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Well, here I am at the end of my first summer in New York. (Nearly the end of my first year in New York, but that’s a post for another day.) I survived the crush of tourists while trying to get to work in the theater district, and I didn’t melt while waiting for the subway (though many a time, I thought I would). There was one grand night at the (original) beer garden in Astoria and several Saturday lunches outdoors. My favorite part of this, or any, summer, however, is always the beach. This year, I think I’ve gone more than any other. My boyfriend and I made it a point to visit the beach weekly, and we only missed a couple of times. The reason he insisted we go weekly was because he wanted to work on his swimming ability. Swimming is a skill he came to later in life, while for me, swimming is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. Growing up, there was a pool in the backyard. Not only was there a place for me to swim on a regular basis, but there was a teacher very close by who didn’t charge more than hugs and kisses:  my mom. Both she and my grandfather are/were excellent swimmers. My mother was on the first girls’ swim team her high school ever had, and my grandfather survived three days stranded in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Needless to say, you put me in a body of water, and I am happy as a clam.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, did not grow up with a pool in his backyard where he could splash around as often as he liked. So, we made Bay 9 at Coney Island our swimming pool. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coney_Island) We’d work up an appetite for a couple of hours, and then we’d head up to local landmark Paul’s Daughter for a hot dog and the coldest Brooklyn Summer Ale in the borough.

We made special beach trips on three occasions–once to Fire Island, twice to Sandy Hook, NJ. The Fire Island trip was a bit of an adventure. I hadn’t looked up exactly how we were going to get to the island. I knew there would be a boat involved, but I assumed Google Maps would tell us where to get the boat from. So, in atypical fashion, we got on the road without real direction(s). My boyfriend was proud of me for doing so; I was proud of myself as well. It was a step towards sanity.

On the first try, we ended up at Fire Island National Seashore (http://www.nps.gov/fiis/index.htm). Even on an overcast day, the park was beautiful. But we saw no indication of a ferry anywhere, so we asked a friendly-looking couple where to go. They told us to go back to the mainland. We were about half an hour out of the way. Without any fuss from me, we headed back toward mainland Long Island (an oxymoron, yes?) with directions from a hotel on FI. Eventually, we ended up in Bayshore, a lovely little town with manicured lawns, a main street, and Victorian-style houses. We found the ferry, chatted with some locals while we waited to board, and decided to splurge on a hotel for the night, the same one we had called for directions. (http://palmshotelfireisland.com/) It was the first time in my life I stayed in a hotel room that cost more than $200/night, and it was worth it. I would highly recommend it to my friends with “real people” jobs. 🙂

Most recently, we traveled to Sandy Hook, NJ, which is itself a national park. It’s a seven-mile stretch of beaches with beautiful views of both the Atlantic Ocean and the NYC skyline. (http://www.sandy-hook.com/) Thankfully, I have a car, so we were able to forego the bus and ferry combo that most New Yorkers take to get there. The waves were fierce on our first visit, so my boyfriend’s newly-honed swimming skills got a real test. We came out unscathed, and I must say, enjoyed the loveliest of days together. Finishing off that first trip was dinner at the Seagull’s Nest, which from the outside looks like a real restaurant, but in actuality is a glorified fast food stand. That doesn’t even have bottled beer because it’s in a national park. (‘merica.) That was all part of the charm, and we took it in stride. On our second trip down to the Hook, we had a much more pleasant drive, as we left from Manhattan instead of Queens, and avoided all the nasty construction on I-278. We had a much more pleasant dinner, as well, at a little Italian place called Francesco’s in nearby Highland. The owners are the chefs, and we ate in a patio area that could be your aunt’s backyard.

And so, I wave farewell to my first summer in NYC with my beautifully bronzed hand. Few things make my soul happier than the smell of the ocean air and the sound of crashing waves. But I put away my bathing suits knowing they were well-used this season. Now on to autumn adventures, which I predict will involve mountains, stargazing, and epic views of the foliage along the Hudson.