Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pez and Thimbles!

As I continue my travels this summer around my home state of Connecticut, I am finding a lot of wonderfully weird things to see and do.  Recently, my son and I took off to go on a cruise which I will talk about in a bit.  It was still raining, because Connecticut is pretty wet during the warmer months.  At any rate, we saw a sign that said we were coming up on the Pez Visitor Center in Orange.  Pez was created overseas in Vienna, Austria in 1927 as a breath mint.  Eventually, after one thing led to another, Pez was relocated to Orange in 1974.  Today, you can take a tour of the main factory floor and see Pez in action, and you can visit a charming visitor center that's set up for all of us tourists.

If, for some reason, you think that you might miss the Pez Factory, with the signs they provide, I can assure you, it's virtually impossible to miss.  Pez Boulevard was created for visitors and others to find the iconic factory.

I was surprised how much fun I had as an adult at the Pez Visitor Center.  You walk into a very colorful environment with way more than I thought to look at.  You have the history of Pez, all kinds of collections of dispensers, antique Pez memorabalia, the factory, and some other interesting things.  We took part in a game to find the Presidents.  Pez makes dispensers with American Presidents on them.  Not all presidents have been represented yet, but the rest are coming.  In the meantime, they had a game going on where they had hidden presidential dispensers around the visitor center and they each had part of a message by them.  If you found them all, filled in the message on your game card, and had it correct;  you won a prize.  It was fun, but I never found Thomas Jefferson.  He was hidden well.  You can have parties there on the second floor.  They even have the chopper that Orange County Choppers of American Chopper made.  They have all the holiday dispensers, NASCAR, sports, movie themes, etc. of dispenser.  It's quite a place, even though it's a place that I never would have thought about.

My favorite parts were as follows:  They have games for the kids and adults, they give you an adorable entrance ticket that doubles as a souvenir, the five dollar ticket price allows for four dollars toward merchandise in the shop, and I got to see a woman working on Minions.  I love these little guys, and there were so many that I was overwhelmed.  It was cool.  So, check it out.  If you think that maybe you're a little too adult for a stop off the road like this, try it.  You might just be surprised.

Now, on to part two.  As I said, we were going on a cruise, and that cruise was of the Thimble Islands in Stony Creek, CT.  Stony Creek is actually part of Branford that sits on a lovely cove or harbor or bay or whatever you want to call it.  Now, I've lived in Connecticut for over 20 years, and I didn't know about this one.  There are over 100 islands in that bay or whatever and 23 of them are inhabited.  They are called the Thimble Islands.

This is an area that loves their boats, and there's no questioning why.  The islands do have a ferry service per se, but if you want to get to a house on one of the islands, you'd better have a boat or a friend with one.  The islands exist because of glaciers that came through New England eons ago and dropped a bunch of pink granite off the shore.  Eons later, rich people decided to build fancy summer homes on them to get away from it all.  At one point, the pirate Captain Kidd spent some time hiding there, and people say that he left some treasure behind as well.  No one has ever found it, but in similar venues in the area some treasure of Captain Kidd's has been found.  People still take a look around now and again just to see if they find anything.

The Sea Mist and it's smaller cousin are the boats that will take you around on a guided tour of the islands.  The cost is only $12 for adults and the tour lasts about an hour.  On the weekends, the tours do go all the way out to the end of the islands where you can see seals on the seal tour.  It costs a little bit more, but you get to be out for longer and you get to see seals.  It's a deal.

There's all kinds of places to see in the Thimble Islands.  There are private homes of all sizes, there are some islands that have interconnecting bridges.  There are houses on stilts, and houses of the extremely rich.  There are old houses and new houses.  One island has 23 houses on it.  It's like a whole town out there.  You would be surprised at all the places and things you see.

The Stewart B. McKinney Natural Wildlife Refuge is on one of the islands.

The Mother In Law House comes with the story of the two newlyweds who were followed to the house by one of the mothers on their wedding night.  The couple left her stranded there and took off to be alone.  There are great stories all over the area about any number of things.

One lovely island was reportedly home to a lovely couple that bought it for a couple of million dollars, turned it into a beautiful home and sold it for $23 million.  They even have palm trees on this island that somehow survive the weather.

There's the $285,000 gazebo.  Turns out the chap that bought that island thought that he would build a home on it, only to discover that it wasn't big enough or high enough or something like that.  So, now it holds a gazebo and is for sale.  It sounds tempting, but remember, you can't build a house on it.

There's a little bit of everything out there from new to old and large to small.  There are all kinds of stories and Captain David's crew will tell all of them to you.  We did find out that the waters can be a little shallow though.  We did run up on some shallows and get stuck on a rock.  It was no worry however, because a couple of local fellows stopped by and pulled us off the rock.  It was actually entertaining, and we got our cruise for half price.  It was a good deal.

Once back on land, we were hungry, and there's not much in Stony Creek.  It's a really quiet seaside burg.  We stopped at Thimbleberry's and had a little lunch.  It was charming and you could eat outside by the water if you felt like it.  The food was good and the prices were reasonable.

So, it's the Thimble Islands in Stony Creek, which is Branford.  It's the Pez Factory and Visitor Center which is not only orange but is in Orange.  Two amazing little discoveries right off of I-95 that I'd never investigated.  I'm glad I did.  And you should two.  It's a great way to spend an easy afternoon.  Enjoy!

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