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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Post by Susan Sklaroff: Annual Docent Trip

Two weeks ago, a group of our hardworking Rosenbach docents embarked on the annual docent trip. For the first time, this was an overnight adventure, with the Hudson River Valley as their destination. Rosenbach docent Susan Sklaroff has kindly given me permission to repost her blog entry about the excursion. Photographs are thanks to docents Jesse Ruhl and Barbara Zimmerman.

"I think one secret of a successful overnight trip is variety, and although three of our stops were museums, they were as different from each other as three museums could be.

We began with a visit to Sunnyside, Washington Irving's house in Tarrytown. It is a place of great charm, a kind of architectural emanation of the man, both romantic and welcoming. A cottage rather than the more usual mansion house-museum, its rooms seem cozy rather than small. Irving called it his "snuggery" and I, for one, was ready to move right in. Our tour was led by a guide in 19th-century costume, making us feel fortunate that the Rosenbach does not make that a requirement for us.

The next day we started off with the West Point Museum. In an imposing building on the edge of the campus, it was in the traditional mold. Visitors can go through the galleries on their own, but we were lucky enough to have the Director give us a personal tour. He was, of course, extremely knowledgeable -- but he was also sensitive to our group's interests. He knew that we preferred to learn about the history of the Military Academy as portrayed in the paintings on display rather than listen to a discussion about, say, the history of military helmets. We got to linger over some smashing examples of the Hudson Valley School as well as a full complement of portraits by early American masters.

That afternoon we went to nearby Storm King Art Center, where monumental modern sculptures are displayed outdoors in a natural setting of 500 acres. We had a beautiful day to explore the area by foot or to take the 40-minute tram tour.

Good destinations are essential for a good trip, but the pleasant, unexpected experiences help to make it memorable. On our first day, after Sunnyside, we went to the Antipodean Book Shop in Garrison, NY, which as its owner Dave Lilbrune says is an "old book" rather than a "rare book" store. It was an opportunity to pull 18th and 19th-century books off the shelf and page through them undisturbed and to talk about the book business with an expert. Beyond the bookstore on the banks of the Hudson, we got a chance to stroll with Dave and his boxer Winnie and get a view of West Point across the river.

And also thanks to Dave's recommendation, we had a superb dinner at the Garden Market, which opened especially for us on a Wednesday night. The only party in the place, we all sat around one table as dish after dish of locally-grown food (except for the salmon) was brought out and devoured. With plenty of good conversation and homemade apple pie for dessert, who could ask for more?"

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