Hotels New England Restaurants Travel: Hotels New England Restaurants Travel
Thanksgiving. A time to be grateful. I practice gratitude all year long—it’s what gets me through some of the toughest times. But around Thanksgiving, it’s nice to serve up a few extra helpings.
I’m grateful for my parents still being a part of my life right now. And I’m particularly thinking about my mother who just two days ago underwent a double knee replacement at the age of eighty. The pain must have been really bad for her to have opted for such surgery. I pray that she heals well and that her two brand new knees make a difference in her life.
I’m thinking back to a trip we took together last June, the first travels we’d done together—just the two of us—in a few years. We were like two girls on the run—Thelma and Louise wannabes looking to cut loose. Mom, as my Dad’s constant companion, hadn’t been out on a fun getaway with me, her “best-est” travel buddy in years. (Plus, most of her friends have passed away, so her vacationing days are few and far between.) We’ve always traveled tons together and getting back on track to long car rides filled with constant chatter, leisurely meals showcasing regional specialities, hotel stays where we’d talk into the wee hours of the morning and shopping forays where we’d experience the best of female bonding was all long overdue. Mom and I have always shared similar tastes: I am my mother’s daughter par excellence. So there’s little dissension about what to do and where to go; we view the world and its surroundings through a similar lens, especially when it comes to travel.
I was back on the east coast for a wedding and my parents live in upstate New York, so Mom’s suggestion of a trip to Connecticut seemed like a good idea. We retraced our steps from a trip we’d taken there about ten years ago during the promotion of my book, The Riches of Paris: A Shopping and Touring Guide. I had a book event at R.J. Julia in Madison, CT, and from that destination, we branched out and discovered the many pleasures of coastal Connecticut from Madison to Essex (a bit inland) to Saybrook to Mystic to Stonington. What a charming part of the country, what an endearing combination of the centuries-old tradition of New England and the raw beauty of the coast.
It also proved to be an idyllic way to celebrate Mom’s eightieth birthday: We feasted on seafood and sampled chowder throughout, we toasted her age of wisdom and grace over white wine, gin and tonics and coffee, we gazed out at the sprawling seascapes together and sniffed the salty air for days on end. Most of all though, we were just happy to be mother and daughter together, to experience the sort of kinship and bonne entente that only a strong mother and daughter bond knows so well.
With the pain of her arthritis being such a bane, we weren’t up for any big doings, yet we managed just fine. There was perhaps more emphasis on food and wine than on shopping and sightseeing. That worked out well, since we were in one of the gastronomic centers of America: a region rich in fresh delights from the sea as well as an Italian food heritage that ranks the highest in the country. Our first night out was at Cafe Allegre in Madison, Connecticut, which set the bar high for our other dining experiences, especially in terms of fine Italian cuisine. Fortunately the rest didn’t disappoint. And we feasted from morning to night on extraordinary meals from a luxurious breakfast by the water at the Madison Beach Hotel, where we stayed two nights, to a lobster roll from Lobster Landing in Clinton, CT, one of New England’s best loved lobster shacks, to a superlative lunch at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa. During the five days of our trip, I had clam chowder four times, each recipe different from the other.
Mom barreled along the highway and careened over sinewy, bucolic routes of coastal Connecticut punctuated by marshlands and signage that seemed to be indicating the wrong direction. She was and always has been the driver extraordinaire. We made two attempts—one ardent (to the Thimble Islands), the other casual (at Mystic Seaport)—to snag a boat tour, but neither worked out. We shopped just the right amount in Madison, Mystic and Stonington, but not so much that we’d have to leave the bags in the car so Dad wouldn’t see our loot (like in days gone by). We gazed out our window at The Whaler’s Inn, where we spent another couple of nights in Mystic, watching the flag be raised.
Indeed, times have changed for certain things. Our pace has slowed and we are more contemplative. And yes, we are ever more grateful for the time we’ve spent together.
With the help of God and good healing, Mom will be more than ready for her next adventure within the upcoming months. There’s still much more to see and do together, particularly for two like-minded travelers well attuned to the beauty and wonder this world has to offer. There’s nothing like the joy of travel and there’s nothing like doing it with a good pal that you love.
Happy Thanksgiving, Mom—looking forward to our next trip!
And happy Thanksgiving to you and all your loved ones. May your travels be gilded with treasured memories.
Thank you to local Saybrook artist Diana Tyler for the watercoloring of the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, a delightful rendering of graceful property that truly captured the spirit of my travels with Mom.
For more of my travel stories with Mom, read A Heartwarming Day Trip to Western Massachusetts and the Norman Rockwell Museum and Cape Cod, Cranberries and the Creation of Everlasting Memories.
Signed copies of my book, “A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France,” are available at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison and Bank Square Books in Mystic.