The railway might not be the most popular means of transportation in the USA, but on the East Coast, the Amtrak is a viable option. We left our grubby Upper Eastside appartement and took one last subway ride to Moynihan Train Hall. One last 10-dollar single scoop of mediocrity in a cone later, we boarded a surprisingly comfortable and clean train. Just over 90 minutes later, we entered a scene completely different to New York City. New Haven, the home of renowned Yale University somehow manages to be cultural capital of Connecticut as well as a dodgy harbour city with a considerable presence of homelessness and the ubiquitous stench of weed. But let’s go along chronologically, shall we.
Our rental car turned out to be what my brother-in-law would later call “the true American experience” – a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a massively oversized SUV by European standards. Anna was happy to demonstrate her skills in driving an automatic transmission car while I was finding our way out of New Haven into rural New England. We passed lush woodlands and pastel wooden houses with the inevitable star-spangled banner out the front porch. For the next three days, we would call the Avon Old Farms Hotel home. The reason we found ourselves in this fancy hotel is a story for another day and another post. For now, let me assure you that it was still hot. Extraordinarily hot and damp. We made good use of the hotel pool and the little one might have turned into an Olympic swimmer had we stayed longer.
After our special mission in rural Connecticut and three days of super high calory breakfast, wonderful nature, and an agreeable work-pool balance, we returned our humongous Jeep and took the bus to Hamden to meet Maiani and Juan.
Anna and Maiani had met six years ago at the notorious Bang on a Can contemporary music festival in Massachusetts. When Anna started planning our tour, Maiani was one of the first people she contacted. Not only is Maiani a highly accomplished violinist and member of the Grammy-winning sextet Eighth Blackbird, but also a lecturer at Yale University. So, there we were – munching mussels and fries in a local brew pub planning the upcoming workshop and concert Anna would give at Yale the next day. The little one attended both: During the workshop, where Anna rehearsed a piece by Austrian composer Christoph Herndler with the students of Maiani’s class, our 5-year-old managed to stay mostly quiet. During the concert – a sample of Anna’s current solo program as well as miniatures by Yale students – I was on double duty alternately operating my cameras and audio recorder and playing card games with our son in the back row.
After we accomplished our mission, we had excellent pizza and craft beer in a place called Bar. While in general, food in the US has a hard time making a lasting impression on foodies from Europe, pizza in New Haven is something else. Oh, and as beer lovers, or apologists of hops and the Pale Ale, we had come to the right place. The vast range and exquisite quality of IPAs and NEIPAs (New England IPAs) was just as delightful as the pizza.
On the day of our departure, we still had plenty of time to explore the area, so we hopped on the bus and went to the seashore. What a refreshing change of scenery – the weather was overcast with a chance of rain, so we had the beach and the lighthouse mostly to ourselves. With our lungs filled with fresh air, we boarded the night train to Richmond, Virgina.