From Pennsylvania, we made our way to The Big Apple.
While I’ve always been obsessed with New York, it holds an extra special place in my heart because it’s where Joel and I met up after 11 months of long distance dating. I picked him up from JFK, and we stayed in Brooklyn for 10 days having one of the best vacations of my life. So I was really excited to be back in our favourite place again. There’s nothing like coming around the parkway to see the skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. It always makes me giddy.
We stayed at an Air BnB in Brooklyn, near Williamsburg. It was Spartan meets Bohemia, and close to the subway lines (which were under construction for the weekend, d’oh) and a top rated pizza place (which we ate too much of). As predicted, it was COLD. And a little bit rainy, and hella windy. I had packed a wool cardigan, a hoodie, and Joel’s cheap cotton blazer, none of which would cut it. I needed something that I could wear in Maine, which was showing temps in the single digits. But I also needed something warm in the city. And I wanted to look cool while I was in the city, because looking cool in the city is very important. Clearly. These two things couldn’t be combined in a single coat, and I couldn’t buy two coats. Disappointingly, practicality won out, and Joel suggested a compromise of an outdoor-friendly windbreaker, and a cool and fancy sweater. We bought the windbreaker and a winter beanie hat, and I proceeded to have an
internal meltdown hissy fit as we walked to lunch. As it turns out, hanger and emotionally compromising shopping decisions do not make good bedfellows.
Alas, after a life changing bowl of ramen at Noodle Bar (oh, my stars), I felt better about my decision. And the next day, when it was 12*, I sucked it up and prepared myself to walk around my favourite city in a windbreaker, looking like a g-damn tourist. The shocking part was that I was completely warm and comfortable, and because of that, we spent 11 hours walking through Brooklyn and Manhattan. We saw some familiar sights (Brooklyn Bridge, Bryant Park, the villages, 30 Rock, China Town), and some new ones (The Sept 11 memorial, inside the NY Public Library, The Top of the Rock, Brooklyn Flea, Brooklyn Highline).
The 9/11 Memorial was very somber and thoughtful. The two infinity fountains are located where each of the towers stood. The water falls into a pool that recycles and comes back through the falls, and the names of the victims are engraved on the sloping sides of the fountain. Apart from the occasional people taking questionable selfies (is it appropriate to selfie at a memorial? I’m on the fence), it was a quiet, respectful area. I always wondered if we would be able to create a memorial that would do the event justice without coming off as tacky or too abstract, but this was well done. The strange shopping centre, The Oculus, next to it is a bit cringey tho.
The first time I went to NYC was in November 2001. So I’ve only ever known it as the relatively scrubbed up and sanitised city it is now. I mean, I’ve seen some shifty areas and some gritty business there, and that’s part of the appeal. But this trip felt a lot less adventurous than it has in the past. I don’t know if the novelty or the excitement has worn off for me, or if it were the Insta-model photo shoots we passed every couple of blocks, the cheap independent shops that are now super chic, pricey boutiques, or the $20 hamburgers on every street, but something just didn’t click on this visit. The spark that I used to feel when I walked down the sidewalk wasn’t there. It felt expensive… and a little boring. But then again, I’ve lived in a big city for the last 4 years. Every other time I’ve gone to New York it’s been from the suburbs, which gives you that “ooOOooOo” feeling. Maybe I’ve just become that pretentious that I write sentences like that one I just left. And that I refuse to delete. Who knows. We still had a good time.
One night at dinner, we had some wine and started planning our next leg: Boston. We were only spending one night there, and taking into consideration the drive to get there, we really only had about 6 hours in the city. And the hotel we had reserved was pretty far from the North End, where we wanted to explore. Joel was looking up National Parks (for our stamps passport, what up) that we could stop at along the way, when he said “What about Salem? We could stay in Salem.” And it was like 2 gigantic light bulbs exploded over our heads. Neither of us had been there, and since it was smaller than Boston and only a little bit further away, it seemed like a good compromise. Also, it was October, and Salem lives for Halloween (witches, hello!). We Googled hotels just to see, and Joel found a historic, HAUNTED hotel that was right in the centre of the action, with one room left. And so, we booked the room and our plans changed from Boston to Salem.
I had never been further north than Connecticut, so I was really looking forward to this trip. The weather wasn’t ideal for creating a brilliant leaf show, but it was chilly, and it was fall, and we were headed to New England. We picked up our new rental car, which was supposed to be an economy class SUV. However, they didn’t have any in stock, so we got an upgrade for free (heated seats what up)! The car was from Québec, which thrilled my inner Canada-phile to no end. But while we were leaving the city, I couldn’t figure out why I was going 60MPH, and barely crawling as I was being passed and honked at left right and centre. After a few embarrassing minutes, it dawned on me that the speedometer was in goddamn KILOMETRES and the MILES indicator was on a tiny reel under the kilometres reel. Whoooooops. Freaking metric system.
So once that was established, and after a harrowing traffic adventure getting out Brooklyn (freaking cyclists), we were on our way.
Salem ended up being a lot of fun, and definitely worth the change in plans. We toured the Witch House (the home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, who oversaw the witch trials of 1692. It’s the only structure still standing in Salem with direct ties to the trials – thanks, Wiki), The Salem Museum, The House of Seven Gables, The Witch Trial Memorial Park, The Nathaniel Hawthorne statue, The Old Burying Point cemetery, the historic houses on Chestnut Street (deemed “The most beautiful street in America.” and it is), and the waterfront.
It was about 5*, and so, so cold. But even with the cold, it was lovely, quiet, and small enough to take in in a limited amount of time. The fact that it’s historically significant in early American history is just part of the fun (yes, you read that right – fun!). It was great to walk around with several cups of coffee and just people watch. Because lordy, I have never seen more Stevie Nicks look-a-likes, costumed witches, teenage Goths, and unfortunate middle age, former teenage, Goths in one place at one time. Salem loves a haunted tale, and in October the town becomes a pilgrimage for every wayward witch and faux-witch alike. Oh, and junkies. Quite a few junkies just milling around itching, or passed out in alley ways.
We stayed in The Hawthorne Hotel, a historic boutique hotel that was a 2 minute walk to the historic district. I thought we’d be in for a dump of a room, but it was surprisingly swanky, and we had a really good meal at their pub. It was supposedly haunted, but nothing happened on the night we were there. Womp womp.
The next afternoon, we left Salem and I had a very strong urge to relive my freshman year of high school and re-read The Crucible.
And then, we were Northward Bound to Maine.
STAY TUNED FOR ALL THE MAINE EXCITEMENT IN PART 3!