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bachslunch Nov 21st, 2011 01:58 PM

Williamstown, MA trip report
Thought I'd post about my recent visit to Williamstown, as there are some pertinent things to bring up.

As it turns out, the day I went was a Sunday. The Clark Art Institute opens at 10 AM on that day but the Williams College Museum doesn't open until 1 PM. So the decision of which museum to see first was a foregone conclusion.

The Clark is not that large a museum, though it has a remarkably high quality-to-quantity ratio. It is a much smaller museum to see these days, as about half their collection -- including all but four of their Impressionist and post-Impressionist works -- is out on loan, not to return until Fall 2013 at the earliest. The only Impressionist pieces currently there are one canvas each by Renoir and Monet and one sculpture each by Degas and Renoir. There are also several paintings by Homer, Constable, and Sargent, plus individual canvases by Goya, Gainsborough, Botticelli, Gericault, Remington, Lorrain, and Ghirlandaio. Excellent stuff, but what's there can be seen in detail in ca. 60-90 minutes. Was told the new Stone Hill Gallery is currently empty and there's nothing to see there.

The Williams College Museum was actually quite good, though not with as high a "must see" factor to its collection. Still, there were several excellent items here, including paintings or sculpture by Hopper, Rivera, Oldenburg, Remington, St. Gaudens, Jose Clemente Orozco, Grant Wood, William Morris Hunt, and Maurice and Charles Prendergast, Spent about two hours here.

Got lunch in between at an Indian spot located in the small business district near the latter museum, Spice Root. Their buffet had a few clunkers (a weak stab at hot and sour soup, as well as an unpleasantly gelatinous-textured chickpea sag), but several worthy items, including a chicken mixed grill of tikka and tandoori, vegetables vindaloo, chicken masala, chicken biryani, mushroom fritters, eggplant fritters, and other dishes. Plus there were two excellent desserts, a typical kheer and an unusual carrot pudding, the latter so tasty I went back for seconds.

Also got a very good cup of coffee at Tunnel City Coffee, the most heavily patronized of the few local coffee house hangouts in that small business stretch. Coffee was sturdy and full tasting without any bitterness.

One other piece of useful information. It is strongly cautioned at a Williams College wiki site not to take the evening Peter Pan bus (leaving 9:15 PM) from Pittsfield to Williamstown because the station is closed at that time and not in a great part of town. Note that the approaching Peter Pan bus from Springfield arrives in Pittsfield at 7:35 PM, necessitating a ca. 90 minute wait between. A look at the Pittsfield bus station's posted hours confirms that the station closes down at 6:30 PM or even earlier, depending on the day. The bus station also does not look like a place I'd want to hang around alone after dark. I'm glad I didn't choose this option.

With caveats mentioned above, this was an enjoyable visit.

Kwoo Nov 22nd, 2011 11:13 AM

Hi Bachslunch,
Yours is a timely report because my husband & I and another couple are planning on going to Williamstown/No. Adams in January for a weekend. So I have a few questions.

1) did you go for an overnight and if so, where did you stay? I am researching some B&B's, such as Blackinton Manor, & the Williamstown B&B.

2) Last year we visited the Clark Art Institute & loved it, so we are bringing our friends there. I know that the Impresssionists are traveling, but you didn't mention the special exhibit. Another friend told me the Clark has a special exhibit on Degas & Rembrandt (I think). Did you see it?

3) have you been to Mass MoCA? We are thinking of going there, too. Because we don't ski, this weekend trip will be mostly to visit museums.

4)Would you recommend Spice Root? Any other restaurant suggestions?

thank you & I enjoyed reading your report.

bachslunch Nov 22nd, 2011 12:55 PM

Hi Kwoo,

Glad you'll be going, and glad my report was useful. To answer:

-I stayed overnight at the Williams Inn. It's a motel, not really an inn, but by and large it was fine (only exception was a slow to the point of clogged bathtub drain). Note that unlike some other lodging options, breakfast isn't included here. My guess is that a B&B would be a more charming choice, though. Re the Williams Inn, here's an example of why I just don't trust TripAdvisor reviews, as there are a lot of shrill negatives on this place, which simply wasn't my experience. Note well also that it's common for lodging options in Williamstown to require minimum stays, so check before booking (Williams Inn is one of few places that doesn't do this).

-the Clark does have the special exhibit you described, and I saw this. It's not bad though not extensive, mostly small etchings and a few tiny paintings by the two named artists, about 20-25 items in all.

-I have indeed been to Mass MoCA before, though it was a few years ago. Expect recent, cutting-edge style art with an emphasis on large works such as installations here. I liked it very much, and if you enjoy this kind of art, definitely go.

-judging from the buffet experience I had there, Spice Root was mostly good, but choose dishes with care as not everything was a success (I would avoid the sag and hot/sour soup, for example). The carrot pudding dessert was wonderful, though, and many of the other items I had were worthwhile. The good thing about a buffet, of course, is that you have lots of options available. Chowhound folk seem mostly unimpressed with the food quality in Williamstown, but as I didn't sample extensively, I can't speak to this definitively.

Kwoo Nov 22nd, 2011 04:40 PM

Hi Bachslunch,
Thank you for your detailed reply. We definitely want a bed & breakfast for its ambience & breakfast. I believe the ones I am looking at don't have a 2-night minimum in the winter.

Also, what did you do in the evening for entertainment? Last year we stayed in Pittsfield for 2 nights & went to the movies (the Beacon, I think). We could always go to Pittsfield in the evening, but I was wondering if you noticed any movie theaters in No. Adams/Williamstown.

jubilada Nov 23rd, 2011 06:50 AM

There is a cineplex in North Adams, not great.
We like the Water Street grill reasonably much in Williamstown, decent pub food, pleasant atmosphere. Spice Root is uneven.

Have heard, but no personal experience, about the Williamstown B&B. Friends stayed there when on college visits and liked it a lot, very good breakfast, comfortable, good hosts.

If Williams is in session, thee are often plays, concerts, and movies of interest on campus.

bachslunch Mar 31st, 2019 05:29 AM

Bumping to keep on site.

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