Tom has a work schedule that is the envy or pretty much everyone but a retiree.  My work schedule is much more traditional – Monday to Friday.  I work one Saturday a month and when I do, I get the Friday off to compensate for this.  I had to work on Saturday, June 4, so I had Friday the 3rd off.  While I wouldn’t want to work every single Saturday in my life, I do look forward to that one weekend per month where I can be off on Friday.  Tom is off every Friday himself, so we can often do something fun together and not have to deal with the usual crowds of the weekend.

This particular Friday was really nice.  Like so many other places in the world, our weather has been sketchy at best lately.  Our winter was pretty bad in comparison to a typical winter around here.  Spring seemed to not exist, other than cold, damp and rainy weather.  Then we had a brief heatwave, followed by another cold period.  It’s been strange.  This means that it’s important to embrace a day of nice weather whenever you can get it.  This is exactly what we did.  The sun was shining and it was slightly warm, but not unbearably hot.  Perfect!

I was perusing the 1000 Places To See In the USA and Canada Before You Die book and decided that today was the day that we’d start exploring things listed in this book.  Yes, yes, we’ve already seen a bunch of places in this book, but now we’re going to start over from scratch for the sake of this blog.  Since they were both listed in the book, I decided that we would go to the Culinary Institute of America for lunch and then walk around the trails of Mohonk Mountain House.  For those of you that like to keep score of things, after this adventure we’ve seen 2 of 1000 places, lol.

First?  Lunch at the Culinary Institute…or the CIA as it’s known locally.  That acronym sort of cracked me up the first time I heard it…the CIA, lol.  Although there are a few campuses around the country, our nearest CIA is located in Hyde Park, New York and is right along the Hudson River.  The location is absolutely stunning.  There are five restaurants on campus.  These restaurants are where the students are able to practice their cooking skills.  The Apple Pie Bakery has a wide variety of breads, desserts and lunch items.  St. Andrews Cafe has a farm-to-table philosophy and emphasizes healthier food.  Escoffier focuses on French cooking.  Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici has Italian cooking and American Bounty highlights the diverse food of the Americas.  Tom and I have been to each restaurant except for American Bounty, which we will visit one of these days.

This day in particular, we decided to visit the Apple Pie Bakery.  It doesn’t require a reservation and you can get a delicious lunch here.  I often get some sort of sandwich and split an order of French Fries with Tom.  The French Fries have truffle salt on them and are served with garlic aioli and are out of this world!  I’m usually drooling on my way to the CIA knowing that I’ll get these fries!  However, today, I decided to try something else.  I had a pizza that had a pretzel crust.  I’ve seen items served on pretzel bread lately so I wonder if this is a recent trend.   This was a phenomenal lunch!  I was full after two pieces of this pizza, though.  No problem, leftovers are always welcomed!  🙂

Anyway, here’s the pizza:

And as I’ve warned before, Tom has much more “sophisticated” taste in food than I do, so he ordered soft shell crab and then had a slice or two of my pizza.  He loved both very much.

Here’s his lunch:

We usually indulge in a small dessert whenever we’re at the CIA and today was no exception.  Never ones to resist the temptation of macarons, we ordered ourselves a bunch of macarons.  While they were fabulous, they weren’t the best ones we’ve ever had.  The best ones certainly would be from La Tulipe Bakery in Mount Kisco, New York.  At the CIA, we each had a honey-goat cheese one, I had a raspberry one, an orange one and a caramel one.  Tom had a coffee one as well as another that slips my mind.  YUM!

Presenting…the macarons!  And Tom’s dessert coffee!

After this wonderful lunch, we made our way over to the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York.  The drive out to New Paltz is very pretty.  We go to New Paltz a few times a year to check out their lovely downtown and to take part in the Taste of New Paltz.  However, we had never been to Mohonk Mountain House before.  We are both huge fans of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and like every other Hudson Valley resident, we tuned in when he visited the Hudson Valley.  I was in awe of how beautiful the Mohonk Mountain House was on the show and immediately went online to see if we could book a room there for the weekend.

Bad idea.

I’ll be gentle here.  It’s expensive.  Very very very expensive.  Like higher than a mortgage payment expensive.  Discouraged, I shared this tidbit with a few coworkers, who then told me that they believed that you could still wander the grounds.  This is what we decided to do.  After driving through a long, winding road, we finally found the entrance to Mohonk Mountain House, as well as a woman who blocked us from entering.  Very icily, she asked us riff raff, “May I *help* you?”  I replied, “We’re just wanting to hike on the grounds for a short while.”  While I was telling her this, she happily flagged in some cars from behind us.  Non riff raff, I reckon.  She replied to me, “It’s twenty dollars per person to enter the grounds.”  Sigh.  We paid the $40.  What could we do?  We didn’t want to turn around and we wanted to see the grounds, so we just bit the bullet.  Such is life.  She gave us wristbands to wear (so as to not allow us to partake in the perks of paying guests) and we were on our way in.

Was it worth it?

Oh heck, yes!  🙂

According to the 1000 Places book, what started out as a ten-room inn situated on 280 acres of land in 1869 is now errrr, much bigger!  There are 85 miles of trails on which the guests can hike, as well as dinner served in their elegant 1905 dining room and evening lectures and special-themed programs.  There are no televisions in the rooms and the emphasis is focused on slowing down.  Tom and I have no trouble slowing down, so I suppose we don’t really need to visit this place overnight!  lol.

Here’s Tom sitting on the rocking chairs situated on one of the decks.

What was he looking at?  Oh not much, only THIS STUNNING VIEW!!!!!!!!!!!!

We just walked wherever we felt like walking, following random bridges and trails.

And found view after stunning view!

Like this:

And this:

Gosh, sometimes the pictures just speak for themselves, don’t they!

We had even climbed some rocks at one point:

And after a few hours, eventually reached the inn again:

We then went up a treehouse and looked at some cool flowers in the garden before heading out.

So was it worth it?  Absolutely!  Obviously we already love the Culinary Institute and will go there again and again, but even spending the $40 at Mohonk Mountain House was worth it.  It was stunningly beautiful and I can only imagine how fantastic it will look this autumn with the foliage.  Would we go back?  Maybe once again in the fall, just to see it for ourselves!

So far we’ve seen 2/1000 things to see in the USA and Canada before you die!  Woo hoo!