Last weekend was a much needed and appreciated three day holiday, and I made the most of it! Sunday was rainy and tropically muggy so aside from a brief sojourn to the Guggenheim, where we saw an infuritatingly pointless modern art exhibition about ‘infinity’, Shakeshack, and the cinema to see Larry Crowne (which is adorable, by the way), the majority of the day was given over to watching Downton Abbey, which was, of course, sublime. On Saturday, however, the sun was shining brightly and my flatmate and I decided a day at the beach was surely in order. Joining the near hysterical crowds at Penn Station waiting for the early train to the Hamptons, we excitedly ran with the hordes down to the platform as we began our three hour journey on a packed train out to East Hampton. As I am a seasoned London commuter with the required sharp elbows and ‘don’t even think about it’ facial expression, we found spots to perch and felt very smug until I remembered that we needed to change at Jamaica and should have actually stayed by the doors in order to be the first ones off the train and across the platform to the connecting Montauk train. Undeterred, I was ready to pounce as soon as the train pulled into Jamaica; running across the platform, I dived onto the train, athletically leaped down the stairs and then, along with my flatmate, tackled two girls who had decided to take up two seats with their luggage. As they huffed and puffed putting their cases in the luggage rack – yes ladies, that’s what it’s for! – my flatmate and I happily settled ourselves in as the aisles filled up with less speedy and tenacious travellers. Going to the Hamptons is not a spectator sport – if you don’t want to be standing for three hours, you’ve got to get involved!
Three hours later we pulled in at East Hampton, and we hopped off the train to blazing sunshine, fresh salty air and a much more relaxed pace of life. After a leisurely lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant, Cittanuova, and a huge ice cream cone filled with vanilla icecream, chocolate sauce, peanut butter and peanut butter cups (yum yum YUM!) from Scoop du Jour, we felt ready to meander our way through the beautiful village down to the beach. East Hampton’s Main Street is filled with clapboard designer stores where people like me get treated like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman if they dare step inside, so I recommend that you walk on by and head to the genuinely good stuff, which is the beautiful historic homes and buildings that line the main road to the beach.
I was in raptures as we walked along; East Hampton is very historic and has structures dating back to the 18th century, including a farm, a couple of windmills, some lovely colonial houses, and beautiful churches. There is also a village pond, a terrific old graveyard, and the most ostentatiously huge houses you’ll ever see behind white picket fences. Aside from the mansions, the rest of the town looks like an English country village, and especially reminded me of Kent, where my family live. It is so peaceful and serene and I could quite happily have spent hours wandering around, but sunbathing was what we came for, and the beach beckoned.
A thiry minutes or so walk through the village leads you to the sea, and what a gorgeous seaside East Hampton has! Miles of soft, fine white sand border the sparkling blue sea, and grass waves gently in the breeze along the edges of the shore. Surprisingly the beach wasn’t overly busy, and as there are few modern amenities – certainly no beach cafe blaring out music or people hawking icecreams, sun loungers, etc all around you, as I normally find when I go to the beach – it was a truly relaxing and entirely pleasurable experience. We sunbathed, paddled, strolled and slept, and as we wandered back to town to catch the 8pm train to the metropolis, we both commented that we hadn’t felt so calm and destressed in a very long time. What a beautiful day!
On Monday, of course, it was July 4th, and I was ready to celebrate in style! Some friends and I packed a little picnic and headed across the river to Hoboken, in New Jersey. As the fireworks were over the Hudson and not the East River this year, we were in a perfect position to watch the fireworks without being overwhelmed by the crowds in Manhattan. Hoboken has a lovely riverside park, so we put down our blankets and settled in to watch the fun along with many other families and groups of friends, and as the sun went down we enjoyed spectacular views of Manhattan and of the many boats that now thronged the river, filled with people waiting for a wonderful view of the fireworks. At 9pm, the fireworks began, and we were treated to a fantastic and colourful display, including fireworks that took on the shape of smily faces! We waved flags, sang the national anthem, and felt surprisingly patriotic along with the amassed crowd, and it was so lovely to be able to join in with other Americans in celebrating the importance of their freedom, something so essential to the spirit of this country that has welcomed me as one of their own.