Go West, Young Man - West New England, that is

A week roaming the western part of the region in Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont at the peak of the fall foliage season
Fall foliage was almost at its peak this week. Pat Brooks photo.

A drive through New England's beautiful fall foliage

A week roaming Lenox and Williamstown Massachusetts and Ludlow Vermont

It's been a few years since my wife and I went "leaf peeping" in the western part of Massachusetts and Vermont.

Fall foliage time is the most beautiful of New England seasons, and it began a couple weeks early this year as we discovered last week.

From the sweet aromas of apple orchards to the swirling of leaves in the wind, with over 7,000 miles of unpaved roads in Vermont alone, you are sure to be glad you came.

Western Massachusetts; Lenox

So hop in your car this week because the peak of the foliage is during the coming month, and it's easy to begin right here in Massachusetts. We took the Mass Pike to Lenox to begin our tour. The season starts in mid-to-late September, and peak color often coincides with Columbus Day weekend, but sure to make your inn reservations in advance as this is one of the most popular times to visit Western New England.

We headed first to Lenox and the elegant Gateway Inn for our first two nights. 

If you, like most hip travelers today, check on TripAdviser before booking, The Gateway Inn has remarkable reviews - 163 in all and 153 of them are rated Excellent and the remaining 3 Very Good - with none lower. 

Perhaps the reason is that owners Michele and Eiran are so welcoming, knowledgeable and very helpful with your plans during a visit to the Berkshires.

All the inn's rooms are named for a Shakespearean character to honor the local Shakespeare & Company. Our room, "Rosalind", was quaint, bright, and roomier than the photo on the website indicates with a great bed and a large Jacuzzi. The food matched the room's elegance - breakfast on both days was outstanding and dinner was delicious followed by desserts, cocktails and live jazz music in the inn's Piano Bar.

The restaurant, which is open to the public, is the best in Lenox.

This lovely in-town property is a member of the Select Registry of Distinguished Inns of North America.

After Lenox follow Route 7 North to Williamstown. An alternate is route 8 which runs from Sandisfield to Dalton and is a superb route between two state forests. Route 183, from Great Barrington to Lenox, follows the Housatonic River and passes through small villages. Take Richmond Rd., off Route 183, just south of Tanglewood, and stop at the overlook for views of the Stockbridge Bowl, the Norman Rockwell Museum and the southern Berkshire Hills. Route 43 East, off Route 7, is the lower road to Williamstown.

North to Williamstown Massachusetts

The drive from Lenox to Williamstown on Route 7 was a spectacular 45 minutes drive North, and this town came as a lovely surprise. It is the site of the heavily endowed Williams College which is rated as the nation's number one Liberal Arts College by U.S. News & World Report.

Williams is a small bucolic, ivy-walled college which means there are plenty of ethnic restaurants and coffee houses nearby, as well a one of the best lodges at which we have even stayed.

The Journey's End Lodge B & B. This unique hand hewn full log home is modeled after the Adirondack Great Camps located in the Adirondack Mountains. And the views from this gorgeous lodge are fantastic.

Our hosts Carlos and Alan are not simply great raconteurs, they are superb chefs. The breakfast is unbelievable, and this hard-to-find B & B attracts a special kind of guest.

We've visited over 130 countries so far, but never experienced a two-hour breakfast with conversation to equal the food.

The lodge is highly rated by others as well - their TripAdviser scores are all Excellent or Very Good. We stayed in the Mount Cobble suite which had a large sitting area, a queen-size bed, walk-in closet, and a private bath with Jacuzzi and a separate shower. The suites' picture window offers a gorgeous view of Mounts Adams and Cobble.

Be sure to spend a day in nearby North Adams, the home of one of the country's most unusual and pleasing installation art museums, Mass MoCA.

We also discovered a really great little restaurant here which will change your mind about vegetarian food. Eat to Total Health has allergy-free, healthy meals which fool your tongue into believing there is no meat, and the prices will blow your mind.

On to Ludlow Vermont

Although Fall officially arrived on Sunday, September 22, at 4:44 PM EDT, based on what has happened to our foliage the past few days, you would think the trees somehow knew that fall was officially here. More likely though it is the recent cool weather in the Northeast that has accelerated color change in this part of the country.

It's less than a two hour drive to Ludlow Vermont from here taking Route 7 to Manchester Center - one of Americas' best up-scale factory shopping areas - to route 44 to Londonderry and then north on route 100 to Ludlow and our last stop at The Inn at Water's Edge.

This charming inn is run by two of the friendliest and warmest innkeepers we've yet to run across. Tina's delicious meals are a treat and Bruce's humor is served up with breakfast and dinner which is included in your room rate. Innkeeper Tina Verdrager alternates the Inn’s wonderful menu daily with home-cooked classic dishes from local farms.

Less than 3 percent of the 29,000 restaurants approved by AAA make the Four Diamond list, but Tina's cooking makes that ranking.

Her husband Bruce Verdrager, is a natural-born wit and story-teller. They both make you feel at home in this authentic 150-year-old Victorian estate which has been lovingly restored.

Our room had a great Jacuzzi, and this waterfront property is also a member of the Select Registry of Distinguished Inns of North America.

From here we took two day trips, first a one-hour trip up Route 100 to Woodstock and later to Burlington. The latter was a little over two hours on scenic Route 7,

So gas up the family car (and the prices for regular in Vermont is a low $3.48 a gallon), and "Head West Young Man", West New England of course.

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