One thing I missed during the claustrophobic past year was actually walking into stores to browse, to touch and feel. I missed comparing a piece with another or laughing and opining with a shopping companion. But finally, the post vaccine days of exploration have arrived. No more curbside pickups if I don’t feel like it or, for that matter, ordering certain things online sight unseen!
We decided to take some shopping and browsing day trips over spring and summer to fulfill my desire to indulge in browsing and exploring in the open air.
On the Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail
We had done artists’ studio tours and pottery tours a few times during our years in London. We had always enjoyed them. Now was our chance to visit potters’ studios in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, a day trip from our home. We set out in the morning aiming to visit as many of the 20 potters located in nine different studios around I-91 in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in Western Massachusetts. Until the 1970s, this region of Massachusetts was the biggest producer of Asparagus in the country. Sadly, it’s no longer true. The town of Hadley is known as the asparagus capital of the world. So, I thought, what an opportunity for me to buy some farm fresh asparagus and visit the artists. Asparagus is my favorite vegetable. I add it to omelets and pastas and would eat it cooked in any style. But my family has drawn a line, no asparagus subji or asparagus curry.
Our first stop was in the town of Shelburne Falls. It’s a beautiful town with a quintessential Main Street on the banks of the Deerfield River. The town is famous for the Bridge of Flowers. It’s an old trolley bridge converted into a beautiful floral bridge with all kinds of flowers growing in abundance. You cross the bridge taking in the views of the mountains above, the river below, and the thousands of flowers surrounding you. We visited six potters in the area. It felt great to browse and shop the artists’ handmade things. More importantly, it felt great to meet new people and chat with strangers after a long time.
We visited a couple more potters in the Greenfield area. On the recommendation of one of the potters, we stopped at Greenfield Market for a sandwich. And no trip to the asparagus valley is complete without some farm fresh asparagus. We stopped at a farm stand near Hadley, “asparagus capital of the world,” for asparagus.
Brimfield Antique and Flea Market
This summer has sadly been extremely hot, humid, and rainy for us in Massachusetts. On one such hot and humid, but dry day, in July we decided to visit Brimfield in Western Massachusetts to visit the Brimfield Antique and Flea Market. This antique and flea market is very well known around the country. It is spread over 22 acres and has over 300 dealers and 21 shows. We had visited the market years ago and bought a couple of nice pieces and we had enjoyed the experience.
I have been waiting to go antiquing there since we moved back to Massachusetts. The summer dates are not the right time to visit the fair but even then, we decided to go. The weather forecast suggested rain for that entire week. The one afternoon where there was a lull in the rain was our chance to visit the market. With umbrellas in hand, sunscreen plastered on our bodies, and big protective hats we set out to explore the market.
All I can say is that heat and humidity stole the show. We tried to be brave and made tracks through soggy grass to visit different dealers and their stands. Even the dealers seemed listless in the oppressive heat. They were not even interested in haggling. My daughter wanted to buy a couple of things, but it seemed the sellers were not interested. They were not interested in bargaining at all. The fear of COVID was omnipresent. As we entered the stands, we would pull up our masks. The heat made it impossible to explore. Even with an ice-cold lemonade in our hands we sought out shade or a fan placed by a dealer somewhere.
In the end we hurried back to the car within an hour and made our way home. I had hoped that maybe we would be able to explore the market to my heart’s content during its September dates, but in the end, we weren’t able to go. There is always next year!
In case you are planning to go antiquing next year, the 2022 dates are May 10-15, July 12-17, September 6-11. The Brimfield Flea Market opens on Tuesday and runs through Sunday. I searched for the Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail dates for 2022, but couldn’t find them.