Do you love Long Island vacations, but hate all the glitz, to say nothing of the horrendous traffic jams that clog the highways out to the Hamptons, where the power brokers of Gotham rest and party?
Want something less "frenetic," something to calm the nerves, a place where you can inhale fresh breezes? Well, there is such a dream locale, just north of the Hamptons, as the crow flies.
Looking at a map of the island, think of the eastern end as a two-pronged instrument jutting out into the water.
Well, head for what's called the North Fork, which is surrounded by Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. The bottom part of our imaginary fork, of course, is the "South Fork," where the Hamptons and their fabled beaches reside.
On the North Fork, there's plenty of room for everybody. Here you don't get that hemmed-in feeling that other vacation towns give you during the busy summer months.
The North Fork is quieter, scenic and growing in popularity as more land is being developed for vineyards. In fact, the area has quickly established itself as one of the world's most exciting new sources of premium wines.
What could be more calming than sitting under a blue sky, in the shade of blossoming vines and participating in a wine-and- cheese happening. We stopped at Sherwood House Vineyards, which has a brand-new tasting cottage (www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com ).
And, if you really long for a quiet weekend, the hamlet of Mattituck should be high on your list. Pick a shady spot facing Long Island Sound and relax; it will drive the "mental cobwebs" away.
Give Peace a Chance
But if all that peacefulness gets you feeling restless, drive on uncrowded scenic roads to Greenport, just 20 miles northeast of Riverhead, another major town of the North Fork.
Greenport has a population of about 2,000, and was settled in the mid-17th century. Today, it's also known as "The Shopping Hub of the North Fork," and it's distinctly a pleasant place to stroll, to savor ice cream, to have an espresso at Bruce's Cheese Emporium Cafe, to sample chocolate and fudge at the Greenport Fudge Factory and to browse in several bookstores. Here, too, is the Railroad Museum of Long Island and the East End Seaport Museum.
Several synagogues function in the area. Recently, the 107-year-old Congregation Tifereth Israel has been registered as a historic place by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Over the years, Greenport has attracted some of America's most-renowned artists and writers, including Walt Whitman, and author and illustrator Marjorie Flack. The town also boasts a 40-foot carousel in Greenport's Mitchell Park.
Want a little more excitement? Take the ferry from Greenport to Shelter Island; it takes all of seven minutes.
Sitting on the veranda of the French bistro there known as Sunset Beach can conjure up images of St. Tropez or Cannes, and the beckoning blue Mediterranean. The hotel boasts 20 exquisite rooms, each with its own private sundeck.