Stonington, Conn.: A True Find
Article and photo by Marc H.
a great place by accident is one of the most exciting parts of
travelling. That is why I like to wander along back roads and look on
maps for small towns in interesting-looking locations. One such town
that I discovered is a small village in Southeastern Connecticut named
the summer of 2001, we decided to take a ride down to Mystic, Conn.,
and see what it was like. I hadn't been there since I was a child, so I
didn't remember much about it, except for the fact that it had a
drawbridge and lots of boats. We headed out, happy that it was one of
the nicest days of the summer.
took about an hour and a half to reach Mystic from Boston. We parked on
the outskirts of town and walked toward the main street. Mystic was a
nice enough seaside town, but it was busy with tourists looking for
Bermuda shorts, cheap trinkets, and fast food. We walked all over town
but could not escape the crowds. Finally, after an hour or so, we
decided that this was not the place for us. We headed back to the car.
was still early in the afternoon, so we looked at a map and saw a place
at the end of a peninsula next to Mystic called Stonington. Neither one
of us had really heard much about it, so we decided to check it out.
road to Stonington became progressively more pleasant. Soon we saw a
sign pointing toward the village. We drove down a quiet road for a
couple of miles, admiring the old houses and picturesque waterfront.
Soon we crossed over a railroad bridge and saw a sign that said,
"Borough of Stonington." Now the word "borough" instantly brought up
thoughts of Brooklyn or Queens, but we soon realized that this was a
slightly more peaceful place.
first thing I noticed about Stonington was the almost perfect downtown
area. Only in New England could you see a scene like this. The narrow
main street was lined with antique stores, seafood restaurants, and
beautiful old homes. We parked next to a public walkway that led to a
pavilion on the water. The pavilion faced the west toward Long Island
Sound. On one side was a weathered old cottage at the end of a pier.
This seemed as perfect a spot as I had seen in a long time. Locals
strolled to and from the pavilion to appreciate the views, and
occasionally, a tourist or two would show up, in awe of the beauty of
continued down the main road and, after a few more blocks, it ended at
a lighthouse and a beach. From here, we could see Rhode Island, New
York, and the Connecticut coast. We were getting hungry, so we went
back into town and had dinner at a terrific seafood place called
Noah's. Afterwards, we walked around some more, finding a second main
road that went parallel to the road that we had been on. This street
has got to be one of the great streets in New England, with old homes
and churches along both sides for several blocks.
We did not want to leave Stonington, but it was getting late and we had promised ourselves to go to Foxwoods, a huge casino just north of Mystic. The shock of being in a gambling place with thousands of drunk, desperate, chain-smoking people after being in one of the most peaceful places on earth was too much to bear. We soon left Foxwoods and headed back to Boston.
could not get Stonington out for my mind. I had to see the place again
to make sure that it was as great as I thought it was. Thus, over the
next two weeks, I returned twice. The first time I went with three
others, and we explored more of the town. We wandered into an old
church, relaxed across the water from a huge mansion, and spent time
walking around the lighthouse and beach after the sun went down. The
following week I went there with my family, who fell in love with the
place. We spent a lot of time in the pavilion, admiring the piers, the
fine seaside townhouses, and the calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
in the fall, I was supposed to fly to San Diego, but the trip was
canceled partly because of the terrorist attack that had taken place
two months earlier. So here I was in Boston looking for something,
anything, to do. We took the day off from work and decided to see more
of the Connecticut shore. Much of it was very nice; Essex, Old Lyme,
Madison, Guilford, and Branford are all nice old villages on or near
the ocean. But none of them had the same special feeling that
Stonington had. So of course we ended up back there at the end of the
Stonington almost made up for my missed trip (although I still yearned for the beaches of La Jolla, Del Mar, and Pacific Beach). The village had an even slower pace to it in the late fall than it had in the summer. Woodsmoke filled the air, warm light emanated from the old whaling homes, and the smell of the sea drifted down Main Street. This time, we did not go to Foxwoods; there was no reason to be anywhere but in this utterly charming (and virtually unknown) New England village.
For more great articles and photographs by Marc H., please check out his fine web site .
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