Matt and Ann from Vermont spent their anniversary here in April 2017. Matt took an outstanding account of their getaway to Mystic and we are pleased to share it here. It’s a great read for anyone, especially those looking to visit Mystic for the first time…
by Matt Parsons – be sure to read about more of his and Ann’s travels on his blog The Adventurers.
April 15 is our wedding anniversary. Every winter we pick a Saturday morning to sleep in, and enjoy some of our favorite Brown and Jenkins coffee. Fall and winter are very busy for us. Ann works in the school system and I plow snow for the State of Vermont. Picking out a new place by the ocean to explore is our way of combating cabin fever. In the five years that Ann and I have been married, we have visited Boston, and Cape Ann, Mass, Portland, Bar Harbor, and Camden, Maine. We loved every place but we wanted to go further south.
Neither of us have vacationed in Connecticut and that was enough for us to agree on a state. Coming up with a town was as simple as calling out names we knew of by the ocean, and began looking them up on the internet. We ran into thisismystic.com and began exploring this handy website. It wasn’t long before we decided Mystic, Connecticut had everything we wanted in a wedding anniversary. We used the website to choose Brigadoon Bed & Breakfast and made our reservations online. It is our custom to enjoy a B&B for our anniversary.
Our trip to Mystic was safe and uneventful. We found the Brigadoon Bed and Breakfast on Cow Hill Road with ease and registered with Kay. She introduced us to her husband Ted, and a cute couple who appeared to be learning the ropes. Kay was kind enough to show us to our cottage, which was at the back of the building. We learned later that this was an old farm house and that our cottage was once an old work shop. I drove the car around to the back to unload. We found our room very spacious and quaint. We had access to a small patio from the French doors on the side. The backyard was carpeted with luscious green grass, and the flowers and trees bloomed during our stay. We had a fireplace that warmed our room at night and the king size bed was nice and comfy. We were tempted to unpack and just kick back but there was a town to explore.
We quickly put away our stuff and headed for town. We love that our anniversary falls at the beginning of the tourist season. It’s been our experience that towns and shops are less crowded. We arrived in the middle of the week and were pleasantly surprised to see many of the shops open. After circling the town to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings, we landed a parking spot on a side street. We were hungry and Mystic Pizza was in our sights. I remember reading on thisismystic.com that it was a must try; just to say you did it. Perfect! Ann and I are not movie goers but we vaguely remembered that this was a title to a movie. Our thoughts were on each other as we ordered a meatball sub to split. We were nearly done with our meal when we realized that the movie, Mystic Pizza, was playing in front of us. We watched some of the movie before taking in the nostalgia throughout the building. This was just the motivation we needed to walk the town. We took each other’s hand as we walked both sides of the street and window shopped. It was a perfect way to unwind before heading to our cottage ; )
I am on winter call status from December to April, and it’s not uncommon for me to be awakened in the early hours of morning to plow snow. We woke up shortly after 8 to a medley of birds singing outside our window. It was nice to sleep in. Kay and Ted had coffee waiting for us a short walk away from our cottage. The weather forecast was not great, but it was more favorable than the coming days. We chose to do something outside. Our handy resource, thisismystic.com, referred the Mystic Seaport as a must visit, so we put it on our itinerary before breakfast. It was Thursday morning and the dining room was all ours. We picked a nice corner table by a window. Kay was bright eyed and ready to take our breakfast order. Ted prepared us a simple but delicious breakfast while we gazed out the window and finalized our plans. We were anxious to start our day, so we excused ourselves from the table and headed for our cottage. Kay and Ted told us about the Mystic Seaport and gave us a sweet deal on admission.
Our anniversary luck held true again, as there was hardly anybody on the grounds. It was obvious from the start that there was a lot of ground to cover. A nice lady greeted us outside of the admission building and helped us map out a plan. We purchased 2 coffees and proceeded to stroll down main street of the fishing village. The general store was our first stop. We were impressed with the artifacts and Jon’s knowledge of his wares. From there we strolled down the street and took in all the buildings. We were fortunate enough to catch the Cooper giving a talk and demonstration on his Cooperage. A Cooperage is a business that makes barrels or casks. In this case it is for the whaling ships. This man looked and played the part of a real cooper. Once again, we were impressed with the knowledge and passion this man had for his craft. I walked away with a greater appreciation for the hard work and dedication to craftsmanship of the time.
What attracted us to the Mystic Seaport on this day, was that their website stated someone was going to perform Chanty songs. The performance was at 1 pm at the gazebo. We had time to board the Charles W Morgan, which was close by. The Charles W Morgan is the last American built whaling ship to exist. It was built in 1841 in New Bedford, Mass and retired in 1921. The ship was very successful in its 37 whaling voyages, earning the reputation of a lucky ship. We had the luck of having the vessel nearly to ourselves. Since we are not seafaring people, we found the boat to be very fascinating. To be on a 175+ year old boat, so well preserved, is a testament to the craftsmanship and passion it takes to maintain its history.
We said farewell to the Charles W Morgan and milled around the village some more with a cup of coffee that we bought from the Gallery Restaurant. In the distance we spotted a young lad talking to a fellow at the gazebo. It was approaching 1 pm and Ann was excited to hear some sea chanty songs. Shanty, chantey, or chanty songs are commonly known as a type of work song that was usually sung to accompany labor on board large merchant ships. We greeted the unassuming young man and asked if he was performing chanty songs. Jessie was quick to put down his lunch, pull up a bench and begin a history lesson in chanty songs. Jessie eased into his performance with 2 whale bones or sticks, called a clapper, and ended with songs using a 4 string ukulele. Ann was delighted with the “chanty serenade” and got up to put some money in a container. Jessie had a puzzled look on his face and politely pointed Ann towards the garbage can. “But I just want to give you a tip”, Ann replied. “Thank you very much” Jessie said, “but that is my empty lunch container that I’m throwing away”. It was highly amusing to watch these two struggle through this awkward moment. We laughed all the way to the Gallery Restaurant where we had lunch.
During lunch, we agreed that it would take more than a day to see all that is here. We chose to see the Joseph Conrad and walk the seaport itself before heading back into town. The veteran training ship sailed under three flags before mooring permanently at Mystic Seaport in 1947. The 111-foot vessel, one of the smallest full-rigged ships built in modern times, was designed to accommodate 80 young men in training for the Danish merchant service. The Joseph Conrad has served many purposes over the years but the Mystic Seaport has restored it to its original intent as being a training ship for the Mystic Mariner Program. She no longer goes to sea but sits proudly as an exhibit. Our guide Tim, who could have passed as a pirate (with the proper props), was very knowledgeable and passionate about the vessel.
We disembarked the ship and milled our way around the harbor. From a distance I spotted a familiar site. I spent some of my young adult years in Nantucket, Mass. where the Brant Point Lighthouse still greets visitors and mariners alike. I didn’t have an interest in such things as a younger man, and now a piece of maritime history was prepared to greet me like it did in the fall of 1984. Inside, the replica provided us with a rich video history of the original Brant Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1746, and I was amazed to learn that it was the second one to be built in colonial America.
Our minds were crammed with maritime history. The only remedy for such an overload, we thought, was to drive into town, and download over coffee, at the Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream Cafe. Once again we beat the surge of summer visitors. It was obvious that the staff was prepared for the future onslaught of summer tourists. We ordered 2 coffees and headed for the boardwalk that was across the street. After resting our weary feet and planning our evening, we picked ourselves up and explored the town.
The rest of the afternoon and evening consisted of a lengthy rest back at the Brigadoon. Once rested we hopped on the free wifi and found our food and entertainment for the evening. Thisismystic.com suggested that the Sea Swirl Restaurant was a favorite among locals and visitors were lucky to find it. We were feeling lucky! We freshened up, programmed the Sea Swirl into Google Maps and headed for the award winning clam shack. It was the best clams I have had since visiting Woodman’s of Essex for our 4 year anniversary at Cape Ann. After dinner we took a cruise to the Mystic Luxury Cinemas and took in The Promise; a love story based upon the Armenian genocide. My wife Ann is Armenian, so it holds a special place in her heart. It was a full day and we were looking forward to a good night’s rest.
Friday morning came later than usual for us as we had a long and restful sleep. Coffee was just outside our door. We did our morning devotionals with a delicious cup of coffee and headed for a late breakfast. It was another delicious breakfast and back to our room to plan our day. We awoke to thunderstorms but the forecast called for afternoon sun. Our local go to guide gave us plenty of options for local hikes, but we wanted to go farther away. We found Pattaconk Recreation Area and Reservoir within the Cockaponset State Forest. It was a 45 minute drive and we were mapping out our route.
The weather continued to get better as we got closer to the park. By the time we arrived it was clear and sunny with temps in the mid 70’s. I am always ready for a hike as soon as I open the car door, but I patiently waited while Ann got ready. A few shots of bug repellent for good measure and we were off to the kiosk for direction. We were amazed at how vast the park is. It consists of over 16,000 acres of forest with over 33 miles of diverse trail systems. Pattaconk Resevoir itself is 55 acres of peaceful waters tucked in the Southwest corner of the forest. Unfortunately we only had a day to explore, so we chose a hike around the reservoir. It was an easy and scenic hike with a few surprises like primitive camping sites right on the water. This spiked our imagination and consumed our conversation as we finished the last half of the hike.
We thoroughly enjoyed our hike and the good weather we were not supposed to have. We threw our stuff in the car and headed back to the B&B in Mystic. Along the way we were overcome by an intense desire for ice cream. My co-pilot punched it into the GPS, and before we new it we were on Main Street in Deep River, CT having ice cream at The Sweet Shoppe. We sat outside and enjoyed the light aroma of apple blossoms as they fell at our feet on the brick sidewalk. It felt nice to sit and not feel pressured by expectations or time.
We took our time getting back to the Brigadoon where we rested some more before going back to the Sea Swirl for clam strips. This would usually be the night that we would do a formal dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We were feeling very informal and it was a perfect evening to eat outside and go for a ride. We checked out the dock where our sunset cruise would shove off from on Saturday and drove out to Long Point and Noank, before calling it a night. While lying in bed, Ann got a message from a long lost friend who she recently connected with on Facebook. She recognized a picture Ann posted from Mystic Seaport. It turns out that her friend Martha lives in Mystic, but unfortunately she was out of town. We went to bed amazed that we live in a small world, knowing we would return to see Martha in this pretty little town.
We did our morning rituals of coffee and devotionals before greeting the folks for Belgian waffles. Captain Erick of Mystic River Cruises suggested Bluff Point State Park for a scenic hike when we called to make reservations. It was going to be a gorgeous day and we were in a hiking kind of mood. We mapped out our route to the neighboring town of Groton and set sail for another adventure. Bluff Point is the last remaining piece of undeveloped land along the Connecticut coastline. Jutting out into the waters of Long Island Sound, this wooded peninsula, measures one and one-half miles long by one mile wide, encompasses over 800 acres. Because of its Coastal Reserve designation, access to the bluff is by foot or non-motorized vehicle only. The trail to the bluff passes through wooded and open areas. The view broadens as you approach the bluff. We walked out to the bluff and nested ourselves in the rocks for a small picnic. The fog was burning off and blue skies were making their way to us. The bluff appeared to be a popular place as we saw many people enjoying the warmth of Spring.
Always enjoying the path less traveled, Ann and I stepped off the beaten path and walked along the beach of Mumford Cove. It was a quiet and beautiful walk with plenty of shells and rocks to admire. We headed inland and found a path that we hoped would get us back to the car. It was a long walk in the woods but we were prepared for the consequences of stepping off the trail.
All this walking deserved an ice cream, so we piled in the car and headed back to Mystic. I found a spot to park on Main Street and headed for Drawbridge Ice Cream. It was a perfectly sunny day and a bench on the boardwalk was patiently waiting for us. We took up a seat beneath the bustling lunch crowd that was eating outside S&P Oyster Co. It was a great day to enjoy a meal outside, but we had other plans. After our feet were rested, we headed for the Brigadoon for a nap and a shower. Our plan was to walk back into town for our river boat cruise with Captain Erick and Mystic River Cruises. We needed to be rested.
We packed the Vermont cheese, crackers and sparkling cider that we got from F.H. Gillingham’s into a nifty back pack made specifically for picnicking. I bought the pack at a yard sale and was anxious to use it. The back pack came with a setting for 4, complete with wine glasses, and a cutting board. Along the way we called in an order for subs from Mystic Pizza. Our walk meandered down Cow Hill and along the backside of Mystic Harbor and into the village. We picked up our subs and headed to the harbor. Captain Erick was out on another cruise, so we ate our subs and watched the people go by. The 1947 wooden cruiser pulled into its slip right on time. A happy group disembarked. Erick introduced himself, helped us aboard, and got us familiar with the boat before shoving off.
The seas were calm and the conversation with Erick and the young college couple was sweet. It turns out that the young couple, whose names I forgot, had finished college exams and chose this cruise to celebrate. Both of them are going to be nurses. Ann, being in the health field, hit it off with them right away. Erick gave us well rounded lessons in history, geography and the rich and famous of the area. Erick’s prediction of good weather and a wonderful sunset was right on the money. I snapped a few shots with my phone camera, but none of them can give what we saw justice.
We cruised by the harbor town of Noank (no anchor) and decided to break out the picnic basket for the slow cruise home. The slow, steady purring of the boat motor over calm waters seemed to erase our cares. Having an intimate little picnic at sea was the highlight of our weekend.
We strolled back into the Seaport and went under the famous Mystic River Bascule Bridge and turned around. Many people were taking advantage of the peaceful evening along the boardwalk. We said our goodbyes to Captain Erick and the sweet couple. The boardwalk looked inviting so we strolled along as we made our way back to the Brigadoon. The walk beneath the village lights guided us to the backside of Mystic Seaport where the bright moon illuminated our path for the rest of the trip. We had a full and eventful day, and now it was time to rest our weary bones.
Our only plan for the next day was to make a slow ride home. Sleeping in was our first order of business. We woke up grateful to have another event filled vacation, in another wonderful town. Our only regret was that we didn’t take enough time off. We can be rather impulsive when it come to doing things on our anniversary. Unfortunately we missed out on many nice restaurants and we never got to see the Mystic Aquarium among other things. One thing is for sure, and that is we didn’t miss out on making memories. We are grateful to have visited this little town.