Ingrid Chavez exploded onto the scene in the early ’90s, collaborating with Prince, playing his love interest in Graffiti Bridge, co-writing Madonna’s hit song “Justify My Love,” and releasing an album, titled May 19, 1992 (on the Paisley Park label), that marked her out as a sure bet for stardom.
But shortly after, she met British singer David Sylvian, and the two escaped to a New Hampshire farm to work on music and raise two daughters. Chavez has called New England her home ever since.
One of the reasons is that she finds perpetual inspiration in the landscape, and the serenity of the lifestyle – which played muse once again as Ingrid recorded her latest album, Memories of Flying, released earlier this month. So when BlackBook had the opportunity to interview her, we asked her to also sketch out a personal little guide to the region.
Five New England Destinations That Inspire Ingrid Chavez
“As creative as I tried to be at mothering when my children were young, there was always that need to step away for a day or two to wander aimlessly along the New England country side, alone in my thoughts, letting the road guide me as I hummed to a new song, trying to find the words. I’d take myself out on an artist date, throw my camera and a journal into my bag, pick a destination and just drive. There was always the hunt for a cafe that would have a perfect cup of coffee and a cozy corner that allows for reflection. These five destinations have inspired words and songs and photos for me along the way.”
In the farthest, most northeastern corner of Massachusetts, you will find one of the best museums of contemporary art on the east coast. Connected to the building is Tunnel City Coffee, a perfect spot to stop before or after exploring the museum. The cafe windows look out to the upside down maple trees planted when MASS MoCA first opened 20 years ago. The old warehouse vibe with its exposed bricks is a perfect place to sit unhurried for the writer and coffee drinker in you. I recommend the Mohawk Trail from Greenfield, MA to North Adams, stopping in at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters (house made biscotti that is out of this world) along the way or going into the town of Shelburne Falls for the Bridge of Flowers and local artisan shops.
If you find yourself in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, the route from Keene, NH to Amherst, MA is a lovely drive. Prime Roast Coffee Roasters in Keene is a great start for road coffee before heading south on Route 10. I recommend their morning glory muffin. Make sure to stop in at the Montague Book mill. The Lady Killibrew Cafe has a great view of the river in a cozy, light filled dining room. About 20 minutes more south you will find yourself in Emily Dickinson country. You can take a tour of the homestead, I highly recommend it. My favorite cafe in town is Amherst Coffee, they carry Great Barrington Coffee, a regional favorite of mine. They have little booths that you can tuck yourself into and disappear with a book or journaling. A bonus: it’s next to the Amherst Cinema. Last time I was there they were hosting an Andrei Tarkovsky film festival.
Route 7 from Great Barrington, MA north to Stockbridge (Norman Rockwell Museum) and onto Lenox is a gorgeous drive. I have a soft spot for this part of Massachusetts. This area is home to the Tanglewood Music Festival and The Kripalu Yoga center. As for my number one favorite cafe, it would be No. Six Depot Roastery and cafe/gallery located in West Stockbridge. They sell loose leaf tea and their own roasted coffee. My personal favorites are the Indian Masala Tea and the Seck-Sie Organic roasted coffee. I also love their Nutella muffins.
Another drive starting in Brattleboro, VT, will take you east along 101 to Wilton, NH. This is one of the most scenic autumn peeper routes in New Hampshire. Two great coffee experiences are at either end of the journey. Mocha Joe’s Cafe, a funky little basement coffee shop on Main Street in Brattleboro has been a go to for my family for 20 years. At the other end of the journey is the Hilltop Cafe. It is off the beaten path but a great experience, in a restored 1765 farmhouse. The road to Wilton runs through the town of Dublin, where Mount Monadnock, one of the most climbed mountains in the world, is located. If you have time, take a walk through the quaint town of Peterborough before heading over Temple Mountain into Wilton, the last town in the Monadnock region.
A destination in and of itself for their fresh baked goods, sandwiches and cappuccino – but while you are in the area you must check out the rich literary history of Concord, home of the Transcendentalist movement. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Louis May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne are just some of the famous authors to write from this place. Take a walk in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to Authors Ridge to pay homage to the final resting place of some of the most notable writers of the time. A few miles out of the center of town you can visit Walden Pond. The walk along the water’s edge to where Thoreau built a cabin is peaceful and puts you in the mind of what inspired his book Walden. Route 119 from Brattleboro, VT to Concord, MA is a perfect day trip. Finish up the day in a comfy chair with a warm cup of coffee at Caffe Nero in the historic center of town.