A friend texted me last weekend from a departure lounge in Kennedy Airport. “Um three hours and counting …” she wrote of her L.A.-bound flight’s delay.
She’d been expecting it, given the scheduling snarls and trip cancellations that have plagued travelers lately. But the reality was frustrating nonetheless: precious hours of a long-awaited vacation spent browsing trail mix selections in Hudson News, searching the terminal for a charging station.
I congratulated myself for not planning a big trip over the holiday, opting for the beach close to home. I used an app to find the cheapest gas I could, and packed lunch instead of buying it. It wasn’t a far-flung adventure, but it was easy and enjoyable nonetheless.
If you find yourself grounded by air travel complications or loath to venture too far from home because of the price of gasoline or unpredictable variants, you still have options. My colleagues on the Travel desk have recommendations for some pretty excellent trips within 100 miles of major cities.
In Bellingham, Wash., 90 miles from Seattle, one can spend a few days hiking, biking and feasting on oysters. Outside Atlanta, a weekend of wine tasting in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains beckons. There are hidden spots in Chicagoland’s suburbs that are perfect for camping. In Ojai, “an electromagnetic vortex of good energy” 80 miles from Los Angeles, you’ll find otherworldly sunsets and the world’s largest outdoor bookstore.
In Brooklyn, where I live, $2.75 will get you a ticket on NYC Ferry, whose six daily routes service all five boroughs and, through Sept. 11, Governors Island (where you can glamp overnight, if you’d like).
Earlier in the pandemic, I wrote a newsletter for The Times about how to lead a full and cultured life at home, or close to it. I’d thought that, as pandemic restrictions eased, there’d be less need for such counsel, and dreamed that the world would fling open its gates and all of us, too-long cooped-up, would come cartwheeling through. Continuing complications hadn’t figured into the fantasy.
Something I realized, thinking and writing for a year and a half about what to do while you’re at home, is that these activities don’t have to be consolation prizes. There’s as much wonder and delight to be found nearby as there is at the other end of a long plane trip. You don’t have to look far to find it.
Last weekend, at the beach, I watched a bunch of children stand agape as four laughing gulls hovered a few feet above them for what felt like minutes. A group of friends downed tequila shots then cranked up Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” and danced. The air was warm but it was breezy. There was hardly any traffic on the drive home.
📺 “Better Call Saul” (July 11): I didn’t put much stock in this show. How could a prequel (not even a sequel, a prequel!) to one of the most gripping and addictive shows of the modern era feel like anything but a cynical attempt to keep the “Breaking Bad” product on the streets. But as “Saul” begins its final six-episode run, it’s a pleasure to admit that the series has carved out its own unique space in the TV pantheon.
🎧 “Love, Damini,” Burna Boy (Out now): New backyard barbecue music alert! On the sixth album from the Nigerian superstar and purveyor of Afrofusion, the “surfaces are glossy and reassuring,” our pop critic Jon Pareles writes, and “the inner workings are slyly playful.”
🍿 “Where the Crawdads Sing” (July 15): Daisy Edgar-Jones, of Hulu’s “Normal People” (that’s the one about sexy, sad young Irish people) stars in another book adaptation. The 2018 novel “Crawdads” is, as we wrote, a “combination of murder mystery, lush nature writing, romance and a coming-of-age survival story.” That’s far from franchise fare, but it arrives with its own robust fanbase, having dominated the best-seller list for years.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Classic French Toast
Most of the year, maple syrup and loads of butter are the ideal toppings for French toast. But now, at the height of berry season, a handful of strawberries, blackberries or raspberries stirred into the syrup lend a dash of summery color and plenty of verve. Feel free to use any wilting, weeping berries at the back of the fridge; their sweet juices will be absorbed by syrup and butter and suffuse every bite. Julia Moskin’s wonderful classic French toast recipe calls for only briefly dipping slices of fresh bread like challah or brioche into the custard, so you don’t need to plan for hourslong soaking. When your oozing berries are calling, a speedy batch of French toast is the best reply.
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Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina, Wimbledon final: Jabeur, a native of Tunisia, is the first Arab or African woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the modern era. Like Roger Federer, to whom she has long been compared, Jabeur excels at a range of shots: approaches, overhead smashes, deft drop volleys. Her opponent, Elena Rybakina, was born in Moscow but a few years ago switched her home country to Kazakhstan — which has allowed her to get around Wimbledon’s ban on Russian athletes, imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. 9 a.m. Eastern today, ESPN.
In the men’s final tomorrow, Nick Kyrgios of Australia will try for his first Grand Slam title against the six-time Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic.