At the end of my trip to New York we decided to head upstate to Phoenicia (pronounced fen-e-sha – I did not know this when trying to book train tickets). In the heart of the Catskills mountains it was the perfect place to get away from the crazy hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Last time I was staying in New York I hopped on a train and went out to a town in Long Island – I can’t remember the name but it was such a contrast to the city that I was adament that once again I would escape the city even just for a few days.
My criteria for my escape was as follows:
- Small – I had done big and I was ready for rural, very rural.
- Accessable by public transport – I didn’t want to hire a car so access by coach or train was a necessity.
- Close to mountains – As it was the start of the year I was very much up for doing healthy things such as hiking and without a car I needed the mountains to be close.
- Affordable accomodation – I knew this trip was going to be at the end of my holiday and money was going to be tight. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a hotel. The hotel also needed to be walkable from the train/bus station.
- Close – Although I was ready for an escape I was aware that once I got back to the city a 8-10 hour plane ride awaited me. I didn’t really want to spend longer than 3 hours on a coach/train.
- In the Catskills – I had heard these were some of the closest mountains to New York and a mountain was what I wanted.
Having wrung out Google and Timeout for their winter gettaways I came across Trailways a coach service that went to the heart of the Catskills. I toyed with the idea of staying in Woodstock (home of the iconic festival) but decided it was too big and not close enough for hikes. A couple of stops down was Phoenicia. I subsequently came across this blog from Escape Brooklyn. It seemed like it was written for me!
I quickly booked the local hotel and the Trailways coach and hoped it was a good as the blogs I had read about it.
I can tell you know it was. Here is my low down of where I stayed and what I did and would recommend doing:
- The Graham & Co. – We stayed here and I would highly recommend. Probably more of an upmarket hostel than a hotel but decorated so beautifally it didn’t matter. We stayed in the bunk house with shared bathrooms and it worked perfectly.
- Tavern 214 – I have never felt more welcome in a restaurant/ bar and it was such a contrast to the city that I fell in love with this place. Vivian was so friendly behind the bar and clearly there were a number of local that regularly spent an evening there. We ate here both nights and have no regrets.
- Phoenicia Diner – One of the great things about the hotel was that they offered bikes to borrow (although word of warning: these bikes have no breaks and no gears!). After a bit of confusion about not needed bike locks (even in rural England you need bike locks!) we cycled about 10 minutes to this upmarket diner. I had wanted to have a least one portion of waffles during my time in the US and I knew a diner was the place to go. I was relieved that this was described as an ‘upmarket diner’ because a previous experience of a diner still makes me feel a bit sick it was so stodgy! They didn’t disappoint and I would highly recommend the walk of cycle to this place.
- Brios – we were recommended this place for it’s pizzas but we didn’t have enough evening meals to try them out (we had also rather over done the pizzas during our time in the City!). We did however go in for brunch and had some rather delicious pancakes (top tip: you are given a massive stack of pancakes and you could really do with sharing your plate rather than one each!).
- Hiking – We arrived at Lunchtime and decided to embark on a short hike along the Tanbark Trail as the weather was glorious. I think this hike only took an hour and a half and although steep in places the view from the top over Phoenicia is definitely worthwhile. The next day after we had visited the diner we went on a longer hike, which you could get to by bike – 6 miles in total up Mount Tremper. Having misunderstood the sign we didn’t quite make it to the top (I was afraid it would get dark and we had to cycle home without lights) but the walk itself was enjoyable and the views were glorious. We had some trouble with sheet ice covering the trail but apart from that the walk was very enjoyable.
I would love to go back here and explore further. I would highly recommend coming off season (we were lucky that there hadn’t been any snow so it wasn’t full of skiers) but I think it would be equally nice in the summer, although you may have to fight off the holiday makers!