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- 19 Nov 13

I love an adventure. Don’t get me wrong, lazing by a pool with a cocktail in my hand is close to perfection. (What am I saying? It is perfection). But, if I’m going to leave my kids with Granny, I want to make the most of those child-free minutes.

When you want to pack a lot into a short break, I say hit the road; take in the sights, explore towns, eat breakfast at noon and basically live out every movie cliché bar picking up a hitchhiker. So, for the sake of this lovely challenge, I hit the highways of America with my husband, for five joyous days and found a few little gems along the way…

STOP 1: New York City, New York
I never tire of New York: the buzz, the food, the shopping. It’s addictive. I stayed at the Soho Grand, ate dinner at Cocotte, and supped cocktails with a view at Jimmy at The James Hotel. But these two get the wheels turning:

Melvin’s Juice Box
Kick start your trip with a juice from Melvin’s Juice Box. The Juice Guy himself, Melvin Major Jr, serves up fresh-blended drinks made from organic ingredients. Choose from Orange Pop, Garden of Vegan, Body Good or even Melvin’s Kick and don’t be surprised if you get a hug to go! Seriously, this quirky diner-style hot spot, mixed with Melvin’s southern charm and vitamin-packed concoctions will have you skipping the streets of NYC.

They’re not lying when they say, ‘we’re defending the American table’. It’s all about good, hearty, simple food in a bustling atmosphere. Located in Tribeca, their midnight brunch is a big pull. Mind you, so is their breakkie, lunch and dinner. Go for Bubby’s Meiller’s beef burger or curb the calories and try the kale and grapefruit salad.

STOP 2: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Five hours north of New York this vibrant, waterfront city wins me over instantly. It’s eclectic; the music and art scene is thriving. Quaint boutiques, galleries, bars and oodles of restaurants line the brick sidewalks. You’ll find art to treasure at Enormous Tiny Art and bands playing their tunes at The Press Room. For food and extra reading head this way…

The Friendly Toast
The walls are lined with 50s paraphernalia, retro neon signs and yard sale trinkets but the food… THE food. The menu is endless, from Pumpkin Pancakes and Drunkard’s French Toast to Huevos Rancheros and Sunrise Scramble. Comfort food heaven and an Instagrammer’s paradise.

Then, on day three, I discover the Maple Bacon Donut. Wash that down with a Maximosa cocktail (Lillet and Granmarnier are added to the classic) and your day is made. Oh and you’ve got to sample the Yuca fries – different but good. The restaurant itself is cool. Fact.

Book & Bar
This is the ‘I wish I’d thought of it myself’ spot. Located in the restored Portsmouth Custom House, it’s cosy and packed with old-school charm. Sip on wine or a local brew, while browsing through the rows and rows of books. Don’t miss out on the regular live music and readings.

STOP 3: Portland, Maine
Less than an hour north is Portland. Artsy with an edge, you’ll find creatives hanging out in market style cafes, outdoor concerts in the summer, the Portland Museum of Art, and for the literary lovers, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House. Indulge in fries from Duckfat, check out the Victorian Mansion, then hit the shops…

Blanche + Mimi
I had to include a little retail therapy and this certainly hits the mark. Packed with new and vintage homewares, kiddie clothes and toiletries, this is the ultimate gift emporium. Look out for the gorgeous baby section nestled at the back featuring one of my favourite brands, Bla Bla Kids

STOP 4: Kennebunkport, Maine
Picture lobster shacks, sunsets and seafaring locals, this seaside village makes for some serious downtime. I grab a couple of beers overlooking the water at the Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, and pick up cute gifts for my girls at Daytrip Jr, before tucking into a five course dinner…

This secluded, romantic restaurant is nothing short of magical. Inside an open fire roars while you tuck into local dishes and craft beer under twinkly lights. Outside, in the shadows of a great birch forest, people nestle round a big fire pit. This is a true find.

The Inn at English Meadows
While road tripping the great US of A, it’s important to rest your weary head and that I did at this Mr & Mrs Smith approved hotel. Freshly renovated with a hint of New York style, it’s void of the chintz and Victorian grandeur found in most New England guesthouses. Crisp linens, Vera Wang beds and Malin & Goetz toiletries make for a lush night’s sleep. And I challenge you to resist the fresh baked cookies…

STOP 5: Salem, Massachusetts
On the last leg of the trip I take the scenic route round Cape Ann through Gloucester, America’s oldest seaport and into Salem. I am lucky/mad enough to arrive in the lead up to Halloween. Yes, you will find ghoulish masks on every corner; yes, you will find psychics, witches and wizardry, but that’s the draw of a town haunted by the 1692 witch trials. The horror of the past is revisited at the Witch House. Alternatively take a trip down literary lane…

The House of the Seven Gables
Made famous by the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The House of the Seven Gables, it’s a preserved old home with a creaking staircase and secrets to the past. It’s one for tourists and history buffs but after all the Maine beer and lobster, it’s good to end on a cultural high…

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Ashling McCloy

Ashling McCloy has been a journalist for over 10 years. As well as writing for publications including Red Magazine, she is a style expert for QVC. She is mother to Gracie, 6 and Betsy, 3, and is married to Tom. They live in Balham, London. In her spare time Ashling raises funds for First Touch, the charity for the neonatal unit at St George's Hospital.

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