Its Thanksgiving today and what better time to send my thanks to friends seven seas across( now please, don't take my knowledge of geography too seriously!). Friends that bring a smile everytime we think of them, friends who made travellers out of the tourist in us, who made memories of our vacation even more cherishable...they welcomed us into their homes and their hearts and together we discovered the exciting new flavours of life.
It was a friendship exchange program, an amalgamation of different cultures, lifestyles and way of life and this time we were going to Long Island, USA...why not NY city ?? I obviously, had to ask, as anyone uninitiated would have. I tried to shove the swarm of filmic images that flooded my mind; Manhattan skyline, Times Square, The Empire State building were smirking, mocking at me as I was going to be this close but yet so so far away from the razzmatazz of this adrenaline pumping, quirky metropolitan. I surfed the net like crazy, searching for every possible mode of transportation that would take us to NYcity from Long Island (wherever that was!!), noting down time tables, writing down numbers of taxi services- afterall 10 days in some dusty quaint island as compared to the flashy, vibrant, crazy New York city seemed a little dampening. But as they say, " Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be" and I was ignorant enough to not know the beauty of the marginal roads that branch from the kitshy highways constantly shrouded in the thick fabric of touristdom.
Long Island is about charming villages, sparkling beaches, historic light houses; of walking barefoot on the golden sands or spending an afternoon sampling the latest vintages at a local vineyard; its the summer playground of the rich and famous.
The story begins at Quogue, slightly removed from the Hamptons happening party scene, founded in 1659 and home to our charming hosts. We were greeted by a deer grazing besides a couple of snow-white rabbits frolicking in the gardens. All images of the glitzy Manhattan faded in the background; I was completely besotted, deers in your yard, cherry blossoms in the background, daffodils flashing welcome smiles, bobbing their heads in excitement. The first evening was spent in getting acquainted with our hosts, getting a 'hang' of the beach which was right at the backdoor. A storm welled later in the evening and so our discovery trail had to be cut short and finally, we settled against the background score of pitter patter of the rainfall.
|BEAUTIFUL LONG ISLAND|
Call it jet lag or the strangeness, the thrill of being in a new place, we woke up early. Another friend of mine also travelling with us, suggested we venture out for a morning walk down the street; knowing little that Quogue was in throes of the 'yellow shower of sulphur dust', a spume of spray of pine spores colouring everything yellow, clogging every pore. Only the first aid of warm water down my throat saved me from choking that day.
Today we went to Montauk Point Lighthouse, East Hampton, the first lighthouse in New York and which is still active, flashing every 5 seconds. Its a National Historic Landmark located on the lush Turtle Hill.
Pirates are believed to have buried treasure at the foot of the lighthouse site in two ponds now known as Money Ponds. We didn't find any money though, and lost a lot, for, our next stop was Tangers Outlets, Riverhead-heaven for shopping buffs like me!
Over the next few days we were taken to so many memorable places by our hosts and the friendship exchange team; all of them taking time out for us, accompanying us to places , organising lunches at exclusive restaurants, planning entertaining evenings and making us feel totally, at home. Here, Bob Berks abode is a place worth mentioning. Bob was an orient artist famous for sculpting images of Popes and US Presidents, among his works figure the bronze bust of John F. Kennedy, a symbol of the Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts, Washington D.C. Meeting his charming unassuming wife was a privilege and experiencing his art was humbling.
|THE GANG AT BERKS|
Fire Island and the Sunken forest with its over 300 year old primeval holly forest and fresh water bogs, also left an indelible mark with its unparalleled beauty and tranquil. Fire Island is a barrier island located off the southshore of Long Island, approachable only through ferries and personal boats. The picture of the sun kissing farewell for the day and the skies blushing a rosy pink while the azure sea stood witness to this eternal love affair, is still etched in my mind. I made an instant connect with Fire Island- and now I know why. My lovely friend, Nancy, whom I hadn't even met till then, lives here!!
We did manage to go to NY city for the usual broadway show, Statue of Liberty, The MET and other museums while the kids attended American village school at Quogue after taking requisite permissions; but longed to come back to Long Island and LIRR train schedules were now at the back of our hands. The trip was fast coming to an end and our farewell dinner was being hosted at Greenport, a treasure trove for art lovers and a shopper's paradise. For me though, it turned out be slightly nightmarish; a photography session on a floating plank tied to the pier, proved a little more exciting than planned. The float managed to drift away from right under my feet; stupified with fear and unable to react, I almost drowned myself but for, the ropes that came into my grip. My husband and our doctor host tried to pull me out from the pool of circling jelly fish around me but it was only after five people, from the nearby restaurant, dived in to lift me, was I SAVED! It still makes for a good story; a trip which left footprints on the heart and bruises everywhere else! The aches and pain were soon forgotten in the merriment that followed (While I secretly, enjoyed the attention showered on me during the farewell dinner.).
"Life is a journey in which we are all travellers looking to make that great trip with someone", we found this out the perfect way!
NANCY SOBEL BUTCHER
SONIA KHANNA SAWHNEY