Travel Tales: Weekend in Connecticut, Part 2

by Jamie Sanford on May 30, 2012

Continuing the Connecticut trip story while having another trip under the belt to talk about. Part 1 of this trip is here.

We woke up early on Saturday morning, missed breakfast at the B&B and drove down the road to the Essex Steam Train yard for Will’s turn at Hand on the Throttle. For a mere $500, you can purchase the opportunity to take a short class before getting to drive (with supervision of course) a GIGANTIC STEAM LOCOMOTIVE. You can buy it on the Xperience Days website too, and there are reviews there to check out.

During Will’s class time, I walked around the train yard and took some photos. Lots of train cars and whatnot. My whole Flickr set is here.

This is the instagram version of one of the photos I took of William while he was driving the train. I really only had the chance when he was going in the station and then out of the station, so it was limited. I walked around the train yard while he was gone.

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Here’s the video of Will’s train-driving adventure. (Click here if you cannot see the video.) I had an AWESOME time balancing my iPhone on top of my Sony A550 so I could take video and stills at the same time. I let YouTube do their weird stabilization thing, so this isn’t as bad as the original version. Enjoy!

After the train experience, the day could only go downhill for Will, so we headed out to Mystic, CT.

Of course did the obvious Mystic Pizza drive-by, before scoring some amazing parking and dropping by the Ancient Mariner for lunch. Walked around for about 15 minutes of shopping before we lost interest and headed for my planned destination, the Mystic Aquarium. For the record, I do feel sort of shitty about going to the aquarium ever since watching The Cove, but I cannot resist the allure of Beluga whales.

And they were magical. I have not edited the photos I took (even though this was over a month ago) from the aquarium, but I have some Instagram cuteness.

And of course I took my own picture with a beluga whale.  This was by the big tank windows, but I also took a bunch from above the water surface. These whales definitely know what a camera is, because one of them came over to me and legit POSED in front of my clicking shutter. I don’t know why I didn’t ask Will to film that while I was taking the photos.

So we made our way through the aquarium and then drove back to the B&B. We laid about and napped a bit, tired from our early morning, and eventually realized that we should get some dinner. After the unfortunate experience from the night before, we picked the Parthenon Diner, because diner food is generally consistent if you know what to order. We had a ball at the diner, I remember laughing a LOT – but I don’t remember about what. We then picked up snacks and headed back to our room to watch more Bones on the Nook before falling asleep.

Sunday was rainy from the start, and not made better by a sub-par breakfast at the Copper Beech Inn. I really wanted to love it there, but I cannot recommend it at all. There was nothing exceptional about our stay there.

I thought it would be a great idea to stop at Gillette Castle on the way home, but it totally isn’t accessible! I missed the boat on this.

It was a lovely trip. We packed a lot into 3 days, and it became much more than just the random trip to let Will drive the train. We will have to go back to Milford, CT, since the historical society there wasn’t open when we visited, and I need more information from the genealogy section of the library. I’m sure I will post another link-filled entry about any future visits we take.

Next up is our Florida trip! Lots of links and photos from that one to come.

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Travel Tales: Weekend in Connecticut, Part 1

by Jamie Sanford on May 17, 2012

New travel post! A few weekends ago, my husband Will and I took Friday off and made out way north to Connecticut for the weekend. Our official reason for the visit was a gift I had purchased for Will at Christmas involving a steam engine, but we will talk more about that later.

We woke up on Friday morning a bit later than we would for a work day, packed up the rest of our electronics (seriously, we are so wired, ALL THE TIME) and got in the car. After a stop at McDonald’s for road breakfast, we made our way to I-95.

A while later, we arrived in Milford, CT. I have been deep into some Sanford family history for quite a while ago (as posted earlier, I’m a witch!) and my 9th great-grandfather and his wife are listed as town founders in Milford. Our first stop was to see the memorial bridge in Milford where they have stones naming the town founders. Unfortunately, the name is misspelled, but you can see my grandfather and grandmother, Thomas and Sarah.

Cool, right? This Instagram shot is the only one I have of this awesome stone because naturally, I had managed to leave my 8GB SD card in my laptop, which was totally at home.  Luckily, Will had seen a billboard for a camera store. In the exact small town we were hanging out in.  After a quick check to see that the public library would open in a few hours, we made our way to Milford Photo. It is actually a really nice change to go into a specialty store, since 99.9% of our camera stuff is purchased online.

Our next stop was the Milford Cemetery, since from more research on Ancestry.com and other sites, I knew that a number of my Sanford family members were buried. We found a helpful groundskeeper (which totally sounds like the beginning of a bad horror movie) and found the oldest section of the cemetery. A helpful plot map later, and we started checking out the Sanfords. One of the oldest stones in the cemetery was that of Andrew Sanford, who I mistakenly thought was my uncle who had been accused of witchcraft. I figured out when I got home that this Andrew was actually the SON of the accused witch Andrew, and so this stone below is that of my 1st cousin, 10 times removed.

We left in the middle of the Sanford search to go back to the library as it was finally going to be open. My thoughts were that perhaps the Milford history books in the library would give me some information that might be helpful when going back to the cemetery. We didn’t really find anything that changed that experience, but we did manage to take some photos and get other information on my town founder grandparents. Including some location data for their plot of land. Will also read that during church services, someone would sit outside with a gun to ward off any threats by Native Americans. That’s insane!

So we left the library and went back to the cemetery, and searched out my remaining relatives. We found a stone for Hannah Sanford, who appears to be my 7th or 8th great-grandmother, but more research needs to be done on that situation.  It was very quiet and pretty there in the cemetery (more pictures to come) and I felt really lucky that I was able to drive to a place not too far from where I live and visit these people from my family.

I plugged a mystery location into Ted, our trusty GPS, and headed to what Will didn’t know was the PEZ visitor center! We realized that Cracker Barrel was nearby and so stopped there and had breakfast for lunch. We are unable to take a road trip without a stop at Cracker Barrel to have breakfast and buy some Jelly Bellies.

So we went to the PEZ visitor center, and it was a bit underwhelming. If you have been to the awesome Hershey visitor center in Hershey, PA, your expectations will be too high. PEZ does not have a ride to tell you about the making of PEZ.

I did get to see some ultra-rare PEZ dispensers though, like this pair of William & Kate.

Tiny Edward fit right in with the PEZ. No surprise there.  After purchasing some PEZ (obviously), we headed toward Ivoryton, CT.  I had booked us into the Copper Beech Inn, as it was the closest bed & breakfast that I could find near the Essex Steam Train, our destination for Saturday. We arrived and checked in, eventually figuring out what building our room was in. We went out to find a drugstore before coming back to the Inn for our dinner reservation. I had booked some sort of spring special that was around $500 for 2 nights + a 7-course tasting dinner in the restaurant on the property, Brasserie Pip.

Our room was in the carriage house, and from the inside, you can definitely tell that the horses and carriages were previously housed here. Our room (which I didn’t photograph) was alright, but we were fighting off a wasp within 3 minutes of being in the room, and we were both very hot, with an air conditioner that left MUCH to be desired. We were not there very long before we were heading out to dinner.

…and what a dinner it was. Based on the website for this restaurant, your expectations would probably be high, which mine definitely were.  We were awkwardly seated despite having a reservation, and confused our server when we told her that we had a tasting menu that had been purchased with a package. (The B&B had given me nothing upon arrival to confirm this.) I then proceeded to order a glass of wine, which took about 20 minutes to arrive – although the wine was delicious. After we ordered the tasting menu, our server asked us if there was anything we didn’t enjoy. Will informed her that neither of us are into mussels or clams, and she went on her way. First up was a piece of raw harami, marinated in something delicious.  I do not really do raw fish, but I ate a piece (which gave Will a thrill) and passed on the rest.  The marinade was great but the fish was fishy, and I wasn’t feeling it.  Course 2 was adorable, it was some asparagus soup (shown above, upper left) with a mini croque monsieur in the center, providing some fantastic saltiness. I love asparagus so this was a winning course for me.

The next course was a bouillabaisse. Remember the part where we said we didn’t like mussels or clams? Bouillabaisse is FULL OF THAT ISH.  Our server came back and asked why we weren’t enjoying it. We reminded her, and she whisked away the bouillabaisse and promised another course. Which I believe was pork loin wrapped in sausage. The sausage was a bit spicy, but overall, the course wasn’t bad.

The next course was my favorite one. It was a chicken thigh with some pickled beets and absinthe foam (shown above, upper right). I mostly think any dish with foam is BS, but I have to give it up for this, because the anise flavor in the foam was SUPER delicious with the chicken thigh. My night would have been improved if this was my main course for the evening.

Next up, course 6 if you count the bouillabaisse, was a duo of beef. Short ribs and a piece of filet (shown above, lower left). Totally not impressive, although we had shallot onion rings on top which were lovely. But if you’re having steak and the highlight is the onion rings, it is not a good sign.

So we moved on to dessert. We obtained coffee and were presented with the first dessert, which was “aerated frozen yogurt.” Clearly this is one of those chefs that LOVES himself and can’t get enough of his brilliant ideas. I was not impressed with the odd presentation either, if you are going for deconstructed something, I think things should be more spread out. So strange, and not that delicious.

Then we had our final course, which I’m calling “murder of red velvet cake.”

Again, if the cake was better, it wouldn’t need to be assaulted and spread out on the plate before being served. Pairing with the sauces was a good idea because the cake was not particularly moist, but I’m sure you get the idea in general.

Just not an impressive experience, at all. The tasting menu normally costs something like $70/person, and while I paid less with my package, it was still disappointing. I would not recommend this restaurant at all.

We headed back to our room, which was still hot, and tried to go to sleep to prepare for Saturday’s early start. The broken cable in the room meant no TV, but luckily, Will was able to stream a Bones episode on his Nook Color. Good times.

Part 2 coming soon – we are traveling some more so things will stay slow for a bit!

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