The Quiet Corner

A road trip into the quiet part of Connecticut

imgp2100

A drive through the New England countryside that starts in Rhode Island can easily wander off the edge of the state. We took a weekend drive along Route 6 and soon found ourselves in Connecticut, with rolling hills and quaint villages that just went on and on and on.

Admittedly, our trip wasn’t spur of the momement — Linda and I planned ahead and were hosted by the inns and restaurants we stopped at. But a trip like ours could easily be accidental, by taking a turn to the right or left on a whim, stopping when something looked interesting, and driving on when the urge to see what’s around the next corner is too great to resist.

0919082010
Perhaps the most amazing discovery on our trip was a gourmet restaurant in what many would consider the middle of nowhere. In Eastford Connecticut we stopped for dinner at the Still River Cafe. With a name like that, you’d think a coffee shop with seating under a spreading oak tree, but this is nothing like that. We had an amazing dinner as excellent as any we’ve eaten in the best fine dining restaurants of Boston and Newport.

0919081948a

imgp2037
Well fed, we drove well after dark we drove toward to UConn’s main campus to our lodgings for the night at the Daniel Rust House B&B. Built in 1731 and expanded repeatedly over the ensuing years, the B&B not only made us feel welcome, but also feel like we were transported into the past, when the house was an 18th century Tavern used by the Sons of Liberty. The B&B was cozy, comfortable, and welcoming, with a fireplace in our room, a four poster bed, private bathroom, antiques and keepsakes from the innkeepers’ private collection, hot tea and coffee in the parlor, secret passageway, and even a friendly cat.

imgp1991

The Daniel Rust House was such a peaceful oasis on our road trip, it was tempting to just park there for the weekend. After all, every trip needs a home base, and being on Main Street in Coventry, it placed us right near many of the places we wanted to visit. But, alas, we had to get moving. The innkeepers Cathy and Germain’s delicious hot breakfast and friendly conversation got us up and moving while the morning was still morning.

0920081006a

The first stop was the home of Coventry Connecticut’s most famous historical resident — Nathan Hale. “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” may or may not have actually been said by Hale before his execution at age 21 for spying for the American revolutionary army in Manhattan, but there is no doubt that he grew up just a short drive away from the Daniel Rust House. The house where Hale was born and grew up was razed in the 1770’s. He moved away from home to go to college and later join George Washington’s army about the same time that his family moved into the larger house that he and his many brothers built.

Thanks to a large number of boys, the Hale family’s 400-acre farm was prosperous. The main house was built with two fireplace stacks and a central hall and a very long ell extension housing the kitchen. The house remained largely unaltered to this day and has been decorated with period decor throughout. Visitors to the homestead can watch a short movie about Nathan Hale before being given a guided tour.

If we had stayed longer in Coventry, we would have stopped at Memory Lane Countryside Antique Center or the Coventry Country Store, but we wanted to make it to Willimantic to stay on schedule.

0920081229

Willimantic is the location of the Great Frog Battle of the 1754. At the height of the French and Indian War, villagers were awakened by a horrible noise. Rushing to their muskets, they came down the dark country road anticipating a battle to save their village, finding only thousands of bullfrogs.

common-frog-1663735_640

0920081429
From there, we went to Willimantic Brewing Company for lunch. The Willimantic Brewing Company is in the town’s classic 1907 limestone and granite post office. Of course with a name like thiers, you can be sure that they are a brew pub, serving a broad selection of not only their own beers, but also of “guest beers”, satisfying those who insist on their favorite brand despite a smorgasbord of ales, pilsners, and alds laid before them. Beer doesn’t always mix well with a driving trip, but happily they also serve food.

0920081406

We could have spent more time shopping and exploring Willimantic, with bullfrog-on-spool icons decorating the bridge, a long pedestrian bridge with gardens, a walkable downtown, and loads of shops. Instead, back on the road toward our next destination, Woodstock, CT.

Of course, there’s a lot along the way. On the weekend we traveled, there was an outdoor art show with music called “Artists in the Country”. There’s no shortage of events, in the autumn look for organized walks in October under the title “Walktober”. Woodstock is also the location of the Taylor Brooke Winery and the historic Roseland Cottage and Bowen House.

imgp2054
We passed that opportunity and headed to a more family-oriented activity: an educational corn maze at Fort Hill Farm in nearby Thompson. The theme changes every year, for us it was the “Appalacian Trail”, with somewhat easy-to-navigate maze with the intent not to find your way out, but to find all of the hidden landmarks. The corn is amazingly high, at least 10 feet, perfect height for cow corn, and perfect for Fort Hill Farm, which produces organic milk under the co-op brand “The Farmer’s Cow”.
imgp2102

Then our night’s lodgings at the Mansion at Bald Hill. This Guilded Era home features its own fine dining which we didn’t sample, but their rooms are as plush as the wealthy Bowen family would have commanded in their day. Our room was Mr. Bowen’s own. We spent the night in complete luxury and had breakfast in the library. In the morning, we walked around the formal gardens, perfect for a wedding.

imgp2094

Had we even more time, we would have done more shopping at the Garden Gate and Coco’s Cottage in South Woodstock or at Majilly, Martha’s Herbary, Celebrations Shoppes, and Hazelwood Fine Crafts in Pomfret. Or perhaps we would have gone for a walk at the Audubon Properties at Bafflin Sanctury and Trailwood in Pomfret.

imgp2130

But instead we had a quick stop at the Vanilla Bean Cafe before heading home, tired and happy that we had the adventure beyond the edge of the state.
  • Still River Café www.stillrivercafe.com 860-974-9988, 134 Union Road, rte 171, Eastford, CT 06242
  • Daniel Rust House B&B www.thedanielrusthouse.com tel. 860-742-0032, 2011 Main Street, Coventry 06238
  • Nathan Hale Homestead, 2299 South Street, Coventry, www. hartnet.org/als/nathanhale $7 adults, $6 students
  • Memory Lane Countryside Antique Center (www.memory-lanes.com) Tel. 860-742-2865
  • Coventry Country Store , 1140 Main Street (rte. 31), Coventry 06238 860-742-5336
  • Windham Textile & History Museum, 411 Main Street, Willimantic, 06226 www.millmuseum.org tel. 860-456-2178.
  • Willimantic Brewing Company, 927 Main Street, Willimantic, CT 06226 www.willibrew.com
  • Artists in the Country 52 Country Road, Woodstock, 06281. Juried outdoor art show with music. www.artistsinthecountry.org
  • Taylor Brooke Winery, Rte 171 Woodstock, 06281 www.taylorbrookewinery.com 860-974-1263. Open 11-5.
  • Fort Hill Farm – “Appalachian Trail Educational” Corn Maze, 260 Quaddick Road, Thompson, 866-919-2204 www.cornmaze.com
  • B & B: Mansion at Bald Hill, www.mansionatbaldhill.com, tel. 860-974-3456, Woodstock, 06281
  • Southwood Alpacas, 288 W. Quasset Road, Woodstock, 06281 866-SWD-CRIA
  • Roseland Cottage and Bowen House, 556 rte. 169, Woodstock, 06281 www. historicnewengland.com
  • Garden Gate, tel 860-928-0571, 260 Rte 171, South Woodstock, 06267.
  • Cocos Cottage, tel. 860-928-1514, 253 Rte. 171, South Woodstock, 06267
  • Majilly, 56 Babbitt Hill Rd., Pomfret, Tel. 860-974-3714, www.majilly.com
  • Martha’s Herbary, 589 Pomfret St. (rte. 169), Pomfret, Tel. 860-928-0009, www.marthasherbary.com . Michelle. Hours: 10-5.
  • Celebrations Shoppes, 330 Pomfret St. (rte. 169), Pomfret, Tel. 860-928-5492, www.celebrationsshoppes.com
  • Hazelwood Fine Crafts, 12 Putnam Road (rte. 44), Pomfret, Tel.860-928-5888, www.hazelwoodfinecrafts.com .
  • Audubon Properties at Bafflin Sanctuary and Trailwood, 189 Pomfret Street, Pomfret www.ctaudubon.org/visit/pomfret.htm Tel. 860-928-4948
  • The Vanilla Bean Cafe, (corner rte. 97 and 169) Pomfret www.thevanillabeancafé.com, tel. 860-928-1562
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons