The Briary

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Washers & softball

Saturday June 1, 2013

The Briarcliff Motel

A trip to New England in the late 1990s had us escaping a rainy Boston day for the movies, where we had an epiphany while watching chick-flick masterpiece, Runaway Bride. Remember?

RB reunited Julia Roberts and Richard Gere (whose on-screen chemistry in Pretty Woman sparks so powerfully that we usually watch it wearing welder’s goggles), exchanging the broad-shouldered glam of late-80s LA for the rustic downhome-ness of Hale, Maryland. Maybe it was because we’d left the Berkshires behind the day before with a heavy heart, but I was less interested in indecisive spinster Maggie Carpenter’s relationship with vengeful non-fact-checking hack Ike Graham, than what life would be like if you could live in cool, bohemian Hale.

My trademark machismo crumbled, as I ached for Hale’s version of small town America through a mist of girly tears. Thankfully we were sitting in the dark. Hale combined the arty chutzpah of Great Barrington with the working mens’ swagger of Lee: I wanted to be there, and not just as a tourist. I wanted to josh with Maggie and the other townsfolk while buying a washer for an out-of-production tap. Cheer on the softball team. Greet my friends and neighbours on Main Street. Dye an uppity city slicker’s hair all the colours of the rainbow.

All this flooded back last weekend when I picked up a shade (not a washer) from a woman (not kooky Maggie) in the hardware store, ran into the landlord of my local bar, and bumped into regular Briarcliff guests from New York who are, themselves, joining the neighbourhood as they build a home in Beartown Forest (I won’t be dyeing their hair when they aren’t looking, though. They’re nice people.)

The point of this dreary ramble (there’s a point?) is that modern travellers would rather be locals, even if just for a day or two, than tourists.  We’re that way, and if the last two years are anything to go by, many of you are too. What our guests really want to know is: where do we go when we have a night off? Where do we shop, swim, hike? They want the skinny on what locals do in their spare time, so that they, too, can be locals for a short time. So having spent two years giving guests our version of what makes the Berkshires cool, we’re going to write about it and put it online, to help you plan your trip or help you decide whether or not you’d like to explore this area.

Our new blog will be going live soon and you’ll be able to access posts from this page, Facebook and twitter. Stay tuned.




For we are jolly good fellers

Sunday April 7, 2013

The Briarcliff Motel

 After almost two years, we’ve finally got the chance to do something about the landscaping.

If you’ve stayed with us, you’ll know that Clare has hated the out-of-context-landscaping in front of the motel since the day we first drove up with our realtor to view the property. You may even have heard her early morning tirade – a bit like Muttley out of Wacky Races: ‘Rassin’ frassin’ bushes-ugly-landscaping’.

Sorry if it disturbed the peace of your breakfast.

Those strange, pointy shrubs (around 100 of them) divided local opinion somewhat. One local luminary told us that we shouldn’t touch them because they were ‘iconic’. Or she might have said ‘ironic’, we didn’t quite catch it. But it doesn’t matter, because they’re neither. Another told us that her sister felt so connected to those shrubs that she genuinely believed that her life force depended on them. Hmmm.

Well our patience finally ran out, and on Wednesday our pal Paul (who farms a beautiful corner of Alford, on the other side of Monument Mountain) drove the nine miles to the motel on his tractor. He got here in 45 minutes, which we thought was quite good. He popped up the shrubs in no time and by the end of the day it was as though they’d never been there.

Things are a bit barer for now but we hope that the new look will take shape quickly: it’ll be more connected to the mountain, more in keeping with the interior, with more and better outdoor seating and a fire pit to congregate around on chilly evenings. And importantly for us, it will make it clearer from the road that this isn’t just your usual run-of-the-mill motel. We hope you’ll all be as patient with our work-in-progress as you were when we were building our guest space last year. It’ll be worth it, we promise.

Local reaction was immediate. It looked as though the UPS guy was going to crash his truck as he sped down the driveway, his head on a swivel: ‘So you guys are taking out those bushes?’ ‘Yep.’  ‘Every one?’ ‘Every LAST one.’ ‘Good for you, I never liked them.’ Later in the day, we got a call from someone who introduced themself as a neighbor: ‘I see you’re having a big fire.’ Uh-oh. Here comes the complaint about smoke. ‘Yes, we’ve pulled out all the bushes from the front.’ ‘I just wanted to say well done. I hated those things.’

As yet, we haven’t heard from the sister whose life force is connected to the bushes.