The Briary

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Do you have a pool?

Wednesday August 17, 2011

The Briarcliff Motel

...a question we've been asked a fair few times on the phone this summer. At first we would apologise for lacking this essential amenity but then we thought, hang on a minute, why would you come to an area so blessed with hills, lakes and ponds, and then opt to stay somewhere that yes, has a pool, but entails swimming alongside a major road, downwind of a fast food restaurant and a filling station?

The Berkshires IS The Great Outdoors: cabin life, hiking, cycling and swimming amidst beautiful scenery. So now we say, yes, we do have a pool - it's Benedict Pond, around seven minutes’ drive from here. (Three-and-a-half minutes if Clare’s at the wheel.) It’s in the forest, the setting is amazing and the water temperature’s in the 70s at this time of year. There's a swimming beach and changing rooms. You can even buy a bundle of firewood so you can really get back to the pioneering spirit.

If you don’t like getting wet, it's a great place to take out a kayak instead, as no motor boats are allowed.

Just a little further is Lake Mansfield, which is passionately preserved by the locals and where you can take your kids for swimming classes.

And when winter comes, be it in August or December, you can swim with the locals at our community center pool, just two minutes down the road. Ask us about it and we’ll set it up for you.

Whale watching in the Berkshires

Saturday August 6, 2011

The Briarcliff Motel

Monument Mountain is a place of spirit, mystery and legend. And it’ll fill your field of vision when you look out of any of the front facing windows at the Briarcliff. In fact the trailhead parking lot is just a New York minute from here. Whatever that means.

Perhaps the most famous Monument Mountain story is that it sparked the creation of Moby Dick, after a hike that local writers Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne took there one day. Clare and I prefer the populist version: following the kind of short, sharp shower you only see in the Berkshires, Nate and Hermie were mushrooming at the foot of the Mountain. Shortly after dining on their crop of strangely shaped fungi, their sense of perception went a little crazy: “Hermie, man, look at the summit. It’s, like, turned into the back of a huge white whale. Watch out! It’s gonna blow!”

“Must go, Nate…writer’s block…just starting…to clear…”

Disappointingly, what’s more likely is that the inspiration for the book came during a regular picnic hike attended by local writers, professionals and thinkers, during the 1850s, including Hawthorne and Melville. Another member of the group was the Great Barrington writer and lawyer, William Cullen Bryant, who paid tribute to Monument Mountain in verse.

Each year, Hawthorne, Melville and their intellectual cronies are remembered on the first Sunday in August for “the most famous picnic in American literary history.” The annual hike takes place this Sunday, August 7, at 9:30 a.m. Unfortunately the closest and coolest place to stay, the Briarcliff, will be full on Saturday, but feel free to pop in and say hi, and scope out our rooms for your next visit. Maybe even book up for your own mystical mountain experience…