It’s time I told you about Valerie and my night of passion. I still quiver when I think about it.
Now that I’ve got your attention I should point out that the total duration of our acquaintance was around 2 hours and physical contact was under a minute.
But first, for those following our route, we went from Ticondoroga to Plattsburg, through the Adirondacks to Johnson, then through the Catskills to Newburgh, New York. Snag – big football game at West Point the next day, no rooms available in Newburgh. The next day we drove the full length of the Garden State Parkway, bypassing the whole New York City/Newark/Philadelphia conurbation, to Cape May in south-east New Jersey. Snag – beer festival and dragon festival this weekend, no rooms available.
We did find a room on both nights, of course, but both were in crap motels at very high prices. At least in Newburgh we found a decent restaurant but in the motel we eventually found 30 miles north of Cape May all that was available was a down at heel diner or take-away pizza with plastic knives. We had just about given up when we found Mama Mia’s and….. Valerie.
It looked like another take-away place but the noise coming from it suggested otherwise. We went in and found a wonderful Italian restaurant with an even more wonderful Valerie. She was a buxom lass, in a tight black outfit, exuding personality like a burst water main. She welcomed us with open arms (literally), told us there would be a 15 minute wait and gave us a slice of pizza to be going in with. She asked our name for the table and then announced to all the others waiting: “This is Michael, my new friend, an English cowboy.”
The wait was worth it. Chef Joe Massaglia is an artist with food. Possibly one of the best meals we have ever eaten, presided over by the ebullient Valerie and a team of delightful waiting staff. Our lady was called Mary-Beth who’d adopted 6 feral cats and drew a little picture of a cat on our bill. It was when we left I had the full Valerie enfolding treatment – not something to forget. Valerie would be a huge asset to any restaurant in the world.
So, Contrast 1: one of the worst motels ever and one of the best meals ever. Valerie saved our day.
Contrast 2: The next day was Sunday. The morning we spent in Atlantic City, a sort of east coast version of Las Vegas. Atlantic City was fascinating and appalling in equal measure, it makes Disneyland seem like the real world. Brash, depressing, but kind of compelling like a snake looking into the eyes of a mongoose. I wanted to yell: “I’m not a celebrity, get me out of here – Fast.”
And so we went back to Cape May which was now emptying, festivals and holiday season over so no problem finding a room. A delightful place, a sort of Southwold with a New Jersey accent. In the afternoon we went to the Nature Conservancy further up the peninsula.
This is on the West Atlantic flyway for migrating birds and is a beautiful spot. Nearby they do bird counts of migrating birds, everything from raptors to songbirds. We spent the afternoon there, saw a Peregrine Falcon and were surrounded by Monarch butterflies preparing to fly south.
What a contrast. Atlantic City eat your heart out.