Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Road Trip: Watching My Dinner Swim in Halifax

Each one looked so peaceful. They were all swimming around and climbing over one another in a playful sibling sort of way, vying for what little space was left in their waterfront home. They had no idea what was going on. They had no idea that they would soon be whisked away into a shopping basket and weighed for sale. These innocent lobsters had no idea that they were going to become my very lavish dinner. 

I don't like to see my food alive. I am no vegetarian, but I can certainly understand the sentiment when an animal, or crustacean in this case, appears to be pleading for its life and you just don't think you should be eating it. If it lands on my plate fully prepared and beautiful, it spares me the thoughts of what that animal sacrificed for my feeding pleasure. Selfish, I know. 

But having lobster is just what you do when in Nova Scotia, it would almost be sinful not to. In fact, lobster is so abundant here that I had a completely 'only in Nova Scotia' moment when I spotted the McDonald's billboards promoting their McLobster sandwich (yes, really). Besides, when your wonderful hosts take you to the lobster market and exhibit pure excitement at the opportunity to let you hand pick just which lobster you would like, it's probably not a good time to tell them you don't really like lobster. 

We chose our dinner in the morning and then took a rain sprinkled drive up to Peggy's Cove. If Nova Scotia conjures up any image in your mind, besides lobster that is, this place is it. Peggy's Cove is a fishing community just outside of Halifax whose legend is a point of speculation. Some believe Peggy was the wife of an early settler, while others suspect that Peggy was in fact a young woman who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck many, many years ago. Either way, I was sure this was where my dinner swam free before being relocated against their will. 

We wandered across the somewhat slippery rocks opting against the paved path because that was just too easy. The air was biting considering I was far from appropriately dressed, and the sprinkle of rain was still falling. I squinted through the small hole that was left after tying my hood almost completely over my face in an attempt to stay warm. We explored a bit, and then peeked into the gift shop which was filled with artist's renderings of the lighthouse over and over and over again: lighthouse in the day, lighthouse in the night, lighthouse with water behind it, lighthouse with rocks behind it, lighthouse with a dog running on the rocks. I guessed the lighthouse was either really important here, or there was just nothing else to paint. Anyhow, it was time to head back for dinner.

We reached home, washed up, and met the table set with plates full and beautiful. I had almost forgotten the day's earlier swimming dinner. I no longer thought of the creature on my plate as Larry the Lobster; it was just dinner, and it was time to eat. 

I suppose I had also forgotten that I didn't like lobster, because it was delicious! Sure, I needed help to dismantle it and free the meat, but I am just inept like that when it comes to eating anything with an exoskeleton. Once freed, the meat was heavenly laced with a combination of melted butter, and some other lemony-peppery concoction. Everything was scrumptious, and I ate until I almost couldn't breathe (which is apparently something I do quite often). It was a new experience, but isn't that what travel is all about? If I found myself in Halifax/Nova Scotia again, I would never risk missing out on another lobster dinner.

Sorry Larry.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Road Trip: Why I Even Love the Garbage in N.Y.C

Aah...huge heaps of trash on the sidewalks...I am home. Well, not home where I live, or have ever lived, or have any family that lives, but home where at least part of my heart is. I am back in New York City. 

As we drove through the drizzle into the crazy pedestrian strewn streets of Manhattan, it was the first time I realized just how far we had come. It was also the first time I had ever maneuvered a vehicle in this city, and I would really like to never do it again if possible. Not that I couldn't manage, but these particular pedestrians are both fearless and unruly and I'd prefer not to have to strike anyone, by accident of course. 

I had one full day to spend with my city, so I was determined to make the best of it. Soho and I were going to have a wonderful day together! I left my road-trip companion to his sightseeing, and opted instead for a more shopping oriented day. After all, road-tripping can take a lot out of a girl, so I figured shopping would be an excellent way to refuel. I had a cream cheese slathered bagel from a tiny corner store and hopped the "N" train to Prince Street. I zipped out of the subway with all the confidence of a local, and climbed the the stairs to the street level leaving the slightly putrid, yet strangely familiar stench behind me. As the sun embraced me and several passersby brushed passed me in their flurry from here to there, I couldn't have been happier. It had been over a year since I was last in New York; we were finally reunited and it felt better than good. 

I shopped around enjoying crying over all of the things I couldn't buy (although I did allow myself a few treats) before stopping for the ubiquitous street hot dog. Now, I was by myself with arms full of shopping bags–ahem–I mean...you know...my hands were tied, so the eating of the hot dog presented a bit of a challenge. I found a ledge outside of a shop window and sat down carefully in my sundress. So what if the heavenly mustard/onion mixture was dripping into a little pile beneath me–if it doesn't get all over the place...right? The shuffling crowd faded away, and the honking cabs quieted, it was just me and the hot dog. I didn't even care that people were looking at me as though I had elephants dancing on my head. Hasn't anyone ever seen a girl in a dress thoroughly enjoy a hot dog on a ledge at the side of the road? Geeze.

A day in the city wouldn't have been complete without a visit to Central Park, so I went. I sat on the marble in front of FAO Schwarz and enjoyed a panini while waiting for my friend. We took a stroll through the park and ate roasted peanuts and watched a guy make a really large bubble and collect money from awed spectators. For the many times I've walked/biked/skipped through this park, I always see something new. It seemed as though I was filling every other moment with something to eat.

The evening ended with a pasta dinner we couldn't refuse at the home of our gracious host, before leaving to meet a friend at Joe's Pizza place for more dinner, only to realize that wasn't the pizza place I wanted my friend to try, so of course we had to stop for another slice at the other place. My stomach was literally on the verge of explosion, but when there's so much to eat and so little time, you do what you must. Jazz and drinks at  Groove Live Music Bar was the perfect place to let my overindulgence subside. A late night walk through Times Square was the cherry on top of a day well spent. I love this city. 

I can eat, I can shop, I can explore, I can wander, and I can experience culture every time I visit New York City, and there will still be a thousand and one things I have yet to discover. It's like one of those choose your own adventure books, only the book has no ending, and each path you choose is just as interesting as the last.

Sure the trash smells, and invites rats and vermin, and crowds already mobbed sidewalks, but when you are in love, you tend to overlook the bad things. The heaping bags of smelly garbage just blend right into the background of a scene in a city that I love, and remind me how happy I am to be here.
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