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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pleasantly Surprised by Lee, MA, in the Berkshire Mountains

Article and Photo by Eric H.

Coming back from our favorite destination of Cooperstown, NY, is always difficult. It's hard to leave the picture-perfect, tree-lined Main Street filled with shops, restaurants and grand, old historic homes and inns. The nine-mile long Otsego Lake, the rolling hills and all the other splendid surrounding rural scenery is breathtaking. Of course, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, The Farmers' Museum and Fenimore Art Museum are wonderful cultural resources, so rare to find in such a rural community of this size.

In the past, we always stopped on the way back home in West Springfield, MA, for a bite to eat, but then, much to our dismay, we found that the Ivanhoe restaurant closed its doors. Not that the typical urban/suburban offerings of West Springfield could ever replace Cooperstown, but eating at this friendly restaurant with delicious food always provided a pleasant, end-of-the-vacation tradition.

Last month on our way back from Cooperstown, we stopped in Lee, MA, one of the first exits in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts. Only a few minutes off the highway, we were stunned at what we saw upon approaching the downtown: kind of a replica of Cooperstown's Main Street with nice, little local shops, plenty of pleasant looking dining options, American flags proudly displayed all over the place, and a sense of great historical preservation in the buildings and homes. Anchored by the quaint Morgan House Inn and Restaurant and followed up by a great slice of small town downtown Americana, Lee is a place we'll surely call a new tradition upon returning from Cooperstown. We found a terrific dining spot called Panayiotis' Grill & Pizzeria‎, a small, modern yet family-friendly Greek-American restaurant where I had an amazing pesto and shrimp pizza. Panayiotis has just about everything under the sun of on the menu including steaks, seafood, salads, soups and grilled Greek specialties. The atmosphere was warm and inviting inside and the view out on old Main Street lent a nice hometown feeling.

Lee is located in the heart of the Berkshires, next to many attractions and destinations in Stockbridge (the place Norman Rockwell made famous), another great American downtown in Great Barrington, Lenox (home of Tanglewood), an on-the-mend Pittsfield and North Adams (where the Mass Museum of Modern Art is located).

So for now, Lee is more than a name brand of jeans and a flaky pitcher who toiled for the Boston Red Sox in the 1970s. We're looking forward to exploring more of this neat-looking town with a downtown that's as nice looking as any we've seen in New England. And almost on par with Cooperstown!
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