Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Downtown In the Berkshires

Started a cloudy morning with a trip to downtown Lee, about 20 minutes or so from Pittsfield. Lauren lives just outside of Pittsfield proper in a recently-built house (she says it dates to 2000) on a country lane. It's so out in the country, there's a horse farm on the other end of the lane! We were greeted by horses grazing as Lauren asked a man working on a house near the road to move his construction equipment.

Lee is one of the many lovely old small towns in the Berkshire area. The main street mainly held cafes, antique and collectible shops, local clothing stores, and a very small Goodwill. We checked out the Goodwill first. They had a decent selection for a store that wasn't even as big as my bedroom at home. We didn't end up leaving with anything, though.

Our other stop in Lee was a lovely collectibles shop. We didn't buy anything there, either, but I did enjoy browsing. Their selection was similar to the Barrington Antique Center, in a far smaller and better-organized store. For some reason, they had a lot of large Mickey Mouse items. I saw two vintage Mickey phones, one that looked like it was more recent, and a Mickey gumball holder.

Since they were near-by, we next headed to the Lee Premium Outlets. Like the ones in Atlantic City, they're outlet stores for both fancy names like Banana Republic and Calvin Klein, and mid-priced stores like the Gap and Stride Rite. The outlets are situated on a hill near Lee...and they're huge! There's tons of stores, and even a food court. Also, unlike the outlet malls at Atlantic City and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, they're all in the same area, only separated by narrow roads. The other two outlet malls are spread out across busy highways and main streets that make it a pain to get from store to store.

We explored a couple of stores today. Our first stop was Bath and Body Works. I liked their new fall soaps, but not the sales that required you to buy five items or more. Lauren bought perfume sprays for her mom. I left empty-handed.

Didn't get anything at Dress Barn, either. I need sweaters, casual pants, dress pants, and a good winter dress or skirt. While they did have plus sizes, the sweaters were mostly huge, chunky knits, not a good idea with my weight. I couldn't find any dresses or pants in my sizes, and I just didn't see any skirts I liked. Lauren bought a new pair of dress pants for work.

I did better at Eddie Bauer. This store did have plus sizes, just mixed in with the regular sizes. After some digging around, Lauren and I both bought nice light-weight knit cardigans. She got leaf green. I got teal. I like sweaters for layering on errand runs in the spring and fall, when it'll often be in the 50's and 60's when I head out...and sometimes get into the 70's by the time I make it home.

We had lunch at That's a Wrap, a sandwich shop in the food court. We got there just as the lunch hour was beginning, and they weren't too busy. Lauren had The Berkshire (turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and apples) on a grilled pannini. I had the Thanksgiving Preview - cranberry dressing, turkey, stuffing, and lettuce on a whole wheat wrap. Yum. Tasty but very messy. We both got tiny cups of pasta salad with slices of olives hiding at the bottom.

After hitting the bathroom, we headed out. The heavy, dark clouds were slowly gathering, even as we made our way to historic Lenox. They were a lot busier than the Outlets or Lee were. There was apparently an art show going on in town.

We weren't interested in art. Our main reason for visiting Lenox was The Bookstore, a small shop on a side street surrounded by art galleries and boutiques. They mostly specialized in classic literature from local authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne. They did have a fairly decent children's selection. I was finally able to find Emily's Quest, the last story in Lucy Maud Montgomery's Emily of New Moon series, which I'd been looking for all over the place in Camden County.

We mostly just walked around Lenox after that, taking in the beautiful architecture. Most of the downtown seemed to have been built between about the 1770's and the early 1900's. The library in particular was a beautiful old building, I'm guessing dating to the town's founding in the 1700's. We strolled past residential homes and a cute little park with a small playground and baseball field. We took in a little toy store, The Gifted Child, on our way back. They had a nice selection of mostly games and educational items, but I also saw Calico Critters and a few Barbies.

We timed our walk perfectly. It had just started showering lightly as we made it back to the public parking lot where Lauren had her car. As we jumped in the car and Lauren was pulling out, the shower picked up considerably. It was coming down pretty well as we headed down the road to the Chocolate Springs Cafe. This unique coffee shop mostly sold fancy chocolates in every flavor imaginable, from sea salt to pumpkin spice. Alas, the chocolate was also very expensive, and quite out of our budget.

We just dodged more heavy showers and school buses as we headed back to Pittsfield, stopping at a row of mail boxes so Lauren could get hers and her parents' mail. Lauren's parents were slicing rutabagas for dinner later in the week when we arrived. They smelled surprisingly good as they cooked.

We spent the rest of the evening playing Mario Party 8 (the computer-controlled Boo beat both of us at Captain Goomba's Boardwalk board) and Kirby's Return to Dream Land (we got through the first two worlds - I especially enjoyed playing the huge, mallet-wielding King Dedede). We watched vintage 80's wrestling featuring one of Lauren's favorites, the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, while eating chicken noodle soup, cottage cheese, and slices of turkey deli meat for dinner. After that, I hit the shower while Lauren listened to online big band and 20's jazz radio stations.

Right now, we've still got the station on, making pleasant background music while we chat online. Tomorrow, we'll take in a farm market at her local mall and drive into Vermont to explore the Vermont Country Store.

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