of picking juicy, ripe apples straight from the elegant leaves was a pleasure I discovered when I moved to the United States. It was so very Cider House Rules in the sense of a strange, beautiful discovery….there was something really adventurous about NOT buying apples in the grocery store but finding a more outlandish, labor-intensive but fun way to get it.

My hubby, Matthew, and Butterscotch, our apple-hunting pooch

I’d been apple picking before, but Rhinebeck, NY was a sweet treat. My parents (who were visiting from India), my husband and I had visited the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome that morning, and decided to round off our vintage day with a very suburban tradition.

The apples at Cedar Heights Rhinebeck Orchard were just beginning to ripen. There were Galas, Cortlands, Macintosh, Empires and Red Delicious, all neatly arranged and labeled beautifully. We picked up two full bags of apples with our gallant orange apple “claw.” The total price? A mere $10!

Cedar Heights is easily accessible by car (it’s three miles east of Rhinebeck village in Duchess County in the Hudson Valley). While I was a little disappointed there was no baked goods store open where I could get some freshly-pressed apple cider, I was very impressed by how well-kept the orchards were, and how peaceful everything was. We did arrive during a season when the apples were just starting to ripen, but there really was no one there except another family.

Can we say this is a well-preserved secret? Surely, yes. At the end of the day, I was drunk on apples like a horse who had just won the Preakness, and was reminded of lines from Robert Frost’s well known poem, After Apple Picking:

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree Toward heaven still, And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill Beside it, and there may be two or three Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

It is definitely without question, one of the most idyllic and delicious ways you’ll spend your day.

If you’ve picked apples (or fruit, of any kind) before and want to share your experiences, do drop me a line and let me know where!

Charu Suri

 

 

The Idyllic Lifestyle: Apple Picking at Cedar Heights, Rhinebeck NY

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Published on September 28th, 2010 | by Charu Suri

4 The Idyllic Lifestyle: Apple Picking at Cedar Heights, Rhinebeck NY

When I was a kid growing up in India, the concept of “farm” was just about as vivid and clear to me as the internet would be to a Roman philosopher. I knew I loved reading stories about farm life and idyllic suburbia, but much of it was abstract to me — just like integral calculus. When your imagination runs wild like horses and you feed on just the text books, your mind becomes a veritable jungle that imaginatively interprets stories and spits out images, Inception style.

I had been introduced to the concept of farm life and apple picking through idyllic books like James Herriot’s Dog Stories and children’s classics like Little Women. You can imagine that in the coastal city of Chennai, India, there’s not an apple tree for miles (maybe mango and coconut trees for sure, but not apple trees).

One happy dad

The delicious discovery of picking juicy, ripe apples straight from the elegant leaves was a pleasure I discovered when I moved to the United States. It was so very Cider House Rules in the sense of a strange, beautiful discovery….there was something really adventurous about NOT buying apples in the grocery store but finding a more outlandish, labor-intensive but fun way to get it.

My hubby, Matthew, and Butterscotch, our apple-hunting pooch

I’d been apple picking before, but Rhinebeck, NY was a sweet treat. My parents (who were visiting from India), my husband and I had visited the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome that morning, and decided to round off our vintage day with a very suburban tradition.

The apples at Cedar Heights Rhinebeck Orchard were just beginning to ripen. There were Galas, Cortlands, Macintosh, Empires and Red Delicious, all neatly arranged and labeled beautifully. We picked up two full bags of apples with our gallant orange apple “claw.” The total price? A mere $10!

Cedar Heights is easily accessible by car (it’s three miles east of Rhinebeck village in Duchess County in the Hudson Valley). While I was a little disappointed there was no baked goods store open where I could get some freshly-pressed apple cider, I was very impressed by how well-kept the orchards were, and how peaceful everything was. We did arrive during a season when the apples were just starting to ripen, but there really was no one there except another family.

Can we say this is a well-preserved secret? Surely, yes. At the end of the day, I was drunk on apples like a horse who had just won the Preakness, and was reminded of lines from Robert Frost’s well known poem, After Apple Picking:

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree Toward heaven still, And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill Beside it, and there may be two or three Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

It is definitely without question, one of the most idyllic and delicious ways you’ll spend your day.

If you’ve picked apples (or fruit, of any kind) before and want to share your experiences, do drop me a line and let me know where!

Charu Suri

 

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Five Trends in Adventurous Women’s Travel for 2011

AdventureWomen has been giving women around the world all sorts of thrills and adrenaline since 1982, and it’s the oldest adventure travel company for women over 30. So, when they sent me an email detailing some of the top travel trends they see in 2011, I sat up and took notice because I love all things crystal ball and ESP  (let’s put it this way, I have enormous respect for savants, even if they mess up from time to time. I’m hoping that the Mayan Calendar about the world apocalypse occurring in 2012 is grossly incorrect, but just to be on the safe side, I’m planning on living life to the lees in case that happens).

When I think of “adventurous” travel, my mind journeys to the Amazon, trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro, white-water rafting on some insane, swashbuckling yet gorgeous animal of a river and all such things. Curious to see what is in the “trend o meter” for 2011? So were we!


 

Learning Something New Or Improving a Skill:

Montana has a downhill ski school, for those who need all the help they can get (that includes me). I once fell during CROSS COUNTRY SKIING, which shows you I’m about as athletically inclined as a drunk skunk. For those who want to hone their skiing skills without getting injured, consider this course.

Getting fit and getting active:

Snorkeling and scuba diving, anyone? Apparently fit vacations will be a big deal in the future, and we are also talking about yoga on the mountains. I like the idea of traveling to places far beyond your gym’s zip code. The site has some really great active vacations online.

Lending a hand while experiencing something exotic:

Why not travel to Kenya for a luxury safari experience while doing a humanitarian tour? When I was a kid, I lived in Nigeria, and I still remember with fond memories the people who would give their shirt off their backs for us even though they barely had beans and rice to eat.  This trip sounds like a journey of a lifetime: one part Hemingway, two parts Florence Nightingale. I am all over it!

Discovering National Treasures:

National Parks have been getting a lot of buzz over the past year. I think a girls adventure trip to places from Yellowstone to Yosemite could be the greatest way to bond and exchange wonderful stories while capturing the landscape all on precious film.

Traveling your “Bucket List”:

Well, I don’t know about you, but my bucket list includes the Galapagos Islands. I’ve been a Darwin nut ever since I was a kid and gobbled up the book The Origin by Irving Stone as though it was a freshly-baked apple pie. This trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands is truly for the Globe Trekker in you…so if you can afford it and have the time to spare, you should go for it.

Are you going on an adventurous vacation in 2011? Drop me a line and let me know your itinerary….there’s nothing better than meeting friends along the way.

Charu Suri

 

 

Popularity: 3% [?]

 

Top Travel Auction Sites for Glamorous Getaways

You want to visit the Greek Islands but your bank balance looks iffy. You’ve dreamed about backpacking and staying in French chateux but you’re not sure if you want to live only on Gouda and Brie.

Here are some of our favorite, upper-crusty kinda of deals (we’re calling them the Bergdorf’s version of Priceline). Take a look and see if you can spot a cool deal and jet-set (and if you already have, let us know, okay? We’ll join you on your next trip).

 

The site Off & Away offers luxury hotel deals where you can upgrade to the best hotel suites at top hotels. For example, the current auction (I’m staring at it as we speak) to stay at Boston Hotel’s Studio Room, XV Beacon for two nights (above) is only $2.90.

Two nights at the Vega King Studio at the Napa Valley’s Solage Calistoga is $1.30. At these prices, you’ll just want to keep shopping as though you were picking supplies at Walmart.

The way it works is that you’ll need to buy a pack of bids and compete in an auction, and bids raise the auction price by $0.10. So, the more bids there are on that property, the higher the auction price. If you’re the last bidder standing, you win!

Another site we love is GILT GROUP, whose Jetsetter section has incredible deals to places like Newport, RI and The Venetian, Las Vegas. What’s more, it has candid reviews from people who went there and the comments are pretty transparent. The prices are in the neighborhood of $130 per night for the  luxury suite. While I was pretty eager to see that price on GILT (doesn’t it sound like a great deal?), I realized that the Venetian’s web site itself has a similar deal ($149 for the Luxury Suite and package). Hmm…doesn’t sound too good of a deal anymore now, eh GILT?

But I think the trick is to stick around and be persistent, and you can see some great deals unfold. At least, that’s the hope.

I’ve also mentioned Lastminute.com  previously, and they tend to have some real steals for bundled getaways (hotels, cars and airfare) but the trick is to book early. I’ve been so excited to see deals that are as ripe for the plucking as red mangos, but only to find out that the price is not valid on those dates. Tears ensue!

Tell us, have you found good travel sites you love that give you a rock bottom deal for monarchy-style stays?

Charu Suri

 

Popularity: 2% [?]

 

Briar Patch: TPA’s $14 U.S. Tourist Fee for 36 Countries

Beginning today, travelers from 36 countries (mostly developed nations like Australia, Italy and Singapore) have to shell out $14 to enter the United States’ border.

The Travel Promotion Act (TPA) 36 makes this fee mandatory for visitors staying for up to 90 days (the fee is not per trip and lasts for two years). Naturally, the job of the Travel Promotion act is the promotion of travel; and chances are because the fee is so small (even a third grader can shell out $14 with his weekly allowance or lemonade stand money) this shouldn’t really be a blip on travelers’ radar. But as for the psychological damage? That’s a totally different matter.

These 36 nations are the same ones who fall under the U.S. visa waiver program. Who can these countries thank for their “U.S. gratuity”? Why President Obama, of course, who signed the proposal into law in March, 2010.  The law also required the TPA to create an Office of Travel Promotion that will be run by the Department of Commerce.

I think all these acts of taxing, tithing and siphoning of cash from travelers is just a ploy to somehow pad up the U.S. fiscal deficit, but for heaven’s sake, did no one in Congress realize that this TPA law has just about pissed off half of the world that was mad at the United States to begin with?

Apparently the European Union is considering levying $10 to U.S. visitors as a rebuttal.

These 36 countries give quite a bit of tourist dollars to the United States, as you might guess, but American’s immigration laws are so much more stringent (post 9/11) than the European Union, for example, which doesn’t even require forms or hoops to jump through in order to visit. Will the TPA actually promote travel instead of detract from it?

But this Act is specifically designed to promote the U.S. to foreign visitors. The fee, capped at $100 million, would be matched by the private sector and potentially create a revenue pool of $200 million.  In a nutshell, this $14 per visitor fee will be used to create jobs in a recession-scarred sector and ultimately designed to promote programs to lure visitors to the U.S.

Is this the chicken or the egg syndrome? Seriously, is the United States going for ad campaigns along the lines of Jamaica or Aruba?

It is an interesting question and will lead to interesting answers. For now, the now almost completely tattered value of the U.S. dollar should be green light enough for tourist’s pocketbook.

Charu Suri

Popularity: 1% [?]

 

Eye Spy: Washington D.C. Goes Undercover

Feel like channeling your inner James Bond? Dying over Angelina Jolie in her movie, Salt?

America’s spy capital may well be Washington D.C. for those of you who really want to rock it. Here are some of the activities we are dying to do:


See a Spy

Well, if you see a spy, then the gig’s up, right? But we’re talking about the theatrical variety, of course. Arlington, VA’s Signature Theatre produces its version of the Cold War thrilled, “Chess.” And yes, the score is composed by the Mamma Mia musical wonders, Abba’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

There’s also the big-screen version if you’re not a Broadway musical type of person: The ThrillSpy film festival has some real espionage classes, from September 30- October 3rd. Some classics that are playing include Kandahar Break, The Green Zone, and Clemency.

Be a Spy

The International Spy Museum will help you channel your inner James Bond. You can crack codes, and learn all about undercover intelligence. There’s also a cool “Spy in the City” game with GPS pepper with clues. If you had fun playing with Clue as a kid, you’ll love this!

Spies in the news will also be featured in D.C.’s Newseum, D.C.’s interactive news museum. You’ll also learn about the FBI’s role in crime fighting and pop culture in a special exhibition.

Dine like a Bond

Sleek and minimal decor, the restaurant Zentan is so Four Seasons mixed with a dash of intrigue. If all spies dine like this, then I’m submitting my application to the CIA. Shhh! Chef Susur Lee’s D.C. outpost is apparently very well known for her sushi.

Chadwick Restaurant in Georgetown was apparently the lunch spot where Aldrich Ames lunched with a KGB operative in 1985 and that famous dining experience led to the handing over of some documents that led to the downfall of some CIA operations in the Soviet Union.

Spy-esque Digs

I’ve never stayed at the Hotel George, but now I sure want to. It’s named after the first American president, and get this — there’s an “Undercover Washington” package that includes  admission to the International Spy Museum and a “Spy Kit” complete with a guide to DC locations where famous spies once lived and worked and a “Spymaster Skills Exam” (score well on the exam and you’ll also score a bottle of Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2003.) Rates start at $199 per night.

Also don’t forget about the Mandarin Oriental in Washington D.C. (the hotel’s background was in Jolie’s latest thriller, SALT).

Charu Suri

 

 

 

 

 

Follow Friday Roundup: Best Blogging Travel Stories on the Web

Our weekly roundup is here, once more! Here are some of my peeps’ best weekly stories:

ScenebyLaurie gives you tips on how squeeze the most out of your U.S. Open visit (and no, you don’t necessarily need courtside tickets, although that can’t hurt).

Missadventures writes about the hottest men of travel writing, including Tom Johansmeyer. We want to know when the hot women edition arrives?

Runaway Juno may be a fledgling (Happy Six Month Anniversary!) but she’s already trekked half the world. This cool chicka cooks and loves to take pictures.

One of the “roving” rocks at Death Valley. Check out this cool National Geographic feature!

Eileen Barish tells you about $35 a night travel deals at Tuscan monsteries. I mean, how on earth can you beat that price in the garden bowl of Italy? Time to take an Eat. Pray. Love. tour….

LeslieTravel tells us about how beautiful the beaches really are in Cambodia. I mean, really.

TheExpeditioner mulls about traveling to Guanajuato –yes! It’s the birthplace of Diego Riviera, after all.

TravelingAnna journeys to Split Rock and totally chills out. Well, not really.

The Wandering Aramean tells you why focusing on points is not really a good idea. Unless you’re George Clooney in Up In the Air (and look how he ended up).

SpunkyGirl Travel introduces us to Spunky Baby. Yes, she’s a cutie patootie.

If there are other stories I’ve missed please email me, and hope to see you all in the next roundup!

Charu Suri

Popularity: 1% [?]

 

Why I Don’t Do Packaged Travel Deals

I’m sure you all have been there: you find a site that cites an unbelievable price (e.g. $199 for a four-day trip, all expenses included, to Cancun) only to find out that’s the minimum charge and your true package value is in the neighborhood of $1,000.

One such guilty pleasure site is Lastminute.com.I often mull over the possibility of being the first to discover and snag an Aruba trip for $150, or some such insane bargain. To be perfectly honest, I love Brent Hoberman’s vision: he transformed the way we book a frugal, romantic getaway — there are all the frills from cars to hotels along with inexpensive airfare. But the truth is, I’ve not yet found a Lastminute.com package that really costs what is advertised. If you want to leave on  a Friday (most of us work) and return on a Sunday, the price is inevitably much higher than the “teaser” rate. And so my initial moment of sweet, delicious awe and surprise turns into one of incredulity.

I become a character much like Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles when he discovers John Candy’s shadow in every step of his journey. I cringe and flee the site as though it were a M. Night Shyamalan horror movie. So, inevitably, I get to play curator of the trip myself.

I’ll admit that I’ve really enjoyed several press trips in the past. They are beautifully done, and often take you to nooks and crannies you might not have otherwise known about. Take one of my recent trips to Traverse City, Michigan, for example. I would not have known about a charming vineyard like Mawby Wines that makes one of the finest sparkling whites I have ever tasted.

So, what’s the next best thing to a web site’s packaged deal? Why, construct one out of thin air, of course!

In order to put together a curated trip, I typically employ the following strategy:

1. Find out your budget and STICK TO IT. Sure, you’re going to find some cute, frilly accessory like a BMW hatchback while poking around sites, but refrain from weakening at the knees;

2. Get some insider guides (LonelyPlanet has a great insider series) that will tell you what some of the off-the-beaten-path type destinations;

3. See if you can get some great travel deals using coupon codes or discounts from friends and family (don’t forget JetBlue’s “All You Can Fly” Pass);

4. Schedule some leisure time so you can soak in all the pleasanteries from the day;

5. Pack a great camera for your memories (or don’t forget your iPhone — by the way, it has some neat travel apps).

If you have friends who are travel agents, ask them for tips, but I love to browse and put together my own itineraries by perusing Conde Nast Traveler’s Iconic Itineraries series and guides like Frommers.

After all, you are unique, and your adventures should be too!

Charu Suri

 

   

Popularity: 2% [?]

 

Cultural Education: Is the CityPASS of Economical Value?

Increasing MTA fares, salary freezes and lackluster savings are all such a drag. I mean, who has the time to really invest in their cultural awareness anymore?

I’m digging the New York CityPASS because it really gives you a cultural insight into all of what the Big Apple has to offer — for $79. You’ll essentially get half off admissions to:

– The Empire State Building

– The Metropolitan Museum of Art

– American Museum of Natural History

– Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

– Two ticket options (Guggenheim Musem & Top of the Rock; or Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island and Circle Line Cruise)

This treat comes at a great value for several cities, including New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California and Toronto.

The main question: will consumers go for it? If you look at venues like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Natural History, the admission fee is based on a donation concept. The Statue of Liberty entrance to the pedestal and museum is not included with the pass, but a certain number of entrance tickets are free if you’re an early bird. You’ve got to do the math and see if it all adds up (or you can cheat and use a calculator).

If you’re looking to avoid the lines — the CityPASS is a great EZPass doubler.
 

The CityPASS is definitely a great investment if you’re a tourist looking to blanket New York…but if you’re a native, I suspect you’ll find ways to stagger your cultural education (and for much cheaper, too).

 

 

 

Popularity: 1% [?]