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'tis the damn season

I've always loved the fall, especially Halloween. However, six years ago, I had the worst day (or series of days) of my life in October, and recovery has been a long time coming.


All this to say that this year, I had the pleasure to really celebrate the autumnal season once again -- and I got to do it with my best friend.


Sam and I had a whirlwind vacation, and a lot of really wonderful things were set in motion for me, including my first ever literary publication, Cat Eyes, which you can read in Dream Noir Magazine.


The Season for Disneyland (and California Adventure)

In an unprecedented move of lunacy, we went to Disneyland before our flight to Boston. We got to go with my dear friend, Joleen, and her brother, Michael.


It was also Sam's first time at "The Happiest Place on Earth."


We started our day with brunch at Lamplight Lounge. I started vacation off right with a breakfast burger, and Sam got the french toast. Joleen and Michael both ordered the potato flautas, and Michael treated us to a mouse-shaped chocolate celebration cake. Talk about indulgence!


Afterwards, we went on the Incredicoaster and Toy Story Midway Mania before heading into Disneyland proper. We got to go on Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean and even Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Sam really got a kick out of the children's ride where you go to hell.


Because Michael and Joleen are Disneyland veterans, we were lucky enough to have dinner and drinks at Carthay Circle. We used the single rider line to get on Smuggler's Run but sadly didn't have enough time for Rise of the Resistance, which I still haven't been on.


Overall, we were able to pack in a lot before rushing off to LAX.


Red Eye to Boston

After Disneyland, we took a red eye to Boston, made our way into the city on a free bus, and walked to Found Hotel Boston. The kind, if not disinterested, receptionist let us change clothes and brush our teeth in the maids' quarters, and I felt like a new woman.


Although the experience was not, in any way, glamorous, I do cherish these moments of concrete floors and cramped bathrooms. Every now and then, I think, "this is what it feels like to be young; to be really alive."


In short, the smallest moments can feel like an adventure. And Boston was an adventure indeed.


We left our bags with the receptionist who reminded me of my sister, grabbed a life-changing breakfast sandwich from Mike & Patty's, and walked through the Public Gardens to the Boston Common. Already, the air was crisp and the leaves were beginning to change. My heart was beginning to change, too.


I think, sometimes, motion is the best cure to a wound, no matter how old. That's part of the reason I love travel so much.

Walking the Freedom Trail (and Stopping Along the Way)

In Boston, we were constantly in motion, except for the quiet, warm moments that we weren't. We walked the entire Freedom Trail, from beginning to end, pausing to read about each site, get a bowl of clam chowder and a seasonal brew, and visit the impactful New England Holocaust Memorial.


There's something about history that gets into your bones.


For me, something about Boston gets into my bones, as well. Of course, the city also has a home in my stomach, and we stopped for cannolis from Mike's Pastry along our journey.


By the end of the Freedom Trail, we were pretty exhausted. We took the subway back to our hotel, and I took an extremely luxurious nap.


Rested, we went back to the North End for pasta at Monica's Trattoria. The fettuccine was perfect and the vodka sauce was rich and flavorful. The chunks of lobster might have touched my soul.

Although I was exhausted, the night felt rich and alive.


We slept until late morning, then got a very fancy Boston brunch at Parker's Restaurant. Of course, we tried the famous Boston Creme Pie, and it was just as delicious as promised.


Cursed by Salem's Witches?

With full bellies, we boarded a train to Salem, home of the infamous Salem witch trials.


I have been borderline obsessed by them ever since I watched a History Channel documentary about ergot in rye bread fueling the hysteria.


Essentially, one of the leading theories about the Salem witch trials is that the townspeople were actually convulsing and hallucinating because they were on a natural version of LSD caused by ergot fungus in their rye bread.


Left without an explanation, they turned to religion, witchcraft, and the occult to explain the strange phenomena caused by ergot poisoning.


I thought Salem would be much like Boston, a kind of living museum to the locale's history, but it was not. I hate to say it, but Salem was tacky, overcrowded, and overpriced. Nowhere we went even mentioned the ergot theory!


Ultimately, we paid over $100 for an Airbnb that was essentially a bed in the corner of someone's attic, in full view of their kitchen, and ended up staying at The Ocean House Hotel at Bass Rocks instead. (Aside from a refund issued later, Airbnb did nothing to solve the problem, so I really recommend vetoing this travel site if you can).

While we were still in Salem, we visited the Peabody Essex Museum (pictured), which was the best part of the whole town and the only thing I would recommend to fellow travelers.


Before leaving, we tried to visit the Salem Witch Village and ended up going through the worst haunted house I have ever been to, along with an atrocious wax museum.

The event organizers took our money, offered to watch our bags, then gave them back to us immediately before we were supposed to go on a 1-mile walking tour. In the end, we skipped it, got a nice dinner at Turner's Seafood, and ventured to our hotel in Gloucester.


To be honest, I cried during dinner because I was so disappointed in my Salem experience. I will not be returning anytime soon, and I would not recommend the town to anyone, unless they happened to be on a road trip and wanted to stop at a cool museum.


Sam also pointed out that the never-ending tourist tat was a terrible way to commemorate the murdered men and women of the Salem witch trials.


The memorialized were never witches at all but rather good townspeople who became the victim of prejudice and paranoia.


I'm sure they are rolling in their graves, and perhaps they cursed us with a bit of bad luck.


All drama aside, at least the innkeeper at Bass Rocks gave us some oatmeal raisin cookies, and we were able to wake up to a very foggy sunrise by the sea.


Road Trip in a Tesla

Speaking of road trips, the next part of our journey was an adventure through Massachusetts to see the fabulous fall foliage.


We booked the "manager's special" rental car because it was the cheapest, and the manager asked if we wouldn't mind driving a brand new Tesla.


Driving the Tesla was fun, but it was a bit of a pain on the road.

Charging stops were long and always in sad-looking parking lots or gas stations. Additionally, we ended up having to back-track and never made it to Burlington, VT because the Tesla got low on juice and the nearest charging station was an hour behind us.


Still, we saw some magnificent natural colors. The oranges were intense, the yellows were bright, and I didn't know leaves could get that red. It was beautiful.


Plus, we stopped at Walden Pond, and I could really feel how special of a place it was. We even got to walk around before lots of people arrived, so it was quiet and soothing.

Sugar Hill Inn


Also, we ended up at the cutest bed and breakfast I have ever been to in my life: Sugar Hill Inn in New Hampshire. The innkeeper greeted us personally, took excellent care of us even though we were walk-ins, and took $50 off our bill just to be nice. He also had a Tesla charger, which helped us start the next day with a full battery in ever sense of the word.


The Bette Davis room was as marvelous as the actress herself. It had so many windows and a perfect view of Mt. Lafayette. It also had lovely antique furniture and a bathtub that fit two people -- complete with lavender bath salts and fuzzy robes!



In the morning, we had free espresso in our room and a mouth-watering breakfast with orange juice, hot coffee, fresh muffins and a frittata. It was exactly what we needed!


Driving Through New Hampshire and Vermont


We tried to go hiking afterwards, but many of the trails had closed for the season, and it was pouring rain. Sadly, a lot of the leaves had already fallen, as well, so we spent most of the day trying to get in some last-minute colors and driving towards New Haven, CT, so we could return the Tesla and catch our train to New York.


The trip was a bit frustrating because our stops were mostly dictated by Tesla charging stations. Highlights included a multitude of covered bridges, really good broccoli cheddar soup in the otherwise unimpressive town of Rutland, VT, a bizarre art exhibit featuring cats in Manchester, VT, and a cold sunset swim in Shaftsbury State Park.





By the time we got to New Haven, we were wiped out, arguing, and I for one was just glad for a budget motel to rest. The Quality Inn was mildly appalling, but the woman working the front desk was kind, and it was a five-minute drive to Hertz.


We got rid of the Tesla, walked to the train station and got the commuter rail to New York.


Welcome to New York

(If you're wondering how many Taylor Swift lyrics I can fit into this blog post, it's a lot. Also, I've been a Swiftie since I was 15, and I am obsessed with her new album, so stay tuned for my upcoming blog about what it's like to grow up as a Taylor Swift fan).


There's nothing quite like getting off the train and arriving in Grand Central Station. It really is grand, and the city really does feel like it's been waiting for you.


New York welcomed us with open arms. We grabbed the subway to the adorable Freehand Hotel in Midtown, and they let us check in early (love).


Once we settled in, we went to the nearest deli and got a world-famous New York bagel with cream cheese and lox. So salty, so cheesy, so perfect, so good.


Then, we walked back to Grand Central Station and took the subway to Battery Park to admire the Statue of Liberty from afar and walk to the Brooklyn Bridge.

The day was unseasonably warm and we enjoyed soaking up the sun and watching helicopters fly around the harbor. We also grabbed tickets to The Book of Mormon on a whim and walked through Wall Street.


There was some kind of event at the Charging Bull, and it was nice to see the city so alive. Before we got back on the train, we also took a moment to visit the 9/11 memorial. Watching the water pour into the building's foundations really made an impact on Sam and I.

To continue our adventure, we got Roberta's Pizza and stopped by Rockefeller Plaza to buy tickets for Top of the Rock. We didn't have enough time to go on our tour before our show, so we went back to our hotel to change.


On Broadway, we stopped for some classic New York pizza, so we could compare and contrast with Roberta's (nothing compares to the big, greasy slice on literally any street corner in NYC) and enjoyed the heck out of The Book of Mormon. The show was hilarious, and we spent the rest of the trip singing the songs.


When you're in New York, I guess you kind of have to have a big night, so we saw some jazz at Small's to finish off our day. The music was wonderful, we had yummy drinks and a big cup of olives, and we saw Prue Leith from The Great British Bake Off leaving the club as we came in. (We are Bake Off fans so this was very exciting).


In the morning, we walked to Central Park and paid our homage to Gossip Girl by having Tal Bagels on the steps of The Met. We wandered through the bramble and hustled to the Rockefeller Plaza for our tour.


Without boring you, we learned a lot about the art and architecture of the Rockefeller Center from a dead-eyed tour guide who had maybe been in New York a little too long. Then, we finally made it up to Top of the Rock, gazed out over the city, took some cute pictures, and found a pleasant sun spot where we wrote postcards to our families.

Sam wanted to try a lobster roll before leaving the East Coast, so we zipped over to Chelsea Market to go to Lobster Place NYC. We made the mistake of splitting the lobster roll, so we filled the extra room in our tummies with raw oysters and clams on the half shell. A dream.



On our way out of Chelsea -- and to the airport -- we stopped at a Starbucks Reserve Roastery and had two very fresh cups of coffee. We also bought an overpriced souvenir bag from what Sam calls, "The Willy Wonka Coffee Factory."


Before draining our coffees, we stopped at a Breads Bakery for some rugelach and an impossibly flaky pain au chocolat. A passerby shouted, "isn't that just the best thing in the whole world?" and friends, it was indeed.


Halloween in New Orleans


Another long and exhausting night of travel passed and we arrived in New Orleans. Our motel was nothing to write home about, but it was right around the corner from Who Dat Coffee Cafe, which like all the food in New Orleans, was absolutely incredible.

Sam got corn cakes, and I got a fried catfish Benedict with creole hollandaise sauce and fresh fruit. The food and coffee brought us back to life, and we went to stay with my lovely friend, Brooke, and her partner, Evan, for the remainder of the trip.


From Brooke's, we were able to walk to Magazine Street and get our Halloween costumes in order. While we were exploring, a torrential rain storm came down and we stopped at Saj to wait out the rain.




There, we were able to indulge in cardamom and hibiscus teas and a tasty baklava cheesecake. The way the phyllo dough blended with the sweet cream cheese was absolutely delicious, and the tea helped me forget about my wet socks.


When the rain broke, we walked back to Brooke's and took a little nap. Then, we went for Po Boys at a shop nearby and an ice cream sampler at The Creole Creamery.


By the time we got home, it was nearly time to go out for the night, so we donned our Pearl and the Projectionist costumes and started our evening at Cure cocktail bar. We each had a unique cocktail (mine had champagne and cardamom) and split a "bone dry" cider, which was maybe the driest alcohol I have ever consumed.


After our drinks, we got a Lyft to the French Quarter and wandered down Bourbon Street. The people watching there was unparalleled, and it was especially fun to see all the costumes for Halloween.


We were a little afraid that no one would recognize our costumes, but a couple of women did the second we got out of the cab, so we knew we were in good hands.


Once we escaped Bourbon Street, we spent the rest of the night on Frenchman Street and in The Spotted Cat Music Club. As has become our tradition, we stopped at Willie's Chicken Shack for late night chicken and daiquiris before heading back to Brooke's.




Beignets and Barbecue


The next day, we ate our weight in beignets and BBQ and went to New Orleans City Park to marvel at the sculpture garden and well, eat more beignets. We ended up riding bikes through the city and back to Brooke's.


At night we went to Kermit's Treme Mother in Law Lounge to watch live music and snack on fried catfish and homemade black-eyed pea gumbo. We made friends with a wonderful man named Sonny, and Sam got a jazz haircut from the resident barber.


Wiped out, we spent the next day snoozing, and I actually had a healthy yogurt bowl for breakfast (at La Boulangerie).


Sam also had a work meeting, so I ventured out to get us some crawfish and alligator sausages from Dat Dog in the afternoon. When the meeting was over, we went out for more ice cream and took another nap.


The Haunted Hearse


To celebrate Halloween proper, we got a big old seafood boil and some tasty drinks, then visited Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street once again to watch people and jazz. We also found the Haunted Hearse Snake Tube Adventure Ride, which was a marvelously cute art installation and a "roller coaster for your phone."


All Saint's Day was fairly mellow. I had a hangover, so we nursed it with coffee and beignets. At the beignet shop, we accidentally scared Joe Alwyn away because I said, "that guy looks like Joe Alwyn," and Sam said, "that is Joe Alwyn," and I guess he didn't want to make friends.


My apologies if we ruined Joe's day or prevented Taylor Swift from getting takeaway beignets, but it was cool to see him after watching "Conversations with Friends," so recently.


After breakfast, we biked into the French Quarter to go shopping and get some souvenirs for our friends. As afternoon rolled around, we went to Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar to try Oysters Rockefeller and get some deluxe Bloody Marys.


Exhausted, we got a Lyft home and took a big nap. When we woke up, Evan joined us for an amazing meal at Superior Seafood, where we had crawfish beignets, more oysters, seared, creole-seasoned tuna, and a next-level blackened catfish dish. We got something to go for Brooke because she wasn't feeling well.

Dinner done, we went to a memorial event at The Broadside, where locals talked about beloved community members who had passed on and celebrated their lives with songs from Mardi Gras Indians and a large brass band.


Before leaving, we got to spend some quality time with Brooke and Evan.


Oh, and we had one final round of beignets from Cafe Du Monde in the airport before we left.


Now, I am taking very good care of my poor abused tummy, and fondly remembering our trip.


Like life, it wasn't perfect, but it was very fun. It also felt amazing to celebrate Halloween properly again for the first time in six years -- and after all we went through with COVID.


People can be the worst, but they are also the best, and I am so happy to be traveling and loving and people watching once again.


I hope you enjoyed coming on our whirlwind vacation and celebrating spooky season with us -- even if it was just through a blog.


Plenty of big things coming up, so please stay tuned -- you can contact me or subscribe at the bottom of my home page, or even commission a travel blog or review on my services and pricing page.

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