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Upstate Downtime

Get into Columbia! Columbia County, that is, just three hours up the Taconic and a world away from the city and the beach.

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If you've long since been priced out of a Hamptons share, stop pining for a glam beach weekend. Instead, consider sunny, green Columbia County, where cherries don't cost $7 a quart and you don't have to book weeks ahead for dinner. About three hours north of the city, the area is bordered by the Hudson River and the Berkshires (meaning that there's great swimming and hiking). At night, drive to Tanglewood for outdoor performances by the Boston Symphony or to see a play at Williamstown (the hot ticket: Gwyneth Paltrow in As You Like It). If you want to see the leaves turn, book fast -- fall's when this area heats up.

In the center of the historic Shaker community, tiny and resolutely unchic New Lebanon is only 25 minutes from the Berkshires. Stay at the Inn at Shaker Mill, a converted gristmill on 60 acres of farmland (24 rooms, all with private baths; $65 per person). Or, for one of the area's best deals, call the simple, rustic Palmer House (seven rooms, some with shared baths; $65-$95). But hurry -- most of August is booked.

In nearby Canaan, The Inn at Silver Maple Farm is a picturesque, old-fashioned B&B on ten acres of rolling hills (nine rooms; $95-$155). About twenty miles north (closer to Williamstown), the antiques-filled Sedgwick Inn is near lots of hiking and swimming. (rooms are $105-$120 in the main house, $85 in the motel-style annex).

Tanglewood Music Festival (413-637-5165); Williamstown Theater Festival (413-597-3400); The Inn at Shaker Mill, 40 Cherry Lane, New Lebanon, N.Y. (518-794-9345); The Palmer House, Route 22, New Lebanon, N.Y. (518-794-9385); The Inn at Silver Maple Farm, Route 295, Canaan, N.Y. (518-781-3600); The Sedgwick Inn, Route 22, Berlin, N.Y. (518-658-2334).

Picks of the Week

Zitomer, the fancy uptown pharmacy, is taking 40 percent off August essentials, including all sunglasses (like Gucci and Ray-Ban), sunscreen (from Banana Boat to Clarins), hats (like Eric Javitz), and hairbrushes (from Goody to Mason Pearson). 969 Madison Ave., at 76th St. (737-5560); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-8, Sat. till 7, Sun. till 6; 7/26-8/6.

Lederer de Paris is clearing out thousands of classic linen, leather, and microfiber handbags at $79.95 each (usually they're $159-$400). 457 Madison Ave., at 51st St. (355-5515); A.E., M.C.,V.; Mon.-Sat. 9:30-6; 7/26-8/14.

Warren Edwards is taking half off most summer shoes, including many women's loafers, sandals, and mules, and select men's loafers and lace-ups. Prices are $225-$395. 475 Park Ave., at 57th St. (752-4883); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. 10:30-6; 7/26-8/9.

Pumpkin Maternity's sweet summer gear is now 20 to 50 percent off, including gingham dresses, button-front shirts, and Capri pants. Everything's $20-$65. 67 E. 3rd St., Room B (674-7476); cash only; Thurs.-Sat. 10-6; 7/29-7/31.

ALWAYS A DEAL
The Remains of the Day

For cool vintage stuff at yard-sale prices, don't miss upstate auctions. On Saturday nights, Meissner's Auction Service sells everything from rickety old chairs to Shaker quilts. But for serious deals, visit one of their on-site auctions (call for dates); at the end, you might score a battered trunk, lamp, or even bed frame for as little as $5. If you can't tote it, they'll deliver for $200. Route 20-22, New Lebanon, N.Y. (518-766-5002).


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