Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My In Depth Tour of Connecticut Continues With...Norfolk!

I've said it a million times.  Connecticut is a microcosm.  It takes two hours or so to cross the state the long way.  But, in that two hours you get to see what it takes a lot of people the entire country to see.  From the mountains to the prairie to the oceans, we have it all.  This is the summer that I do an in depth tour of the state that I have chosen for my home and see all that it has to offer.  My next stop on this tour was Norfolk.  Norfolk is one of those tiny little towns that we all love to see on a postcard, but when we get there we wonder what to do.  the surprise here is that there's stuff to do.  There's more there than just the gorgeous churches that line the streets on your way through.

For one thing, Norfolk is home to three old state parks.  The first one that we visited was Dennis Hill State Park.  This is a great picnic venue.  If you want, you can rent the pavilion for the day and have a big family reunion.  But, there are two things that I really love about Dennis Hill.  One is the Mountain Laurel blooming all along the drive to the top of the hill.  In June, it is absolutely fabulous.  The other thing that I adore about this park is the view from the top of the hill.  This hill is a small mountain, and you have views of all the mountains around.  It's a beautiful spot in the world.

Next, we visited Haystack Mountain State Park.  This is a great place to have a lunch also.  The lake is beautiful and the drive is beautiful.  This park has an added perk.  From the end of the drive it is a short hike to the old lookout tower.  The views from the top are outstanding.  This park is also walking distance from downtown Norfolk just in case you didn't drive on this trip.  It is unlikely that you would not drive, because Norfolk is a tiny berg between Winsted and Canaan on Route 44 in the northwest corner of the state.  There are no buses or taxis out there.

State park number three was not quite a Connecticut State Park.  Campbell Falls State Park is a Connecticut State Park, but.  It's right up the road from Haystack Mountain on the same road, Route 272, but the falls that the park is named after is in Massachusetts.  You walk across the state line.  It makes for an interesting little walk down a steep hill, so bring your hiking shoes.  And you might want to bring some shoes that you would also wear in water, because it's irresistible to soak your feet a little bit.  Anyway, the falls are gorgeous, and it's a great way to spend some time on a hot afternoon.

There's one more park that we visited.  This is the town park.  It's right behind the beautiful old churches in the middle of town.  The grounds are beautiful.  The buildings are charming.  In back of all that, there are the local ball fields where all the local leagues play.  Once again, it's Norfolk, so it's peaceful.  I will warn you that if you are looking for a thrill filled adventure of a holiday; Norfolk is not your place.  This is the kind of town where you wander the parks, visit some beautiful buildings, have a meal at Wood Creek Bar and Grill, and enjoy the atmosphere.

But, there are some civilized things around.  For one thing, there's Infinity Hall.  That's the local theater that hosts all kinds of things and has open mic nights as well.  Headliners perform there like The Little River Band and Jefferson Starship.  This theater is something that you don't normally find in a tiny town like Norfolk, but it's the sister theater to the Infinity Theater in Hartford.  So, you get a little taste of the city in the middle of nowhere.  So, after you eat, take in a show and then spend the night at a bed and breakfast like Mountain View.  You won't find any large hotels here.  Quaint and Quiet is the way we like it in this neck of the woods.

So, Norfolk is quiet, beautiful, and not overrun with tourists.  It's a great weekend spot.  It's a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll with a lot of beauty woven through.  It's a great place to get away from it all and see some beautiful sights.  It is a small town with one main drag and the highway that runs through it, but it is home to theater, arts, food, and the great outdoors.  It's one of those tiny little places that most of us spend most of our time passing through, but when you stop and take the time to check it out you realize that you've been missing out.

So, the next time you say you want to get away from it all for the weekend, consider that overnight stay in a bed and breakfast.  Maybe take in a headline band and eat some great food.  Take a walk in the woods.  See a beautiful waterfall.  Have a picnic.  But remember one thing about Norfolk.  Even on Main Street in the parking area, you have a completely amazing view.  Come check out the view in the amazing little berg and enjoy!

Keep an eye on this blog as I intend to rival the tourist board in Connecticut with my stories about travel in this beautiful state.  Still Revolutionary doesn't begin to describe this amazing microcosm, so stay tuned and see what Connecticut really has to offer!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

More of the Microcosm of Connecticut...Sherwood Island State Park

Several years ago a friend of mine told me about a place that she had been to.  She described it to me, but she didn't know what it was called, and I set off researching what she'd told me.  I found Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, CT.  Much time had passed, so I decided that it was time to go and check it out.  I was really glad I did.  Sherwood Island is only 235 acres.  It has two beaches, a pavilion, a marsh, a nature center, a lot of grassy picnic area, a snack stand, two changing houses, and a rocky outcropping.  The main thing that has is a great view of Long Island Sound, and the distinction of being the first State Park ever established in Connecticut.

Back in 1914 land was starting to be set aside for a park.  By 1937 it was all a go and one of the only parks to offer a public beach in Fairfield County was established.  The park is scenic and peaceful.  It's the kind of place that you can walk all over, or you can just sit on the beach.  It's a matter of choice.  It seems like a huge park, but it's small.  It turned out to be a great place to spend the day.

The Nature Center is a great little spot to take the kids to learn about the local wildlife.  They have some taxidermied animals on display that live in the area.  They also have some live animals like a turtle and some salamanders.  They have activities for the kids to do, and they have a tank of various crabs and rays that the kids can touch. The hours are 10 to 4. Outside the center there are birdhouses for the local birds to nest in.  Next to the center is the local marsh where hundreds of birds live.  There are paths to walk through the marsh as well.

There is a trick to the Nature Center though.  When we got there, we followed the one way road around the park.  The signs all say that the center is at the East Beach.  If you've never been there, this won't be as easy to get to as you might think.  The first signs you see lead you to believe that the Nature Center is in the main pavilion building.  Then you find information that just sends you to the East Beach.  When you get to the East Beach, there are flyers that tell you to go to the far end of the beach and up the little hill to the building.  It can be very confusing, but it is there and it is a cute place to take the kids.

There's a lot of wildlife at Sherwood Island.  The marsh is teeming with all kinds of birds.  Of course, I didn't have any luck getting photos of the petite birds that flit around the marsh.  I can tell you that they were colorful and made beautiful music.  I did, get some great shots of the regulars.  There were tons of Seagulls and Canadian Geese wandering the grounds and they were fairly tame with the visitors.  The woodchucks that make their homes under the rocky outcrop, however, weren't too happy that I was taking their pictures.

In the center of the waterfront part of the park is a rocky outcrop.  This is a great place to sit and watch the wildlife, the birds and just relax.  There is a great view of other islands in the area, the coastline, Long Island and in the distance you can even see New York City.  This is at the narrow west end of Long Island Sound, so there isn't a lot of distance between Connecticut and Long Island at this point.

The West Beach is rockier than the East Beach and was less crowded.  The water there was very shallow and you could walk out quite a ways without even getting your knees wet.  It was low tide, however.  The view is still nice, but it did seem like more people were actually in the water on this side.

In the middle of the park sits an enormous pavilion.  This place is partially enclosed by glass walls that have great views.  There is an area that looks as though it may be for caterers.  This is a great place to have a family reunion or a wedding reception.  Even if the weather gets a little dicey, the glass enclosure will make it a nice party.

9/11 was an event that really made an impact on the people of this area.  For one thing, several people who died in those attacks were from Fairfield County.  Fairfield County is full of people who commute to New York City every day for work.  Most of the people in this area identify more as New Yorkers than they do as Connecticut residents.  On top of losing several people in the attacks, the locals could see the smoke billowing from the towers from Sherwood Island.  Therefore, a lot of the park is dedicated to 9/11 and there are two memorials on the island.

There's a lot more than meets the eye in this little park.  It's educational, it's a memorial, it's a place for gathering, it's peaceful, it's full of wildlife, and my favorite part; oh the view.  It's a great little park, and it started the ball rolling on state parks in Connecticut.  I've said it for years; Connecticut is a microcosm.  Give me two hours and I can show you the world right here in Connecticut.  So, come and see the little state that can take you from beach to mountain and from country to city and from ocean to woods in two hours.  It's a little spot, but it's amazing how much is crammed in it.  Follow me as I check out many places in the state this summer.  Come and visit us and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Did You Know?

It's been a while since I've done a little did you know piece.  So, here goes.

Did you know that there are several tours you can sign up for to see the street art around New York City?

Did you know that swimming is the number one activity in Iceland these days?  There are over 200 outdoor pools heated by the country's thermal energy.  They are open all year round.

Did you know that Miss Molly's Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas was once a bordello or whore house, and is supposed to be haunted?  If you stay there, you will find the old time decor from when it was for gentlemen to visit.

Did you know that not only is Top Gear the television series still going after it's fallout with the original crew, but that you can take a ride around their track with the Stig?  You can also sign up for a package where you get filmed taking the reasonably priced car around their track.  Tickets to the show?  Well, those are hard to come by.

Did you know that not only is the Johnson Space Center at NASA in Houston, Texas one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state, but that you can also meet astronauts and you can even have lunch with one of them?

Just some food for thought when you are deciding on exactly what you might like to do with your vacation.  There are always more ideas on how to make you vacation into an Adventure for Anyone.  Enjoy!