Bob and I had rented a car to deal with house-related stuff in Jersey, but that appointment fell through so we were left with a car for the entire day and nowhere to go. Initially, I thought we could use it for an easy trip to the grocery store (lame), but thankfully, I thought of something way better: a day trip to Sleepy Hollow. And what could be better and more appropriate than Sleepy Hollow in October?
Our first stop (or second, if you count lunch at Sweet Grass Grill – recommended, by the way!) was Washington Irving’s Sunnyside in Tarrytown. His home was beautiful and romantic with its wisteria vines, European influences and its gorgeous view of the Hudson. The inside was cozy and cute, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
We learned a whole lot about the author of Sleepy Hollow too. Interesting tidbit: Washinton Irving was the first known American writer to support himself on solely on writing. Impressive! I enjoy educational tours, but there should be a rule about hiring a guide who’s sooo dry and monotone. We were standing in front of the house and the guide was going on about something or other (in his best Ben Stein impression, might I add) when Bob nudged me and said, “I’ll need to call this guy when I have trouble sleeping”. Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing, but it was funny and made me laugh. I like to think we were the bad kids in class.
We did our own self-guided tour of the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, which was Bob’s favorite part of the day. He loves looking at old tombstones and grand monuments.
Me? I was more fascinated by the nature aspect of it. We came across the headless horseman bridge overlooking Pocantico river, which looked straight out of a fairy tale. I loved it.
And last but not least, a Sleepy Hollow post would not be complete without…
a headless horseman sighting!
Alternate title: Vacation Photo-Dump.
Second alternate title: A Quick Guide to a Small Island.
If you follow along on Instagram, you might already know where I’ve been. Two weeks ago, Bob and I left to Vieques, Puerto Rico with my parents. And if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might already know I came here last year too. Obviously I just can’t get enough of this place. It’s gorgeous, lush, largely untouched and pleases anyone looking for a clear blue ocean and pure relaxation. Plus, my grandmother lives here so it’s great to see her in her element.
There is such a magic and simplicity to this place. No traffic lights, no chain stores, the preservation of nature, the lively hot spots along the Malecón and of course, the pristine beaches for any mood (Media Luna for when you prefer calm, shallow water; Sun Bay for when you want some waves and maybe a few angel fish spottings; Red Beach for the white sand, cabanas and bright aquamarine water and Black Sand beach for exploring and of course, black sand). It was a fantastic week off and away.
Now pics, as promised!
My dad and I capturing a moment. And Bob capturing us.
Bob scooping out the flesh of a coconut with a machete like a true local 😉
We hiked Cayo de Tierra, a small cay, and reached the top of an 80-foot cliff. The photo doesn’t do the height justice but I’ll tell you that was certainly an intimidating ledge to be on. Definitely not for people with a fear of heights.
The Ceiba tree is believed to be over 300 years-old and it’s HUGE.
Here’s a little perspective for you: Bob is 6’2″.
I couldn’t even bring myself to read on the beach, like I had planned to, because all I could do was take in the sight of the ocean and its surrounding landscape.
My grandmother’s homemade crab trap works!
And her home cooking is simply the best. Don’t tell my dad.
Floatin’ in that crystal blue. This here is Red Beach, my favorite beach on the island.
Teeny tiny snails.
The Fort (El Fortin) is the best place to learn about the fascinating and often devastating history of Vieques.
Some other stuff to do on the island, if you ever visit (as you should):
~ Mosquito (Bioluminescent) Bay tour. But be sure to go on a night when the moon is less than half full. You won’t see the glow of the plankton as well with the bright moonlight.
~ The Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust. It’s very small, so you can get through it under 20 minutes easily. Lots of interesting artifacts, but I mostly enjoyed the tiny aqaurium of odd sea creatures. What’s great is that they usually toss the wildlife back into the ocean after a period of time, so the exhibit is always changing.
~ La Nasa is a bar along the beach, almost completely visited by locals. They’re the liveliest party on the strip and have the cheapest beer at $2 (or $3?) a pop.
~ Shop in Isabel II, the hub of Vieques. You’ll find cafes, grocery stores, the public plaza, restaurants, places to sign up for water sports and thrift shops. I really loved Nu2U, where I bought a book for $1 and snorkel gear for less than $10.
~ El Resuelve is an unassuming outdoor restaurant that serves delicous and authentic Puerto Rican food. Prime spot for lunch and cheap, cheap, cheap!
I’ve been here.
Eating a lot of this.
And drinking a lot of this.
But that was last week.
I’m back home now and weirdly not in a bloggy headspace. But next week! Next week, I’ll photo-dump this place with vacation pics and other stuff. Should be good times.
Crab Focaccia at Freda’s Cafe
The New York Times calls Cape May the food capital of New Jersey and as far as I can tell, for good reason. I for one, did not expect to be so wowed by all the yummy things we ate. Some of the places we dined at (The Washington Inn and Union Park) were found through recommendations from our b&b, but most were discovered through a fun food tour we embarked on.
Three Sister Quesadilla at Gecko’s
Normally, I like to discover good food on my own but since we were spending such a short time in Cape May, I thought it wise to put our trust in a well-reviewed walking food tour and sample a little bit of everything. Our guide could not have been more delightful and more informed about the best restaurants and dishes around. Bob and I were so satisfied with what we ate that we actually returned to a few of the places we had visited.
Veggie Panini at The Mad Batter
Raspberry Shortbread Bar at Coffee Tyme
As Bob and I walked to our tour meeting point that afternoon, we quickly realized we were the only ones touring for the day. Private tour for two, it is! Say that 5X really fast (personally, I have trouble with it).
The Original Fudge Kitchen
The Fudge Kitchen makes the smoothest, most melt-in-your-mouth fudge I’ve ever tastest. I had to talk Bob down from buying a whole pound to a quarter pound. We’re trying to take our time with it, but I’m sure it’ll be done before the weekend hits. Yep.
Lobster Risotto at Tisha’s
And here is where I’ll stop torturing you to tell you that I want you to go to Cape May (Please go? It’s so amazing!) for the beach, for the beauty, for the history, but also for the love of FOOD!
Cape May! I really and truly and wholeheartedly fell in love with this town. There is so much to love about it. There is the constant smell of salty ocean and freshly cut grass lingering in the air, the old structures are vast and beautiful, the shops are small and quaint and the locals are some of the nicest and most helpful I’ve ever met. Some even flashed a smile while Bob and I were walking down the street. And guess what? I smiled back (unheard of!). Cape May cast a spell on me and melted my icy, jaded New Yorker shell. This is hard to do.
The houses, oh the houses. They all look like life-size antique dollhouses. According to our ghost ride tour guide, a good many of them have spirit activity. We almost stayed at a b&b on Jackson St., which is said to have ghosts in every single establishment. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, that includes this creepy but pretty private residence.
Speaking of which, we ended up staying at the lovliest bed & breakfast called The Mooring, where the porch was as large as our apartment. The inside was gorgeously Victorian, the home-cooked breakfasts were incredible and the owners were the warmest, most welcoming people. It was the best place we’ve ever stayed in, hands down.
Bob was as tall as our bathroom doorway. Those Victorians were a short people.
We biked, walked, shopped, ate and beached our way through this place. I couldn’t imagine a better way to end August!
Bob and I flew out to Vieques, a day after my parents and their two friends arrived, as a birthday surprise to my grandmother. She was shocked! Pleasantly so. I snuck up behind her and she let out a little gasp and we hugged tightly for a while. It was a pretty nice feeling.
My grandmother lives in cozy pink house in Vieques. There you can find the typical grandmotherly things like tiny glass ornaments, antique furniture, a china closet for all the “good” china, worn photo albums, the constant smell of something cooking in the kitchen and plastic-covered sofas (seriously, don’t sweat on those things or you’re stuck to it forever). Oh yeah…and no air conditioner!
But I love it. Nothing has changed since the last time I visited too many years ago. Her face powder is still in that spot between the bathroom sink and the wall with the light switch. The vegetable and fruit magnets are still stuck to that vent over the oven. Same curtains, same picture frames, same drinking glasses, same, same, same. It’s such a comforting feeling, seeing all these things unchanged in a world where everything changes eventually.
But here is where I feel like I’m 9 years-old. It’s like I never left.
“Can you believe we’re in water this blue?!”, I asked Bob.
Then we spotted schools of angel fish in the water and he said to me, “Can you believe we’re in water with actual living organisms in it?”. #nycproblems
As a kid, Vieques – a small island just east of Puerto Rico – was my summer camp. Almost every year, my parents would send me to stay with my grandmother, who lives here. I never truly appreciated the island’s beauty until I came back recently. I can’t even begin to tell you how pretty and lovely and charming Vieques is. I can’t even show you because the pictures don’t do it justice – though I will anyway.
I wish I could take your hand and we could dive into these photos together and swim in its crystal blue waters, coming out only to dry off in the sun. Maybe a few cold beers, naps in the hammock, arepas and meat-filled pastellijos in hand, bioluminescent boat rides by night? Sound good to you?
Let’s just pretend we’re doing that.
Where my uncle, grandfather and great grandparents are buried.
We walked to another island, Cayo do Tierra, which is deserted. I remember discovering it for the first time years ago and was completely enchanted by the view and the sheer coolness of actually walking to an island. I’m still mesmerized.
Black Sand Beach was such a novelty considering I’ve never seen volcanic sand before. When you pick it up in your hands, it glitters like graphite. My grandfather used to come fishing here.
Bob’s more of an adventurer than I am, so he ventured out a little farther on the rocks than I was comfortable with.
We celebrated my grandmother’s birthday at El Resuelve, a great no-frills local spot, which had the most delicious garlicky mofongo (mashed up plantains).
A typical day for us was waking up to the sounds of roosters crowing, beach-bumming it all day, a few wild horse and iguana spottings and talks of how we’d like to spend our lives just floating in this water (while floating in the water). I often found myself just staring at the scenery, just to get my fill of its gorgeousness.
It was truly and unequivocally paradise.