Fred here. It’s been almost 13 years since I left my home state of New York to live in San Francisco. California has become my home, and I have an absolute love affair with San Francisco, but New York is where my family and roots are and will always be home in my heart. Because of this history, visiting the east coast is always a special trip for me.
My mother had planned a week-long family vacation on the island of Nantucket (Massachusetts), where she, myself, Heather, my two sisters, their respective partners/families, and Mia the French bulldog would convene to relax and enjoy coastal New England. After our 14-hour drive from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Armonk, New York (mom’s house), we still had a ways to go to get to Nantucket.
We drove up to Groton, Connecticut where my middle sister, her husband, and their daughter live. I was overjoyed to see them, finally! That little peanut, my niece, was 6 months old when we left on our global travels in February; she’s 14 months old now, and what a huge difference! She’s walking, starting to talk, and man is that personality shining through. As close as I am with my family, being abroad during the last several months was really hard on me. But I have to say, it’s amazing how technology can make you feel close to your loved ones even when you’re half-way around the world. Skype was our best friend.
The next day, we woke up at the crack of dawn to make it to Hyannisport, Massachusetts harbor in time to catch the morning ferry to Nantucket. A short two-hour ride and we had arrived! Soon after settling in at our rental cottage we would be at the (tiny) airport to pick up my youngest sister and her boyfriend. The gang was back together.
The small, 48-square-mile island contains some of the most pristine white sand beaches on the eastern seaboard. Quintessential New England homes dot the shoreline while cobblestone streets connect adorable shops and cafes. In the summertime it is a fairly busy destination. But in the middle of September, after the summer vacationers depart, is truly a special time. The atmosphere felt a whole lot sleepier: the perfect place to hang out and catch up with loved ones after months of traveling. Our days consisted of walking to the beach and playing in the sand with my niece, sharing stories about our travels and happenings back home, cooking great meals, fishing, and playing board games.
Heather and I had been so excited about eating some of our favorite things back home in the U.S. This week we definitely got down to business making hearty home-cooked meals and barbeque. Also, my brother-in-law is quite the fisherman, and his skills graced the dinner table that week with tuna and blue fish – it was so fresh that we were compelled to eat a lot of that tuna raw! New England clam chowder was also a must and we had some of the best at Brotherhood of Thieves restaurant.
And like any vacation, it was soon coming to a close. We spent one last night at one of the local hotspots, Cisco Brewery, sipping tasty brew and listening to local musicians play folk standards. We felt blessed to have these experiences together.
Exactly one week after arriving on Nantucket, we boarded the ferry to head back to the mainland and New York bound, back to my hometown. We of course had to visit other family and friends living in the area. A stop in New Haven to see an old friend, a stop in Bronxville to see aunts, uncles and cousins, and of course a stop in Scarsdale to hang out with Grandma. We almost felt like we were campaigning for elected office, we made so many stops! One of our favorite detours was visiting the Fordham section of the Bronx where my Grandparents settled after immigrating from Italy in the 1930′s. We had lunch at Mario’s, the quintessential NY Italian restaurant that has been there for more than 75 years, and also popped in to the best Italian grocer in America – Teitel Brothers. It’s like time stands still here, and I love it.
And of course we spent some time in New York City. Heather couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try on a few wedding dresses at a couple New York bridal salons. Mom and the sisters took her around town as I was on baby duty: taking my niece to Central Park and The High Line. Also, a friend of Heather’s from Sweden was coincidentally visiting and we were able to grab a coffee and catch up for a couple hours. Brunches, drinks, lunches, visits – once more we were on the campaign trail of catching up with our East Coast friends, and it felt great to connect again with those we missed.
The campaign continued as we headed south to Philadelphia to connect with some old college friends. Adam and Deb had just moved back from the west coast and settled in West Philadelphia near The University of Pennsylvania. Cute family neighborhood, perfect for raising their two year old daughter who we hadn’t seen since she was born. Some other friends, Kevin and Abby had also just moved back from the west coast. I mean just moved back. They arrived the day before we did in their RV after driving cross country. Then there was Jim and Steven who were housemates of mine back in school. Hadn’t seen them in years but we didn’t miss a beat.
While in Philadelphia, we also had to dive in to some US history, visiting Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – places Heather and I had never been. After ingraining ourselves in other countries’ histories we felt it only right to reconnect with the birth of our nation.
The next day it was off to Washington DC. But on the way we had to make a pitstop at the University of Delaware, the place I called home from 1995 to 1999.
My memories from this place are some of the best of my life. Driving by places where I had lived with my friends brought me right back to those years. Some things looked exactly the same. Other things couldn’t have looked more different. Main St. which used to be all local businesses now had a Starbucks and a Chipotle. The Stone Balloon, a bar that had been there for generations was turned in to condos and a wine bar. A wine bar? This is Delaware people. Get it together. But alas a lot of the old favorites remained – including Margharitas pizza where we grabbed a slice, and Capriati’s, where I grabbed a “Bobbie”, one of the most stellar sandwiches on earth consisting of fresh turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing. Thanksgiving on a roll. After gorging ourselves we continued down I-95 to DC.
In DC we met up with another college friend, Gil and his wife, Elaine. They got married this summer when we were in Laos. Gil was actually one of the original inspirations for our international trip. 10 years earlier he had done something similar, albeit more ambitious than ours. He was on the road for 15 months. Pretty sure H and I wouldn’t have lasted that long. Regardless we had an amazing time exploring DC with them.
Heather also has a bit of a girl crush on Elaine. She may have the greatest style we’ve ever seen. A career in interior design isn’t far fetched. We may have to get her to SF to do our home.
Finally we had one last stop on the campaign trail – this one in the Northern Virginia suburbs of DC where yet another old college friend, Scott, lived with his family. Scott settled in to adulthood much earlier than most of my friends, getting married almost ten years ago to his college sweetheart. He’s got the All-American family with his wife, son and daughter. However he was quick to tell me how much he hates my guts for having taken this amazing trip. It’s all in good fun, I suppose. It was a great way spending our last night back east.
The next morning, it was back on the road heading west. Next stop Denver, Colorado.