On Friday we made the big drive from Erie, PA to Norwalk, CT. We had anticipated about 8 hours of actual drive time, but because of our travel style we planned for 9-10 hours. Although we try to stay with the regular traffic flow, we also do not speed excessively. Sure, if the speed limit is 55 we may punch it to 59, but if it’s 65 or 70 we’ll usually hang out in the right lane and go the limit as long as we’re not creating a hazard. There are several obvious reasons: 1) when traveling on a budget, speeding tickets are not typically budgeted items; 2) when considering an overall trip that will take tens of thousands of miles and a budget, miles per gallon efficiency is an important factor; 3) what’s the big hurry?
So imagine our surprise – and our Connecticut hosts’ – when we traveled those 464 miles in just slightly over 8 hours. We even stopped at a wayside to make peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. (Actually, they were peanut butter and jelly since Joe pocketed some jelly packets after a recent meal at a diner.) In any case, it was great to be in Connecticut – a first for both of us – and reunite with friends from the Twin Cities who just relocated there a year ago. They have a beautiful home in the saltbox style in a wonderful neighborhood and two very happy (and very squirrelly) Golden Retrievers. There are old stone walls throughout the neighborhood, and occasionally you can spy from the roads little family graveyards from the 18th century. The trees are tall, the roads are narrow and windy, and the houses are big but charming.
On Saturday we took a day trip up to Salisbury, where another Twin Cities friend recently opened his own bakery. It was great to see him and his really impressive shop filled with scones and tarts and cupcakes. But the big seller on that hot and sunny day were his homemade ice cream sandwiches. In fact, our lunch that day consisted solely of ice cream sandwiches and cupcakes. (It was the greatest meal of Joe’s life.) Our two-hour drive to and from Salisbury wound through charming towns with colonial histories, buildings that were hundreds of years old, covered bridges, quaint yet ornate churches. When it comes to visual appeal, Connecticut is bringing it.
Sunday we took the train into Manhattan where we stayed until Tuesday. Joe’s only visit to New York City lasted less than 24 hours (he was working), and Erik’s was a long time ago, so we were both very excited to explore as much as we could. Our hotel was in Times Square, which was crammed full of people every minute of the day. We walked around Times Square, exploring the side roads and just taking it all in. Among the sights we experienced in that first afternoon were Rockefeller Plaza, Radio City Music Hall, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This was another instance of the benefits of not being shoppers: there are many stores and since we’re not presently redecorating our home-on-wheels, it was easy to walk by and avoid even more tourists.
That afternoon we met Friends #1 who took us up to Central Park, where we walked for hours. As it was Sunday, the outer layers of the Park were teeming with tourists, but as we walked through it became less crowded. Our time with our friends ended at Lincoln Center, where we discovered that the husband designed the tree layout for the area. (Super cool!) We walked our way back to Times Square after what we thought would be a quick stop at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle to pick up some juice and water; let’s just say this store had 40 check-out registers and they were all working when we were there. But we got our supplies and hoofed it back to Times Square, where we grabbed seats and people-watched until midnight. We even saw the Naked Cowboy, who spent more time posing with tourists than actually playing his guitar. Even at midnight on a Sunday night, the place was packed.
Monday morning we met Friends #2 in the Clinton neighborhood and headed to the U.S.S. Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier from World War II that is now a museum on the Hudson River. Since Erik was in the Air Force (and could identify the planes) and Joe’s dad spent four years on an aircraft carrier in the Navy, this was pretty neat. Although we didn’t go into the museum it was an impressive sight, and the ground fountains surrounding area were a big hit with people of all ages in the stifling heat.
Then we ventured alone on the subway to South Ferry, the bottom tip of Manhattan island. The goal was to walk back to our hotel, about 50 blocks and many colorful neighborhoods away, and just walk wherever we wanted to. We zig-zagged all through the neighborhoods, and whenever we got to a corner we would look around and decide in which direction to head next.
Upon arriving at South Ferry we saw the Statue of Liberty in the distance and headed up Battery Park. We passed through the Financial District, Ground Zero, Chinatown (where we explored a market and had our olfactory senses assaulted by the pungent aromas of mountains of un-iced fish), Little Italy (full of very enticing restaurants and shops with Italian meats and cheeses), SoHo, Greenwich Village (which had a wonderful vibe and is the kind of place we wouldn’t mind living – after winning the Powerball, of course), and sat for awhile in Washington Square near NYU. On the way to Chelsea we passed the Stonewall Inn, we explored the food shops, bakeries, and restaurants of Chelsea Market, had dinner and then escaped the heat temporarily by popping into a Chelsea movie theater and seeing the Harry Potter movie. We finished the night back in Times Square and again participated in the guilty pleasure of public voyeurism.
Tuesday morning we went for a nice walk through the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood then made our way back up to Central Park for another walk. We visited the Strawberry Fields area, which is in memory of John Lennon. Then we spent time with Friend #3 having lunch, walking through the New York Public LIbrary, and making our way to the Empire State Building. That pretty much was the end of our Manhattan trip; we headed back to the hotel, walked to Grand Central Station, and trained it back to Connecticut.
(For details on our meals in Manhattan, make sure to visit Joe’s recent post.)
Upon returning to our Connecticut base camp, we were informed that our hosts’ wood floors were being refinished and because of the toxic smell and the heat, we all decided that we should find something to do elsewhere the next day. So we drove to New Haven and took the public tour of Yale University, which was very old and beautiful. Among the interesting things at Yale are the library that was built as a cathedral, the rare books collection (including a Gutenberg Bible!), and other gorgeous buildings from the early 1700s. It was just further reaffirmation of what a stunningly beautiful and historically interesting place Connecticut is.
We had a fabulous time with our Connecticut hosts, who not only fed us extremely well but had a fantastic wine collection that we got to sample, and we hope we convinced them to meet us somewhere in our future travels… say, Costa Rica…?
Coming up next: a reunion with our canine buddies Tess and Leo of Minneapolis and then four nights of camping through New England en route to our next Help Exchange in Prince Edward Island. And for the record, the heat and humidity are just as bad here as they seem to be everywhere else. It’s a challenge, but that’s a part of summer. Considering we remember our most recent winter in Saint Paul all too well, we’re not complaining.