America: Land of the Free & Home of the Chicks Wearing Really Really Short Shorts

That’s what I took away from this particular trip home. Girls wearing some insanely short shorts.  Everywhere you look.  Was it like this before I left?  I don’t remember…the last time I was in the states during summer was in 2007, as I left just before summer in 2008.  So either 1.) I’ve simply forgotten; 2.) this is a new trend; or 3.)I’ve been in the Middle East for too long and wearing something that looks like it might trigger some sort of infection is totally normal.  Unfortunately I am in no place to mock, because in the end I found myself entranced by a pair of heavily-embellished tramp shorts that I simply could not pass up.

Manhattan & Brooklyn bridges
Carson St in the South Side, Pittsburgh

I spent the majority of this trip in my hometown of Pittsburgh, followed by a brief stop in Philadelphia (where I lived for 4.5 years prior to Dubai) and then finished up with a handful of days in NYC.  What made this trip a bit more interesting than a usual trip home is that I was joined by my boyfriend, who is English and had never visited the states before.  I found it enjoyable to show him around a bit of my country, and watch him be in awe of our our population of residents on mobility scooters.  It was a very busy trip, but as vacations that consist of lazing around drive me mad, I would not have had it any other way.

Ohiopyle / Laurel Highlands

In Pittsburgh, we filled our days visiting the local neighborhoods: the South Side with its plethora of bars, Shadyside’s shops, the Strip District’s fresh fish and food markets (and Primanti Bros. sandwiches), and Oakland and the North Side for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Andy Warhol museum, respectively.  Always interested in getting a taste of a new restaurant, we also visited the new(ish) Salt of the Earth restaurant, which uses local and seasonal foods to create their ever-changing menu.  Getting out of the city, we visited Ohiopyle state park in the Laurel Highlands.  It was nice for a change of scenery and a brief stroll through the Pennsylvania forest.

Looking for something particularly “American” to do, we attended a Pirates game (winning against the NY Mets), which was pretty good, especially as I hadn’t gone to a baseball game since I was a kid.

the Pirates’ stadium, PNC Park, comes with an OK view

A day was also spent at Kennywood, where amusement rides aside, the price of admission is well worth the choice people-watching all around you.  This is another place I had not been in many years (10+).  The last time I really went there was when I was working there at the end of high school and it was such a nightmare of a job I was traumatized against going back for some time.

cuteness on South Street, Philli

Only a single night was spent in my previous temporary home of Philadelphia, but time was not wasted and I made sure to hit up some of my favorite dining spots, such as the Reading Terminal Market and Morimoto.  If you ever visit Philadelphia and enjoy food, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of visiting the Reading Terminal Market.  Between eating we browsed my favorite areas – Rittenhouse and Olde City (my old neighborhood, the best!) and perused the Mütter Museum (medical oddities), which I’m ashamed to admit I had never visited while living in Philli.

For the night, we checked into the Palomar, where a spa room will get you a pee with a view.  Also a shower with a view.  And bathrobes in zebra and leopard print.  It was definitely a quality hotel and I’d happily recommend it.  My one complaint was that the minibar did not contain any champagne, which seemed odd to me for an upmarket hotel.

room at Thompson LES

New York City was, as always, amazing.  I based us out of the Lower East Side in the industrial but chic Thompson LES hotel, and each day was spent walking from one neighborhood to the next, pretty much from morning to night.  And nothing could have made me happier.  My biggest dislike about Dubai is the lack of walking areas.  There just are very few walkable neighborhoods and even then, you cannot really walk from one to the next.  There was not much focus on our time in NYC other than taking in the neighborhoods, from FiDi to Central Park West (despite my general opposition for spending time in mid & uptown) and notable parks like the innovative High Line, which I loved.

One thing we did focus on was naturally – the food.  Previously-planned dinners at Blue Hill Farm in Greenwich Village and Del Posto in the Meatpacking District were both outstanding.  It’s difficult to pick a favorite as they both stood out in their own way; Blue Hill Farm a lovely small venue featuring dishes from farm fresh foods and Del Posto certainly on the grander side where we indulged in a 7-course chef’s tasting menu of Italian delights (100 layer lasagna, I kid you not).

Jing Fong’s in Chinatown

We also made it a point to visit Jing Fong in Chinatown, a dim sum cafeteria/hall that seemed pretty recommended and ended up being both quirky and delicious, as well as Beauty & Essex for drinks, near our hotel in the Lower East Side. B&E – with its cheeky pawn shop facade was a fun place to stop with great drinks (+ free champagne in the bathroom, ladies! but none for you, dudes) but my understanding is that the food is not as good as it could be.  I was originally planning to eat there (the “American tapas” idea intrigued me) was but talked out of it by seemingly mediocre dining experiences left and right.  Otherwise, we stumbled into various bars, restaurants and cafes here there and everywhere and were, for the most part, very pleased with everything on offer.

boating in Central Park

Some particular highlights were – a boating session on one of the lakes within Central Park (where not only turtles and ducks, but pages ripped from porn mags abounded), shopping in SoHo and I really cannot express enough how much I simply love taking in Downtown NYC in general.  I don’t think I could ever tire of it.

Generally speaking, I did not take many photographs during this trip.  I don’t know why, but I always feel like such an asshat taking photos in places that I am familiar with.  It’s a real shame though, because I’d love to have more pictures from all the places I visited.  Oh well.  Another trip is in order, I suppose.

I’m also bummed I dropped the ball on seeing some people and feel like a dope in that regard.  It was an even busier trip than I expected it to be and I just couldn’t get it all worked out, sadly.

Hopefully it won’t be another 1.5 years until my trip home…but it’s tough.

Empire State building from Greenwich Village

[ USA June 2011 full photo album ]

{ music: A Forest Mighty Black }

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