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Merle Exit Tours Dutchess County Via Metro North

 Vacations don't have to be far away from home. I boarded a Metro North train from Grand Central Station to Poughkeepsie, the perfect destination to take in the best area of Dutchess County. The approximate two-hour non-bumpy ride brought me the view of the Poughkeepsie Bridge, over the Hudson and expanding onto the city of Highland.

Shadows On The Hudson drew me for lunch, as it appeared to have the best view of the Hudson River as well as a pretty good menu. As much as I was staring at the lobster dishes and various sandwiches, I opted for a Cobb Salad with a side of Sweet Potato Fries. Okay, maybe it´s not the healthiest choice, considering what I was really up there for, but these fries were freshly made and coated with cinnamon and sugar. I therefore passed on dessert.

This restaurant is actually part of a group with the abutting Grand View as their catering hall and the Grand Hotel, where I later checked in. The hotel is not a chain and retaining an “elegancy” without being too showy. I didn´t get a chance to dine there. However, I got that the food is the same quality as Shadows and Grand View. In fact, I got the inside info that a small group of employees make their way into Manhattan and local farms to pick out the best. The rooms: complimentary full breakfast; free Wireless Internet Access; refrigerator; microwave; and two telephones…just in case you happen to be on the thrown when the phone rings.

Due to some filming, I was unable to tour the FDR Home, but did get to see the FDR Library. It´s a museum that explores exhibits about the lives of the Roosevelt's, the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II. On my return, I will visit not only the FDR home, but also Eleanor's, the woman known as the “First Lady of the World”. Oh yeah, Esther was with me and enjoyed the attractions as well.

Although it wasn´t the best of days weather wise, I went to the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park. There is a “reception” building that houses a small exhibit on the various Vanderbilt Mansions, as well as the usual…but rather charming…gift shop. People come from as far as Connecticut just to walk around the pet friendly estate grounds. There is no charge to park or tour the grounds, but a ticket needs to be purchased for a 45-minute guided tour of what is the Vanderbilt´s “smallest” mansion.

Dinner was at their American Bounty Restaurant, where the dress code is a bit more classy. The chef sent out two sample-sized starters, one of a Louisiana Lump Crab Cake and the other, a salad of Frisee and Blood Orange with goat cheese, roasted almonds and a Garlic Vinaigrette.

I was able to choose my entrée and it boiled down to either the skate wing or rack of lamb. Lamb won. Now, here´s the funny. It was Lee´s birthday. I wanted to surprise her with a jar of vanilla rice pudding (the healthier choice). Her daughter Katherine purchased a cake from Apple Pie Bakery Café (another CIA restaurant). This layered cake had a creamy hazelnut topping, orange marmalade in the middle and almond paste at the bottom. Got it? We still ordered dessert! I had the warm chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream. As for the bakery, I did get some samplings of their cookies, pastries and truffles. Kudo´s to the chef who came up with these recipes!

The next day was spent first at Vassar College viewing their Art Museum and getting some info about their theatre. That was followed with lunch at Babycakes Café, where the chef was a graduate of the CIA. Cobb Salad…dessert to go. Great carrot cake cookie!

You can see the photos of my trip on my blogspot site and listen to an interview with Boot Camp Instructor Chef Skibitcky and Maitre d´ Instructor Heather Kolakowski on Whirl With Merle at

 Stay tuned for the day at Boot Camp!

By Merle Exit

Getting There:

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