01 July 2008

Rocks and water; frogs and flies; trains and taxis

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

We had another packed agenda for the day, as we planned to ride all over Connecticut on our way to our cousin's house in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, and then take the train into the city, so we did not tarry at Sandy's this morning. We took some pix of the house - we loved the way it was decorated, and we were so intrigued by the ingenious way Sandy had managed to pack so much into such a compact space. The stairs were particularly fascinating to us - they were very narrow and quite steep, since there really wasn't enough room to put a full flight of stairs from the first floor to the second. My favorite room was the dining room, which felt sort of cavelike, since the one wall was a huge boulder. Very cool digs - thanks again, Sandy, for letting us stay for the night, and for your great recommendations of Noah's and Kitchen Little.

Speaking of Kitchen Little, that's where we were headed for breakfast this morning. In addition to Sandy's suggestion, we had already read about Kitchen Little in Road Food, where it received great raves. It really is a teeny place - about 400 sq. ft., according to Road Food! We opted to eat outdoors, where we shared a picnic table with an elderly local couple. It was a beautiful day, and we were almost a little chilly in the shade. Kitchen Little lives up to its motto, "AM Eggstasy" - I had a difficult time making my breakfast choice! If I had seen the special board before I ordered, I would have had no problem, since I would have gotten Eggs Benedict with avocados and tomatoes, but somehow I missed that. I don't remember the name of what I had, but it was some concoction of eggs and vegetables and cheese over potatoes, and it was delicious. I will leave Kim's breakfast choice up to you to guess... The view from the patio was so peaceful and serene - if only I could start every day this way!

From Kitchen Little and Mystic, our route took us up the Connecticut River to East Haddam, where we would be touring the Gillette Castle. Almost everyone guesses that this was built by the razor blade Gillette's, but it wasn't. William Hooker Gillette was a stage actor who was famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He lived for many years on a 104' houseboat (that he later expanded to 144') named the Aunt Polly, and one day as he sailed up the river he found a spot he liked, hopped out, hiked up, loved the view, and decided to build his 'retirement home' there. He never really retired, but he designed and oversaw the building of this extraordinary home and the railroad around it. I could write for PAGES about this place - it was definitely one of my favorite places - but I invite those of you who want to know more about it to go to http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=325204&depNav_GID=1650 and/or http://www.friendsofgillettecastle.org/sofgillettecastle.org/ - they both have great pictures and plenty of facts.
The castle was named Seventh Sister, after the mountains in the area. Gillette was fascinated by trains and built three miles of narrow guage railroad around the property, including switches, turnouts, trestles, a roundhouse, a repair shop, and Grand Central Station. He had two engines built, an electric engine and a steam engine, and he had two Pullman cars which held seven passengers each, and one serpentine observation car that held 20 passengers. Albert Einstein and Calvin Coolidge both rode on the Seventh Sister Shortline, which cost $50,000 to build. The house itself cost a million dollars, and it took twenty men five years to construct. After Gillette's death, his heirs sold the Castle to the state of Connecticut for $30,000.

As we left the Castle, we passed by a pond covered with lily pads, so we pulled in for a closer look. I love taking pictures of frogs, lily pads, and lotus blossoms, and I felt sure there would be plenty of opportunities here. I was right! There were about six HUGE frogs sitting near one side of the wall, then a couple of giant tadpoles that were maybe two weeks away from being frogs, and after carefully scanning the lily pads, I found a couple of frogs sunning on them. Aren't the lotus blossoms beautiful?

By the time we left the castle grounds, it was after noon. We went through several little Connecticut towns, many of which had horrible traffic patterns (Middletown and Meriden, to name a couple). It seemed like it took us forever to get even just a little way across this small state. We stopped in at the Timexpo Museum in Waterbury and learned tons about clocks, watches, and timepieces as well as the role that this factory played in the town's history. From Waterbury, we made our way to the rolling hills of Litchfield, and by now we were pretty hungry, even after our big breakfasts at Kitchen Little. The first place we tried to eat in Litchfield was a little bakery that had already stopped serving lunch (it was three o'clock...) The girl there recommended a couple of other places around the corner, so we went in search of food. The first place we went to didn't seem to have a door, so we went back to the Village, where we sat at the bar and had a couple of salads. The walls of the bar were covered with pictures from the Litchfield Hills Road Races throughout the years. This was a pretty little town, and we had parked on the town square right next to a statue honoring Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was born here. We were really running late now, so at Torrington, we altered our route and went across the state to Kent Falls, which had a little covered bridge and a waterfall that went on and on. We took the quarter-mile (straight up) hike and got so many different views of the waterfall. Everything was so lush and green - not at all what I had thought about seeing in Connecticut!

As we were leaving the Falls, we saw some exquisite dragonflies. Aren't they pretty? After we left the falls, we intended to make a beeline for Croton, but then we passed a huge spillway and saw a sign for a one-lane covered bridge, so you know what happened next... We were at Bulls Bridge, where we took a short hike that was right next to (and on a pretty slippery trail) the roaring river.
It was almost six by the time we left, so we went straight to Croton with no other stops. Much to Melanie's surprise, we showed up at her door without having to call for specific directions, and without Jill's help, since she had gone silent on us. Remember our fuse problem? It was still not fixed (no thanks to you, Clifton Park Toyota!) and now we apparently have blown another fuse, since neither auxiliary adapter works now. Needless to say, the XM is not singing to us, either. Anyway, it was great to see cousin Melanie and her daughter, Nora, and Nora's boyfriend, David. Melanie fixed us a drink and she had already cooked some yummy chicken and a Caesar salad, which we ate out on the terrace while looking across the Hudson River all the way to Manhattan. On a clear day...

Soon it was time for Kim to make her virgin run into NYC! Melanie took us to the train station (after we practically totally unloaded the car and re-packed for the city) and walked us through the ticket buying process and delivered us right to the track, where the train arrived about five minutes later. Wouldn't want to rush into anything... The train ride was uneventful and Kim loved Grand Central Station and its beautiful ceiling and just the grandeur of the whole place. We caught a cab and yi-haw!!! Off we flew! Actually, we started at a crawl through Times Square, but the minute our cabbie saw daylight, we were off for the races! We were staying at the Hampton in Chelsea, and we got there about eleven, got settled, and crashed, ready to see the city the next day!

Falling for New England,


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