The Hudson River is astonishingly wide at Tarrytown.
You might not cross the Tappan Zee Bridge to get to Silver Tips Tea Room in Tarrytown. You might already be east of the Hudson. But if you do drive across it, and if your point of reference for a wide river is the Mississippi, say, where I-40 crosses it from Arkansas to Memphis, then at some point before the halfway mark on your three-mile drive across the Hudson, you’ll have to expand your concept of river width.
It’s wide enough that any stress or hyperawareness you felt as traffic thickened on 287 eastbound will have abated by that halfway mark, enough for you to relax and look to your right and behold that wide wide river flowing toward New York City, and see that it’s still a ways before you get to the other side. You may even have the time and confidence to glance left, toward its source, and marvel that this wide wide river is the same narrow, woodsy, unpretentious one you drove alongside and even crossed earlier in the day, on a bridge that was nowhere 16,000 feet across, not even 16,000 centimeters.
There’s metered parking on the street in Tarrytown, and also in a municipal lot a few blocks from the tea room. If zooming in close on Google Maps was part of your trip planning, you may be surprised that what looked flat on the map is actually hilly, and that the bird’s-eye URL view is to the movie version as the your-eye IRL view is to the book.
Silver Tips Tea Room is not the kind of tea place you’d go to spend hours working with only the company of your laptop. It’s the kind of tea room where you take a family member or meet a friend, especially the kind of friend you’d go out of your way to have tea with, and the kind of friend who’d go out of her schedule to give you hours of her day.
Possibly a quarter of one of those hours will be spend perusing the 150-plus choices on tea menu. Black, green, white, oolong, jasmine, flowering, Earl Grey, chai, smoked, pu-erh, decaf, rooibos, fruit tisane, herbal/wellness blend? And then which tea under each of those headings? And then hot or iced? The descriptions will help narrow the choice for you. The cost might, too; some teas are dearer than others.
If you and your tea companion share afternoon tea, there are further choices. Which tea sandwiches? (Try the egg souchong.) Scones, or other desserts? (It’s a tea room. You have to try a scone, with its little accessory pot of clotted cream (which wins the award for “Most Unfortunately Named Delicious Condiment.”))
If it’s not a day when the tables are filled and others are waiting, you can linger for hours, slowly working your way through the sandwiches, sampling each other’s tea (two thumbs up for the jasmine pearl) and steeping yourselves in conversation. If your legs are restless for a walk, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is just down the road. If it’s closed, or you’re not in the mood to wander among famous graves, Rockefeller State Park Preserve is just a little farther.
The wooded park has a nice network of peaceful trails (and, for the tea-sloshed, public restrooms in the parking lot). You might see an egret in the pond and hear neighboring cows do credible imitations of trumpeting elephants. If it has recently rained, and you’ve worn the wrong shoes to cross the narrow river that is pouring itself across the path, you can follow it to the little pool it is emptying itself into. You can stand silently by the pool, absorb its quiet calm, and feel like this is the moment you came for.
If you begin your journey that morning in upstate New York not having had the foresight to map your route because you underestimated the vastness of Sprint-less wilderness that is northern New York, you can navigate by stopping and asking for directions at gas stations. If the next leg of your journey is westward, you can plug in your destination and let the GPS ride shotgun and talk you there.
When she directs you onto the on-ramp for the George Washington Bridge, it’s best not to know that it is considered the busiest bridge in the world and one of the most dangerous in the U.S. in terms of auto accidents. It’s best to be crossing after dark, after rush hour, so you are not overwhelmed with the visual stimulation of what you could see in daylight. It’s enough to be carried along in the only lightly turbulent current of vehicles in yet another crossing of the Hudson, and to think about the flowiness of your day.
If you left with a small cobalt foil bag of jasmine pearls, then every time you make that tea, you can study the hard pellets softening and leaves unfurling in the water pumped from the river you can see from your window. And you can let the aroma and the taste carry you back to that day, then on the bypass around whatever you said no to that day, and forward again to whatever you said yes to that day.
Browse more in the Tea Quest series
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish