That Easter Metro North Ride

Metro North Hi, All! Travel Girl here and hoping that you are all gearing up for a lovely Easter.

Just because it’s time for bunnies, chocolates, lively-hued eggs, and maybe even a Sunday morning church trip, I thought I’d take this chance to reflect on an interesting experience I had last year taking the train into Manhattan for the holiday.

It was the Friday before Easter and I was excited to be meeting my friend from Germany in New York City for Easter weekend. I hadn’t seen her since our last holiday a few years before in Europe. I boarded the train, as I do quite often, since lets face it- when you live in rural Connecticut, sometimes you’ve just got to get out of Dodge.

We rolled out of New Haven Station and I was feeling great, mentally trying to make a list of things we could do in the city. However, as the train plowed onward towards New York the rows of seats got fuller and fuller. Now trust me, I’m no stranger to crowds and I’ve rarely if ever been one prone to claustrophobic discomfort. But eventually the small space was overflowing with people, their possessions, and busy chatter. There were passengers in the aisle, standing up, squished together, and I was sandwiched in the middle of a seat between two strangers.

I started sweating, breathing hard, and suddenly, wondering just how many more people the train could handle, I started to feel seriously trapped. I desperately wanted to get off the train and wait for the next one, but I was already on the later side to meet my friend who had just taken a plane across the Atlantic to see me. So, there in that car packed with people, I did something which I’ve found myself doing in many ambiguous situations on the road, I prayed. At that moment, I could scarcely imagine making it through five more minutes stuck in the sealed train car, surrounded by people from every side, without having a colossal breakdown.  “Please God, just help me make it to New York,” I asked silently.

Now, I’m not conventionally religious but I will say, the simple act of asking for higher help -in my life- has been pretty effective. And that day on the train was no different. I found myself, still on edge, saying to no one in particular, “I can’t believe how crowded this train is.” As if on cue, the woman beside me nodded, “I know.” I hadn’t acknowledged her before, but as I looked beside me I realized she was a stunningly beautiful blonde, middle-aged woman with a bright smile and fashionable attire. All she needed was that one statement from me and she was off. She explained that her husband was in another car, and they were headed to the city like they did on many Friday afternoons to see a Broadway play.

She asked me about my job, my dating life, told me about her divorce, her new husband, and we discovered we both worked for universities. We talked about the culture of academia, and she described her sons after I told her about my sisters. We both took turns writing down our favorite Manhattan bars, restaurants, and tucked-away to-dos for one another. And although I can’t remember how it came up, she even gave me a margarita recipe that she guaranteed topped any other drink on the planet. In fact, it seemed like no time at all before we made the first stop of the express train in New York, Harlem-125th Street. Harlem In fact, I can still remember the conversation we had as we rolled into the station. We had gotten into a discussion about how different our lives might have been had we been born in a different part of the world. She had brought it up for some reason, but I knew exactly what she meant. Then she turned her head, her freshly-colored blonde bob sitting neatly on her shoulders, and looked out the window. The stranger I had known for all of an hour then smiled at me thoughtfully, “Just imagine, you and I could have been born in Harlem.” Then she pointed to two pigeons perched side by side on the edge of a building below the train tracks. “We could be birds sitting right there on that ledge, maybe we’d have never left Harlem. We might have spent our whole lives flying in this little part of the world.”

To this day, I love her sentiment and I still appreciate her philosophy. Maybe some people wouldn’t get her point, but I did. And isn’t it wondrous to sometimes ponder the possibilities of not only the world but the universe? After all, travel doesn’t result from a peace in not knowing, travel comes from a deep desire to understand the world. And that day, not only did I completely forget about the anxiety that had been smothering at the beginning my journey, I made a lovely memory with a beautiful stranger.

Every time that I’ve taken that train into the city since, as we arrive at Harlem- 125th Street on the way to Grand Central, I can’t help but smile. I imagine a person I barely know and myself as birds perched pleasantly on the top of a building. I think back to my quiet request and grin, because someone seemed to know exactly what I needed to make it to New York that day. Interactions like that when you’re on the road make the idea of answered prayers, guardian angels, and miracles seem entirely possible. And perhaps the only thing more heavenly than sitting on the train with an actual angel, is the alternative, that another human has the capability of possessing the sort of grace and kindness that could be mistaken as divine.

So this Easter, wherever you may roam, rest assured that if you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, all you have to do is ask for a little help. The universe has ways of giving us what we need, even if its nothing more than a distraction from a crowded train, and the reminder that wherever you choose to travel, you won’t be alone. East Coasters may have a bad rap for being unfriendly, but Travel Girl knows better and now you do too.

Here’s wishing you all lots of glorious things on this holiday weekend.

Ciao for Now.

XOXO

Travel Girl

Afternoon Tea at Ocean House

sunset Hi, all! Travel Girl here, and itching for Spring to be in full bloom. Here in New England, temperatures have started rising, but it’s still not warm enough to go without a winter jacket. So, what do you do when you want to have some fun at the beach, but it’s too cold to break out your bathing suit? I’ve discovered the perfect way to enjoy the beach while relaxing in style. The location is Watch Hill, Rhode Island, and the destination is Ocean House, a quintessential New England resort beside the sea. The gorgeous yellow and white hotel sits on beautiful bluffs overlooking the ocean, and the inside is decorated in an elegantly plush maritime theme. If you are looking for the best of the best, Ocean House is the place to go. It’s been awarded the honor of a triple Five-Star resort and only 10 other resorts in the world can make this claim. So, if you’re looking for a place where you can be wined, dined, surrounded by decadence, and enjoy a beautiful view, search no further.OH While Ocean House offers a wide array of top-notch amenities, the one I decided to try was Saturday Afternoon Tea. The last Afternoon Tea I attended was at the Corinthia in London, so I have to admit- my expectations were high. However, I couldn’t have been happier with the ambiance, the atmosphere, the tea, or the location. Afternoon Tea is served in the “Living Room”, which is centrally located. It’s certainly a formal setting, yet the stylish couches are comfortable, the stone fireplace makes it cozy, and the harpist who played throughout the duration of our tea added a celestial element that made the rest of the world fade away. harpist The Afternoon Tea includes a steaming hot pot of tea of your choice, sandwiches, scones, and a delectable variety of pastries and sweets. Of course, I decided to bring a friend with me to indulge. After all, no one wants to drink alone, even if it is nothing more than perfectly seeped tea. I chose Green Tea flavored with Jasmine, and my tea drinking buddy selected the Darjeeling Oolong. Tea Both teas were excellent. And if you want to melt your stress away, the posh living room in Ocean House is guaranteed to do the trick. After we tasted the tea and got comfortable in our new luxurious haven on the couches of Ocean House, we started with the sandwiches. Various tea sandwiches offered on the menu include chicken salad with golden raisins and Marcona almonds, gravlax with pickled red onion and cream cheese, and lobster salad with caviar and chervil. However, we decided to rock it vegetarian in the quaint resort beside the sea. Our tea sandwiches included cucumber with radish and Boursin and deviled eggs. cuc But as with any authentic afternoon tea, the real stars were the scones! Oh, the scones! The scones were pure bliss and the perfect combination of savory and sweet. We were presented with currant and lemon scones accompanied by clotted cream, Vermont Creamery butter, and Peloni Farms Reserves. I’m not kidding, I had a seriously hard time containing myself while consuming these beautiful round babies. I halved a lemon scone, smothered it in clotted cream, then spread on a thin layer of the strawberry reserves. After taking a bite, I told my friend that I was about to recreate the scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally’. That’s right, the taste was so divine, I really did want to rock back and forth and start moaning with pleasure. Although, since we were at Ocean House, surrounded by other civilized individuals, I made an attempt to reel in my reaction to these wondrous carbohydrates. Scones I know what you may be thinking. That’s not a picture of a lemon scone! Damn straight. It took me an entire scone before I could compose myself enough to take a photo. So, above is a currant scone and the extra side of deviled eggs they brought us just because. Extra food for no reason? Has anyone ever turned that away? Oh, Ocean House, I think I love you. And just when I thought I had died and gone to British heaven, it was time for the dessert. This plate consisted of Madeleines, macaroons, caramel shortbread, fresh strawberries, dark chocolate with lemon custard, and a selection of other sweets. Des The entire tea was absolutely delightful. And despite that no one plate was particularly large, the small bits of real food, large scones, sinfully good clotted cream, rich selection of desserts, and numerous cups of tea certainly left nothing to be desired. Afterwards, we wandered the halls of the resort and admired the artwork which lines the walls, then we headed outside. The best part about ending afternoon tea at dusk was that we were able to meander out back, stare at the ocean, let the salty breeze brush against our cheeks, and watch the sun sink below the horizon line. Ocean House Who says a day at the beach has to include sunscreen? The sight of the water and the charm of Ocean House made for an exquisite afternoon, despite the fact that spring hasn’t yet arrived. If you want to kill the winter blues, relax, and enjoy a taste of the good life, head to Ocean House for an Afternoon Tea. It’s not beach weather in Rhode Island yet, but you may find yourself grateful that the chilly weather brought you inside. Here’s wishing you a wonderful day, we are almost to Friday and you know what that means? Ocean House will be serving Afternoon Tea all weekend. If you are serious about your clotted cream- you’ll thank me.

Ciao for Now.

XOXO

Travel Girl

“The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”

– Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Ocean

A Little Taste of South Carolina

Hi, all! Travel Girl here and if you are anything like me you may be finding February to be particularly cold. Although February is technically the shortest month on the calendar, the wintry mix of precipitation and fierce weather can give it the allusion of lasting much, much longer than a mere twenty-eight days. So, what do you do when the snow keeps piling up and the thermostat keeps sinking lower? Well, if you’re anything like Travel Girl, you impulsively book a flight South after one too many snow storms. airplaneMy destination was Charleston, South Carolina, and I could barely wait to get out of the snowy mush of the New England single-digit arctic winter. Truth be told, Charleston was colder than I expected. But coming from Connecticut, being able to see the pavement and bask in temperatures above freezing was still an enormous reprieve. So, my main concern wasn’t the weather- it was what to do when I finally found myself down South! IMG_1893 After a long flight the first place I like to head is the beach! Why? Because what’s better than sandy coastlines, breathtaking views, and the gentle roar of waves crashing rhythmically onto the shore? Getting a chance to enjoy it without having to worry about hypothermia or frost bite. Sure, I still needed a sweatshirt and a thick pair of gloves, but I didn’t have to worry about my snowsuit or wool socks so I was perfectly content to comb the Carolina shores. One of my very favorite places, not only in South Carolina but in the United States is Folly Beach, and one of the greatest things to see there is Morris Island Lighthouse. There’s plenty of street parking at the end of East Ashley Avenue and it’s a gorgeous beach hike (roughly a quarter mile long) until you’ve got a great view of the lighthouse, the Cooper River Bridge, an endless supply of driftwood, and a sweeping view of the ocean. Lighthouse Not only is it a great hike with fantastic scenery, in general, the beach is quiet and we had the entire place to ourselves. As we strode down the shore, I  felt confident that I had successfully escaped winter and found something close to paradise. And just as the wind was whipping across my face and I was enjoying the salty smell of the sea air, we spotted a glint of silver shining through the water. Yes, the beach is always rejuvenating but its even better when you get an up close view of wildlife. If you don’t like dolphins, there’s probably something seriously wrong with you. If you do, take this walk in the late afternoon and you’re likely to spot one of these gorgeous creatures- or even an entire pod. There’s something about these marine mammal beauties that make the world feel magical. If I did nothing but get off the plane, hike Folly Beach, spend ten minutes chasing dolphins down the coastline as they hunted for their dinner, then went right back to Hartford- the flight would have been entirely worth it. dolphins1 Luckily I had more time to do other things. So despite that I’d have flown all the way there and back for that sanctuary of serenity on the beach with my dolphin pals and a break from the snow, my trip didn’t end there. I have to admit that despite technically flying into Charleston, I tend to spend most of my time in Folly. It’s a beach town with a relaxed vibe, a small town feel, and enough restaurants and bars to keep one fully entertained. However, that’s not to say that downtown Charleston isn’t also fabulous. Simply taking a stroll downtown at night will give you a sense of the historic, quaint, and inviting city. The cobblestone roads, the classic Southern architecture, the rich history, and the antiquated street lights mixed with countless modern restaurants, bakeries, bars, modish stores, boutiques, and the ability to buy, eat, or drink, just about whatever your heart desires.  Charleston Downtown Now that you’re here, where do you eat? Let me help you out with a few stellar recommendations on where to find some tasty food. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, hit up Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream located on the main drag of King Street. This ice cream will make your taste buds scream with delight and it’s the first Jeni’s Ice Cream in South Carolina. I recommend the Salty Caramel and the Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate. Feeling more in the mood for some healthy fare since you might have to stuff yourself into a bathing suit later? Head to Dellz Uptown for some vegetarian and vegan dishes. Don’t worry, if you’ve got some lame carnivore obsessed friend who can’t imagine a meal without meat- they’ve got options for those who aren’t all about the veggies too. I ordered the black bean hummus appetizer and the Mahi wrap which could not have been more delicious. If you are in Charleston and don’t try this place, what can I say? Your loss. Literally, one of the best meals I’ve ever had and if I lived in Charleston, I would have this place on speed dial for sure. attach Another restaurant in downtown Charleston that I would recommend if you are into French food is Fast and French. This European style restaurant is charming, reasonably priced, authentic, and boasts not only great food but also an array of wines, beers, coffees, and desserts. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offer everything from escargots and seafood Normandy to steamed vegetable dinners and various ethnic specialties from around the world. The night we were there they offered a Senegalese Chicken Du Jour. I opted for the steamed vegetable dinner with a garlic butter seasoning topped with French Blue Cheese and a side salad with the house ginger dressing. Just to be certain we weren’t too healthy, we also ordered the featured Malbec and ended dinner with chocolate mousse and apple pie a la mode. French Restaurant I could go on all day about all that Charleston has to offer. However, to prevent this blog post from being eight million pages long I’ll end with a unique place to grab a drink once you’ve hit the beach, walked around downtown, and loaded up on some food. The Barrel is a bar, but it’s unlike any bar I’ve ever been to before. Not only is this place chock-full of craft beer but you’re also bound to see some dogs. The Barrel has a full service bar and a classic, almost English pub ambiance, but it is a hangout for pooches just as much as for their owners. If you love dogs, you’ve definitely got to check this place out. In back there there are picnic tables by the water that offer a stunning view of the sunset, a large area where the dogs can play, a food truck where you can grab a bite to eat, corn hole, and a lot of people with drinks. If you’re looking for a different type of place to grab your favorite craft beer, the Barrel is calling your name. Barrel Those are just a very few of the very, very many amazing things that the city of Charleston has to offer. If you’ve ever been I’m sure you will agree, Charleston is definitely a Southern gem. The beaches are gorgeous, the food is fantastic, the locals are friendly – Folly Beach is hip, Charleston is a bit on the posher side – and the mix of it all is absolutely irresistible. If you haven’t been put Charleston, South Carolina on the top of your list, Travel Girl says so. That’s all for today but here’s wishing you a beautiful weekend filled with wonderfully exciting things. Ciao for Now XOXO Travel Girl

When In Rome…I mean Manhattan

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Hi, all! Travel Girl here and happy its the weekend. If you’re an East Coaster you may find yourself buried under the winter blues, or, fearing yet another winter storm! But don’t fear-Travel Girl is here to give you the lowdown on a hot spot downtown to help you weather the the cold and ease your travel lust. 

What’s better than going to Italy? Well, if you are in New York City the answer used to be Little Italy. Which-lets be honest- is still a rocking spot to grab some seriously delicious and not to mention affordable authentic Italian cuisine. The good news is that when the weather gets nasty, instead of roaming the streets for something delicious, there’s somewhere you can meander, stuff your face, guzzle wine, and even grocery shop for everything Italian indoors! You heard me right, directly across from Flatiron, at 205 5th Ave., is Eataly, and if you haven’t been- it’s definitely worth a visit.

Flat Iron

So, soak in the beautiful view of this gorgeous landmark then pop out of the cold and into Eataly. Whether you are just in need of an aesthetically pleasing place to dodge the mean winter weather, want to eat at a sit-down restaurant, or fancy grabbing a coffee or glass of vino to warm up, you’ll find what you are looking for in the over 40,000 square feet of anything and everything Italian. Want a little wake me up? Try a mug of steaming hot dark Italian roast, or better yet hit the Espresso Bar.Coffee Now that you’ve got a hot beverage and you’re beginning to regain the feeling in your fingers, you can either eat, browse, or do some serious shopping depending on your agenda. Shop for what you ask? Well, like I think we’ve covered- if it’s Italian they’ve got it. To start with, if you love cheese like me, you can pick from a wide array of shapes, sizes, and flavors. If you’re not into lactose, that’s alright, we’ve still got the fresh veggies and fruits to cover.

Cheese

Fruit

Not only is the coffee strong, the cheese hunks massive, and the fresh fruits and veggies delightfully ripe and indisputably fresh, but there’s still more, lots more, to discover in NYC Eataly. If you are are in search of ingredients to make a mouthwatering meal, look no further than the shelves surrounding you as you make your way throughout this Italian-style paradise.

meat

pasta

Or, if you are like Travel Girl and use your oven as additional storage for cute boots and other accessories (I’m not even sure if my oven is functional because it’s never actually been turned on)-  you don’t have to deal with all the food that won’t cook itself. For anyone who lives on take-out, wine, and granola bars, do not worry! If you can’t cook and buying groceries seems more foreign than traveling abroad, you have your choice of SEVEN different restaurants to choose from. So, don’t be intimidated by the loads of products for sale you don’t know what to do with- think of it as culinary scenery, grab a seat, and let the chefs do all the dirty work. Choose from homemade mozzarella at La Piazza, pan seared market fish at Il Pesce, or a prime rib sandwich at Rosticceria, just to name a few. Or go with a more traditional selection and order a Panini, Spaghetti al Pomodoro, or Neopolitan Pizza at one of the more casual dining selections. eating

Now that you’re toasty warm, have either stocked up on groceries or loaded your belly with homemade Italian cuisine- or better yet- both, it’s time for the sweet stuff. That’s right, you’ve enjoyed all that Eataly has to offer and now it’s time to take the best stuff home. That way when the next winter storm hits you’re prepared!

wine

Everyone knows that the essentials for surviving being stuck in your apartment when the snow decides to really pound is having plenty of chocolate and wine on hand. What about batteries, candles, flashlights, milk, bread, and back-up heaters, you say? Please, if you’ve got chocolate and wine, you’ll be able to not only survive but do so happily. So, don’t forget to hit the wine aisle, pick up some dark chocolate (of course it’s ITALIAN), and grab something from the bakery- because lets face it ladies- we’re not going to have to be bikini ready anytime soon!

candy

Well, that’s all for now. Here’s hoping that if you haven’t been, you give Eataly NYC a try. Stock up on Italian goodies for the next big snowstorm and keep warm while enjoying this gem in Manhattan.

Have a wonderful Saturday and remember that when in Rome, doesn’t only apply to Italy. Whenever you have the chance to indulge in something novel, dive in!

Ciao for Now.

XOXO

Travel Girl

That One Story About Why I Travel

Miss

Happy Monday everyone! Travel Girl here and hoping that your week is off to a phenomenal start.

If you like to travel as much as I do, I’m sure you have a few stories up your sleeve that you just can’t help but tell over and over again. It’s not that you’re boring or that you don’t have loads more to choose from- it’s just that some stories deserve retelling.

Most travelers have a go-to story for when they are faced with that one question, “Why do you like to travel so much?” Obviously, its different for everyone- but if you travel enough there’s usually that one ‘Aha’ moment you go back to, the day you realized you were hooked.

For me in particular it was a dark night in Mali, West Africa, in a village named Missalabougou that is located South of the country’s capital, Bamako. I was running late getting back to the compound where I was staying with the Dugutigi, or Chief of the Village. Yes, of course, Travel Girl likes to stay with the Chief but even so, the thought of running water or even electricity was out of the question. So, as the sun was setting I took a quick bucket shower in the African dusk. When I was finished it was nearly dark, but instead of taking the time to light my kerosene lantern, I decided to shimmy into some clothes blindly and made my way to the courtyard to sit with my host family.Kids

It was a beautiful night and the silver lining when it comes to lacking electricity is the luminosity the black allows the stars. Although my Bambara was bad at best and the Dugutigi and his three wives spoke little to no English or French, we did enjoy each other’s company. At least, that was my impression, not being able to formally ask them their opinion. That evening I stayed up after the children went to bed and the Dugutigi and the third wife had retired. It was only myself and the Dugutigi’s first and second wife, who were both kind, intelligent, and, at times, hilarious.

That night the second wife was holding a long stick and had the funny idea to gently tap the first wife on the back then appear aloof once she turned around. I sat on a miniature stool in the dark observing this prank for a few minutes, laughing, until finally the first wife realized she’d been had. For a few minutes none of us could quite control our laughter, and as we all regained our composure, I realized how connected I felt to these women despite that we weren’t capable of having a proper conversation.

Of course, one of the wives was topless, her breasts bare in the moonlight, a normal custom for women in the village. As we all settled into our seats one of the wives began to tug at my shirt. I looked at her, staring again at her chest, and shook my head. I loved those women and I loved Mali, but African village or no African village- I wasn’t about to part with my shirt. As I shook my head the first wife nodded again, more firmly, and both women gave me encouraging stares. “Non,” I replied gently in French. Both women looked at one another, laughed, then returned their glances to my shirt and reached towards me. I stepped back. “Ayi,” I told them no in Bambara more firmly. Again, they gave each other an amused look and finally the first wife swiftly stepped forward and grabbed the tag on my shirt.

There I was in an African village with two Muslim women, one topless and the other wrapped in brightly colored cloth, and they had recognized not only that I put my Western style shirt on backwards, but that I had mistakenly read their reactions as a request to mimic the topless trend of many of the women in Missalabougou. I’m not sure how this simultaneous recognition happened but suddenly we were laughing even harder than before. “Sanaba, Sanaba, Sanaba,” they kept repeating the Malian name that they had bestowed upon me lovingly.Women

It was that night I realized despite our differences, there are so many more things that remain the same. Sure, there was no way I was going topless in that African village, but that was the last thing they expected. Not only could they not help but laugh at me for even thinking that, but they were totally hip to the fact that I had accidentally put my T-shirt on backwards.

It doesn’t matter where you go, the ability to connect with others, no matter how diverse, always remains. It’s humbling to meet people from entirely different places, with varying religions, races, ethnicities, and beliefs, and find you’ve still got enough in common to get along and even have some laughs.

So, anytime anyone asks Travel Girl why she travels, instead of smacking them across the face and saying “Why do you think, you moron?” I tell that story, because no matter how many times I get to repeat it, reliving that moment in time never gets old.

Have a great week and remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re in America or Sub-Saharan Africa, getting dressed in the dark is never a good idea!

Ciao For Now.

XOXO

Travel Girl