Jade Mountain + St. Lucia: A Little Piece of Paradise

I blinked in momentary disbelief. 

Ryan and I were touring our room at St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain Resort. There were only three walls; the fourth was a wide-open view of the island’s famous Piton Mountains. An infinity pool near the far edge of the room completed the epic vista.

Our honeymoon was off to a fantastic start. 

Infinity pool and view of the Pitons from room number JA4. 

Infinity pool and view of the Pitons from room number JA4. 

The Room

“At Jade Mountain, we call our rooms 'sanctuaries' be-cause, as you can see, 'dis is more 'dan just a room,” our Major Domo said in his island Creole accent. He then handed me a small mobile phone and explained how we could contact him for anything—from making us dinner reservations, to organizing our closet.

Ryan and I exchanged glances. Luxury travel is not my expertise (hello, cheap Airbnbs) but for our honeymoon, we had agreed to save up and spend more for an all-inclusive boutique resort. By the time the room tour ended, it was clear our expectations were going to be exceeded. 

The bed was wrapped in a canopy of mesh netting to prevent bugs from interrupting the sanctuary’s sleepy occupants. Besides the main entrance, there were no doors in the room (even for the toilet). But there was an abundance of white noise: the rainforest frogs would start their songs at twilight, the birds woke up with the sun, and our pool’s consistent waterfall muffled our voices even from each other. The sounds of nature were a far cry from the screaming sirens of Brooklyn.

There were closets behind the bed, and a bathroom with jacuzzi on the top left platform.  

There were closets behind the bed, and a bathroom with jacuzzi on the top left platform.  

Dining Experience 

While our sanctuary (room JA4) was incredible, the biggest surprise was the quality of our meals. Ryan is a classic foodie. He appreciates the art of growing, preparing, and tasting food at a level I can only somewhat grasp. I’m an experimental eater and never shy away from something new—but I can’t tell you about the best cut of meat, or which herbs were used in the braise.

We had originally booked at Jade Mountain’s sister resort Anse Chastanet, and while the views still would have been picturesque, we wouldn’t have had access to the all the best restaurants. So I upgraded our room for Ryan’s Christmas present, and I didn't regret that decision in the slightest.  

Nearly every night, we made reservations at the Jade Club. This eatery is perched on top of the resort and boasts new creations each evening from James Beard award winner, Chef Allen Susser. Plates of fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and exotic spices delighted us all week long. We indulged in six-course meals and sampled the cocktail or wine menu during three-hour dining extravaganzas. My favorite foodie’s heart nearly exploded the night he tasted pork cheeks in a bourguignon sauce.

The Jade Club and Celestial Terrace

The Jade Club and Celestial Terrace

All of this fluffy description to say, if you don’t love fine dining, Jade’s hefty prices may not be in your favor. But for us, it was perfect. What we would have paid every night for dinner was the daily cost of an all-inclusive package for a couple. So factor in breakfast, lunch, and afternoon cocktails? The all-inclusive plan paid for itself, and we never thought about the price of a meal—which is a beautiful convenience post-wedding. For more dining tips, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Excursions 

When we weren’t stuffing our faces with some the finest food in the Caribbean, we were out exploring the island. Our favorite snorkeling spot was Anse Chastanet Beach. The fish were abundant, the cove was somewhat unoccupied, and the equipment was free to rent for Jade Mountain guests.

The most memorable excursion we booked outside of the resort was through Atlantic Shores Riding Stables. We received a private two-hour tour of the southeastern tip of the island via horseback, and took a dip in Savannes Bay. The real bucket list moment was when our guide waded into the water, clad only in his underwear, with a horse named Spice. Ryan and I took turns riding without a saddle through the shallow waves of the deserted beach. 

Me, Spice the horse, and our guide Max.

Me, Spice the horse, and our guide Max.

After our ride, we were dropped off at a local restaurant on the shores of Sandy Beach. We ate local fish, and explored (in my opinion) one of the more beautiful coastlines of St. Lucia. We enjoyed views of Maria Island, a piece of land that was designated a nature reserve in 1982, and swam in the Atlantic. 

Ryan and I also did a half-day excursion with Real St. Lucia Tours. Our guide, Shane, was excellent. When we changed our plan and decided we didn’t want to go shopping in the island’s capital, he steered us on a more adventure-based path. We hiked the Tet Paul Nature Trail, saw the “drive-in” volcano, took a mud bath, ate lunch at a local cafe, went snorkeling in Sugar Beach, and saw one of St. Lucia’s waterfalls.

Note: Each of these spots requires a small entrance fee. I really enjoyed the nature trail, swimming in the waterfall, and the mud bath. The volcano tour was quite short—it’s something only worth doing if you're also going to take a dip in the mud. The classic white shores of Sugar Beach are stunning, but I wouldn’t need to go back. Our resort’s snorkeling reefs were more beautiful, and the sand is “fake,” in that it is pumped in from other parts of the Caribbean. Plus, we were required to buy drinks from the hotel bar in order to use their shuttle system from the parking lot to the beach. 

Overall, it was a very enjoyable day and our guide was extremely helpful is quickly transporting us from location to location while explaining island culture along the way. We talked with him about everything from his childhood, to his current job and appreciated his local perspective.

On our last day, we utilized Jade Mountain’s amenities. We booked an afternoon sailing tour through the resort that took us along the west coast. The captain filled us with rum punches and plantain chips while he pointed out facts about St. Lucia. Throughout the trip we spotted several fishing towns, as well as the island’s capital of Castries. Before heading back, our small group of four hopped out and snorkeled in Anse Cochon Beach. 

Jade Mountain Quick Tips

  • Tipping is a part of the culture so I'd suggest bringing at least $200 in small bills. You don't need to tip the traditional 20% on a meal. There is already a built in service charge through the resort, so we tipped one or two bucks for drinks and between five to ten for fine dining. That money goes directly to the server or driver. 
  • If you book with a Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, there is a chance you could be upgraded at check in. 
  • The road up to Jade Mountain is steep and bumpy. We were glad to have a driver take us from the airport vs. renting a car. Note: St. Lucians drives on the left side of the road, like in the UK. 
  • If it's your honeymoon or a special occasion, be sure to let the resort know. We received free champagne on our first night!
  • Walk to Anse Mamin Beach one afternoon. It's a quick stroll from the main beach area, and it was nearly deserted when we visited. Plus there's a small restaurant that serves amazing burgers and mojitos.
  • If you do the all-inclusive plan, spend the majority of your dinners at the Jade Club. The food (and service) is by far the best at the resort.
  • Anything not included in the all-inclusive plan will be clearly marked on the menu. We found most of the extra charges applied to certain liquors, and special dining excursions. 

Ryan and I had an incredible honeymoon in a beautiful country I’d love to visit again. It was both relaxing and full of moments of adventure. Between the food, the views, and the company, I couldn’t have dreamed up a better way to spend the week after my wedding. Below are a few more pictures of our trip.

Happy travels!


I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
— Susan Sontag

Our Wedding: The Highlights

Weddings are notorious for whirling by in a blur—you plan all year for an event, and then it’s over in a matter of hours. So on the plane ride to our honeymoon destination, I jotted down a few moments that stood out in my brain before they disappeared forever and become an inaccurate memory.

Here are the highlights of our wedding week, from my perspective and in no particular order. I am obviously missing many other narratives, but I hope these quick tidbits will serve as a happy (and at time, hilarious) reminder of what happened on June 17th, 2017.

All of the below photos were snapped by the talented Katelyn James Alsop.


Remember on wedding day...

…when the electricity was flickering off and on in the Berkeley Plantation's sitting room as a thunderstorm rolled through the area. I wondered aloud if this meant the power was also going off in the ceremony and reception tents. Every bridesmaid said, "Noooooo!" in perfect unison. Turns out, the power was going off in the tents—but it was better that I didn’t know.

fitzgerald-nugent-wedding-1

…when Ryan first saw me in my wedding dress, and we had a beautiful moment to ourselves.

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…when it started raining while the bridesmaids and I were doing our portraits, so we ran for cover. The girls tried to stuff me into the gift shop, but in the process Grace cut her finger and started bleeding. Meanwhile, I slipped on my dress and was about to face plant onto the ground, when Groomsman Phil screamed, "Briiiiiiiide!" and caught me just in time.

fitzgerald-nugent-wedding-berkeley-plantation

…when during the ceremony Father Jimmy kept trying to make us hold hands, but we were so sweaty and really just wanted to swat the bugs off our faces.

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…when pregnant Bridesmaid Kelsey fainted during the ceremony, most likely because it felt like 120 degrees under the tent. She was OK after some fanning and water!

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…when the bridesmaids, Dad, and I screamed “Sound of Music” songs before we walked down the aisle. (Video, below.) 

…when some of the groomsman and wedding guests took a quick dip in the James River. 

groomsman-black-tux-suit-rental

…when Leiv handed me a shot of tequila before the ceremony, as the thunderstorm roared on.

… when the drizzle stopped just as the bridesmaids were walking down the aisle. We all tossed our umbrellas over the hedge at the last second. The rain began again after Dad and I entered the tent. The momentary reprieve was a little blessing.

…when Suzanne, Kathryn, Grace, Mom and I sang "Going to the Chapel" on the car ride from the hotel to the plantation. Looking back, there was a lot singing at this wedding.

…when Kelsey and Ryan Webb nailed their rehearsal dinner speech by creating a pretend app called the Brit Fit (not to be confused with a Fit Bit). The app would let my husband-to-be know when I'm getting antsy, among other facts to assist with my quirky ways. 

…when the Nugent men all teared up during their brilliant and well-thought out toasts.

…when Dad made everybody cry during his speech at the wedding. 

…when the Nugent, Fitzgerald, Lombardi, and Roberts families were all honored at dinner. The silver centerpieces on the tables were cherished heirlooms, mostly from our grandparents' collections. Lore, Mom, and my florist were so helpful in making this vision come to life.

…when my sisters gave the perfect speech. I felt so loved by the people who know me best.

…when Harlan picked up Mom on the dance floor and threw her over his shoulder so she was essentially crowd surfing. 

…when the Polaroid photo booth idea actually worked.

…when the wedding coordinator whispered into her walkie-talkie, "Bride and groom's plates, still full." Then she and the caterer brought out more food and basically made us promise we’d eat it.

…when Dad and I danced to Barbra’s "Happy Days are Here Again." It was the live version of the song, so there was tons of applause on the track. People must have thought the applause was all coming from the tent, so they gave us a standing ovation! We also did an impromptu kick line and I hope it was documented on video somewhere.

… when the New York girls tossed me in the air on the dance floor. I remember looking down at Sarah and Chinae. They were surrounded by my huge dress and using every muscle in their bodies to keep me afloat—but both were still smiling.

…when some of our friends and family wore trash bags from the bus while running to the ceremony tent. Most also abandoned their shoes as the rain came down. (Sorry, my dears. You all still looked stunning.)

…when I tried to quietly sneak into my hotel room after being at the Tobacco Company Bar until 2 a.m. the night before the wedding. Suddenly, I heard from the darkness, "Britney Fitzgerald, I cannot believe you are just getting home." My sister Grace was tucked in bed and laughing at me. 

…when we spent two days putting together welcome bags and favor boxes with the whole Fitzgerald-Spicer Clan the week of the wedding. Copious amounts of wine made it worth our time. 

…when we played hard on Thursday night at Casa Del Barco. There were definitely some parent tequila shots. 

…when we had to make about six rain plans the week of the wedding, due to one tent being too small and a 100% chance of scattered showers. 

berkeley plantation wedding charles city virginia

…when Ryan and I took a moment to observe the celebration from afar while holding hands and smiling. 

… when the CNU crew waited 10 minutes to take a picture with me (unbeknownst to them, I’d gone to the restroom). I felt so loved by longtime, loyal friends.

…when shirtless Karl and Dylan had a dance off to Britney Spears’ "Toxic." 

… when Photographer Katelyn hesitantly walked over to Ryan and I at dinner. She said, "So I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't tell you this. And you don’t have to, but… there is actually a sunset. I know we weren't planning on doing sunset photos because of the rain. But I thought I’d let you know..." Ryan and I agreed to take a few more photos. KK became super excited, and we ran together through the tent to catch the glowing light just in time. 

berkeley plantation wedding fitzgerald nugent

… when Uncle Michael spun me around the dance floor, like a true professional. The full circumference of my dress was finally captured!

…when one of our guests told us that she never once used the restroom trailer and peed in the woods all night. I later found out she was not the only one to do so.

…when everyone sang “New York, New York” as Ryan and I exited the venue through a tunnel of sparklers. I almost cried as the faces of loved ones in the crowd glowed in laughter. It was a cinematic moment that felt like a proper end to the evening.


One of my favorite takeaways from this whole experience is that you all have memories, too. Every person I’ve spoken with post-wedding has told me a hilarious, insane, or perfectly lovely anecdote about their time in Richmond, Virginia. Thank you for turning our special day into a story—there were so many tales of adventure, love, and sacrifice.

And that is the best gift we could ever receive. 

Slideshow

Source: britney-fitzgerald.com

On Marriage

There is a tall, wooden pepper grinder that sits in our kitchen.

I’ve never refilled the pepper grinder. In fact, before joining forces with Ryan, I’d never owned one. But when I scramble my eggs, it's there ready to season my food. It dispenses perfectly ground, fresh pepper—just like at your favorite Italian restaurant. Sometimes when I make crude dinners that require 3 ingredients or less, I pick up the pepper grinder and think, “When did I become so fancy!”

This kitchen tool also magically refills itself. It’s never empty; it’s always reliable. The same rules apply to our bar: It’s as though a liquor fairy comes in the night and blesses us with the finest whiskeys and gins.

But, of course, there is no fairy and the pepper grinder does not possess any special powers. Ryan restocks the bar and refills the pepper. He does a lot of little things I don’t always appreciate until he’s not by my side. Ryan has slowly snuck into my world, and I would be devastated if one day the pepper grinder was not full because he wasn’t there to do it.

Becoming codependent is a heartbreaking process—quite literally. The comfort and adoration you receive from “your person” chips away at the muscle beating inside of your chest, until little pieces of it crumble off. With a mix of work and love, those pieces are then gone forever; you’ve given them away eternally.

Sometimes when I look at that pepper grinder, I get irrationally anxious. What if Ryan was gone? I’ve already offered up my heart pieces! What if Ryan dies in a plane crash? What if my love is hard to reciprocate? What if an AC unit falls on his head? What if, what if, what if…

Getting married makes you think of your whole life’s timeline, from birth until death. You begin to fear loss more fervently because you have stretched your concept of love. While I have come to the conclusion that looking at the pepper grinder and feeling anxious is not-so-healthy, I would argue my fears are not irrational.

But that’s the whole point.
That’s everything.

Devoting your life to a partnership is supposed to be a humbling, life changing process, and I’m so excited to have my little heart destroyed.

Ryan, thank you for always refilling the pepper grinder.
Thank you for being reliable, patient, and loving.
You’ve broken my heart in the best way imaginable.

britney fitzgerald ryan nugent engaged

PS: I hear these feelings only get worse when you have kids. Thank God we're absolutely not there yet.


Do whatever comes your way to do as well as you can. Think as little as possible about yourself. Think as much as possible about other people. Dwell on things that are interesting. Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Kendrick Lamar is Always in My Kitchen

I turn on the bathroom lights. One of the bulbs sputters and flickers, like someone gasping for their last breath of air. The sound is mildly unsettling, so I reach up and whap the fixture with my brush. Silence is regained, though only for a moment. Now a siren is squealing down 4th Avenue and my upstairs neighbor has turned on his television. I’m engulfed in uncontrollable noises once again.   

Nothingness is hard to find no matter where you live, but nothingness is nearly impossible to find in New York City. The whole island rumbles twenty-four hours a day, and if it stops we all ask, “What went wrong?” No one wants this town to pause and catch its breath—that’s why we live here. The buzz of the city is our fuel.

But people? People need rest.

We cannot function at the same pace of our fair city’s heartbeat. She is immortal and concrete; yet her inhabitants are simply human.

As an extroverted creature, it is against my nature to rest in silence. But often, when I’m quiet—and turn on my fan to block out the noises of this distracting town—I am more introspective. I am quick to pick up a pen, and process the current state of affairs.

Which, is what I’m doing right now.

It turns out there is much happening in my tiny brain. The most common narrative of my thoughts is that of change. There are obvious reasons for this: I’m about to get married, the agency I work for is closing its New York office, and the weather is (finally) turning warm.

But there are other forces at play that nod to the subtle movement of time.

I met Ben when I was going to church in the East Village. He was a part of my “small group”—a rag tag cluster of New Yorkers who were looking to connect with a community. We ate, laughed, read, played, and prayed together. To this day, a portion of that eclectic set of people are still some of my closest friends in the city. They will be in my wedding and part of whatever comes next.

Then, there's Micole. She and Ben met one Cinco De Mayo and starting dating soon after. I remember talking with her about relationships; she was wise, patient, and hilarious while sharing advice. Micole works in the fashion world and was briefly featured on a reality TV show (which, was short-lived because she’s not dramatic or petty in the slightest).

Ben and Micole got married, got a dog, and got pregnant. Now they are leaving the city for multiple intelligent reasons. They will have a much-needed season of rest, far away from New York City’s palpitations.  

But today is the first day that I feel sad about their quick exit. Suddenly, the movement of time does not seem so subtle. I’ve known Ben for nearly seven years. He asks good questions. He likes dumb country songs. He always implores me to show emotion. “It’s OK to be sad, Britney!” he’d say when I was covering up stress, while making $10 an hour in grad school. “Let it out! You can tell us.”

We non-married people were also lucky enough to watch Ben and Micole fall in love. And fight. And apologize. When they tied the knot at a beautiful loft in Greenpoint, it felt important—like a tangible chapter in time was closing. We were city kids becoming adults.

"Nobody pray for me
Even a day for me
Way (yeah, yeah!)"

All the windows in my apartment are closed, but Kendrick Lamar is suddenly projecting from someone’s car. Our walls are so thin, it's as if the rapper himself were standing in my kitchen with a megaphone. I wish I could say this is the first time the talented Mr. Lamar has showed up unexpectedly, but ever since his latest album dropped, I can't keep him out of this apartment. There is always someone on 4th Avenue blaring his hit tracks, so I just nod along. 

This is how close we city dwellers live to eight million other people.

Still, for a few hours, I was able to peacefully process—to find a nothingness even from within my uninsulated apartment. Ben would be proud that I unapologetically shed some tears over he and his wife’s departure.

Now New York rumbles on. Someone calls about brunch; someone else about job opportunities. A car alarm wails in the distance. As I consider going for a walk around Brooklyn, I feel a growing sense of excitement for my friends’ new adventures—where will they live next? What will they name the baby? Most importantly, when can we all visit? 

The not-so-subtle passage of time doesn’t seem as depressing. 
I cannot sit in the nothingness for long. 
There’s a time to pause.
There’s a time to prepare.

And then… there’s a time to get married, find a job, have babies, move across the country, travel the world, or simply run full speed ahead!

Best of luck, my friends, to where ever you may be in that process.
 

Ben + Micole

Ben + Micole


And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.
— The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Full Circle Black Dress

I slip on a black dress. 

This particular type of garment always reminds me of Bloomingdale's. The dress code for a salesgirl was black from head to toe. My shoes, dresses, headbands, and even my tights were a vibrant black. Washing your clothes led to fading, which, in turn led to being called out by management. So we all washed our laundry in cold water and talked about the benefits of air drying.  

The department store that I worked for was, and is still, located on Broadway in the fashionable Soho neighborhood of New York. At one point during the 1980s, this stretch of street was a graffiti-covered eyesore complete with squatters and dingy bars. Now, Michael Kors, Longchamp, and Apple are just a few of the profitable high-end retail shops that call Soho home. I always struggle to decide if pre- or post-gentrification is truly better for the middle class residents of New York City—but the Soho I know is the second one, and from here on out that is how we shall picture it: tenements converted into luxury lofts, with retail shops on the first floor and cafés or national banks on the corners. 

Bloomingdales' building was six floors with a basement or three. At the very top was the employee lounge, complete with couches, lockers, and a kitchen. I spent several lunches up there attempting to finish homework for grad school while eating a PB&J and a bag of chips. But for me, the worst part about working at Bloomingdale's was the exceedingly long amount of time I was expected to stay indoors under fluorescent lights. Therefore, most of my breaks consisted of 20 to 30 minute walks and a stop for food somewhere along the way. As long as I could see the people of New York moving about like buzzing bees, and feel the warmth of the sun burning my scalp, I was at peace. Sometimes Kelley Rippa would walk past me toward her Crosby Street home, and I’d smile and think, “Hey, you’re really doing this.”

Me, circa 2010, working at Bloomingdales Soho.  

Me, circa 2010, working at Bloomingdales Soho.  

(I’m now zipping up my black dress, reflecting on past versions of myself.)

The bottom basement of Bloomingdale's housed the managers’ offices, some stock rooms, and a massive amount of Brown Bags. These were important marketing tools for Bloomies and came in “big,” “medium,” or “small.” Every item of clothing a customer purchased was wrapped in white tissue paper, and then placed in these iconic shopping bags—which, also reeked of mold when left in a damp NYC basement for too long. The stench made me depressed because I hated rounding up these moist containers from a basement that never saw the sunlight, but joyful because ungodly humans with grotesque bratty children valued them and trotted around the city boasting of their newly purchased treasures in a bag that was already rotting from the inside out.  

A strange pang of rage shoots up my neck as I look at myself in the floor-length mirror attached to my bathroom door. Until this moment, I hadn’t realized my anger at certain types of customers still lingered deep below the surface. But maybe I should have guessed. To this day, there is a small collection of acquaintances that I can’t stand accompanying to a shop or restaurant. Their blatant ambivalence—or worse, neediness—of the salesgirls and wait staff is so uncomfortable, I find myself acting overly smiley and apologetic to the person being mistreated by the entitled patron in my presence. No “please,” no “thank you,” and an authoritative tone make me want to shake whoever I’m with and scream, “you’re nothing special!”

The customer is not always right. But then again, neither is the employee. 

“Excuse me, where’s the restroom?” a woman with a fanny pack asked the sales associate closest to me. This particular member of the staff held the record for number of dresses sold, and had worked on the third floor since the opening of the Soho location. But when she didn’t sniff out a sale, she often acted like a cavewoman, complete with monosyllabic grunts and hand gestures. Today was no exception: She didn’t even look up as she pointed a thumb over her shoulder, indicating the direction of the toilets.  

This was the worst type of person to work with: aggressive about getting her number of sales, and completely useless for anything else. Counting the money? Straightening the racks at night? The cavewoman would halfheartedly do a little of this, or a little of that. But the second a sophisticated guest walked in, her posture changed and her vocabulary grew to include phrases like, “This is a completely new Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, created for the spring line—it’s only been here a few days and selling out fast. I’m happy to leave one in the back for you, my dear.”

And now, seven years later, here I am working at an advertising agency, and wearing my own DVF dress. Vibrant black. Patton leather heels. A manicure.

But look closely…

There’s a chip in the nail polish on my left thumb. I’ve never been able to completely kill my nail biting habit.

And the attire? All of my name brand clothing is secondhand, including the Jimmy Choos on my feet. I’d rescued those poor stilettos from a dumpster while I was interning at a magazine in midtown. Like Cinderella and her glass slipper, they fit just right and they’ve been mine ever since.

And my job? Well, I didn’t know it yet—but I was about to lose it.
To be continued...


The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
— Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

New York Tip #5: Some Things Are Worth Paying For

I do not enjoy the repetition of seemingly insignificant tasks. Laundry is a prime example. I can’t think of a chore I loathe more.

In the city, “doing your laundry” typically means you have to lug a heavy pile of dirty underwear and dresses down the street. You don’t have a car, and your mesh hamper is always on the brink of ripping apart. (But that’s your own fault because you haven’t replaced it since college.)

Then, you start sorting your apparel in a dingy room, complete with soul-sucking florescent lights and other people’s dirty underwear. It’s usually stuffy and crowded on the weekends, so try to make your trips at random times, like a Tuesday night post-happy hour.

Once you’ve crammed all your laundry into one washer with both hands and maybe a foot, fish out 12 quarters and hope you’ve done your math appropriately. NO, I see you! Don’t bother sorting your colors from your whites, my dear. You’ll be here all day, and these industrial washers make your laundry sixty shades of gray anyway.

$1.75 for a 20-minute wash seems about right. So toss in the quarters—one will always get stuck—and then consider what other chores you can do for that odd period of allotted time. Going home is a waste of movement, as it takes five minutes to get there and five minutes to get back. Looks like it’s time for another coffee at the café nearby?

Ok! You’ve refueled and you’re feeling fine—this terrible process is halfway done. Now, wrangle one of those huge metal carts used for taking your clothes from the washer to the dryer. Scout out the territory and walk with confidence. Fight off the angry old bat who smells strongly of cat pee. Procure your wet laundry’s vehicle with authority!

As you pull your clothing out of the washer, one of your bras will inevitably fall to the floor.
Throw the old thing out?
Rewash it? (No.)
Just shrug and stick the now dusty garment into the cart with your clean clothes.
A little dirt never hurt.

Squeak, squeak, squeak.

Roll the cart across the aisle and examine the wall of endlessly tumbling dryers. Someone else has also just finished their wash cycle—you can hear the squeak of their cart approaching.

And then disaster strikes.
Full dryer, full dryer, full dryer…
All the machines are taken.
You will have to wait.
We don’t like to WAIT.

But what’s this… ah, do you see it? In the far-left corner there’s a perfectly empty machine, glimmering in the distance. It's the trophy your hard labor deserves.

Sq-sq-sq-squeak! Sq-sq-sq-squeak!

The other Washed Woman has also spotted the dryer. Move, my friend. Act fast! This is now a race you cannot lose! Being damned to the laundromat with a cart of wet clothing and waiting in dryer limbo is one of New York’s worst punishments. This, and being grazed by a rat. 

Your cart is slightly ahead of the other woman’s so lock in and push fast. Past the crying baby, past the women watching a soap opera. You roll over the forgotten towel on the floor—speed bump!—and squeak your way into first place. Washed Woman closes in behind you, but don’t turn around; don’t engage. Put your damp clothes in that dryer and mark your territory like a dog peeing on a mailbox.

Victory is yours! Yes, you might feel a little out of breath. You heart is racing and there’s sweat on your brow, but the extreme anxiety you’re feeling only makes you more successful in your pursuit for moderately clean clothing.  

Doing laundry in the city is its own specific type of hustle. I can only imagine what urban mothers must endure—those heaps of clothing I see on Instagram are panic-inducing.

This, my friends, is why I now utilize the drop off service. I still walk to the laundromat with my college hamper, but no longer do I engage in cart competitions. Some other kind soul washes and folds my wardrobe. I am a seasoned New Yorker, therefore, I know the extra $8 is worth my mental stability. The same rules apply for $10 late-night Ubers. 

And if I had a psychiatrist, I’m sure she’d advise the same.

I haul my laundry to this little street in Brooklyn. 

I haul my laundry to this little street in Brooklyn. 


New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it: Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.
— John Steinbeck

Editor's Note: This is real life. 


A Piece of the Narrative

We were packed together, our toes to their heels.

Thousands of people surrounded me. Pick any ethnicity, gender, and age combination; I promise you they were there. The buildings of 42nd Street bowed before us as a wave of protesters walked on into the distance, first turning blurry, and then into tiny dots. Society marched across Manhattan for as far as my eye could see.

I stood with Clare and Bryan. I’d met Clare in grad school, and she’d married Bryan several years later. As old city friends, we’d done an incredible amount of growing up together. We’d also all grown uncomfortable as the election raged on, and felt the need to do something besides lament about the current state of affairs over a cocktail.

It seemed as though much of the country felt the same way. The Women’s March had gained quick momentum in the weeks before the event. “Are you going?” “Which one are you attending?” My social media channels were full of both those planning their protest, and those admonishing against it.

In the end, we wanted to be in our city and we wanted our sentiments to be known. After discussing our reasons for marching, understanding the logistics, and making signs for the event, we met up at 1:00pm on Saturday January 21, 2017 and headed toward the protest's holding area.

womens march new york city 2017

For two hours, we only moved a couple of city blocks. We walked more like penguins, packed together, our toes to their heels.  But now we marched further west on 42nd Street toward Grand Central Station. Though tightly packed into barricaded lanes, the crowd was now able to walk at a consistently slow pace.

I looked at my city. It’s been mine for nearly seven years. The buildings we passed were like acquaintances I hadn’t seen in some time. There, in the blue and silver skyscraper on Lexington—that was the old office for Parents magazine, my second internship in the city. The park to the east was where I used to eat a PB&J on sunny days. If I squinted, I could see myself sitting on a worn bench wearing a red dress and a gray pea coat.

What little girls we were.
What big girls we’d become.
I grabbed Clare’s hand and squeezed it to make sure we were in the present and not the past.

Then I looked at the people. All around me, they held signs and chanted. Angry people. Sad people. The terrified. The political. And, of course, the exhilarated. Our sidewalks were lined with those hoping to support any cause you could imagine, including the march itself. The one aligning factor to everyone’s presence was general dissatisfaction.

There is an ornate overpass in front of Grand Central called the Park Avenue Viaduct. It was closed to traffic and packed with supporters strapped with cameras, signs, or megaphones. They began to shout down to the marchers on the street beneath them.

“What does democracy look like?”
One, then two, then five joined in.
“What does democracy look like?”

The marchers around me began to shout back. At first I couldn’t hear what they were saying; it sounded like a large grumble 30 times over. From the overpass, our resilient small crowd asked us again: “What does democracy look like?”

And then the boom of the people echoed off of the buildings in a glass shattering roar.
It was as though our response had been choreographed.
One, then two, then 400 joined in.

We marchers responded in perfect unison: “This is what democracy looks like.”

“What does democracy look like?”
“This is what democracy looks like.”

As the back-and-forth chant thundered on, Clare and I stood with chills in the middle of street, in the middle of Manhattan, in the middle of a 400,000-person crowd. We smiled, and closed our eyes.  

In a rare moment, we felt history move around us. It slithered through the crowd, and reverberated off the towering buildings. It boomed down the avenues of New York City. It slipped through my hair. Its presence demanded to be known.

I’ve never felt something quite like that before. No government class or historical documentary could illustrate more clearly what America is, and what it has always been. How lucky we are to be able to flood our streets and freely speak against or in favor of the government. How lucky some are to remain apathetic, with no true consequence. We’ve studied the Civil Rights movement, we’ve memorized the big court cases, and we’ve celebrated the Revolutionary War. Clare’s family immigrated to California from Northern Ireland to flee the Troubles. My line of family, too, has labored through its share of poverty and success. We’ve tasted others’ narratives—but this march was our own piece of a larger story.

History, for once, felt tangible—like a gentle breeze that whispers something hopeful in your ear. You breathe it in; it’s yours. And yet, history in the making is felt by thousands that notice that same unexplainable movement of time.

womens march new york city 2017

Editor’s Note: It is important to know I was  singing Les Miserables’ “Do You Hear the People Sing” and Hamilton’s “Yorktown” both to Clare and to myself throughout the entire day. Also, I was not the only one doing so, because this is New York City after all.    


Three Day Guide to Montreal: What to Do + Where to Eat

I went on a quick trip to Montreal, Canada with my fiancé over the New Year’s break. We enjoyed three solid days of tasty regional food, quaint French accents, and gorgeous city vistas. Thinking of taking a little holiday? Here’s a quick Montreal bucket list, plus a few tips for first timers.  

Six Things to Do

Biodome: Located at Olympic Park, the Montreal Biodome is an indoor-zoo that allows visitors to walk through replicas of four distinct ecosystems found in the Americas: tropical forests, North American forests, the Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system, and a polar area. The penguins and roaming monkeys definitely entertained.

biodome-montreal-penguins

Mont Royal: This large volcanic-related hill gave the city of Montreal its name. We hiked from the 144 bus stop near the McGill Hospital up to a lookout near Chalet Du Mont-Royal and snapped some beautiful photos of the city. Visitors can also rent cross country skis, bicycles, and ice skates.

mont-royal-park-montreal

Bota Bota: When an old river ferry is turned into an upscale "floating spa" and restaurant, you get Nordic-inspired Bota Bota. Known for its water circuit and Instagram-worthy hot tubs, this was a highlight of our trip. Tip: If you go before 11am or on a weekday, you’ll receive a discount.

bota-bota-montreal

Old Montreal: As the name would suggest, this is the oldest neighborhood in Montreal. Some of the buildings and landmarks date back to New France, and most of the area was dubbed a historic landmark in the 1960s. Shops, pubs, and hotels line the quaint cobbled streets.

old-montreal-quebec

Jean-Talon Market: This open-air market is comprised of local vendors selling produce, meats, cheeses, fish, maple syrup, and more. It’s one of the largest public markets in North America, and still buzzes during the cold months. Sample a piece of something tasty and then wander around the surrounding neighborhood of Little Italy.

jean-talon-market-montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica: Located in Old Montreal, the beautifully ornate interior of this Roman Catholic site is worth viewing. Fun facts: Celine Dion married René Angélil here on December 17, 1994, and the stained-glass windows depict scenes from Montreal’s religious history.

Notre-Dame-Basilica-montreal

Six Things to Eat

I wrote a longer post about exactly which restaurants we enjoyed while visiting, but here’s a short list of regional food that Montreal does right.

The Great Bagel Debate: Both St. Viateur and Fairmount are famous for their Montreal-style bagels. The dough is boiled in honey-infused water and then baked in a wood-fire oven, giving the bread a totally different taste than New York City’s rival product.  

montreal-style-bagels-fairmount-st-viateur

Poutine: This Canadian classic originated in the Quebec region, and is typically comprised of French fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds. Diners, pubs, and even some fast-food restaurants sell poutine, but 24-hour La Banquise is famous for their 30+ variations of the dish—including one topped with hot dogs and bacon.

montreal-poutine-canada

Unpasteurized cheese: In short, Canada does not have the same laws in place when it comes to raw dairy. Be sure to try a slice at one of the open markets, and enjoy the fact that you’re chewing on a food that would be completely illegal in the United States.

unpasteurized-cheese-montreal-canada

Maple syrup: While Quebec’s maple syrup season typically begins in March, you can still find plenty of fresh canned or bottled syrup throughout the year. At Jean-Talon Market, we sampled both light and dark varieties from a local distributor. A small container of real maple syrup also makes for a fabulous souvenir.

montreal-maple-syrup-canada

French-inspired cuisine: Be sure to find an authentic French bistro for at least one of your meals. Sip a red Bordeaux and enjoy a steak tartare stuffed with capers, or duck confit and a side of potatoes. Bon appétit!

lexpress-french-montreal-canada

Smoked meat: New York is to Katz’s, as Montreal is to Schwartz’s. You’ll find this famous Jewish delicatessen on historic Saint Laurent Boulevard. The order of choice: a smoked meat sandwich on rye with mustard, a side of pickles, and a black cherry soda.

schwartzs-smoked-meat-sandwich

Getting There

The drive from New York City was dotted with small upstate towns and rolling hills. We ran into minimal traffic—until the border crossing. For whatever reason (the holiday? Friday night?) we waited in long lines of red brake lights for 2 ½ hours at the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle Customs Office. To avoid our mistake, check this website ahead of time and be aware of other crossing sites.

If you are flying into Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, you can catch a cab or the 747 Montreal-Trudeau/Downtown bus. It operates 24/7 and connects to eight downtown stops.

Tip: The 3-day unlimited L'Occasionnelle card is well worth the $18 if you plan on using the metro or bus at least five times during your stay. There are also weekly, monthly, and unlimited weekend passes available. Each single fare is $3.50.

Lodging

Our Airbnb was located close to the Sherbrook Metro station in the Plateau/Mont Royal neighborhood, and averaged us about $71 per night. The location was ideal: two stops south and we were in beautiful Old Montreal; a five-minute walk northwest and we were surrounded by the cafes of St. Denis and shops of Saint Laurent.

The apartment was on the second floor of a stone building from the 1800s. Big beautiful windows let in streams of natural light every morning. Double-pane glass kept out most of the street noise. Our host was very thoughtful and left us fruit, coffee, milk, and chocolates. The only drawback was for my fiancé: At 6’2’’, his feet hung over the edge of the bed! But overall, our stay was enjoyable. If I was going back sans beau, I’d book this place again.

Language

Most people speak French first and English second. This was a bit of a surprise to us, and we definitely had a few we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore moments. But it was enjoyable to travel somewhere so close to the United States with such a distinct culture of its own.

Some people who worked in the service industry greeted us by saying, “Bonjour, hi.” We would say the same back and then continue in English. If you’re asking someone a question on the street, it’s polite to ask if they speak English first with the phrase, “Parlez-vous anglais?” Rule of thumb: Better to butcher the phrase than offend the residents.

We only met one person who didn’t speak much English, but knowing some basic terminology was helpful throughout the trip. And yes, highway signs are en Français so know Est from Ouest!

Happy travels.