Independence Weekend

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.

So,  a busy weekend but a very pleasurable one – the only bad part was having to go back to work after having had so much fun!


  1. What a beautifully written post Rachael. Thank You!
    Margo Boylan in Old Forge, NY (Adirondacks)

  2. Just lovely! A day at the beach in peace is always something I look forward to doing during the summer months:) I was able to watch what you were watching on the 4th from the comfort of my home. Flipping through channels, I watched an entire “East Coast” fireworks display…Boston, NYC, Philly, and D.C. NYC and Philly were actually the most spectacular. That was after we (my children and I) had perched ourselves atop a hill and watched the multitudes of fireworks displays in our little city. Reading, PA, sits in a valley…perched on the hill we could see a swath of separate displays…it was fantastic!

  3. How lovely! If you get a chance you must come up to South County, Rhode Island…especially Watch Hill I think will fit your fancy. Shingle-style “cottages,” windswept sand dunes, Victorian Hotels, botox and antique carousels galore! Very similar to Long Island in landscape, but a bit more off the beaten track! Loved this post!

    1. Daniel, I went to Newport about four years ago now and fell in love with Rhode Island, despite having to wait for two hours for a Greyhound in the baking heat on the wrong side of the tracks in Providence. I am desperate to get back but I fear it won’t be this year – next year for definite!

  4. Glad you enjoyed one of my favourite places on Long Island. It’s been many, many years since I’ve been to the Hamptons, but I remember it well, with brilliant and fun summer memories. Next time you get that far out in Suffolk County, check out Orient Point and Montauk Point (the last stop on the LIRR, if memory serves). Pretty little boutiques and unique shops (especially antique and second-hand book shops!) and markets, with very friendly and happy, chilln’ people.

    And doubly brilliant that you also celebrated the 4th )and the fireworks display) in Hoboken – another favourite place of mine, instilling a lot of great memories (especially musical memories at Maxwell’s on the then very bohemian Washington Street).. Thanks for helping me remember, Rachel. I get a bit melancholy for home sometimes – particularly the more American-themed holidays like the 4th and of course, Thanksgiving. Reading beautifully written posts such as this one fill my mind and my heart with many happy memories. I’m delighted that you enjoyed yourself so much on that very special American date.

    1. I have been to Montauk, June – I went in November and it was bracing and wonderful – not a soul on the beach but me and my friend!

      I lived in Hoboken when I first got here and really enjoyed it – it’s such a fun spot, isn’t it? I’m surprised it’s not more well known. I am so glad I could help you stir up some happy memories – but don’t be sad – Ireland is so beautiful too! 🙂

  5. Great post Rachel and really nice to see a pic of you! You look like you were having a delightful time, and what a time to be in America on such a special event.

  6. I bet there is a mug shot of you in the New York City Transit office *snort*. Did you elbow some of those spectators away from your little spot on the lawn for fireworks too?

    Joking aside, what a splendid mix of relaxation and adventure, Rachel! That beach is stunning, I would love to play with Deacon there. And thanks for the ice cream craving, gosh that must have been delicious!

    1. Hahahahaha! There probably is! My elbows are sharp as knives!! No I did not – I was nothing but polite on the 4th of July! 🙂

      Thanks Darlene – it was a wonderful weekend and that icecream was DIVINE!!

  7. How very delightful to see our July 4th through your eyes, Rachel, and comforting for a mom like to me to know you had such fun. As my kids used to say, “you rock”!

    1. Oh Penny, you are always so lovely! Thank you. I really did have a wonderful time – thanks to America’s terrific ability to host a good outdoor party!

  8. Sounds like you had a lovely time and crammed a lot of things in (as you usually manage to do)… Good post – I was interested to see the “English-style” windmill in the U.S. I haven’t seen that before. (We have a lot of traditional wind turbines around here. Wind energy is picking up, mainly because we seem to have the windiest weather ever on the face of the earth. 🙂

    1. Well I try my best Liz! Always on the go, that’s me! Isn’t that windmill interesting? It really took me by surprise!! Oh I would LOVE some wind right now. This scary hot, still air is very unpleasant!

  9. Of all that you wrote about and pictured, what do I hook into? Larry Crowne, the unexpected wonder of a film! I went to see Midnight in Paris, had the time for a different theater, and so fell into Larry Crowne by mistake. What a wonderful mistake that was! I loved it, kept waiting for something bad to happen, and it never did! Phew! I thought it captured community college perfectly, from what I”ve seen of it on the outside, as well as the value of a hard-working, honest man.

    Of course, so glad you feel welcomed in America. It is a fantastic country in so many ways.

    1. Wasn’t it lovely, Bellezza? I read some awful, dismissive reviews but I thought it was so heartwarming and uplifting! So glad you enjoyed it too. I also saw Midnight in Paris last week – fantastic – I am sure you will love it!

  10. So glad you enjoyed your 4th of July weekend. It sounded so typically American you fit right in with the rest of us. When I was your age, I would fit everything into a weekend that I could. This year, we sat on our peaceful deck and watched our neighbors’ fireworks and the stars and fireflies. Our fourth was lovely too.

    1. Thank you, Janet! I tried my best to be as American as possible! Your 4th sounds wonderful – nice and relaxing. I could do with that right now!

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