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Some three hours northeast of Manhattan, the Lenox-Stockbridge section of the Berkshires is prized for its genteel countryside and cultural goings-on.
The main thoroughfare of the Berkshires is Route 7, running north from Great Barrington to Williamstown; in busy seasons, however, traffic can run bumper to bumper in Stockbridge.
CANYON RANCH What would the original owners of the stately 1897 mansion Bellefontaine think if they could see it today, as the centerpiece of the 120-acre Berkshires sibling of the Tucson spa? The programs at this 100,000-square-foot spa are the same: fitness and relaxation training, medical examination, treatments with practitioners ranging from music therapists to Chinese herbalists, behavior modification sessions, and other self-improvement stratagems. I wish I'd tried the $1,000 mind-enhancement program—it would have been nice to leave here in better shape and smarter. One caveat: The rooms don't match Bellefontaine's style. But, to be fair, that's not the reason you come. Three nights, midweek, $2,045; seven nights, $4,790. Rates include meals. 165 Kemble Street, Lenox; 413-637-4100; www.canyonranch.com.
THE RED LION INN This ca. 1773 property is a Stockbridge classic. Of particular note: the porch with rockers and the common rooms decorated with 18th-century furniture and vintage Staffordshire and pewter. But the inn's 109 rooms are small and spare. Come for lunch or dinner, when you'll find good clam chowder, prime rib, coriander-dusted salmon, and a superlative apple pie ($72). $189-$425. 30 Main Street, Stockbridge; 413-298-5545; www.redlioninn.com.
MEADOWLARK This bi-level two-bedroom cottage on the Chesterwood estate was once the summer studio of Daniel Chester French. Owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it is administered by the Red Lion Inn. $375. Open June-Oct. Williamsville Road, Stockbridge; 413-298-5545.
WHEATLEIGH Modeled by Boston architects Peabody and Stearns on a 16th-century Florentine palazzo, this late-19th-century estate was always a work of art on the outside; it was the tired interior that needed help. Fortunately, architects Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown transformed it over a four-year period (Departures, November/December 2000). The house is now decorated in soothing tones of champagne, taupe, and khaki, with clean-lined furniture and luxe fabrics, such as the raw silk of the bedspreads and velvet covering chairs and banquettes. The largely European staff is smooth; views of the lake and mountains beyond the sloping lawns of the estate's 22 acres are nothing short of dreamy; and the kitchen, despite a few misses, is the area's best. Guests can enjoy the more casual menu of the Library: the quartet of soups; a bracing scallop, lobster, mussel, and clam "salsa." Desserts include Key lime pie and a buttery apricot tart. The formal dining room is reserved for chef Peter Platt's more elaborate preparations, such as tempura of soft-shell crab with a beet-soy reduction, fava-bean agnolotti with a curry emulsion, and roast rack of lamb persillé. Of special note: an intricate vegetarian tasting menu and a well-chosen cheese selection.
Best rooms: the two-level Aviary Suite, the Terrace Suite, and 2F, with three windows facing the mountains. $535-$1,175. Prix fixe: $82. Hawthorne Road, Lenox; 413-637-0610; www.wheatleigh.com.
BISTRO ZINC SoHo comes to the Berkshires. This suave room with red-leather banquettes, a painted tin ceiling, columns of light, and a backlit bar spotlighting artistically placed rows of bottles is a very different look for Lenox—not a piece of Colonial pewter in sight. The menu is also adventurous, even if it often promises more than it delivers: Quail with plums did not meld well with prosciutto di Parma and arugula; seared tuna with Vietnamese vinaigrette could have had more bite; a ginger-pear cake would have been much better warm than cold. Still, it's one of the best options in town. $70. Church Street, Lenox; 413-637-8800.
LYDIA MONGIARDO Exquisite collection of artisanal furnishings, jewelry, and clothing includes handstitched fabric bags ($350) and a red tortoiseshell lacquered table ($5,500). 51 Church Street, Lenox; 413-637-0809.
SIENNA GALLERY Fine handcrafted jewelry. $200-$20,000. 80 Main Street, Lenox; 413-637-8386; www.siennagallery.com.
UTE STEBICH GALLERY Surprising and often humorous contemporary and folk art. 69 Church Street, Lenox; 413-637-3566.
About This Guide
Prices In U.S. dollars.
Hotel Prices For high-season, double occupancy, from the least expensive double to the most expensive suite.
Restaurant Prices For a three-course dinner for two, without wine or service.
Telephone Numbers The area code for the Berkshires (Massachusetts) is 413; Bucks County (Pennsylvania), 215; Hunterdon County (New Jersey), 609; Dutchess County (New York), 845; the Hamptons (New York), 631; Litchfield County (Connecticut), 860.
Platinum Card Travel Service (PTS) or Centurion Travel Service (CTS) For travel assistance, call 800-443-7672 (PTS) or 877-877-0987 (CTS).
Disclaimer: The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication in October 2001, but we suggest you confirm all details with the service establishments before making travel plans.