leisure 03.21.12

Out of Town
Walking Off the Big Apple

WASHINGTON D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks
Washington D.C. is famously a magnet for windy gasbags, yet it is possible to find fresh air if you know where to look. Dumbarton Oaks is one spot in that city reliably offering tranquility and beauty. Located in Georgetown, the house was bought by Robert Woods and Mildred Barnes Bliss in 1920 and filled with their collection of Byzantine art. In 1963, Philip Johnson added a wing for their Pre-Columbian art. It is now owned by Harvard.

Go for the art, by all means. But stick around for the gardens. Originally designed by Beatrix Farrand, the original 53 acres have been split up a bit, but 27 acres remain as a public park and it is gorgeous from every corner and path and vista. At cherry blossom time (nowish), it's almost overwhelmingly beautiful.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Just L Modern Antiques
If New Hampshire's White Mountains are on your travel list, you're probably psyched for hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter. The area is catnip for vistaphiles.

A stop in Littleton, though, for those who view shopping as a sport, is likely to be the high point of your trip. That's because Lance Williamson's shop, Just L Modern Antiques, has one of the best troves of Mid-Century Modern furniture, lighting, and accessories—at the most reasonable prices—that we've come across in many a moon.

The selection, of course, changes over time, but you're likely to run across stacking Danish 1960's rosewood tables, barware, clocks, lamps, artwork, and vintage games.

So, sure, go for your hike. You'll find us on a whole different kind of adventure.

Probably we couldn't get you to go to Israel for the food. But how about Philly?

Zahav, which opened in 2008, serves contemporary Israeli dishes alongside those from its regional neighbors. Whether it's a sweltering in July or snowing in January, or you want a special place to celebrate Passover, what comes out of the kitchen is Middle Eastern soul food.

Start your meal with Laffa bread, pita baked in a taboon, and a choice of hummus. If you've gotten used to supermarket hummus, you're in for a shock at how delicious hummus can be. The eight small salads that make up the salatim are served in a small oval dishes suspended on a rack. You'll only get a few bites from each, though the variety of ingredients and spicing make the whole more satisfying than the sum of its parts.

How you build the rest of your meal—mezze, meat, and fish—can go any number of ways without going wrong. Your choices include halumi cheese, house-smoked sable, lamb, branzino and much else. Zahav has a wide-ranging wine list, including a strong showing of boutique Israeli wines, as well as ten or so interesting cocktails.

The restaurant is stylish, service is warm, and the views out the large windows give the impression that you're on a leafy college campus. True, it doesn't look like Jerusalem, but it's not exactly Philly, either.

NEW YORK: Saugerties Lighthouse
The light keepers first illuminated the lantern of the Saugerties Lighthouse on the Hudson River in 1869. The keepers changed over the years, but not much else did until 1954, when the light became automated. The Lighthouse itself fell, predictably enough, into disrepair.

The stalwart captain's friend was recommissioned in 1990 and restored to its original condition, except for the change to a solar-powered beacon. Well, original condition, different purpose: it's now a bed and breakfast with two bedrooms and some gorgeous views of the Hudson.

Since this is not exactly conventional innkeeping, there are a few things to know in advance: To get the B & B, it's a half-mile walk on an easy trail. Yes on heat in winter, no on AC in summer. There's one shared bathroom only and the toilet is a composting unit. The lighthouse island is open to the public, so don't count on daytime solitude, especially in summer. Rooms are $225 for two people a night, plus breakfast, and you need to book well in advance. We'd round up a couple of friends and get both rooms.

Cultural and literary notes, plus self-guided walks, courtesy of Walking Off the Big Apple, a strolling guide to New York City.

In the House of Francesca Woodman

For a proper appreciation and assessment of an artist's long-lasting value in art, it's best to begin with a coherent body of work, one that demonstrates a confidence of style or technique or idea, or, preferably, some combination of all of these traits. The meaning of the work can shift over time, of course, as new viewers see the art through the lens of their generational perspectives. Many artists take decades to achieve such a confidence or coherence, but exceptional and gifted souls can take quick flight.

Take the example of Francesca Woodman, whose beautiful photographic works from the mid- to late 1970s currently line the Annex Level 4 galleries of the Guggenheim Museum. She chose herself as her main subject, "a sculptural prop" in the words of curator Jennifer Blessing, dissolving and merging with wallpapers and fireplaces and other sensuous architectural interiors, most often in a state of decay. The daughter of artists, Woodman produced a work that is mysterious and informed, respectful of aesthetic traditions and yet defiant of conventional boundaries. She died in 1981 at the age of 22, a suicide, a tragic fact that's hard to keep at bay but often necessary while looking at these pictures.


Photo: Francesca Woodman
House #4, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print, 14.6 x 14.6 cm
Courtesy George and Betty Woodman
© 2012 George and Betty Woodman

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