The Directrice’s Go Bag

Rather than make you guess, I’m just going to tell you where The Photographer and I are. We are in the Berkshires, escaping the heat of Washington, D.C. for a few days.

Having experimented over the last five years with an efficient, summer vacation wardrobe, I take the same clothes with me for these trips to New England.
My Go Bag includes:

  • four sundresses, with an emphasis on Liberty prints;
  • white cropped jeans;
  • a fitted denim jacket;
  • fun sneakers;
  • patent leather sandals.

Plus, other stuff (2 pairs of pants, 3 sleeveless tops, a jersey column style dress, athletic sneakers) — the trips is 8 days long.

I don’t think that’s a typical Go Bag; gingham dress (seen by you in 2016 and 2020) with camo sneakers works

We are staying in Pittsfield, at a hip hotel — Hotel on North — which puts us in easy striking distance of North Adams, Williamstown, Lenox, and Great Barrington. Pittsfield presents many contrasts with the resort towns to the south and west. Formerly a bustling agricultural hub and light industrial city, Pittsfield saw its fortunes decline after WW2, probably hitting rock bottom in the 1990s. It began a well-deserved renaissance in the 2000s, only to see setbacks in the last year. The Photographer doesn’t know what to make of it, but I like it. I have a soft spot in my heart for New England’s struggling and re-inventing small cities and towns.
Will there be a bathroom on the boat?
For Day 1, The Photographer booked a trip down the Housatonic River.
I packed a change of clothes for our sail and wondered if my Nikes would provide adequate traction on the deck.

I should have known, when The Photographer referred to it as a “float” rather than a “sail,” that I was not in the right headspace. Turns out, our craft was a raft.
Our guide was gobsmacked when I asked for a life-vest because the Housatonic, right now, is only 2-3 feet deep in most spots and the current is just enough to keep the water from being stagnant. Again, how was I to know?
“So, no bathroom on the raft?” she asked

The float was great fun and our gregarious guide was knowledgeable about all the local wildlife. We saw an eaglet and two blue herons. I have decided that The Photographer and I should become birders. This seems like a good interest to cultivate: outdoors, quiet, portable.
As is my custom, I insisted on a downtown walk to see the civic buildings of Pittsfield. These are the courthouses.
Probate and deeds are handled in this handsome Romanesque building
Everything else happens here . . . except juvenile justice, which is administered in an unprepossessing storefront on North Street

Yesterday, we visited the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. Art historians and museum enthusiasts take note: If you haven’t been, it’s worth the trip — regardless of your starting point. This museum was endowed with the fortune and art collection of one of the heirs to the Singer sewing machine family, Sterling Clark, and his wife, Francine. Over several decades, The Clark has grown into a significant research center (in partnership with Williams College) and incubator of contemporary art. The permanent collection is comprised largely of paintings from the late 19th Century and early 20th Century but includes much earlier works. The Clarks’ favorite painters, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (an interesting pairing), are heavily represented.
The Directrice looking at a ghostly landscape by George Inness
The Photographer and The Directrice watching a piece of conceptual art; our heads are casting a shadow in the lower right corner

The Clark is surrounded by an enormous park, crossed by trails that include a circuit of large scale sculptures that will change — all part of an exhibit called Ground/works. Much of this campus is populated by cows, who are described in the brochure as “friendly, but prefer not to be approached.” How the Clark staff came to those particular conclusions, I’d like to know. Here I am approaching the top of the property, wishing I could pet the cows. I am missing Mr. Orange and Philo!
Directrice in the very harsh light of day; The Clark’s three buildings, plaza, and reflecting pools are in the background

The Photographer is shielding me from the sun
Here is another sundress, previously seen by you in 2019.
Nothing is more comfortable for sightseeing than a full-skirted cotton dress. It packs well, too.
Hot tip: Choose a dress with a print that includes some white and your sloppy sunscreen application won’t show around the neckline and armscyes.

You know how event photographers know not to photograph guests holding drinks? That trick is not just for professionals. Here, I am using my mask to camouflage my Diet Coke.
A Liberty-print soda cozy

The cows are barred from wandering into the fountains and parking areas around The Clark by a utilitarian installation work — a fence! — called Teaching A Cow To Draw by Analia Saban.
Different sections of this split rail fence show different techniques for achieving perspective.
A one point perspective, I believe

Several perspectives, including orthogonal perspective
Not sure about this one; it looks like convergence but I don’t know

Here is my hottest tip for travel to the Berkshires. Make all your dinner reservations well in advance and confirm them (in advance) with a phone call to the restaurant. Fine dining seems to be a competitive sport in the Berkshires and the competitive instincts and training of visitors to this resort region are intensified by the fact that many restaurants close at 9:00 p.m. and are closed entirely on Sundays and Mondays.
We made our reservations through Resy and somehow the site allowed us to book a reservation at Prime Italian Steakhouse* on a Sunday night, when the restaurant is closed on Sundays. Womp-womp.
Asking our hotel at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday night where we could eat that evening without a reservation drew a blank stare, but the clerk rallied and suggested the local Thai restaurant or a restaurant with a Scottish name that serves Italian food. I think the choice was clear.
To Vong’s we went

Perhaps not the most elegant entrance, but delicious food
Vong’s had no seated dining (a pandemic accommodation or cost-saving measure), but allowed takeout customers to sit in their small outdoor seating area. The food was delicious and the staff were extremely gracious.
More soon on our other micro-adventures!

* The name sounds dubious, I know. It’s actually Prime Lenox (subhead: Italian Steakhouse). Does that make it sound better? I’m not sure, but it draws excellent reviews.

9 thoughts on “The Directrice’s Go Bag”

  1. I do love your sundresses in this post!
    You are a mere hop, skip, and jump from me (in Albany, NY). I hope you’re enjoying Tanglewood. We were just there on Saturday night. If you and The Photographer are bored, please reach out (you have my email). And thank you again for the blog shout-out. I’ll be posting something soon.

    • WE WERE AT TANGLEWOOD ON SATURDAY NIGHT! A Directrice near-miss! Think of how shocking it would have been if you’d seen me . . . to have me materialize on YOUR STOMPING GROUND. So sorry to miss you!

  2. yay for birders! a long-held (and nerdy) pastime in our family — we make our way to Cape May Point every fall to witness the migration of songbirds, hawks, and monarch butterflies. i’ve been birding since I was a kid — it’s an amazing perspective on all kinds of landscapes.

    gorgeous printed dresses, great advice. enjoy the getaway!

  3. I have a similar fondness for those scrappy towns of NE and spent a lot of time at the Clark with the kids while they attended Williams. Also adore MASS MoCA, maybe my favorite regional museum in the US. And I love your weekend capsule collection, although I rarely wear dresses. Where did you end up staying? And do you recommend it?

  4. Lovely dresses and travel packing advice. The Clark museum is a wonderful place and the surrounding landscape is an added delight. You look happy in all that bright sun, but what I want to know is ” where is your hat ? “

  5. The “Clark” is going on my list of things to do in New England. I assume that’s “Clark” of the Coats & Clark thread people.
    I have a new rain poncho from J. Crew that I ordered after spending a couple of days in New Hampshire under a $4 piece of plastic that I had to tie around my neck. We didn’t go last year and the need for rainwear had faded from my memory. I don’t know how my phone knew it should show me that poncho, while I was sitting on a porch with water dripping all around me, but it did and a sale was made on the spot.


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