Weekends Away

I’ve lived in New York for over five years, and since being here, I’ve shlepped to more places by car and train than I did in my twenty-plus years as a Michigander. It’s amazing how refreshing and relaxing just two or three days away can be.

Over the summer, we try to make it a habit to escape the city on the weekend. During the week it’s hard to power down. I sleep with my devices less than an arm’s reach away and Adam keeps both of his iPhones perched on the windowsill directly next to him. Our lives are rarely free from digital distraction.

But then there was this past weekend.

We made the trek to Rhode Island with two good friends, and not only did we power down (save for a few Instagram posts and Swarm check-ins), we let loose. And I’ll be honest — it felt great.

I’m a very WYSIWYG type of person – I make no apology for my pushy, type-A personality. It’s simply how I’m wired. But this weekend was different.

I was a mirage of myself, in the best possible way.

Friday was a late night, made even later by a round of drinks. Saturday was a long day spent exploring Stonington. And Sunday, our last day, was the perfect blend of beach and brunch, before we hit the road for our return journey to New York.

This weekend wasn’t entirely exciting. That’s not it at all. It was the company we had – family and friends – that made me appreciate the life Adam and I have built together, the characters we’ve carved out for ourselves, and the moments that make us stop in our tracks with anticipation of what’s next.

This weekend away, with friends and no plans to guide us, I was a mirage of myself, in the best possible way.

Honeymoon in London

Despite my love for British comedy and quite a big stash of PTO days, I never found the time to hop across the pond to the UK before meeting Adam. Between his love for history, and my love for Hyacinth, England was our top pick for a honeymoon destination.

My only regret about our honeymoon was that we chose to go immediately after the wedding, and so I landed with a horrible cold and no energy. That said, I did my best to drink tea aplenty to power through jolly old London.

The Hotel: Thanks to an awesome deal on Hotels.com (client), we picked a lovely Taj property called The St. James Court Hotel. Located in the St. James Park area and nestled smack-dab in the middle of Buckingham Gate, the hotel was pretty perfect. The staff was super hospitable, and the room was very comfortable. We had a small balcony which overlooked a stunning Indian-inspired courtyard, with outdoor seating for one of the hotel’s restaurants. We had breakfast at the hotel daily, and it was delicious most days. There were a few over-cooked poached eggs, but when they didn’t charge me for a side of avocado to mash into my toast, I decided it was a fair exchange. We also had tea here quite a bit, splurging once on the afternoon tea package. I would most definitely stay at The St. James Court again, especially if we could snag a room in a similar location on the property.

The Food: I was actually really surprised by the food in London. It was incredible. We had the world’s best fish and chips at a chippy in Notting Hill called The Fish House, Ben’s Cookies, afternoon tea at The Orangery with a view of Kensington Palace that was beyond charming, and the most delectable Indian food I’ve ever tasted at Bombay Brassiere (get the fried spinach appetizer. Just do it). One of our favorite spots – we went twice, including right before heading to Paddington to catch the Heathrow Express for our return flight – was called Herman Ze German. It was a small little bratwurst place with the best-ever (you’ve heard that a lot in this paragraph) veggie sausage I’ve ever sampled. I loved HZG so much so that I ordered an apron and bought a tote bag while we were in London. The only culinary let-down in London was NOPI, a Yotam Ottolenghi restaurant. Most of the food was over-seasoned. I just felt that for a chef who sells such beautiful cookbooks full of super complicated recipes, his restaurant should have been spot-on.

The Sights: Would it be a total waste for me to admit that the Harry Potter “Platform 9 3/4” attraction at Kings Cross was one of my favorites? I was really into the Tower of London, and not for the jewels, but for the amazing tour guide. The British Museum and The Churchill War Rooms were Adam’s favorites, but I have zero attention span when not engaged in a tour, so I zoomed through both. I loved walking around the gardens at Kensington Palace, as well as strolling down Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

Leaving London, I already had such a strong urge to return. There’s so much left to see and experience, and I hope to make a trip back soon.

1545759_10106399050283754_141949877115808416_n

Virgin America: Or the Best In-Flight Experience [Ever]

I’m a pretty finicky traveler. I travel with purpose, and have little patience for mishaps in between. Based on that, it may surprise you to hear I’ve flown Spirit Airlines more times than I can count, with only bad experiences to share, and continue to hand my money over to them in some self-deprecating digression.

Virgin America

Image via Wikipedia

For my business trip to California — with a short stop in Seattle to visit the sister and brother-in-law — I decided to change things up a bit. Thanks to Routehappy, I had the ability to research the trip beforehand to be fully versed in the airlines that provided service to the west coast route I would travel. I narrowed down my interest to Frontier and Virgin America. I’m so glad I switched things up.

Frontier was by no means awful, but a fresh chocolate chip cookie at the end of my flight isn’t going to erase some of the less-than-stellar experiences I had in each airport, and during the longer leg of my flight.

Virgin America, however, was incredible. The first part of my trip originated in Seattle. The boarding process was quick and painless, and the in-flight experience started immediately. Free in-seat satellite, with plenty of options for premium, paid add-ons. From the comfort of your individual seat, you can order snacks/drinks, watch TV, interact across the cabin with high-tech chat features, shop, and soon, you’ll even be able to read and surf the web on the seat screen. Even better? Power outlets conveniently located between seats.

Normally when an airline offers these perks, I worry that they may be lacking in strong customer service. Not the case with VA. In fact, they have the nicest flight crew I’ve ever encountered. The flight attendant servicing the back of the plane offered me a free drink or snack because passersby and the concession cart kept knocking me in my aisle seat. Too kind.

And, so, while only passive aggressively mentioning the $14.95 charge for WiFi, I can confidently say, I value myself more as a passenger, and will certainly fly Virgin America in the future.

The Sixth Borough

Since seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a few weeks back, I’ve heard this “sixth borough” saying from many a non-New Yorker. And while I feel that, for most the part, LA is the antithesis of New York, there were elements of my less-than-24-hour trip that made me feel comfortable, and almost connected to the city. Everyone I encountered had some New York experience worth sharing, and in the same way that I feel I dispel the myth that everyone in New York is uptight and overly aggressive, my LA contacts did the same for my unwarranted stereotypes of the City of Angels.  And, to my only-slight surprise, the waitress at Cafe Gratitude — excellent vegan and raw restaurant in Beverly Hills — used the sixth borough expression to describe her feelings toward LA.

Though incredibly short, my trip was lovely overall, and was preceded with a jaunt to Seattle. In less than 72 hours and my first-ever trip further west than Chicago, IL, I’ve tried Vietnamese food (highly recommend the Lemon Grass Tofu Rice dish at Tamarind Tree in Seattle), walked through Pikes Place Market, met my adorable baby cousin Ben, had my first-ever vegan taco and raw dessert at Cafe Gratitude (see link above), and had the best-ever inflight experience with Virgin America.

While my layover in Denver during the blizzard wasn’t ideal, and I encountered a minor snafu on my way west via Frontier, I’m overall thrilled with my first West Coast trip, especially my stint in the supposed sixth borough.

Christmas in the Hamptons 2.0

Last winter was my first in New York.

Lonely is a bad state of mind to be in, and the bleak New York winters do [negative] wonders for loneliness. I was invited to spend the Christmas holiday — which historically for my family and me had meant Chinese food and a movie in suburban Detroit — in the Hamptons. Having never before been, I jumped at the opportunity. Peaceful it was not. Less than a full day after arriving, our would-be lovely holiday was cut short due to an impending blizzard.

I’ve since returned to my cousin’s home in Amagansett, but had planned to spend Christmas alone this year. Alone but not lonely.

The office was closed Friday. I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, and eating. By nightfall, boredom — note: not loneliness — set in. Before bed, my cousin had text messaged me. Cue: loneliness.

I spent most of Saturday sleeping off my cold, and around 3 p.m., I had made the executive decision to take a 6:40 Jitney to Amagansett.

No regrets.

I arrived and imbibed — crisp white wine before bed.

This Christmas holiday has beyond made up for its predecessor. A lovely drive and walk about Montauk Point, a movie in East Hampton, and English-style breakfast for supper.

Neither alone, nor lonely.

Family Ties

Shortly after I returned from my Thanksgiving holiday in Detroit, I jetted off yet again — this time, to [not-so] sunny Southern Florida.

While most of my relatives are rooted in Detroit, handfuls from my grandparents’ generation established adult lives outside of the Michigan mitten in Florida and in New York.

My maternal grandmother’s sister, my Auntie Molly, moved to Florida fifty-five years ago, and while geographically removed from the majority of the family, the anecdotes that she shared during my weekend trip proved that she has managed to stay very much in the loop.

I write about my family often; I’m quite fond of them.

My entire trip down to Florida was lovely — even the hour-long schlep we made from Jupiter to Fort Lauderdale at 4 a.m. to return our rental car — but my favorite thing was spending several hours with my Great Aunt and my mom, talking about her upbringing, and learning of her past as a writer.

I’m in the process of reading A Prayer for the Departed by my cousin Bill Broder.

Between Bill, his wife Gloria, and one other cousin in publishing, I thought I had interacted with all of the writers of their generation.

I was wrong.

My Aunt Molly pulled out a metallic silver binder full of clippings from a column called, “Molly’s Moments.”

Not sure of what to expect, I read through, one by one, and quickly became drawn to her tongue-and-cheek writing style.

In a post not far off in the future, I’ll share “Molly’s Moments” with you, in hopes that you’ll find them equally as entertaining.

Another quick note: I’m often a literary hard-sell, and began reading Bill’s book (mentioned above) out of familial curiosity. That said, I’ve had a hard time putting it down. Bill writes a very warm collection of stories from his youth — stories that take a look at the dynamics of a Jewish American family living in Detroit, Michigan. But the themes in his book extend beyond geography and religion. I highly recommend it as a curious mind, and not as a cousin. 

 

Spread the Happiness

A couple of months ago, I was invited to be an alpha tester for a really cool social review site that revolves around air travel. It’s called Routehappy, and while it’s still in an invite-only alpha phase, it’s well on its way to making a difference to an industry in need.

I have been reviewing businesses on Yelp for years, but after traveling back and forth between New York and Detroit for the past couple of years, spending time on different airlines, between the three airports serving the NY metro area, I was left without a place to review my true travel experiences.

One of my favorite things about the site so far, beyond how cool it is to be able to see every non-stop route possible from a given departure city, is that it really encourages users to evaluate the entire travel experience, in a way that allows you to assess the negative, the positive, and to share stories about the quirky things that may have happened along your journey. All in all, Routehappy makes me feel like my voice is being heard, my experience being shared, and that those factors combined are making a difference.

Routehappy? I sure am.


Want to learn more about Routehappy? Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. #beheardflybetter