Fun in the Garden State

The weekend before the 4th of July, Chris and I decided to hope on the Amtrak train near our house and go to visit my sister and nephew in Somerset, NJ.
We had some momentary difficulties when our train arrived at Penn Station an hour and a half late and we missed our connection. Thankfully, NYC always has plenty of trains running so we were able to get on the next train an hour or so later. We arrived in Somerset at 10 pm, but hey, we didn’t have to drive! We brought some Coronas in a cooler with us for the train ride, so it was a nice relaxing trip.
We got to spend 3 whole days with my sister, her fiance, and our adorable nephew Jeremy, who is a year old now–can’t believe it! Pics will be coming soon. Chris taught Jeremy to grunt like a caveman and we introduced him to naughty foods like ice cream (that’s what aunties and uncles are for, aren’t they?). It was so great to be able to spend some time there. My sisters house in Somerset is nice and she has a beautiful english garden in her backyard. It has little stone pathways, a tiny goldfish pond, ivy trellises, lilac bushes and a pear tree (no partridge). Siggghh….
On Saturday we took the NJ transit train from New Brunswick into NYC to see a free concert in Central Park. Central Park is always a blast in the summertime and we lucked out with gorgeous weather.
The concert was packed! We saw 2 great bands. The first band, Babylon Circus, you have to see to believe. They were a French gypsy reggae/ska/punk band and they were just so much fun! The lead singer was wearing a pinstripe suit and acting out the songs, and the guitar singer was hopping around on stage like a shirtless banshee. They had tons of energy and made everybody jump around (have you ever seen people moshing to accordions?). They spoke mostly in french and their lyrics were crazy–one song was about a banana named Paul.Definitely a band to see live again!
The second band, Ozomatli, has been performing live for years and is one of the most fun bands I have ever seen live. I had the good fortune of seeing them earlier this year at Mass MocA (Chris was unfortunately in Maryland and couldn’t make it), and I couldn’t wait to see them again after that–so I was thrilled to find out they were performing for free in NYC!
When they came on stage (their intro was a snippet from “A-Team”-genius), there wasn’t a single person in the entire crowd who didn’t get up and move, and not stop until they ended their set (which was 2 hours!). Ozomatli combine funk/hip-hop/latin and ska and they just have such talent and a love of performing that they’re infectious. Everyone was dancing and having an awesome time. We had some great people watching opportunities, including a 70-plus year old white bearded man who was dancing and moshing around non-stop (we affectionately dubbed him “Santa”, and nobody could keep up with him!), and a man who was dressed up like Batman and salsa dancing. Gotta love New York!
On our way home we stopped by a great cafe called “Le Pain Quotidien” and had some excellent organic French food (we had sandwiches made with ricotta and figs and drizzled with honey, with mint lemonade, mmmm!). They had huge European styled communal tables and prices for NY were very decent–highly recommended yumminess!
All in all it was a great day and for a free concert it couldn’t be beat.

Sunday we went to New Hope, PA which is about a half hour from Somerset. New Hope is a fantastic little artsy watertown which reminds us a little bit of Salem and a little bit of Northampton. Chris was happy to find a Medieval Armor shop, and we had fun poking into all the little boutiques and cafes. We had lunch at a great Cuban restaurant, “Havana”, and we ate some yummy frozen custard from “Rita’s”. Chris and I want to move to New Hope because it was cool and we’d be closer to our nephew, but ideally it would suck to leave everyone else. Dilemmas…alas!

Monday we walked a little around my sister’s neighborhood and then got lost driving on our way to Ikea in Elizabeth. But we finally made it and converted my sister into a lover of that mecca of Swedish furniture and funkiness-even Jeremy liked it! We all made lasagna that night (Chris did most of the work), and sat in her kitchen with her sliding door open to the garden. Ahhh….

We both were sad to leave everyone but we had a restful, pleasant long weekend and, thanks to the convenience of the railroad station down the street from us, hope to do a repeat visit soon.

Happy 4th of July Everyone!

You Tube clips from our trip:

Babylon Circus:

Batman doing the salsa at Ozomatli:



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