Home for the Fourth of July

Spending the Fourth of July at home is always a hectic dance of vacation days, bus trips, and wrangling which of my family members I can see. But despite the complicated maneuver, I think it’s a tradition I want to keep up for years to come. Though I do love the emptiness of New York City during a summer holiday, it’s nice to go back to my childhood house in the trees, joining in some good old debates about what time to grill while at it, even if it drives me a little batty.

I split my time in both New Hampshire and the suburbs of Boston which means I’ve think a lot about trips I can tag on while in New England. Of the many things I miss about living in that region, I miss the most the fact that you can just get in a car and be in another state, at the beach, or in the mountains, with ease. 

This year in New Hampshire we aimed for relaxation and quality time, but I’m proud we got to at least one of the many local breweries in the state without trying. Perhaps next year we’ll take the week off to rent a lake house for a day or two in the northern part of the state. I once went to the White Mountains in summer, thinking they were absolutely glorious.

Around Boston we didn’t make it to Walden Pond as I dreamed of but explored a less touristed local lake to see a friend, one I didn’t even know existed, which quenched that same thirst for suburban lake lounging.

We spent time playing mini-golf and eating ice cream in the farm stand of my youth, like classic Americans surrounded by dads in American flag t-shirts. We even played candlepin bowling like New Englanders with weird traditions (I am one of them) right where I used to spend my most favorite awkward years in junior high losing at skee-ball.

(I lost at mini-golf but didn’t do so bad at bowling, thank you very much. )

We even found time to stealth away in a car,  driving into Cambridge to visit our favorite bookstore in Harvard Square. I stopped into one of the best vintage stores I’ve ever been to, picking up something red white and blue by serendipitous accident.

We capped our brief visit to Cambridge by sitting down for a meal at a classic greasy spoon with a friend, the kind of free-standing diner that are almost all but gone in New York City. All-day-breakfast feels a lot of like home, reminds me of getting rides into the city as a teen or skipping class to get breakfast sandwiches at the now closed diner counter of my hometown. 

Sometimes it’s pretty alright to go home for a while, treating where you’re from like a different destination than it’s always been. 

 Fourth of July Notes

A Brewery Crawl of New Hampshire (someday!)
Martha’s Exchange in NH
Memorial Beach in Marlborough MA
Kimball’s Farm for minigolf in Westford MA
Acton Bowladrome in Acton MA
Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge MA
Oona’s in Cambridge MA
Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown MA

 

 

Boston Favorites (from a New Englander transplanted to New York)

Every year at Christmas I head home on a bus or train to Boston, meeting my family in the suburbs of both Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Holidays are always enjoyable and stressful yet I’m thankful to be able to spend brief spurts in the city.

Boston is a place I keep passing through even after three years of moving back to New York City. It’s a city for trips home or short weekends. It’s a city where my family and friends live. It’s a city I’ve known for so long as the city, that it’s funny that I live in this other big city.  It is a comfort though, to always have it be a part of my trip home.

So in honor of the holidays I wrote a little rumination on what I love about Boston and its environs, things to do and eat and see and. Places change (how dare them!) but I hope these will continue to be useful. Of course, this is by no means exhaustive and just my little take on a city I keep in my heart.

I’ll keep updating it as I go back and forth with any new found favorites. Heck, I might even move back one of these years. It seems like my life will be switching between Massachusetts and New York every few years based on my track record so far.

Oh and yes, there are many touristy historic things to do I left out.

Things I love to do:

Lounging in the Copley library courtyard in summer or the reading room in the winter or fall. In the summer there is a wonderful farmer’s market in the square, too.

Walking the emerald necklace through Jamaica Plain, spending an afternoon in the arboretum and strolling Centre street.

Exploring a college campus, especially Harvard’s.

Walking that part of the Charles River esplanade where kayaks come in through a small waterway.

Spending an afternoon on Newbury Street, a sort of both lovely and overwhelming intersection of all of Boston’s shopping. I like to perch at Trident Booksellers and just people watch with coffee and a book.

Finding time to walk the Mass Ave bridge all the way into Cambridge, stopping at Flour Bakery and then seeing the robots at the MIT museum. Finish it up with dosa in Central Square.

Stoping in for a movies at The Brattle or The Coolidge Corner Theater, some of the few indie theaters left in the area.

Getting the right perch for the view of the harbor from the ICA at night, better yet on their free after hours nights.

Keeping close to the T windows on that part of the Red Line when it emerges on the Longfellow bridge and everyone is compelled to look out at the Charles river no matter their curmudgeonly.

Picking just one gallery to spend the day in at the MFA Boston.

Picnicking in Boston Common and walking down Charles Street into Beacon Hill, getting lost up and down the hill.

Being in awe of the glass flowers at The Harvard Natural History Museum.

Meandering around the cloisters courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Browsing and shopping in the brownstones of the South End. The SoWa market is a nice reason to visit.

Putzing around the North End, eating grandma slices or at the original Regina Pizzeria.

Tracking down the food trucks!

Walking the entire length of The Rose Kennedy Greenway from end to end, which has some fabulous landscape architecture and a moving holocaust memorial near the North End. In the summer kids play in sprinklers and it’s a nice spot to rest while people watching.

Catching a ferry to one of the Harbor Islands in the summer to picnic or adventure inside old ruins that I am sure are haunted.

Attending Open Studios at The South Boston the Distillery where many artists live and work.

Touring the Sam Adams Brewery in my secret favorite neighborhood Jamaica Plain.

Things I Particularly love to Eat and Drink:

Clover Food lab in Harvard Square (or any location they just moved from their original there) has a place in my heart because no matter the multitude of food trucks turned brick and mortar I love that you can sit, drink a beer, and order a fairly cheap falafel plate for dinner with fries.

I just tried the coffee and pastries at the new location of Tatte bakery in Harvard Square. The space is so lovely and light, like a Parisian bakery with the backdrop of Harvard’s campus in the background.

Hot pot in Allston at Shabu Zen, or any of the stalls at Super 88.

For imbibing, Grendel’s Den to feel like a college kid in Harvard Square, Deep Ellum for a well crafted cocktail and silent movies on TV screens.

Tasty burger in Fenway because you can easily eat at the bar while watching Boston sports without being too obvious. Secret sports viewing is key for a non-sports obsessed New Englander.

Algiers Coffee house because it reminds me of New York City’s Cafe Reggio where I can linger for a long time without buying much and 1369 to read and people watch in Central Square.

Area Four for my most favorite pizza and garlic knots.

The Salty Pig so I could build a board of pig parts plus a fancy pizza with more pig parts. Pig is key.

Highland Kitchen in Somerville for comfort.

Chinatown eating! Especially Dumpling Cafe.

When I was feeling fancy I loved Oleana (of course I’d say this, I got married there!), Neptune Oyster, or Ten Tables in either Cambridge on Jamaica Plain.  p.s. I really need to try Sarma next time I’m in the area!

Places I love to browse:

The best overall bookstore, a browser’s delight and open later than most things in sleepier than I like Boston, is the impeccable Brookline Booksmith. The delightful Globe Corner in Harvard square closed but gratefully the Booksmith assumed a great deal of their map and travel collection. Wanderlust denizens, rejoice!

For more travel, lingering, and reading literary magazines without purchasing them I actually admit I love the Barnes and Noble in disguise Harvard Coop. The down the street independent The Harvard Bookstore is not actually a part of Harvard but that doesn’t stop tourists from always asking where the sweatshirts are when they walk in. It is a great all around bookstore though, with strong academic and non-fiction sections as well as a solid used book cellar.

Every year Brian and I also find ourselves at Schoenhof’s in Harvard Square, a hidden foreign language bookstore with a deep catalogue of French and Spanish titles plus a lovely staff.

I have a special spot in my heart for Black Ink in Harvard Square or Beacon Hill for the finding the best offbeat gift, card, or special thing you are lusting after.

Oona’s in Harvard Square is for everything you dreamed your vintage closet could be someday.

For handmade gifts I’m a fan of Olive and Grace. I’ll often stop by on the days before christmas for an extra gift.

 

Trips out of the city:

deCordova is a hidden gem of modern art and rolling sculpture park greens making it perfect for an afternoon adventure.

West Concord has the best bread and sandwiches in a cozy shop plus of course Concord itself has charm and Walden Pond is a childhood favorite.

Mass Moca is worth that zip car trip out west.

And for the record, I actually love the cold, rocky New England beaches north of the city.

Also, most of New England isn’t far from a car trip, either. You can be in Salem, Portland Maine, the White Mountains, or the New Hampshire Seacoast in a few hours at most.

 

Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market

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During a long weekend last summer a group of friends and I discovered Elephant’s Trunk in New Milford Connecticut. We definitely found a holy grail of thrift only an hour from New York City.

In the previously unknown to me Northwest Connecticut–that is also home to a giant man-made lake rumored to have a ghost town at the bottom–Elephant’s Trunk has been operating every year since 1976. What makes it especially awesome is it’s a flea market of “pickers” who sell to dealers. The pickers are awesome people from across New England, running the gamut of eccentrics who love vintage pyrex to your Red Sox capped dad who likes going to garage and estate sales. That means a lot of the higher priced items in curated vintage stores like those populating in my home of Brooklyn might very well originate here.

One of the benefits to trekking out to New Milford CT, only an hour and so out of New York City though you’ll need a car to make it, is the ability to buy from these sellers, many of whom have just picked up fresh vintage wares the days before. All the prices are especially reasonable and naturally, flexible. If you’re an actual vintage dealer you can pay extra to arrive at the crack of dawn to buy. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of worthy items left after the dealers come.

I’ve found the two times I’ve visited the flea that closing is an especially good time. Right before closing a few I found up a vintage globe from between the world wars and a mid century modern magazine rack all right before for much lower than I was expecting to pay.

Tips: Make sure to bring cash! Sellers using a mobile payment card reader are almost non-existent. There are food vendors (and coffee) in trucks and stands on the 55-acre grounds, too. If you’re hungry after thrifting, there is a giant diner not too far down the road.

Elephant’s Trunk
490 Danbury Road
New Milford, CT
April to Dec on Sundays from 5:30 to 1:00pm.
Parking is free, no dogs, $2 to enter