Simple and free!

Sometimes the best things to do truly are the simplest. Last night, after all the guests at A Butler’s Manor had left for their respective evening plans, Chris and I packed a  bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers and went to the beach to watch the sun go down. True, on Southampton’s beaches you won’t see a sunset over the water, nor–since our air quality is so good–will you get the brilliant oranges and reds of a Southern California sunset (which is, alas, caused by smog). Instead, the colors are pure blues and pinks, in wispy clouds over a steely ocean.

And almost nobody else is there. After the need for sunscreen diminishes, the beach is the quietest place in the Hamptons.

And the best part is that it’s free, because after 5:00 PM, beach parking regulations don’t apply. And at Cooper’s Beach, the snack bar stays open until at least 6:00, so you can grab a burger or a wrap there.

Speaking of free, a visit to a farmers market is a great treat on a summer day. From late spring until fall, there are farmers markets somewhere in the Hamptons daily from Wednesdays through Sundays. Hamptons.com has a pretty comprehensive article that outlines who, what, when and where here.

Of course, the farmstands out here are numerous and divine, and they’re (mostly!) open every day. Closest to us, right around the corner on land that was once owned by the same family (Jagger) that also owned the property we now call A Butler’s Manor is tiny Hank’s Farm Stand, selling primarily berries…strawberries are just finishing up, and raspberries are coming up. At a farmstand you can’t miss the connection between the fertile land and the farmer who cultivates it. A good comprehensive list of area farmstands can be found here. Often, visitors to the Hamptons tend to forget its farming and fishing origins and are often only vaguely aware that both livelihoods are still very much in existence. (BSP [Blatant Self Promotion!] alert: It is precisely in that setting that my novel Blood Exposure is set, available now on Kindle. “Oh really, what’s it about,” you say? Check it out here.)

In fact, having made myself hungry, I’m off to pick up some fresh veggies for tomorrow morning’s frittata.  And I’m planning another picnic on the beach…

Quote of the Day: They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. –Ronald Reagan

Free Entertainment

I admit it, most things in and around the Hamptons are not cheap, especially in the summer. Which is why it’s wonderful to share some of the best things we’ve found you can do here for little or no money.

Our favorite event here in Southampton is the Concerts in the Park series held at Agawam Park on Wednesdays between July 4th and Labor Day weekends. The band might be R&B/rockabilly (like the perennial local favorite group, the Lone Sharks), reggae, Big Band, Latin Jazz, 50’s and 60’s, or many other styles. It almost doesn’t matter. What matters is that you grab a beach chair from the back porch, pick up a sandwich at Schmidt’s or Job’s Lane Deli or a pizza at La Parmigiana, uncork a bottle of wine, and enjoy the sounds of music in the open air as the sun sets over the park and the sight of the little children (and sometimes adults!) dancing in front of the bandstand. The event is free, but the Southampton Cultural Center, who organizes it each year, sends out a bucket brigade at intermission to collect donations, and we encourage people to put what they can in that bucket…this is a wonderful resource that we stand to lose without support.

Other communities out here have outdoor concerts as well — Montauk, on the village green on Monday evenings in July, Sag Harbor at Marine Park on Bay Street on Thursdays in August.

Chris and I haven’t had the opportunity to catch one of the games of the new Hamptons Baseball League, part of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, but they are fielding several talented teams this year, with games nearly every day of the week in various locations around the Hamptons (Southampton/Stony Brook University, right up the road, is our nearest venue). The ACBL is sanctioned by the NCAA, partially funded by Major League Baseball and is one of only nine summer leagues approved by the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball, so these guys are good!! More information here.

Not free, but mighty cheap for a full day of fun (and somehow, an event you’d almost expect to be in the Hamptons during the summer season): Go watch a polo match. For six weeks midsummer, Mercedes Benz sponsors the Polo Challenge matches in Bridgehampton. Okay, so you don’t have a friend with VIP passes to get you in the tent, but $20 a carload will get you bleacher or tailgate seats (and you’ll actually get to see the match). Never seen polo up close and personal? This is a fast moving sport, and the horses are incredibly trained.

One of the best values ever is the annual Hampton Classic Horse Show, which this year will take place August 23 – 30 off Snake Hollow Road in Bridgehampton. All ages compete in world-class hunting and jumping events, and Olympic champions often compete in the Grand Prix event on the final Sunday afternoon. Events on the days up until the Grand Prix are $20 a carload, with a fantastic shopping arcade of related merchandise to wander through, and the Grand Prix itself, a premier equestrian event, is $20 per person for bench seats, $30 for premium seats. (Just for fun, you can check out the celebrities competing in their own right for media attention in the VIP tent opposite the ring.) Bring your hat and some sunscreen and see some exquisite horsemanship — you’ll be whistling My Fair Lady’s “Ascot Gavotte” as you go.

Finally, many guests here have been enjoying our favorite free entertainment each night: Firefly season in Chris’s garden. Fireflies have been working their magic each night from dusk on, sparkling against the backdrop of the deep green foliage and illuminating the ghostly white flowers of the Annabelle hydrangeas, spireas, and astilbes with their brief, teasing radiance. And for those like me, who didn’t grow up in an area where fireflies are summer residents, it’s worth the stroll out of the car park at A Butler’s Manor past Mrs. Jagger’s field next door, where the sheer abundance of fireflies in their preferred habitat makes the open space a fairy-lit wonderland, almost like a miniature holiday display.

Who says you can’t enjoy yourself in the Hamptons without spending a lot of money?

Quote of the Day: The summer night is like a perfection of thought. —Wallace Stevens