Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Vacation from Vacation

I’m in Pittsburgh at the moment attending a 3-day work-related conference. I’m staying in the Westin downtown, connected to the conference center and it has been raining on and off since I arrived. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh before and should be more interested in exploring the city when not working, but instead I have been so thrilled to spend the time in my room alone…doing whatever the fuck I want...reading blogs, writing, filling and abandoning shopping on carts on, etc.  Ya know, the shit one does when there’s no laundry, no diapers, no dishes, no sex you should be having. That’s the best part, there’s no guilt for what I think I could/should be doing. I’m just doing whatever the selfish Ashley wants to do and it’s amazing.

Using the windowed sky bridge from the hotel to the conference center has basically been my exposure to the outside. I don’t want to hate on a city without giving it a chance, but it’s not so attractive, and looks and feels like a large Waterbury, CT. If Jeff were here with me we would have a great time exploring and finding it’s best hidden and exposed gems.  But, I’m solo, just me, a glass of chardonnay and complete wonderful solitude.

4th of July race, pre-rain
Family life is fab, but last Friday we returned from a 9-day family vacation, and by the end of it I really needed a vacation of my own.  Jeff and I don’t normally spend that much concentrated time with our kids, and as interesting, funny and cute as they are that’s a lot of “kid time” and lacks the structure to which we are accustomed to and from which I thrive.  I was beginning to twitch by the end of it and was having a hard time finding the cuteness and funniness of it all.

Our trip didn’t take off as swimmingly as I had planned.  The drive to my parents’ lake cabin in East Haddam, CT was long and riddled with 4th of July traffic, even though we did an impressive job of weaving through it using Google traffic and Navigon, our go-to tools for car travel. In my mind, I envisioned us on the highway shortly after lunch, just in time for naps and before the mass exodus out of the city for the holiday weekend.
Bashan Lake beach
Camper Kisses
Unfortunately, Jeff’s last minute packing derailed that dream. He has an unrealistic understanding of how long it takes him to pack. He only packs for himself, which also includes being able to support any technical malfunction/need that might occur within a 25-mile radius, i.e. Various cables, wires, speakers, chargers and adapters.  I fear we would never cross the apartment threshold if I added anything else to his plate.  Unlike, my laidback extended family members, who throw a few essentials in a plastic grocery bag and are on their way, Jeff packs like he works in a Gucci store, aligning all edges, seams and corners. (I shit you not; he uses a shirt folding board). We were about 3 hours behind schedule but Jeff’s socks we’re color coordinated so as you can imagine I wasn’t annoyed.
Blue Our dinner

We arrived to the cabin just in time for a lovely family dinner, shortly followed by rainstorm that chased the intense heat and humidity away.  The rain was welcome at first, but not so much when it continued to pour throughout the entire 4th of July.  We made the best of it by playing games, drinking and grilling under an umbrella.  We were happy when the sun returned the next day allowing us to hit up the beach, boat and the Blue Our, a great spot located on the Connecticut River, for a lobster roll dinner.

The following morning Jeff and I packed up the kids and car, said goodbye to the family and headed 40 minutes south to New London to catch a ferry to Greenport, Long Island.   The ferry was low-stress, breezy and sunny. The four of us shared a salty pretzel and the two of us, a cold beer.

Greenport, is a small beach town as far north and east as one can go on Long Island, generally known as the Northfork. Northfork, unlike its southern counterpart, the Hamptons, is very laid back, void of crowds and unpretentious.  It’s lined with hundreds of vineyards, farms, fruit stands and beaches. We arrived at our weeklong rental, which was a beautifully renovated cape-style house shortly after our friends arrived and quickly settled in.

Winery with kids

Drive-thru wine tasting

Winery without kids

Early morning pig-pile (notice the whites)

Introducing herself to a pony

Views from the ferry

 Almost the entire interior of the house was decorated and painted white of varying shades, lined with huge glass lamps, artwork and seashells galore, had two exposed stairways, and a pebble-covered patio. It was a 9-month olds dream and my nightmare. Visiting the vineyards during the day, buying and drinking wine by the case helped calm some of the anxiety this environment caused me.  When we weren’t prying ceramic starfish from Julien’s strong, sticky grip, we were hanging out on beach or in the ocean (again, lots of prying from tiny hands and mouth but of less precious, non-decorative flora, fauna, rocks and shells), petting farm animals, taking walks downtown for rides on the carousel (Colette called it the carrot show) and enjoying great food and company.

It took a few days to get used to the fact that you didn’t have to rush to the beach to save a spot in the sand or find a parking spot.  This survival of the fittest and fastest mentality, which we have become accustomed to in the city, has no place in Northfork. If you have two hours to spare the artisanal ice cream shop down the street from our apartment is great, but in Greenport, when you wanted ice cream, you just got ice cream.  There were no crowds, lines, nothing but a really easy beachy lifestyle…hot and breezy.

Of Friday afternoon, en route back home to Brooklyn, as the kids napped in the car ( we stood guard with doors and windows open) we continued to hit up farm stands that operate on the honor system and vineyards trying to squeeze every last piece out of the vacation and headed towards the city traffic.

After some much needed alone time in Pittsburgh and as my twitching has subsided, I’m already looking forward to the trip back next year.