I woke up this morning and began my day how I usually do; wake early, feed Witty, see Sammy off and walk the lil’ man in the park before work. But today the ground shook… literally.
I live in Harlem and have grown rather accustomed to backfiring buses, dirt bikes, fireworks and even the occasional gunshot. For the most part, I block it out. This, however, was something much different. This was definitely an explosion and it was coming from my neighborhood.
At the moment, there are 3 dead and several more missing, but before it was clear what was happening, the not-knowing loomed large.
Already a few miles deep in the park, I couldn’t get home fast enough to grab my camera and head to the scene. The closer I got, the heavier the smoke as it combed through the trees of Central Park and eclipsed the prewar buildings of Spanish Harlem.
There was a smell of things burning that shouldn’t be and a haze that can only mean tragedy is near. I wasn’t alone. Like a stampede, the news helicopters, bomb squad, police caravans, FDNY responders and journalists swarmed down on the little slice of Manhattan that is often overlooked or at least under-appreciated. At the press line it all became that much more real–not just the eminent devastation, but the reminder that this is a human story and while we want to know all the ins and outs of what happened, it’s important that we balance the sensationalism and quick tongued questions with what should be our own true reaction.
The story of a New Yorker traipsing into the woods of Vermont — if only to find a hint of solitude — is certainly nothing new. The insistent need for a change of pace or just a change in scenery lives within us all. We do it to stay sane; we do it to rekindle creativity and we do it to remind ourselves of a truer sense of reality – regardless of what that means to you.
For me it’s all of those things really, however I’ve always looked to Vermont as a deeper source of kindred inspiration. Vermont remains virtually unchanged, because it takes a particular type of person to withstand all the cliches of a rural American landscape. They must endure the question of “what do people do around here,” and come to terms with the fact that they must “come to terms” more often than not. It’s one thing to appreciate the colors of autumn or the quaint ski hills of the Green Mountains. But it’s another entirely to fall madly in love with the year round exploits and obtuse understandings of Vermont.
Where I fall in all of this I’m not entirely certain but I do know that I’ve always shared a special affinity for the Green Mountain State. And only images can conjure up the raw emotion of such a crush, so I will simply leave you with those.
Some clickables from the trip…
The incredible Troutlily Farmhouse in Waterbury played home base to my traveling office while Witty and uncle Aaron made the arduous journey to the top of Hunger Mountain. Liz and Javin are some of the nicest people around and a stay here is unrivaled by most in the Stowe region.
While there’s nothing quite like a family barbeque in the wilds of a Vermont summer, these two restaurants certainly make a compelling argument against. Hen of the Wood is hands down one of the best restaurants in the region. And it’s not just my opinion. Chef Eric Warnstedt was a 2011 and 2012 James Beard Best Chef North-East Finalist and was named as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs. Hen of the Wood was featured in a slew of magazine and newspapers as well as featured in the book Harvest to Heat.
Prohibition Pig is a must-stop for craft beer enthusiasts, pickle-back addicts and those searching for a properly prepared brisket. The cocktail list is impressive, beers are perfectly paired with the rich flavors of the gastronomic explosion taking place on the table. My only regret was going here after Hen of the Wood. I recommend the reverse order.
A great find on the way home, we stopped in at Juniper’s Fare, a quirky little diner of sorts with a humanitarian element (they donate a portion of their profits to Everyone’s Child to help feed and educate children around the world ). The breakfast sandwiches were incredibly good and their maple cappuccino was pretty insane to say the least. Pop in and ask for Bernie and Lori-Ann for some good conversation. Some runners up… The Alchemist Brewery, Piecasso, The Whip, The Village Creeme Stand,
It’s days like these that I wish I was driving up highway 395 in route to Mammoth Lakes, California.
Around the globe, coastlines are dear to many in their most general form, but the Connecticut coastline holds a particular space in what is left of my New England heart.
In the off season — and particularly in this when-will-it-come spring — the Connecticut coastline is desolate and bare, yet it is particularly alluring with its quaint, sandy shores and meandering marshlands.
I’m partial to it, because I’ve embedded so many memories here, but even if you eliminate the breeding of childhood reflections, I think I’d still be drawn to these shores. As I grow older, the spaces before me dwindle and the perspective grows ever so skewed. But whether it’s the nostalgia, the memories of family and fun or simply the salt in the air, I will always come back to the Connecticut coastline.
A great deal of the trip was spent in the region of the Cultural Triangle due to the mere scope of such historic significance. But that said, on the cusp of bringing that leg to an end, we made sure to experience the highlands or tea country - a true reprieve from the heat and history of the days past. Regardless of your time in Sri Lanka, this is an area you’ll definitely want to see. From Batik factories and elephant orphanages, to lush tea plantations and Horton Plains National Park, there is a different feel to the cooler, higher destinations of the highlands.
We stayed at the Thilanka Hotel in Kandy, Heritance Tea Factory in Nuwara Eliya and Hotel St. Andrews also in Nuwara Eliya, before moving on to Yala National Park.
Yala National Park deserves 2 weeks all on its own. It’s the second largest National Park in Sri Lanka and as I mentioned in my post about Sri Lanka’s Wildlife, it’s chock full of everything from Elephants, leopards, monkeys and wild boar to mongoose, snakes, kingfishers, eagles and crocodiles – most of which you can see directly out your villa’s front door at Chaaya Wild Resort. From Yala, we made our way back to Colombo where we stayed at the Cinnamon Grand hotel. And then it hit us – the trip was over.
We covered a lot of ground, met some incredible people, encountered wildlife that we’ve never seen before and experienced this amazing country for all the grandeur and rebuilding its defined by. Soon Sri Lanka will land on everyone’s top 10 lists for must-see destinations. It’s already happening now. But while it’s affordable, raw, and unblemished by a total footprint of the Westernized world, now is the time to see the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Shortly after we visited the Hummanaya blowhole, it was on to the Wewurukannala Vihara Temple in Dickwella. I won’t rehash my words on the subject of Budhism, religion or spirituality as I did in a previous post, but I will say that Sri Lanka’s rich spiritual heritage is one of the defining reasons you visit a place like this. The Wewurukannala Vihara Temple is a good, if wildly eccentric, example of that.
We’d return to Ranna for another good night’s sleep before heading up the coast the next morning. With Columbo and the Cultural Triangle in our sights, we stopped to document the various fishing cultures found along the western shoreline–everything from stilt fisherman using ancient techniques to multi-person nets and wooden boat excursions.
From there we continued on through Galle Fort. Worthy of a drunken Hemingway or wayfaring stranger, antique fishing shacks, still in use today, slouched against the battered coastline. The predominantly Muslim area, basked in Portuguese architecture from the 1500′s and later rebuilt and fortified by the Dutch, boasts of narrow streets, small storefronts and tucked-away eateries full of character and culinary gems.
From there, we headed towards Baddegama to see my father-in-law’s childhood home. While a lot has changed, there are somethings that simply remain the same for a reason.
And then we were headed north through Colombo towards the Cultural Triangle. As my previous post mentioned, we approached the Cultural Triangle in the order of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy. We stayed at the Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana first, then stopped in on the Giritale Hotel for a drink and continued through the other World Heritage sites.