A Worthwhile Road Trip To Celebrate Veterans Day

Few public inns in the United States can boast the patriotic pedigree of the Thayer Hotel at West Point.

We drove to visit the award-winning Thayer Hotel during the holiday season, and felt it especially appropriate to write about this unique hotel on Veterans Day, when we honor the members of the military that have gallantly served our country.

General Douglas MacArthur stayed at the Thayer whenever he visited the military academy. Dwight D. Eisenhower did the same – both as a general and as president of the United States. Four other presidents including John F. Kennedy enjoyed visiting the hotel – you will too.

The beautiful Hudson River Valley

It is little more than a one-hour drive along the Hudson River Valley to reach West Point from New York City. At the entrance to the military academy, you are required to stop at a small stone guardhouse. There you advise the sentry of your intentions to visit the hotel, and he or she will direct you to your destination atop a steep driveway to the right.

As you slowly drive up the hill, you are drawn to the many leaded glass windows of the fortification like building. You immediately sense that this is a special place, and it is.

The Thayer Hotel

Completed in 1926, the hotel is situated on a prominent bluff that offers breathtaking views of the Hudson River far below. As you walk the manicured lawn towards the adjacent woods on the riverside of the hotel, you will see many stone outcroppings – an assurance that the hotel, like the academy, is built on very firm ground.

There is a short marble staircase leading from the old wooden front door to the grand reception lobby. Flags decorate the overhead between the first and second floor of the hotel. There is a large fireplace directly across the room from the top of the entry stairs.

The whole picture is that of the interior of a castle or military fortification – yet at the same time, there is an extraordinary warmth about the lobby that is quite inviting.

Guest Room Dedication Program

We were at the Thayer to attend a ceremony where a guestroom is named after a distinguished graduate of West Point. Honorees are selected from academy graduates that have made significant contributions to the United States and the world.

The dedication program is part of a recent multi-million dollar renovation at the hotel. The program is a work in slow and deliberate progress of the hotel’s 151 guestrooms.

Honoring outstanding United States Military Academy graduates

The officer being honored with a dedicated room at the Thayer at the time of our visit was General Roscoe Robinson, Jr., a 1951 academy graduate, and the first four-star African-American general in the history of the U.S. Army.

General Robinson served in both Korea and Vietnam. He was the recipient of many service awards in his 34 years of service to his country. In April 2000, the USMA named a new auditorium in his honor. General Robinson died at the age of 64 in 1993.

We had an opportunity to chat with a few of the cadets that attended the dedication. The experience was refreshing and left us with an appreciation for the caliber of our future military leaders being schooled at West Point. They are bright, dedicated, and most impressively, patriotic.

The room we occupied during our stay was dedicated to Dr. Thoralf M. Sundt, Jr. of the class of 1952. The walls of this guestroom are filled with great period pictures of Dr. Sundt as the cadet that later became a pre-eminent brain surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. Other photos include Dr. Sundt’s family and one of him with President Ronald Reagan who was a patient in 1989. Dr. Sundt was the subject of a segment on “60 Minutes” before his death in 1992. He was just 62 years old.

Great place for conferences and reunions

While we were there, we also had an opportunity to talk with several alumni of the 101st Airborne who were attending a reunion at the hotel. It was an honor to meet these retired soldiers and defenders of our American way of life. Humble to a man, they came to celebrate life, but also to remember fallen comrades.

The Thayer has eight meeting rooms and six boardrooms and has become a favorite location for corporate conferences. What better place to instill team spirit and inspiration!

Duty, Honor, Country

Walking the Thayer’s historic hallways is a lesson in patriotism and heroism. There are pictures and mementos everywhere to remind visitors of the motto of West Point – Duty, Honor, Country.

Dining at the Thayer

The hotel’s MacArthur’s Restaurant is a stately dining room with leaded glass windows that in daytime cast an oneiric light on the walls and the historic photos of soldiers past, and in evening, add to the rich ambiance of the dining experience.

Glowing light from the vintage chandeliers enhances the pleasing sensation of a comfortable setting that is equally fit for a romantic rendezvous or an elegant social gathering.

There is also a cozy bar/restaurant at the Thayer. It is appropriately named “General Patton’s Tavern.”

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point  

We learned some interesting trivia while at the Thayer Hotel:

The military academy at West Point dates back to 1802. Since its inception, West Point has been in the center of U.S. history.

George Washington paraded his troops on these very grounds.

The USMA encompasses 25 square miles – a piece of real estate just a bit smaller than the island of Manhattan.

West Point graduates commanded troops on both sides of 55 of the 60 battles of the U.S. Civil War. Of the remaining five battles of the war, a West Point graduate commanded the troops on one of the sides.

Edgar Allen Poe attended one semester at West Point, and General George Armstrong Custer is buried there.

Two U.S. Presidents graduated from West Point, as did 18 NASA astronauts, 74 Medal of Honor recipients, and 3 Heisman Trophy winners – and scores of great statesmen, diplomats, business leaders, doctors, and engineers.

A hotel for all seasons

Our visit to the Thayer Hotel and West Point was in December, and even in the cold of winter, the terrain is magnificent to behold. We plan to return to West Point so we can savor the woodland setting in the green of summer – and the fall when the cool air creates a kaleidoscope of changing colors. This is a truly beautiful part of the eastern United States.

If you go

When you walk the land at West Point, you walk in the footsteps of many who gave all for their country. If you are an American, you are on hallowed ground.

The Thayer Hotel is a Historic Landmark Hotel. Staying at the Thayer is like living inside history.

Their website is full of information about the hotel and surroundings. Check it out at http://www.thethayerhotel.com

Happy travels!

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“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff. Photo of General Robinson courtesy of U.S. Army

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Stop off at the Chalet of Canandaigua on your drive between NYC and Niagara Falls

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

The chalet is in the Finger Lakes Region of New York

Eleven thousand years ago, glacial activity formed five lakes in the shape of outstretched fingers. American Indians believe the lakes came to be when the hand of the Great Spirit touched this beautiful land. Regardless of how they came to be, these lakes are a bountiful four-season delight for locals and visitors alike.

16-190-190-IMG_6789Our destination in the Finger Lakes was the Chalet of Canandaigua. We found it neatly tucked away along the west side of 16-mile long Canandaigua Lake.

13-125-125-IMG_6723The elegant rustic log cabin sits back from the road on 30 acres of pristine forest fronted by an expansive lawn, winding private road, and a tranquil pond.

15-165-165-IMG_6763This little gem was recommended by a reader, who turns out to have a keen eye for pastoral luxury.

We arrived for our visit in late fall. It was a chilly and rainy afternoon, and amiable Innkeepers Margaret and Pattie had a welcoming fire rumbling in the hearth. We immediately sensed this was a place we would be happy to write about.

About the chalet

07-093-093-IMG_6691The inside of the chalet is spacious, but exudes an air of intimacy. There are only three guestrooms, so it is possible to occupy the entire building for a family gathering. However, the chalet is popular, so it is necessary to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

04-067-067-IMG_6658Ours was the Lee Suite, but we would have been equally satisfied with either of the other two. The guestrooms are all spotlessly clean, and the king-sized beds and linens are first rate. Wireless internet access is available free of charge, as are little snacky-goodies.

02-005-005-IMG_6596Guests are free to roam the huge kitchen and enjoy a nosh at the table or counter. The kitchen is also a great meeting place…

03-059-059-IMG_6650…and the grand living room is ideal for games, chats or just relaxing in front of the fire.

06-079-079-IMG_6677The welcome room, where entering guests register, is the site of the DVD and print library, and a great place to find one’s personal serenity space.

Pleasing the palate

Many of the high-end bed and breakfast inns we review have superb bones and fine furnishings. The thing that separates the real thoroughbreds from the also-rans in this exclusive luxury B&B club is – the breakfast.

12-123-123-IMG_6721 The day-opening meal at the Chalet is beyond exceptional and exceeds extraordinary.

09-111-111-IMG_6709Take for example the Fall Bruschetta which consists of multi-grain cinnamon crostini with pear, fig, date, raspberry and caramelized walnut with pumpkin mousse – oh yeah.

10-37-16-16-IMG_6715Or how about Poached Bosc Pear in cranberry juice topped with cranberry crème fraiche, grapes, raspberry and toasted almonds – drizzled with pear sauce – oh boy.

11-121-121-IMG_6719We also enjoyed a Peach Prosciutto Croissant with an egg over-easy and gruyere cheese topped with a whole grain mustard-balsamic sauce, and a side of butternut squash triangles and blackberries. Off the planet!

The highly creative innkeepers pride themselves on never repeating a breakfast recipe for any guest.

The Finger Lakes Region is a four season destination

The Finger Lake business people plan early for active spring and summer seasons when vacationers enjoy excellent fishing, boating, golf, hiking, biking, water skiing, etc.

Judy Hartness BallooningIt is even possible to go hot air ballooning from the front lawn of the Chalet.

After a hectic summer, autumn is exceptionally beautiful as the lakes reflect the surrounding orchards and hills laden with fruit and forest trees anxious to show visitors their seasonal colors before they settle in for the winter.

01-01-01-IMG_4104Winters are cold, and the hills are alive with opportunities for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding and downhill skiing at Bristol Mountain.

There’s always something great to do in the out-of-doors of north-western New York State.

The region is also home to a burgeoning wine industry with guided and self-guided tours of the vineyards and wineries. Click on Canandaigua Wine Trail for a map and details.

If you are keen on horses, you can experience the thrill of 160-days of live thoroughbred racing at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack.

For more information about the Finger Lakes click *here*

The town of Canandaigua

What we noticed immediately upon entering the town of Canandaigua put a smile on our faces. The town was thriving! All too often as we drive through small-town America, that is no longer the case. We were glad to see over 100 shops, galleries and restaurants with clean windows and streets, all open and welcoming shoppers. Here’s a list of Downtown Canandaigua businesses.

Lake Canandaigua is an easy 45-minute drive from airports in Syracuse and Rochester. It is a 1.5 hour drive from Buffalo’s International Airport, and 2-hours from Niagara Falls. Take Exit 44 off the NY State Thruway (I-90). For an even more scenic drive take Routes 5 and 20, which run parallel to I-90.

Finding the Chalet of Canandaigua

14-129-129-IMG_6727The Chalet is located just minutes from town at 3770 State Route 21. For more information click on Chalet of Canandaigua.

05-069-069-IMG_6660Great news. The Innkeepers at the Chalet have been collecting TripAdvisor awards for some time. #1 B&B in Canandaigua, #1 B&B in the Finger Lakes Region. They recently emailed us with the exciting news that they have been notified of being awarded TripAdvisor’s 2015 Traveler’s Choice Award – #4 Best Inn in the United States! Way to go Pattie and Margaret! Well earned. Well deserved.

Happy travels.

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Wherever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff