What’s that, you may ask? "Vacation" is the English word for a time in which you leave work at work and spend leisure time with people you love in some place that isn’t your janky New York apartment.
Trust me, I wasn’t super familiar with the term either.
Here is what A and I did for our glorious few days "off the grid."
Closing of my Fringe show (thank goodness!) The show was at 5:15pm. A had just come home from Army on Tuesday, so we did some crazy last minute planning and packing, and picked up our rental car around 2:30pm on the Upper East Side and headed downtown to the Lower East Side for my show. It was a strong finale to an okay production, but I was glad A got to see it and, you know, acting is always fun. We immediately took off from the parking garage on Essex for our little home in Fairfield, CT!
When we arrived, my lovely host’s son had left the key under the doormat. A scraggly, long-haired black cat mewed ferociously at the door, but we hadn’t heard anything about a cat, and it looked like a stray, so we had to use some leftover nacho cheese from dinner to try and lure it away from the door. Turns out, the cat sort of belongs there, but there was no way we could have been expected to know it, and as kitty lovers, it was a somewhat disturbing experience. We stumbled right into bed after doing a bit of exploring.
(the story of this house is that I’d posted on Facebook a few months ago that I was looking for an inexpensive place to vacation in CT on the coast. An aquaintance who I met last summer on the show in NJ, a teacher at Yale and a NYC script supervisor, messaged me that we were welcome to stay in her home. It was INSANELY generous).
We woke early and A found somewhere we could grab breakfast. He found the most adorable little place called Home on the Range. We were the only people in there when we walked in, and glanced over the paper menu a friendly, white-haired, bespectacled woman hadned to us. I ordered an egg sandwich on whole wheat and coffee, and A got multigrain pancakes with turkey bacon and OJ. We sat in the corner in the window, and shortly were delivered clearly homemade, fresh, and prepared to order by the adorable woman who took our order. The food was exceptional– A’s pancakes melted in your mouth, and my sandwich was perfectly cooked. We came back again on Saturday.
From there, we took the short drive to the beach. We didn’t have a pass for our car to park (all beaches are private in CT) but we figured that we could find some nearby nook for the car. After trolling two beaches, we found a parking spot in front of a little shop, only about a five minute walk from Penfield Beach. We parked and headed to the water. It wasn’t particularly warm, and the sky was very threatening– rain was coming. Regardless, we stripped down to our suits and jumped in. The water was not particularly cold, probably only about ten degrees cooler than the air. We got out as the tide started in and the clouds began their approach. I made a little sandcastle, and just as the rain started, we boogied back to the car.
We rounded out our first day by seeing The Butler (perfect rain activity!) and then driving out to New Haven to have delicious pizza and wine at Pepe’s and wandering around the Yale campus before heading home. We talked a lot about just about everything, especially the favorite slightly wine-y (ha! and whiney! See what I did there?) topic of our careers. They’re just not off the ground yet. And, as Yale tends to do, I was wistful about the life I could have had if I hadn’t known beyond the shadow of a doubt that I wanted to be an actor and move to NYC. We make our choices, people. And I’m glad for mine.
Another bright and early morning. We hopped in the car and headed up to the Haddam area to see Gillette Castle. It’s a strange old mansion built by turn-of-the-century actor William Gillette that has been turned into a state park and museum. There are over 45 engineered wooden doors in the castle, all of which Gillette designed. He also had a series of mirrors and secret passageways so he could make theatrical entrances and exits and avoid guests he didn’t want to see. I like that part of it. We spent the morning in the castle, then lunched on bread, cheese, apples, and trail mix while deciding what to do next.
We hopped in the car and headed towards West Hartford. On the way, we passed East Haddam, and figured we should stop over and see the Goodspeed Opera House, just ’cause we’d never been. We pulled up and walked to the box office. Turns out, there was an 8pm performance of Hello, Dolly! that very night, and there were two $29 seats available in the 2nd row mezz. We looked at each other, and the decision was made. We bought the tickets and, grinning, headed back to our car.
After a detour to Panera for iced tea, a cookie, and an outlet to charge my dying phone, we arrived at the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House (they’re next door to each other!). We bought our tickets for the double tour– Stowe and then Twain– and wandered in the gift shop till our meeting time at 3pm. The tours were AMAZING. A and I are big nerds (and literature lovers!), and we love to learn peoples’ stories and see what they saw. It is no small thing to stand in the room where Twain wrote Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, and more. Very cool.
Afterwards, we navigated to dinner at a Mexican place nearby. We were going to meet up with my dear friend J, who is in rehearsal at Hartford Stage, but he had a company picnic he couldn’t miss. It was okay– we were in a time crunch anyway. We drove back to East Haddam with just enough time to get huge ice cream sundaes, which we devoured on a bench outside the theatre while we watched the "blue hairs" (what we, in the theatre, call "older" audience members) file in. We eventually took our seats to experience a classic American musical– just as cheesy and silly and delicious as expected. It was a glorious evening.
We took it very easy, sleeping in a little long, suiting up, and heading back to breakfast at Home on the Range. From there, we pulled back into our little parking spot and walked to the beach, two chairs, an umbrella for my sweet white boy, towels, and another lunch of bread, cheese, bell pepper slices, veggie chips, and fizzy lemonade from Whole Foods.
We spent the whole day baking our bods, swimming in the sea, munching on snacks, reading, and collecting shells. It was exactly what vacation is supposed to be.
Once we’d had our fill of the beach, we hopped back into the car and headed to the house. We showered and hung out for a bit, and then headed out once more for a 4:10pm showing of Elysium. It was a bit disappointing, considering how much we’d both liked District 9, but hey, who cares.
From there, I found a nearby place where I could get a lobster roll and A could get a burger. We found a perfect little shack, and I devoured my roll and the delicious house-made coleslaw. I grew up a lobster lover (my dad’s first book was a collection of stories, essays, and research about lobsters– he’s pretty cool), so anytime I get a chance to have a real lobster, I do it.
We finished the evening in downtown Fairfield at 16 Handles for froyo. We considered going to another movie, but none of times were great, so we just walked around. We spent about an hour wandering in the bookstore for Fairfield University. We got home around 9:30pm so we could tuck in early.
We attempted to get up on time so we could get an early start, but failed. We managed to rouse ourselves by 9 and stumbled into the shower. We left in the car shortly afterwards, along 95 up the coast towards Mystic, CT!
I haven’t been to Mystic since I was very, very young. My cousin (on my Mom’s side) lived there for a short time, as I recall, but she no longer does, and either way, very soon after she moved, we stopped talking to that side of the family (drugs and addiction will do that). On a much happier note, Mystic was basically all new and SO STUPID FUN.
Again, we’re nerds. Mystic Seaport is basically a transformed little area that is an outdoor/indoor museum. You can wander at your leisure into old buildings transformed into artifacts museums, old ships restored to their former glory with information guides and plaques, recreated shops and stores with volunteers who did the typesetting and cobbling and steel-working while they chatted with you. In other words, it was HEAVEN. Around 3pm, we realized we should skedaddle if we wanted to make the Aquarium too (we bought a "MysticPass" which allowed us, for $50 each, to visit the Seaport, Aquarium (plus a free soda), and the Planetarium). We scarfed some lunch in the car, then drove down the street.
The aquarium was crazy busy, but we managed to get our drinks and some ice cream and sat down to come up with a plan. We started in the Titanic exhibit, felt up some manta rays (I LOVE THAT), watched the belugas, then headed back inside to do the pretty cool live chat with the Nautilus ship in the Caribbean. From there we did the main aquarium, seeing penguins, sea lions, frogs, turtles, the most adorable recovering gray seal, then the whole inside portion, with fish, sharks, rays, turtles, lobsters, and many many more. We concluded with the sea lion show. All in all, we spent a glorious two hours and hopped back into the car right around closing time.
We spent some time wandering around the little nook of shops called Olde Mistick Village before heading to a local restaurant for our final vacation dinner (I got a little pissy about trying to choose somewhere, which A was very patient about, but eventually I just chose). I got two yummy fig cocktails, scallops, and we shared fried green beans and chocolate mousse. We got back on the road in time to stop in Westbrook to see Jobs, which kind of sucked, unfortunately. By the time we got home, we fell into bed, totally exhausted.
We started the day by putting in all our laundry, including all the sheets and towels we used. We wanted to grab breakfast at Home on the Range again while the laundry dried, but it was closed. Boo. Trusty Siri led us to a diner where we got an equivalent breakfast in type, but far inferior in atmosphere and quality. C’est la vie. 🙂 When we got back, I folded and cleaned and gave A 20 bucks to grab a bottle of wine to leave as a gift. We were finally out of the house just before 11 to head back for day two in Mystic! We’d extended our car rental to the last moment (the Alamo closed at 6:30pm) so we could fit in a bit more delightful time.
Once back in Mystic, we headed straight to the area we’d missed, particularly the LA Burton, a early 20th century fishing ship. We got on board and wandered around, disembarking just in time to watch the full hourlong demonstration of the anchor drop, the dory boat demonstration, and then finally, the anchor raise. At 2pm, we saw the planetarium show, which was super low tech and full of screaming children, but otherwise, lovely. We saw a few more exhibits, but quickly realized that we had to head home in order to make it to NYC by 6:30pm.With traffic and a stop for food in Milford, we pulled up in front of our door in Washington Heights just a touch after 6. I headed upstairs with the luggage while A dropped the car off.
I have been working on this entry for days! So I’m just gonna post it! More later. 🙂