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TGA travels

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the first time i went to london, it was 2006. i was 20 years old, a junior in college, there for four months thanks to a study abroad program in english literature at kings college. i’d never lived in a city before, and everything excited (and terrified) me.

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a blurry big ben, snapped on my digital camera in fall 2006

kings was in central london, right in the heart of it, but i’d stupidly (or perhaps rightly) picked a dorm 20 minutes by tube from the hustle and bustle. situated atop a grassy knoll of sorts, the hampstead dorm had looked quaint and entirely british. i was sold from the moment i saw photos.

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the hampstead campus at kings college london

2006 was nearly pre-social media. instagram had yet to exist, and facebook had barely activated the photos feature, so i captured my stories in pages upon pages of emails (many of which my parents kindly printed out and saved for posterity). i had no internet in my dorm room, so when i wanted to check or send email, i walked next door to the student center, a brightly lit, harry potter-esque building with chesterfield couches and large wooden tables. i’d find a spot at a table or, if all the tables were taken, on the floor against the wall, and cue up my skidmore.edu email client.

from there, i’d sit for hours, tapping away on my keyboard, capturing my life abroad in a blue and white message box. i wrote about how crowded the tube was, how the trains were simply too small for the number of people who had to ride on them, and how, thanks to a lack of air conditioning, i’d ended up with my head up against someone’s stinky armpit more than once. i wrote about my classes in literature, how i’d walked by the home of dickens on a seemingly average street, how i’d discovered a new drink called a snakebite (1/2 cider + 1/2 beer + a shot of blackberry liqueur).

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my hampstead dorm room, fall 2006

i wrote about my dorm room, which was large and sun-drenched and came stocked not just with a large armoire, but with a small sink, at which i could wash my face and brush my teeth in the privacy of my own space (showers were shared). i wrote about the view from my window, how i could see the red shingled rooftops of the rich and the possibly famous at morning, noon and night.

 

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enough stuff to give marie kondo a heart attack

my time in london was, in so many ways, my first true adult experience. sure, college had meant leaving home, but it was london that truly took me away from what i knew. at skidmore, i lived in a small, liberal arts bubble, surrounded by people much like myself, in a town much like the one i grew up in. london was the opposite of saratoga springs: it was loud. it was dirty. it was beautiful. it was filled with people speaking english in accents so thick i could barely understand them–and also with people speaking languages i’d never even heard before.

it sizzled with energy, it vibrated with life. the streets of london were old, older than anything i’d encountered anywhere i’d ever been in the states. the students who shared my classes barely paid attention in class, but somehow managed to ace their exams come reading week. every afternoon, they’d head to the university bar (yes, the bar run by the college. this blew my mind.) for a couple of beers before heading back home for the evening. the british were polite and austere, but come evening, they tumbled out of lively pubs, smelling slightly of fish and chips, their cheeks pinked by alcohol.

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golden hour in london, fall 2006

in london, my friends and i strolled along the thames with an open bottle of grocery store white wine. “drunk birds,” an old man shouted at us as we passed, “the birds are drunk!” (birds means women, over there). we ate cheap indian food along brick lane, consumed bowl upon bowl of edamame at wagamama. on saturdays, we took the tube to notting hill and perused the rows of antiques along portobello road. once, i purchased 2 faux fur coats for 10 pounds (a steal!). i still have them; they sit in my coat closet, untouched. i can’t bear to get rid of them.

 

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my friend martha and i , out at a bar, smooching random brits

on weekends, we’d drink too much and steal away in the night to the gardening club in covent garden, or walkabout, an australian club where i once let a british soldier stick his hand down my pants in the women’s bathroom until the security guard rapped on the door and ordered us out. i often took absurdly expensive black cabs back home to hampstead at 2am, or rode the double decker bus up finchley road all on my own.

london sarah was something college sarah hadn’t yet figured out how to be: free. free to skip class every so often, because everyone else was doing it, and go exploring. free to stay out too late and drink too much and still get up the next day and do it again. free to be alone–truly alone–in a way she’d never been before. free to board a plane at 3am to a destination unknown. free to hop into the car of two unknown men along with two friends in the bermuda triangle of vienna and hope she made it back to her hostel safely. free to walk las ramblas in barcelona at 11pm. free to sing karaoke in dublin along with a crazy old man. free to get her first ever fully body massage in prague following a particularly grueling day of exploration.

 

in oh so many ways, my time in london is what led me to new york. london taught me how to live abroad, sure, but more than that, it taught me how to live, period–both alone and with the humans around me. it taught me that it was okay to be scared, and even more okay to do it anyway. it taught me that i didn’t need to go to the supermarket with friends; i could go alone. it taught me that i didn’t always need to speak the language, i could go anyway. it taught me that seeing the world–the world outside my own, the one that is so very big where i am small–was a magical, beautiful, heart-wrenching thing, and that i was lucky to be able to do so.

that’s not to say i didn’t get homesick. that i didn’t miss the comforts of america, and my own bed, and my family and my friends. that’s not to say i didn’t wish things were easier, that i didn’t sometimes cry alone in my dorm room, wishing i’d never gone so far from home.

but god, was it worth it.

and so was going back, 12 years later. in so many ways, i am vastly different from the sarah who saw london for the first time. for one thing, i’m a grown woman, not a college kid trying to figure herself out. i’ve lived in new york for ten years, and have traveled extensively since leaving college a decade ago. but i’m still me, and good lord, did the same old me feel ALL THE THINGS walking the streets i walked all those years ago, this time with a smartphone that did oh so much more than send texts tapped out on a tiny keyboard.

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in a cab from heathrow to hampstead | tuesday morning

i arrived in london on tuesday morning, may 22nd, and had approximately 3 days there before i took off for italy. i did my very best to make the most of it, spending time with family (my mom’s cousin lives in hampstead, and kindly offered to let me stay there during my visit), strolling as many streets as i possibly could, eating all of the good indian food (this was my fave), splurging on tea at sketch, going to platform 9 3/4 (obviously, had to), catching up with my old coworker, and more.

so, let’s have a look, shall we? there are a lot of photos here, so be warned. think of it as my visual diary.

 

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walking to the tube at finchley road, a walk i did every morning during my time abroad back in 2006

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black and white magic

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a tiny doorway on my walk to the tube

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beautiful hampstead

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this garden in hampstead took my breath away

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the guest room at my mom’s cousins’ home | where i spent my time in london

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a doorway adorned with flowers

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magical brick buildings of london

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matching my surrounding during golden hour | hampstead london

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an afternoon in notting hill

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adorned in ivy | notting hill

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bright red doors | notting hill

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a night at artist residence hotel | pimlico london

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cambridge street kitchen | artist residence hotel | pimlico london

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textile dreams | cambridge street kitchen | pimlico london

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bright red in the sunshine | marylebone lane london

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sunset in pimlico

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paid $10 for this photo op and i’m not even the least bit ashamed

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the pink room | high tea at sketch | london

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decked out in florals |sketch london

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high tea tower of sweets (and some savory) | sketch london

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trippy bathroom selfies | sketch london

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crazy pod toilets | sketch london

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welcome to paradise | sketch london

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afternoon coffee | west hampstead london

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3 americans, 1 brit, 1 italian |dinner ahead of our weekend in italy| shoreditch london

at the tail end of my trip, following a long weekend in italy and nearly a week in nice, i boarded a plane back to london, and spent one last afternoon/evening in the city before flying back home to new york. the following photos are the ones i snapped during my last evening abroad, back at artist residence (but in a different room!) and exploring the pimlico neighborhood once more.

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tan, tired, and happy | exploring the streets of pimlico london

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decked in flowers | the streets of pimlico

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seeing what all the fuss is about | peggy porschen cakes

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i think i could live here | pimlico london

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dusk falls on pimlico

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why yes, i’m certain i could live here

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mews | pimlico london

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side by side | pimlico london

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lime green | pimlico london

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number 21 | pimlico london

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travel | kings cross st pancras london

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dickens | pimlico london

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what dreams are made of | artist residence hotel | pimlico london

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i ended my last night in europe here

 

 

 

i’m oh so thankful to have the means to travel–to go back to cities i loved in my twenties and see them through the lens of my thirties. london, you were a dream, and as always, i just can’t quit you.

 

 

TGA_Hudson Welcome

as some of you may have seen on the ‘gram, i spent last weekend upstate in hudson, new york with a few girlfriends. i’ve been wanting to go to hudson for years, ever since i started following @thisoldhudson on instagram. there are a bunch of cute hotels and airbnbs in the hudson area, but the minute my friends agreed to head up there for president’s day, i knew where i wanted to stay: rivertown lodge, a boutique hotel housed in an old theater with a raved-about restaurant.

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i believe my instagram caption here was: “i love it here and i may never come home.”

rivertown sits at the top of warren street, the main drag of hudson, and is a quick 5 minute cab ride from the train station. you can easily drive to hudson from NYC (it’s about 2 hours north of the city), but we opted to take the train (cheaper and honestly, easier). i’m glad we did, because the ride takes you straight along the river, which was eerily beautiful on a cold winter weekend. i’d imagine the views are straight up insane come october (helloooo foliage season).

TGA_Brick Home Hudsonhudson the town shares a name with the river, and was originally settled by the dutch. in its heyday, it was a whaling community (there are still signs for whale parking around town!). our uber driver told us that beyond the whaling industry, hudson used to be home to many a factory: strike matches, cement plants, etc. to name a few. when the industry left, the town fell into disrepair, and had a stint as an upstate new york red light district. in the 1980s, the gay community stumbled on the enclave and moved up north, investing in the storefronts along warren and the amazing old homes (a mix of federal, victorian and queen anne architecture) along its side streets. cut to present day, and the town is clearly a tourist spot (many of the locals—mostly our cab drivers—told us that those who grew up in the area have long been priced out of it), full of incredible antique shops, cute boutiques, and restaurants galore.

TGA_Hudson Warren Streetbeyond the shopping and eating (which, to be honest, we did not find as incredible as we’d hoped—more on that later), hudson’s main street (warren) is the stuff of movie sets. there are many great getaway towns within spitting distance of NYC (i also love tannersville, home to scribner’s lodge, a place i’m DYING to visit), but hudson stands out as a must-see.

so: what did we do? i’ll tell you a bit about our overall itinerary, and then do a separate post about where we ate (and what we thought about those spots!) and where we shopped.

saturday morning

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my favorite house, directly across from our hotel.

knowing that we had monday off, we decided to go up to hudson saturday morning, rather than rushing to catch a train friday night after work. i am oh so grateful we decided to do this—it made the entire trip so much less stressful! friday night i worked late, then packed and went to bed early. saturday, i squeezed in a bar method class before heading to meet my friend krystie at penn station. we caught the 11:20 train, and were at rivertown by 1:30. both of us took the opportunity to work a bit more on the train (krystie works a day job AND has a digital media start up called slant’d — girl is KILLING IT!), and so the trip flew by.

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check-in at rivertown isn’t until 3pm, but they kindly let us drop our bags and hang in the lobby before we set off for lunch. our other two ladies took a later train (1ish), so they weren’t due to meet us until around 4. the rivertown lobby is as cozy as they come: wood stoves on either end, amazing danish modern furniture, and an open kitchen with a big farmhouse table and free coffee/tea for guests all day long.

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the open kitchen at rivertown–free coffee and tea for guests all day long!

saturday afternoon

the workaholic new yorkers we are, krystie and i grabbed drinks and did another 30 minutes or so of work, then set up to walk down warren in search of a late lunch.

the hotel recommend talbott and arding, a gourmet grocery/deli with amazing pre-made salads and foods. we popped in, but noticed they had nowhere to sit, and ended up across the street at swoon kitchen/bar, pictured below. swoon was way bigger than it looked from the outside, and we had a nice lunch there before setting back out to walk warren street.

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a late lunch at swoon kitchen bar

we ducked in and out of a few shops, and bookmarked a few in our brains to visit the next day. before we knew it, it was time to meet the rest of our foursome. back at the hotel, we checked into our room (a double double—two double beds, a TV, a hanging rack, and cute little bathroom), popped a bottle of lambrusco, and vegged.

TGA_Rivertown Double Roomas cozy as the lobby/kitchen area of rivertown is, we were surprised to find that our room was a bit…spartan. the coziness of downstairs didn’t translate to upstairs. i’m all for crisp white sheets and white walls, but the space felt unfinished, like they’d hung one piece of art and called it a day. a wall across from the beds jutted out, practically BEGGING for a large gold mirror. the wall space below the hanging rack was dying for a console/dresser (there was really nowhere to put your clothes; the rack only had about 10 hangers). the sole piece of art felt like an odd, rather depressing choice for the room—as my friend cristina put it, it looked a bit like the girl in the photo had just committed suicide. WOOF. were i to redecorate the space, i would have added a mirror, a small dresser, and some more modern art (like this).

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rivertown lobby at night–so cozy!

that said, the space was perfect for our needs. the beds were comfortable, the products in the shower (made in town by 2note!) were lovely, and we were so enamored with the lobby space that nothing else mattered. we put on some music (there was a great old school style speaker in the room!), grabbed some glasses downstairs for our wine, and put on face masks ahead of our 8:30pm dinner reservation downstairs.

side note: can i just say, i have reached the point in life where drinking lambrusco whilst listening to music with a face mask on is #goals and i cannot even remember what it was like to go bar hopping and slam fireball shots whilst dancing to pitbull. actually, scratch that. i still LOVE ME SOME PITBULL. there is no jam like “timber.” but the rest of it, i can do without.

anywho, back to regularly scheduled programming.

saturday evening

ACS_0141earlier in the week, i’d made a few restaurant reservations for us, knowing that hudson restaurants were highly reviewed and were likely to be busy on a holiday weekend. our first one was at our hotel’s in house restaurant, rivertown tavern, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! it was my favorite meal of the trip. we all ordered a drink with our dinner, and were back up in our room by 11pm, cozy in our pjs, watching strange local TV. we were asleep by midnight. #thisis32.

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the ladies enjoying hot tea outside the tavern (it started to snow as we finished dinner!)

sunday morning

TGA_Yellow Door House Hudsoni woke up bright and early sunday morning (did i mention #thisis32), and saw that my friend chloe was also awake. chloe is a long distance runner (she ran the NYC marathon this past fall!) and i knew she’d be itching to pound the pavement outside in the country. we got dressed quietly while the other two snoozed, and i joined her for a quick run down to the other side of town. the main stretch of warren street is almost exactly a mile (rivertown is the top, the water/train station is the bottom), so we ran down together, then i ran back up a side street and chloe went along her merry way for a “short” 6 mile run (i did 3 and felt QUITE ACCOMPLISHED). i stopped here and there to snap photos on my phone of all the pretty houses i saw. the sun was shining, the air was a crisp 32 degrees, and i felt like dancing along the streets in the early morning light.

TGA_Yellow House HudsonTGA_Whitewashed Brick Hudson HouseTGA_White Federal House Hudsoni tell you, there is something incredible about getting out of the city. i often tell people that the only way i’ve survived 10 years in new york is because i leave it quite often. whether it’s home to my parents in massachusetts, weekend getaways like this one, or weeks away in far off places, i love new york so much because i know when to leave it behind. i grew up in a small college town where you can see all the stars at night and kids ride their bicycles around the streets after school, and it always gives me a sense of serenity to explore small towns like the one i call home. my morning run in hudson was no exception to this rule—it wasn’t so much about the exercise (though that helped me rationalize all the incredible food i’d eaten the night before) as it was getting out in the air and breathing deeply and feeling like the world was bigger than my tiny grand apartment.

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a candid moment: chlo in her running clothes scowling at her phone + krystie looking cute

by the time i returned back to the hotel, the ladies were up and showered, and after a quick shower of my own, i joined them in the lobby for a cup of coffee with my book (i plowed through kristin hannah’s new novel, “the great alone” while in hudson—loved it!). we were booked for an 11am brunch in the tavern, and i went HAM on a grain bowl with farro, smoked sweet potato, green and tumeric.

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the other side of the lobby at rivertown – that stove!

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can you even handle this nook in the early morning light?

sunday afternoon

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fell in love with everything at this store (called MINNA)

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see what i mean?!

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this gray house! with a turquoise door!

though we had big plans of visiting a local distillery, we spent the afternoon leisurely strolling down warren street, oohing and ahhing at the antiques we couldn’t afford, and exclaiming “omg, look at this!” at the vintage clothes we could. i snagged an amazing green fur (i think it’s rabbit, eek, i am usually a faux fur gal) clutch from the 1960s for a mere $20!

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a v cool shop called mutiny

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hawkins new york – a design lovers dream (but pricey!)

around 2pm, we stopped for a late lunch at back bar, a malaysian restaurant and bar housed in an old gas station (our uber driver told us his dad owned the station back in the day!). back bar provided us with some of the best food we ate on the trip—spicy sesame cucumbers, incredible ramen, pork and shrimp dumplings seasoned to perfection…and the vibe of the space made me feel ten times cooler than i am.

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more cute houses as we strolled along our merry way

TGA_Warren Street at Sunsetbefore we knew it, the sun was setting, and we raced down to the bottom of warren street to catch the sunset over the water. this moment did not disappoint (see photographic evidence below), and only added to the sense of lightness i’d been feeling all day.

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looking back at warren street at sunset

sunday evening

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my seat mate at fish & game

sunday night we had a reservation at fish & game, a restaurant in town that had been highly recommended on allll the blogs and which was the recipient of a james beard award in 2016. the design of the space was to die for (rustic mountain lodge CHIC), all mood lighting and fireplaces and cushy seats. we didn’t love the food, sadly (more on that later), but the space itself is worth a visit (maybe just for a drink at the bar?).

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the moody entry of fish & game – doesn’t this wallpaper remind you of “the sinner”?!

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the cozy bar area at fish & game

we were back “home” early again, and asleep by 11:30—but not before doing another set of face masks, in which i looked like hannibal lector and my friends looked like cute face mask models. i crack up every time i see this image—WHO AM I?!

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me on left. legitimately terrifying. why can’t i open my eyes! why is it falling off?! i just can’t.

monday morning

knowing i’d likely be up early again on monday, i’d scouted two yoga studios in town. sure enough, i popped out of bed at 7:30, and convinced chloe to head to a 9:30 yoga class with me before our 11:30 brunch reservation (cristina had an early train, and krystie chose to sleep in and hang downstairs). i’m a newly converted yogi, and have mostly taken y7 classes in NYC (where sweat meets hip hop music in a dark room—it’s like yoga for the soulcycle crowd, aka me). hudson’s yoga scene is way more “traditional” yoga; we started the class by chanting om shantiiiii for a good five minutes.

i made it through that upfront section without laughing, and tried my best to just be in the moment whilst contorting my body into crazy positions i haven’t AT ALL mastered. the class was an hour and 15 minutes long, and i felt every minute of it. i missed the dark room at y7 and the music pumping—i guess i need more sensory distraction to get out of my own head?

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spotted on our walk to brunch

TGA_Little Brick Home Hudsonnevertheless, i left the class feeling long and limber, achy and awake, and was happy i’d gotten my ass out of bed to do something (also, it felt good to stretch after the previous day’s run). from there, chloe and i popped back into the hotel (they’d kindly given us extended checkout to shower post yoga), cleaned ourselves up and packed our bags, then met krystie in the lobby. we stashed our stuff once again, and set off for breakfast at home/made hudson (prob our worst meal of the trip, sadly, but SO CUTE INSIDE).

 

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the bar area at home/made hudson. our worst meal of the trip, but beautiful! 

monday afternoon

after breakfast, chloe headed to the train, and krystie and i walked the stretch of warren street once more, stopping for caffeine at moto before grabbing our bags at rivertown and heading back to the train.

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moto coffee – a motorcycle AND coffee shop in one! 

by 2:30, we were back on the amtrak, chugging along the hudson river, ice chunks and lighthouses flying by at warp speed. i was home in my apartment by 5:30, tired and with a big load of laundry to do, but feeling full and happy and ready to tackle the work week.

i said it above, but it bears repeating: there is magic in a weekend spent away from home. i always feel so much more grateful for my space when i leave it and return to it anew. i think people assume that you have to go REALLY FAR AWAY to get away, that travel means a plane ticket and an expensive hotel. a couple of years ago, i made a new year’s resolution (something i never do!) to travel more. i put no pressure on myself to make that travel “big” or “far” or “exciting” – i just wanted to see more than i’d seen. that has resulted in some truly incredible trips (like 2 weeks in greece two years ago, cartagena after that, mexico last february, and portugal this past september). but it’s also resulted in some wonderful weekends away: trips to maine to see friends and family. trips to SF and LA to see dear friends whenever i see a cheap ticket. trips to the jersey shore over the summer, or to vermont for new years, or home to see my parents whenever i need to GTFO of new york. trips like this one.

i’m writing this post on an airplane en route to fort lauderdale. my aunt and uncle live in boca, and my parents are down there for a couple of weeks. they invited me to come for the long weekend, and when i saw a cheap ticket, i said what the hell and booked it. in mid march, i’ll go home to massachusetts for “sugaring season” (maple syrup, for all my non-northeastern friends!). in early april, i’ll head to nashville to stay with a friend of mine from book club.

i tell you all this to remind you that travel does not have to be prohibitively expensive. got friends elsewhere? GO VISIT THEM! i guarantee they’d love to show you their home. see a cheap ticket? SNAG IT. you’ll figure out the rest as you go. want to get away from it all? hop on the commuter rail—new yorkers, you’d be amazed just how different it is at the end of the metro north line.

i believe, deeply, that travel (while an incredible luxury) enriches us all. it helps us see beyond our own circumstances. it washes us clean of the stresses of everyday life. it introduces us to new scents, new sights, new sounds and flavors. it pushes us out of our comfort zone, it challenges us to be independent and take risks. and perhaps best of all, it sinks deep into our souls, reminding us that we are living, breathing human beings enable to change how we feel from one day to the next.

if you have been waiting for a sign to take a trip somewhere, stop waiting. just go.

PS: i’ve got more coming from hudson. stay tuned for a writeup of where we ate, plus another one of where we shopped.

and if you made it this far, please drop me a line and let me know. i’d love to do more of this type of content, and would like to know if you’d love it too.

happy trails!