A Mellow Mini-Break in Amherst

After the disappointment of Plymouth, we hoped to brighten our spirits with the next destination on our New England journey: Amherst.

But first! A stop for lunch at the Framingham home of Dan’s high-school-marching-band buddy Erin. We spent several thoroughly enjoyable hours there catching up with Erin, a talented author, teacher and all-around lovely person, and her equally lovely husband Frank. Harker, the younger of their two kids, was also there to play with Fiona and time absolutely flew by for all of us… as often happens when you’re hanging out with such wonderful people.

When we managed to pull ourselves away from all that heartwarming hospitality and get back on the road, we pointed Gold Spark (the final rental car of our trip!) toward Amherst. It’s a place I’d never been, despite a fondness for college towns and some family history there (my great-grandparents lived in South Amherst and my mom remembers her stays with them fondly). But in keeping with the trend of visiting dear friends made in San Francisco who’ve recently relocated to Massachusetts (Note to current SF friends: Don’t get any ideas!), it was on the itinerary so we could spend a few days with our pals Emma and Matt.

We met the two of them in birthing class six years ago and hit it off immediately—Emma and I became yoga buddies, Matt and Dan bonded over bread baking and, before long, Jonah and Fiona were growing up together. During the early days of the pandemic, though, Emma, Matt and Jonah packed up to spend some time closer to their families, a temporary move that eventually turned permanent. Since the last time we’d seen them more than two years ago (!), they had a new baby and bought a place in Amherst, so there was a lot to catch up on.

We met them that first evening at a farm stand/taco truck/ice cream spot that was, in keeping with our New England travels to date, pretty freaking idyllic. (The taco truck burritos weren’t quite up to San Francisco standards, but they sure scratched an itch after nearly five months abroad.)

Emma had a bunch of potential plans for our time together—a lake, a winery, a fancy dinner—but when the weather forecast turned hot and stormy, we realized that we just kind of wanted to hang out at their place. And so, with the exception of two delicious breakfasts out (at Share Coffee and Cushman Market and Cafe) and a little wander around town, that’s pretty much what we did.

We took the tour of their new house, met baby Norah and watched Fiona and Jonah—a little tenuously at times—rekindle a friendship neither of them especially remembered. The kids played in the sprinkler in the backyard. The adults drank cocktails on the screened-in porch. Dan and Matt bought some crazy-good corn from an ornery old farmer. Matt made some extremely tasty pizza for dinner. We talked a lot and remembered how much we all like hanging out together.

All in all, it was a delightful visit. Too short, perhaps, and a little bittersweet to be reminded (again) of how much we like certain friends we no longer get to play with on the regular. But on the bright side, we’ve built up a nice little contingent of fun folks to visit in the area, so the chances are good we’ll be back before long. So it’s not goodbye, but see you soon, Massachusetts!

Next up? Our New England tour takes on Vermont.

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