Detours: Red neck facelift
Few people heading to New York City think of visiting nearby New Jersey. The state's reputation is hardly appealing: a breeding ground of rock stars; home of 'Joisy girls', those gauche habitues of shopping malls; a giant suburban sprawl. But venture far enough into New Jersey and you find a world that upends all the cliches and late-night television comedic putdowns.
Nestled on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River lies the languid river town of Lambertville. It's a place where visitors settle into an easy rhythm and where 21st-century brands have been eschewed in favour of a rekindled past.
With the Delaware-Raritan canal passing through the town and, later, the arrival of a railway line that tracked the river's course, Lambertville was for many years a small yet bustling mill town. The mid-20th century proved less providential, but the town has shaken off its malaise.
Today, the more established inhabitants have been joined by second-home owners, New Yorkers, four-day-week commuters and a stream of visitors.
Bridge Street, the main thoroughfare, can't be more than 350 metres long. Behind its imposing Victorian facades are many of the antiques stores and galleries on whose reputations the town was partly revived. They sell everything from Pennsylvanian farm furniture to kitsch baubles.
Another place to linger is America Antiques at 5 South Main Street. The shop is a horologist's dream, offering a vast display of antique clock faces, some easily one metre across.
North of Bridge Street runs a series of roads lined with terraced houses, their vivid exteriors reflecting the town's new-found optimism. Locals lounge on their porches and exchange pleasantries with passers-by. Dining options include the Lambertville Station, where the menu ranges from crab cakes to the starch-loaded staples of an American brunch. Those with fatter wallets can join the New York crowd at Lily's on the Canal for grilled panini sandwiches or filet mignon, among other items.
After lunch, take a walk along the river's edge. In summer, teenagers drift past on inflated inner tubes. Alternatively, cross the New Hope-Lambertville Bridge and step into Pennsylvania. New Hope has become a lure for aficionados of aromatherapy and the like.
When we visit Lambertville a handful of classic cars lines Bridge Street, the owner of an old MG chats with gushing onlookers, and a suitably grizzled troop of chaps-clad bikers thump-thumps past on their Harleys.
Leaving Lambertville, drive across the bridge to New Hope and then strike north along the river's edge. Within minutes the sublime but monied splendour of Pennsylvania's Bucks County seduces you.
For much of the way the road hugs a steep escarpment. To your right, the Delaware River slips in and out of view. Dotted along the route are hamlets redolent of England's Cotswolds. Later, as the land flattens out, huge homes, restored red barns and polo fields testify to the residents' healthy bank accounts.
Cross the river back to French-town, linger in what appears to be a miniature version of Lambertville and then head back to New York. Eventually you'll pass through the New Jersey of lore.
From New York, take Route 78 heading east. Take the exit for Route 513 and follow this to Frenchtown. At Frenchtown, take Route 29 south towards Lambertville