I’ve been resisting writing about my latest vacation escape. Not because it wasn’t memorable – quite the opposite. But, I just can’t get it out of my mind so needed to share. I went to New Jersey. When I told my friends I was going to The Garden State, they quickly remarked with visualizations of smoke stacks, unattractive clusters of tall buildings, and traffic congestion. Why go there, they asked?
I too, wasn’t sure what to expect, but was curious to see for myself, especially since my dear cousin, Ali, lives there. Turns out, I cannot wait to return! (And, I experienced none of the above-mentioned negatives!)
Here’s what this California girl found enchanting in this nature land.
- In Ali’s backyard: The cicadas hiding in the thick, towering pine and oak trees, their soothing song intensifying, then receding. A hawk soaring overhead. A special tree with branches twisting like an old woman’s fingers, giving birth to an umbrella of graceful limbs, adorned with pistachio-colored leaves. Ahhh – to have a backyard like this…
- The many farm stands lining the stretches of country roads with ripe red tomatoes, fresh picked corn and watermelon luring us in. Baskets of pink and orange hued peaches ready for pies.
- The big, bold and colorful flowers that only make an appearance during the warm summer months.
- The wineries – really! intermittently scattered between the farm stands. The wine makers offered up friendly hospitality and affordable tastings of decent wine. In the evenings, at Brook Hollow Winery, concerts and trivia night entertain the locals and twice monthly, they have yoga in the vineyards!
- Tree-lined country roads took us everywhere. Deer sightings!
- Ali’s street, where within a half mile, you can buy fresh eggs, local, grass-fed beef, pick your own fruit and immerse your senses in the rich herbal scents of lavender at Orchard View Lavender Farm. Ali- you are a lucky girl!
- The light-hearted M & M signs that made me smile in Hackettstown, home of M & M’s and Mars candy.
- Hiking the Delaware Water Gap. Traversing rocks to climb to the top, in the mist for a spectacular view of the snaking Delaware River.
- Experiencing Waterloo Village, an 1831 canal town, barely restored but expansive and lush with very few visitors other than us. Fun to peek in the windows of deserted old houses! A little paradise.
- Dinner AND Brunch at James on Main, Ali’s favorite local restaurant. In the truest sense of the word, this intimate farm-to-table restaurant uses all locally and seasonally sourced meats and produce. We ate at the counter facing the kitchen to observe our meals being assembled. I loved how the cooks took care to use tongs to gently plate the salads and side dishes, tucking bits of spinach back into place, just so, or perking up a fig to expose her tiger flesh. I could go on and on about my dining experiences here, it was that fabulous. Perfectionists to a “t.” The friendly and talented staff made us feel like family and the food was simply delicious. Somehow, I just can’t seem to find places like this in San Diego.
Yes, the east coast has won me over. Could these good vibes be the reason for this particularly relaxing vacation? I just can’t get over the intense green farmland, vast forests and tranquility that surrounded us daily. Now I know why it’s called The Garden State. I’ve put my reservation in for next year. Thank you Ali and Harry the dog for sharing your wonderland with me. I loved every minute!
“Why does everyone make fun of New Jersey? It’s beautiful here,” she said.
“We live in America.”
“What does that mean?”
“People like to judge without knowing.”
Ciao for now,