Month: August 2015

Our Celebratory New England Road Trip to Norfolk, CT

There was lot’s to celebrate last weekend – which called for a quick trip out of the city!

But before I get ahead of myself, I’ll divulge that the reason why I’ve been quieter on my blog this month is because I got a new job! Tomorrow I will start at a new media agency as an Associate Strategy Director for an international brand – which is a promotion. After working at the same company for five years, I am excited to start this new chapter in my career.

The two other reasons why my boyfriend and I planned a quick vacation are good, too! My boyfriend and I were celebrating our nine year anniversary AND he had completed a deal in his finance job! He had been working every day (including weekends) for a month straight, so we wanted to find a way to celebrate all three of those milestones and reconnect as a couple.

Thus, at the last minute we decided to book a quick trip that would be within driving distance from New York City for an overnight retreat. After getting several recommendations from friends for destinations within a two and a half hour drive of our urban life, we landed on a small town in northwest Connecticut called Norfolk.

There were dozens of these "welcome to Norfolk" signs throughout the town

There were dozens of these “welcome to Norfolk” signs throughout the town

Neither of us had been to this area of the country before, which is nestled in the hills below Massachusetts’ famous Berkshire Mountains. Norfolk was incorporated in 1758 (aka older than the United States itself!) and offered several things that enticed us. First, it contains easy and beautiful hiking opportunities at numerous nearby Connecticut State parks. Additionally, it has a small-town New England mentality (it hosted both a farmer’s market and library book sale while we were there – which we happily wound our way through while buying tons of souvenirs). Lastly, for a town of 1,800 people, it has a funky music and culinary scene that attracts folks from all over the region.

Common area near the front entrance at our hotel - Blackberry River Inn (huge fireplace!)

Common area near the front entrance at our hotel – Blackberry River Inn (huge fireplace!)

The hallways in the main building at the Blackberry River Inn

The hallways in the main building at the Blackberry River Inn

The breakfast room at the Blackberry River Inn

The breakfast room at the Blackberry River Inn

Our room in the cottage at the Blackberry River Inn

The cottage room at the Blackberry River Inn

Hiking: I am very enthusiastic about hiking, especially when there is a waterfall involved. My boyfriend and I were planning to drive up to Massachusetts to see Bash Bish Falls on Saturday until the front desk agent at our hotel (The Blackberry River Inn) recommended Campbell Falls State Park about fifteen minutes outside of Norfolk. Wanting to optimize our time, my boyfriend and I drove to the closer and recommended option. The hike was beautiful, and we meandered along a lazy stream until we finally reached the falls. I loved that I was able to scramble up one level of the waterfall to reach a landing where I felt isolated from the other hikers below. It was as if I had my own corner of nature. (Note: there are many other state parks within an hour drive of Norfolk, and we actually stopped at Kent Falls State Park on our way back to NYC on Sunday – it was more crowded and cost $15 for out of state residents, but it was VERY pretty!)

Hiking in Campbell Falls State Park

Hiking in Campbell Falls State Park

When Derek and I found our own private landing in the falls

When Derek and I found our own private landing in the falls

A bridge over the stream at Kent Falls State Park

A bridge over the stream at Kent Falls State Park

An easy hike at the base of Kent Falls

An easy hike at the base of Kent Falls

Food and Music: Norfolk may be best known for housing the Yale Summer School of Music as well as the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, but its music scene does not end there. We experienced Norfolk’s influence on local music via immersing ourselves in the crowd gathered on Saturday night to hear the Led Zeppelin cover band performing at the Infinity Music Hall and Bistro. My boyfriend and I popped into the neighboring Wood Creek Bar & Grill for some pre-dinner drinks around 7pm and could barely find a place to stand at the bar! Once the concert hall opened up and folks started wandering inside, we closed our tab and made our way next door into the Bistro attached to the music hall. There, we sat near six jovial New England couples in bright polos with popped collars while we all simultaneously chomped on delicious locally-sourced grub – an interesting contrast to the faint sound of rock music exuding from the other part of the building. That said, the food was divine and rivaled New York City quality cuisine. I had the free-range chicken while my boyfriend enjoyed the steak frites – very tasty!

Infinity Hall

Infinity Hall

Shopping: Along with the Farmer’s Market held on Saturdays as well as the book sale that the Norfolk Public Library that we stumbled upon, we also found several other noteworthy stores to explore. Along the main road (Rt. 44) was Freund’s Farm Market selling everything from fresh pies to local produce to gardening equipment. I can attest that the nectarines and plums we purchased were the tastiest we had eaten all summer! Additionally, there were several boutiques in downtown Norfolk. While I regret not pulling the trigger on buying a gorgeous locally carved butcher block cutting board at one of the artisan boutiques on Station Place, I did end up buying a beaded clutch  at another. There are many artists and craftspeople in the Norfolk area, and these local boutiques help you connect with their creative spirit.

Lastly, it’s important to note that there are copious antiquing opportunities in the area as well. We strolled through a high-end antique store in downtown Norfolk, which had a beautiful collection from historic New England and Europe. That said, the antique store we ended up making a purchase at (bookends) was found standing isolated on the side of Route 7, as if it was a checkpoint on the way to Kent. The older woman who owned the shop was incredibly chatty and even regaled us with the tale of when Meryl Streep came into her store and purchased several quilts!

Jars of jam for sale at the Norfolk farmer's market - I bought Strawberry Peach and it's delicious!

Jars of jam for sale at the Norfolk farmer’s market – I bought Strawberry Peach and it’s delicious!

Vendor tents and red wagons at the Norfolk Farmer's Market

Vendor tents and red wagons at the Norfolk Farmer’s Market

My boyfriend browsing the Norfolk Public Library book sale - one of the highlights of our weekend! We bought eight books!

My boyfriend browsing the Norfolk Public Library book sale – one of the highlights of our weekend! We bought eight books!

Rows of books at the book sale

Rows of books at the book sale

Gorgeous antique table in a shop in downtown Norfolk

Gorgeous antique table in a shop in downtown Norfolk

All in all, our two days in Connecticut were exactly what we needed to escape the urban masses and have a fun adventure as a couple. My biggest takeaway was how stunning and dynamic the countryside and its people are in that region – all just two and a half hours from the city! If my boyfriend and I are ever craving a hike or small town charm in the future, we now know just how/where to satiate that urge!

A List of Technology I Bring When I Travel

Even if you plan to go off the grid, you should probably bring your cell phone and charger on your next vacation. Doing so will make navigating to your grid-less existence easier.

Not everyone has Sam's wilderness navigation skills (image source: amazon.com)

Not everyone has Sam’s wilderness navigation skills (image source: amazon.com)

Today’s society is rife with electronics. Free wifi – at one point limited to just hotels and internet cafes – is slowly proliferating stores, museums, bars, restaurants, grassy fields, and anywhere else a tourist may frequent. It’s a pandemic of sorts!

While technology was invented to be helpful, it often can be bulky. Cords on cords on cords may take up valuable room in your suitcase or carry-on. However, at this point we’ve become so reliant that it’s hard to live without! In my opinion, my techie gadgets provide enough utility to make lugging them around worth the weight (or wait…if you’re talking about the time spent untangling cords. Hah.).

So, without further ado, here is my list of gadget must-haves that I plan to take on my next vacation:

  1. Smartphone (for me, iphone5) and charger

    There are so many apps out there now that make traveling easier. A few that I always have on my phone are Spotify Premium, airline apps (Delta, American, etc.) and Google maps. I also recently downloaded Gate Guru after reading about it from Travel & Leisure, and I can’t wait to review it next time I’m at a new airport.

    Using Gate Guru on iphones (image source: http://www.gateguru.com/images/4.0/3_airportcard.png)

    Using Gate Guru on iphones (image source: http://www.gateguru.com/images/4.0/3_airportcard.png)

  2. Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and charger

    I love my Surface Pro 3. I left my Surface Pro 1 in a rental car last fall and ended up buying a new one because I loved it so much. The tablet functions exactly like a laptop but is compact for traveling. Plus, I can download informational PDFs, hotel confirmations, transit system maps, bus schedules, and more before I leave for my trip and have them all handy throughout my excursion. Further, I recently downloaded the apps for Kindle (books), Nook (books), and Next Issue (magazines) on my Surface in order to store numerous reading material options for my next trip. It’s a much lighter weight alternative to bring a bunch of books and paperwork!

    Guys. It's a tablet and a laptop. What more could you want!? (image source: http://www.techhapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/sur3.jpg)

    Guys. It’s a tablet and a laptop. What more could you want!? (image source: http://www.techhapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/sur3.jpg)

  3. International power adapters

    I just learned that Italy power adapters are actually slightly different than those of the rest of continental Europe. They have three prongs instead of two. For that reason I ordered a pack of three on Amazon to make sure I can always charge my equipment during my next vacation. Bringing power adaptors is so important so you can make sure all of your gadgets will charge.

    These chargers came in a small box for easy packing (image source: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007YL6HY6?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=detailpage)

    These chargers came in a small box for easy packing (image source: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007YL6HY6?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=detailpage)

  4. Portable charger for electronics

    I think the most famous (and probably most expensive) brand of portable chargers is the Mophie. I haven’t broken down and bought one yet, but instead I have a couple of smaller off-brand portable chargers that carry far fewer charges yet are still easy to throw in a purse (latest Jackery purchase can be found here). At this point I find it ESSENTIAL to carry around at least one portable charger in my day bag if I’m out and about…my iphone5 no longer holds a charge for a full day!

    We just bought this Jockery charger off of Amazon to bring on our trip (image source: amazon.com)

    We just bought this Jockery charger off of Amazon to bring on our trip (image source: amazon.com)

  5. Sony 16 megapixel digital camera, plus (2) charged batteries and (2) SIM cards

    My boyfriend and I bought a compact 16 megapixel Sony camera in 2012 and have loved it ever since. Due to the fact that we’ve had it for a few years now, the one that we bought is pretty discounted and you can get higher megapixel models now for the price we paid. However, ours is still working great. The camera itself is less heavy than a DSLR, making it easier to tote around all day – plus the picture quality is fantastic! Can’t ask for better.

  6. Suitcase with a built-in overweight indicator

    We just bought two new Delsey Helium Hyperlight 25” Spinner suitcases for our Italy trip that I’m really excited to try. As experienced travelers will admit, one of the most annoying things about traveling for long periods of time is learning that your suitcase is over the 50-lb limit when you check in. For this new suitcase line, if you pick up the luggage by the separate indicator handle, an small light will turn red if you’re bag is overweight. Pretty ingenious! Can’t wait to try the new suitcases out next month and report back. 🙂

Technology has always been defined as something that makes life easier. It fills a need. In order to travel meaningfully you do not need to buy all of the latest gadgets, but technology may help you get the most out of your trip. For example, by doing research and sending emails on your connected devices while in transit or relaxing in your hotel room in the evenings, you may be able to spend more time sightseeing during the day. Additionally, if you bring the right tools to take good pictures, you’ll be able to reminisce about your experiences for years to come.

With that said, I must divulge that I love paperback guidebooks. I don’t think I will ever stop buying them, and I have quite a collection! Although I may always bring guidebooks on my trips, it makes sense to save room and weight in my pack in other ways by converting all other forms of entertainment to digital.

Guidebooks come with me everywhere

Guidebooks come with me everywhere

Now that I’ve divulged my list of tech, I have a question for YOU, dear reader….

What do you think of selfie sticks?