I didn’t want to think about it but I only had two more days with Maxime and then he would be leaving New York. He told me yesterday when we were together. We were both sad about it and wished that he could stay indefinitely.
Today, we are going taking a day trip to Sleepy Hollow, NY and I’m pretty excited about it. The village is It’s known as the setting of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” And he’s buried in the cemetery there. It’s less than an hour’s drive from New York City.
Maxime rented a car. And after meeting him in the lobby of his hotel, we’re off for our little adventure. It’s a beautiful and mild, sunny day. No need for jackets or sweaters.
“We have a full day ahead of us,” he told me. “First, we’re going to Tour Kykuit Estate which is the mansion owned by Rockefeller family but open to the public. Then, we’re going to visit the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where we will see the Sculpture of Headless Horseman. After we leave there, we’ll go to the Headless Horseman Bridge and then, have lunch. Afterwards, we will go to the Philipsburg Manor, then the Old Dutch Church followed by Washington Irving’s Sunnyside Home and the Lighthouse.”
“Wow. Sounds like we will have a very busy day.”
“Yes. It’s going to be a full and fun day. We can rest up when we have lunch somewhere close to one of those sites.”
On our drive there, we talked about all the things he and I had done so far. I could tell that even though he had been to New York before, this was by far the best time he had ever had and I knew it had to do with me. I had been living in New York for ten years but had never really been anywhere until I met him. Being with him was like being on a romantic adventure.
Some time later, as we walked towards the Rockefeller Estate which stood six stories high with its impressive façade and stone archways adorned in ivy and surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds, I couldn’t help wondering if it was anything like Brierwell Manor which I was hoping to visit one day.
The drawing-room was a cozy, sophisticated, Victorian or Georgian style room. I could picture Maxime at home in such a room. We saw John D. Rockefeller’s desk and the chair he once sat in. There were photos of his family on the desk, an old telephone, an appointment book and other knickknacks. The dining-room was magnificent and a lovely chandelier suspended over it. It was roped off but we were still able to enjoy its features. There were six chairs at the table. Behind the table were doors facing a view of a garden, I think. On the left was a fireplace over which hung a portrait of Rockefeller. On the right was a table with ornaments and a clock on it. At the rear on the right was an arch. I wondered where it led to. I imagined Maxime having dinner in a room like this.
We visited the terraced gardens which included a Morning Garden, Grand Staircase, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, Japanese-style brook, Japanese Tea-house, large Oceanus fountain, Temple of Aphrodite, loggia and a semicircular rose garden. I wondered if Brierwell Manor has such lovely gardens. Before we left, we lingered for a moment to admire the view from Forecourt. What a treat it must have been to wake up to that every morning, especially on a bright, sunny day.
My heart pounded with excitement as we walked through the main entrance to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. We visited the Helmsley mausoleum, the final resting place of Harry and Leona Helmsley which featured a window showing the skyline of Manhattan in stained glass. We paused at the Headstone of Washington Irving. The highlight for me was the statue dedicated to the Headless Horseman. Sleepy Hollow owed its fame to the timeless story of the Headless Horseman so it seemed right for the town to paid tribute to the by erecting this rust-colored, metal-plated statue. Maxime took a photo of me in front of it. We took more photos on the Headless Horseman Bridge.
It was after twelve, so we went to a place called, Horsefeathers where we had lunch. I had the chicken Shepherd’s Pie which I thoroughly enjoyed and Maxime had the Shell Steak. For dessert, we both had the peach cobbler.
An hour and half later, we went to Philipsburg Manor, a historic house where, in, 1750 twenty-three enslaved men, women and children lived and worked. For more than thirty years, Frederick Philipse and his wife, Margaret and later his son Adolph shipped hundreds of African men, women, and children as slaves across the Atlantic. The farm featured a stone manor house filled with a collection of 17th and 18th century period furnishings, a working water-powered grist mill and a millpond, an 18th-century barn, a slave garden and a reconstructed tenant farm house. There were people dressed in costumes, reenacting life in pre-Revolutionary times by doing chores, milking the cows and grinding grain in the grist mill. I thought about the slaves who were sold like cattle and treated worse than animals. It made my blood boil.
When we visited the Old Dutch Church, we learned that it was designed and funded by Frederick Philipse. The church was made famous because it was mentioned in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as a setting and site connected with the Headless Horseman. Inside, the church was small and modest looking. Its ornate wooden pulpit was raised with a short spiral stairway leading to it. A pipe organ is located at the rear. Maxime and I sat in one of the pews for a short while. Bright light streamed through the windows. I liked being there–it was so peaceful.
Washington Irving’s Sunnyside Home reminded me of something out of a fairytale. We went into his study. There were two chairs at his desk and a bookshelf lined with books. I was tempted to sit in his chair. I imagined him sitting there writing The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.” I really liked the Piazza overlooking the Hudson River. Did Irving sit out there often or entertained guests there? Our last stop was the kitchen which I imagined was once bustling with life as meals were daily prepared for the family and for guests.
Our last site was the Lighthouse. We went to Kingspoint Park and after parking the car in the lot, it us a few minutes to walk through the park to the lighthouse. Unlike other lighthouses, Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse had its living quarters inside the actual lighthouse. There is one big room at the entrance which was the living area. There is another floor in the middle which was used as sleeping quarters. And a third floor was used for additional sleeping space and a study.
What would it have been like to live there, I wondered. Must have been quite an experience. What a treat it would have been to see the sun rise and set over the river.
It was after five when we returned to the Kingspoint Park. What a wonderful day it had been. Although a bit pooped from all the sightseeing, I was truly sorry that it was over.
Maxime held the door open for me and I got in. He smiled at me as he got behind the wheel, making my heart skip a beat. Soon we were on our way back to New York City.
He turned on the radio and a song I have never heard before was playing. I listened to the words. The tunnel took me there to the land of light. It sounded sad too. “That was such a beautiful song,” I said when it was finished.
“Yes,” he agreed. “It was my wife’s favorite song.”
I felt as if my whole world had come crashing down around me. “You’re married?”
“I was married but my wife died.”
Relief washed over me although I was sorry for his loss. “I’m sorry. How-how did she die?”
“It was a car crash. It happened when I was in Paris on business. The car had gone over a ravine and exploded. They found a body but it was charred beyond recognition.”
“I’m so sorry,” she said reaching out and touching his arm. Although he sound so detached, she knew that it must be painful for him to talk about it. “It must have been horrible for you.”
“Yes, it was.”
“Hearing the song just now must have brought back a lot of memories.”
I didn’t ask him if he loved his wife. He must have. Instead, I changed the subject. “I have a wonderful time today.”
He glanced at me. “So, did I.”
I thought we were heading back to his hotel where I would take a taxi home but, we went instead to Le Coucou (The Cuckoo), a very chic French restaurant. Over grilled lambchops and roasted duckling, we talked about our excursion to Sleepy Hollow.
I said to him, “I’ve read only two books by Washington Irving–The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. What about you?”
“Yes, I’ve read The Devil and Tom Walker. The story begins with the legend of the pirate William Kidd who is rumored to have buried a large treasure in a forest in colonial Massachusetts. He made a deal with the devil to protect his money. The devil’s conditions are unknown. Kidd died never having reclaimed his money but the devil has protected it ever since. The story continues around 1727 with Tom Walker, a greedy and a selfish miser who cherishes money. His wife was a shrewd and equally greedy. The Adventure of the German Student, is about a young German man named Gottfried Wolfgang. One stormy night on his way home to his apartment in Paris, France, he meets a woman who claims she doesn’t have friends, family or a home. And Bracebridge Hall which he wrote under his pseudonym, Geoffrey Crayon. The Bracebridges are a fictitious wealthy family living in the English countryside with their servants.”
“Those all sound very interesting, especially the one about the German student.”
“It’s a supernatural story which addresses mental illness.”
“Really. Now, I really intrigued.”
He looked at me. “Perhaps one of these days I could lend it to you.”
“Yes, when you’re back in New York.”
“Or when you’re in London. Have you thought any more about what I said about studying in London?”
“Good. Now what would you like for dessert?”
I looked at the menu. “The pistachio ice cream.”
“Good choice. I’ll have one too.”
After truly wonderful dinner, we walked to the car, holding hands. We drew a few curious stares but I didn’t care. I was on cloud nine. He opened the door for me and we exchanged smiles before I got in. It was still bright. The sun wasn’t going to set until two hours from now. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I tried not think about how miserable and empty my life was going to be when he was gone.
Sources: Time Out; Planet Ware; Horsefeathers; 4WWL; Daily Mail; Historic Hudson Valley; Wikipedia; Times Union; Trip Advisor; Wikipedia; Wikipedia; Historic Hudson Valley; Light House Friends; Been There Done That Trips; Course Hero