Montclair: Pit Stop Stateside
Traveling is unexpected. There are moments that are trying, but the highs typically outweigh any inevitable low points. After India, we flew to Montclair due to an unforeseen health blip.
I was deeply disappointed at the time. We had already booked a series of upcoming accommodations and flights. Going home midyear wasn't part of the plan.
However, Montclair became a part of our year away. And I came to terms with the fact it was the ultimate blessing in disguise.
We landed in Montclair after a week in Madurai and it was an extreme culture shock.
I remember when we were in DC, we had friends from Paris visit and they were obsessed with how wide the sidewalks were. So much wasted space! They cried. But after our first walk with the beloved family dog, Sally, I understood. The size of the sidewalks were all encompassing. They were massive.
It felt like you could fit six streets from Madurai in one street in Montclair.
After we settled in, we realized how fortunate we were to regroup in a familiar place. We ate what we were craving, readjusted our packs, and basked in the no humidity.
Will was able to catch up with work.
And I was able to properly address a recurring health issue. Disclaimer: Everything was ultimately fine. I'm fine. Although it was difficult for me to admit, we heeded the advice that it was the right thing to do.
Plus I completely overlooked how much I adore Montclair in the summer. The treelined streets were so lush, the town itself felt alive. I asked my dad if they recently received a lot of rain. Or maybe it just looked so vibrantly green compared to Southern India. We'd start the mornings on the front porch.
Meet up with childhood friends.
Bond with Sally all day.
Montclair is only 12 miles west of New York City, so we took the bus in a few times. Growing up, I'd go into the city to visit my grandparents on the weekend. Later, I'd commute in for a summer job and stay with friends. New York was familiar. But this was the first time I walked the streets and it felt so clean. Sydney, Bangkok, and Mumbai are all world class cities, but nothing compares to New York.
We got dinner at the Thursday Kitchen and it was so wonderufl to catch up with friends from home.
We also went into the city for the Fourth of July for a picnic in Prospect Park. It was packed.
But also a beautiful celebration of America's potential. We left DC partly because of the direction of the current government. But on July 4th in Prospect Park, thousands of people gathered from every background to grill, dance, play badminton. It was a compelling and inspiring glimpse of converging cultures.
Back in Montclair, we'd go to the farmers' market on Saturday mornings.
Nothing beats New Jersey corn on the cob. It's the best.
Every Sunday morning we would get the greatest bagels of all time, in my humble opinion, from Hot Bagels Abroad. A tradition from my childhood.
We'd go on nightly walks. Sometimes stop for ice cream.
Sally preferred the cone.
It's a quintessential Italian Jersey establishment. It feels like you stepped back into the 1950s, since not much of the decor has changed over the years.
It pays homage to the band, The Four Seasons and anybody who is anybody in New Jersey. Framed pictures of Jersey celebs and Jersey pseudo-celebs covered all wall space.
It's family style, with cold red wine served in carafes.
I'm unabashedly proud to be from New Jersey. But even more-so, Montclair. It was such an idyllic childhood. But so much has changed. We walked around Church Street and came across Absolute Zero, essentially rolled ice cream.
Not the ice cream from my childhood.
In our last week at home, we went down the shore.
We met family for a barbecue by the water.
Never enough time spent catching up with Grandma.
We spent long weekends going down the shore growing up, but I hadn't been in years.
Before heading home, my parents and I stopped at Sandy Hook.
It's the northern Jersey Shore, so on a clear day you can see the New York skyline from the coast. However, the water was freezing.
After traveling, I came to appreciate Montclair in a way I had overlooked in the past. Will and I stayed with my parents for a couple of weeks. Thanks mom and dad!
In general, we haven't been making arrangements too far in advance, but now we're even more hesitant to do so. We booked an inexpensive flight to Paris in mid-July, with no concrete plans after that. I do know we'll appreciate the latter half of our year more after recharging at home. It was certainly refreshing to be able to reset. But after a taste of being back in the States, we were ready to get back out.