Treat yourself to a romantic stroll in the Hudson valley, preferably in the Autumn when the leaves are turning a thousand different colours, when the sun is still shining and the mild evenings still allow you to relax in a rocking chair out on the porch (you might need a thick pull-over, however!). The splendour of New York State is all the more amazing in that it is unexpected. It is impossible to describe all of the delights of the Hudson valley here (from Woodstock to the symphony orchestra, from 'local' artists of world fame to university culture, from the vestiges of the colonial era to its Golden Age and from the antique fairs to the sale of livestock!). If you follow this itinerary, you will see it all.
We suggest that you rent a car and take route 87 from New York - the train journey along the Hudson River is charming but it is impossible to reach the places we suggest you visit without your own means of transport. Moreover, the site furthest North in this itinerary is only two hours from New York by car. You can also ask at your hotel about sight-seeing coaches to the Hudson Valley. If you choose to go by car, rent one from Herz, Avis or Budget (for the United States, it is often cheaper to rent a car when you are there rather than going through a European agent). Your first 'Napoleonic' destination, if going by car, is The United States Military Academy at West Point.
West Point is the oldest military academy in America and many of its students became war heros, of the stature of General Grant, General MacArthur and General Eisenhower. Find the campus and look out for Trophy Point where the trophies captured by the American military forces are displayed. West Point Museum was founded in 1802 and has an amazing collection which fans of the First Empire will adore. There are several portraits of Napoleon, one of which shows him on horseback in cavalry guard uniform. The painting, dated 1873, is by George Bertin Scott, a pupil of Edouard Detaille. There is also find a pair of pistols, made in Versailles, bequeathed to Eugène de Beauharnais and passed down from father to son until 1852. Similarly of Napoleonic interest is the ceremonial sword which Napoleon gave to the King of Rome, and which General de Gaulle subsequently gave to General Eisenhower on 14th June, 1945. Uniforms, figurines, drawings and paintings by Bellangé complete the collection.
Not central to the Imperial theme but nevertheless French, there are two sites you should not miss on your visit to the Hudson Valley. One is the Brotherhood Winery (North Street off Rte 94) in Washingtonville, the oldest vineyard in America. This is not only a very pleasant way to finish your visit, it is also a good chance to do some wine-tasting (tel.: (1) (914) 255 1889). The other is the New Paltz, a tiny village which prides itself on having the oldest streets in America, some splendid Huguenot houses and a church dating back to the end of the 17th century.
Carrying on up route 87 towards Kingston (New York State capital before Albany) you will cross the lovely Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge - an event in itself - and enter the picturesque town of Rhinebeck where we suggest you eat and spend the night. The Beeckmann Arms, one of America's oldest taverns, has been beautifully preserved and has a good restaurant. The next day, you can spend a lazy morning looking around Rhinebeck and the neighbouring towns or you can continue on along the Napoleonic trail.