My next stop on “Annie’s Excellent Adventure to America” was a trip to the eastern end of Long Island to meet my mother’s childhood friend, Annabel; the lady I’m named after.
Growing up on her parent’s farm in the north island of New Zealand, Mum had been sent to Woodford House boarding school near Hawke’s Bay for her secondary school years where she met Annabel.
When we are young we often believe our childhood friends will be in our everyday lives forever. Life circumstances change, people move in different directions, other parts of the world and suddenly you discover decades have passed and you wonder where the years have gone and what those friends are doing now.
My mother and Annabel hadn’t seen each other for more than fifty years but thanks to modern technology they had been able to reconnect via email and via email, Annabel had invited me to visit her if I had time while I was in the US.
Leaving Sharon’s in the East Village, I caught a cab down to the Jitney Ambassador’s depot at 40th Street and 3rd Avenue – the Jitney is the long-running bus service that connects New York City with the South Fork peninsula of Long Island, known as The Hamptons; a popular summer destination for many families as well as being the clichéd “playground for the rich and famous.”
I managed to recognise Annabel’s New Zealand golfing friend, Heather – who I was sitting next to on the bus and the two and a half hour trip passed quickly. Annabel met us at East Hampton and we went back to her home and beautiful garden near Amagansett.
|Annabel's garden near Amagansett|
After lunch Annabel took us for a quick tour of the area. Our first stop was a visit to LongHouse Reserve – sixteen acres of magnificent gardens and outdoor sculptures owned by Jack Lenor Larsen an internationally known textile designer, author and collector.
|LongHouse Gardens and scuptures|
|Annabel and Heather walking through the LongHouse gardens|
From LongHouse we had a walk through the affluent town of East Hampton… fortunately I saw nothing in the various shops that I couldn’t live without… however, I did see several late model Maseratis casually parked along the street that I though my son Sam would have appreciated. (When I’d been looking for a replacement vehicle for the Trusty Nissan a few months ago, Sam had suggested on more than one occasion that a Maserati Gran Turismo would make the perfect family car.)
For tea that night, Annabel took us to Sag Harbor – originally a whaling port settled in the early 1700s – my Fourth of July evening meal consisted of a delicious piece of grilled swordfish and chips (or fries as they say over in the US; the cafe lady told me they were steak fries... then I was really confused). Afterwards we joined the bumper-to-bumper traffic down to Montauk, the tip of the South Fork peninsula of Long Island, to see the spectacular fireworks display from the beach.
The 4th July is Independence Day, the national day of the United States. It commemorates the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence on the 4th July 1776, which declared independence from England. Traditionally the day is celebrated with fireworks, family reunions, street parades, barbeques, picnics, baseball matches and general merriment… similar to our Australia Day (without the vegemite sandwiches or cricket…)
The next day Annabel took us for a drive along the nearby Further Lane and its collection of mansions and extensive gardens. A block from the ocean, it is home to some of the most expensive private residential properties in the United States (Steven Spielberg has an abode there.)
|Indian Wells Beach|
We called in at Indian Wells where crowds of people were soaking up the July sun on the beautiful sandy beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Our next stop was Montauk Downs, one of America’s top public golf courses and one of Annabel’s favourites.
For lunch we drove out to Montauk and enjoyed a drink and a delicious alfresco seafood lunch at Gosman’s Topside Bar, looking out over the Montauk Harbor and watching the fishing boats come and go.
|A G&T at Gosman's Topside Bar|
|Wasabi and Panko Crusted Tuna - Yummy!|
After lunch we climbed to the top of the historic Montauk Lighthouse. Commissioned by America’s first president, George Washington, the lighthouse was built in 1796.
Late in the afternoon Heather caught the Jitney back to New York City and I stayed on with Annabel for one more night. The next day Annabel was leaving for Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and had invited me to join her for the 840 mile, two-day road trip. Although very tempted, the logistics of getting myself back from Halifax to New York ended up in the “Too Hard Basket”… so I opted to fly to Chicago instead…
The next morning we took a car ferry from the south fork to the north fork of Long Island before catching the big Cross Sound Ferry from Long Island across to New London, Connecticut where Annabel and I had lunch before saying goodbye. Annabel headed northeast towards Maine and I caught the train back to New York to catch my plane to Chicago that night.
|The New York Times and a chocolate chip cookie|