My trip around East Coast America, despite what my last blog post may have implied, did in fact, on occasion, involve me getting out of the car. Once in a while, you know. To stretch my legs. Sniff the air. Pound the sidewalks. But what with hours of driving, those oh-so convenient drive-thrus and my commitment to humongous amounts of burger-scoffing and root-beer guzzling, I was concerned that my legs would atrophy. However, the golden sands of Cape Cod, cobbled streets of Baltimore and gleaming high-rises of New York City were impossible to resist.
The eats were dreamy. Baltimore had perhaps the best food of my trip and was an amazing city to boot. We strolled around the Harbour side, laughed until our ribs hurt in the inspirational Visionary Art Museum and took in the underwater delights at the incredible seven-story aquarium – the city’s pride and joy. We wandered over to Fells Point for a few beers and dinner. In Bertha’s Mussels we had Blue Moon beer with slices of orange, I slurped on spicy crab soup, my boyfriend had piles of mussels with garlic butter and we had The Best Shrimp Ever. Stuffed with jalepenos, cream cheese and wrapped with sweet, mapely bacon, this shrimp was powerful, powerful good.
In Washington DC we spent a jean-popping night in La Plaza, a Mexican place on Pennsylvania Avenue, filled with kitsch trinkets and sated people. There we ate bowls of warm nachos in zingy, lime-drenched salsa, chorizo and cheese – a pleasingly melty goop of spicy naughtiness- and gorgeous pork fajitas served with mountains of fresh guacamole. Oh and the margaritas they served left me swaying and praying for more (free) shots of tequilla. An amazing, lively place and one I would hit every week were I to move to the Capitol.
One day we stopped for lunch at a “Washington Landmark’ – Ben’s Chili Bowl – in U Street which has been opened since 1958, survived the race riots and welcomed the United State’s first Black president for a bite to eat. In the meantime it’s seen a load of famous faces, including I’m afraid, Bono’s but don’t let that put you off. With hectic counter-staff and steamy windows, the building is absolutely beautiful, all high-arched ceilings and old diner stools. There’s a sign behind the counter which reads: Bill Crosby, the Obamas – No one else eats for free”. We ordered an obligatory Half Smoke – a meaty, smoky hot dog covered with spicy chilli – and a plate of squeezy, cheesy chips for a uniquely satisfying lunch in a humbling and historic restaurant.
Not really a city, but I just had to tell you about how the weekend we dropped by Wellfleet – in the middle of Cape Cod – as it just so happened to be hosting the Oysterfest. We had parked our car by the beach and rode a yellow school bus into town to find the streets all closed to traffic and lined with tent after tent of burly men shucking, oysters on ice, buckets of used shells, rows of bubbling chowders and lobsters for sale. Of course, Josh and I had to have a try and so nervously, gingerly, we both picked up our first-ever oysters, a squeeze of lemon here a glug of tobasco there, eyes closed, mouth open… and.. GULP. I’m not sure if you’re meant to chew but I just swallowed fast. And I’m not sure. I may have missed something. A slimy salty wiggly thing in a crusty old shell was not my cup of tea, I think, in fact that yes, I am sure I missed something!
And onto New York, where after schlepping across Brooklyn Bridge, down into subways and up the Empire State building I felt I had earned a few liquors in dive-bars and the odd frozen custard. In the city that never sleeps I drank far too many vanilla lattes, ate mountains of ribs that required me to keep a bath-towel on hand to keep mopping my brow and mouth clean and scoffed pizzas the size of manhole covers. Mmmmm. In Coney Island, desolate and dreary the way only seaside resorts can be off-season, we wandered past empty fairground rides, along the shore, oggling bars selling the dubious-looking Grandpa ChaCha’s Homestyle wine and the terrifying ‘Shoot the Freaks’ arcade. We “dined” at Nathan’s Famous where we chomped on decidedly rubbery hot dogs and tried to fathom how – at the Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest at Nathan’s – the winner managed to down 54 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes and retain possession of his Coveted Musted Yellow Belt. Gruelling.
And so, after driving in forests of red and golden trees and through jungles of skyscrapers, after sleeping in motels and mansions, after lobster platters and sweaty McRibs, our roadtrip was over. I was one lovely (engagement!) ring – and a good few pounds – heavier and we were both a heck of a lot happier. I can’t wait to go back…