New England Road Trip 2016: Day 2 (Part 1) – Off to Connecticut

Hey everyone, this is Scott here, and I will continue to tell the story of my road trip to New England from April 2016!

(Date: April 22, 2016)

Although I set my alarm for 6:00 AM that morning, I got woken up about 15 minutes prior due to an “urgent” email which ended up not being urgent after all. Fortunately, I felt rested enough to get ready for the day. Of course, I needed to get some breakfast downstairs at the hotel room. After I got dressed for the day, I headed down for the continental breakfast. They had a wide assortment of items from pastries and fruit to fried, cubed potatoes and scrambled eggs. They were quite good. Although I did not order one, you can also order (for free) a customized omelet made to order. Anyway, the breakfast was really good. When I got back to the room, my room key (an electronic card) would not work. Apparently I learned that keeping my room key card in the same pocket as my cell phone would cause interference. Thankfully the employees at the hotel’s front desk were very helpful, and they were able to get my key card re-calibrated. From this moment forward, I’ll refrain from placing any hotel key cards in the same pocket as my phone as it happened the previous evening as well!

Once I got back into the room, I was all packed up and ready to leave New Jersey. During Day 2 of the road trip, I would be traveling from New Jersey to Massachusetts. However, I wanted to make some stops in both Connecticut and Rhode Island before getting to the Boston metro area. In Connecticut, I wanted to check out two coastal cities and towns: Old Saybrook and New London. Although the more direct way there was to take I-95 across the George Washington Bridge, however, my friend Mike warned me not to take that route and to take I-287 over the Tappan Zee Bridge instead. In the end, I was very thankful I listened to Mike; the route had very little traffic stops except for the toll booth east of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Also, the scenery along I-287 is very beautiful with all the hills. After crossing into the New York state line, I-287 continued over to the bridge. Once I got to the bridge, I was able to see a combination of both a bridge reconstruction project as they plan to replace the existing bridge with a newer structure and the Hudson River. Also, I had learned that the following day after I was traversing the bridge that the toll bridge would become cashless to where cameras will take pictures of your license plate and send you the bill in the mail later. That method is similar to how the Golden Gate Bridge toll works when heading south toward San Francisco.

As soon as I-287 merged into I-95, I entered a major traffic jam. You could tell that many people were going to New England just like I was. However, once I saw the sign welcoming me to Connecticut, the traffic started to let up. For what I learned, I-95 from New York City all the way to New Haven can be very hectic; fortunately, as I was traveling east on I-95 early in the morning, traffic was not too bad except for a minor slowdown due to a traffic accident in Bridgeport. Also, I needed to fill up my gas tank again, so I stopped at the first service plaza in the state off I-95. I eventually found out that it was the most expensive gas station that I passed all the way to Old Saybrook. Oh well; at least I was able to clean up the bug guts off my windshield mostly from the previous day. Once I got through New Haven (I’ll need to check out that city sometime in the future), traffic started to let up tremendously. From there on, I had no problem getting to my first destination of the day…Old Saybrook!

As I drove into Old Saybrook, I was impressed with the main downtown street with beautiful stores and restaurants on both sides of the boulevard. I easily found a parking spot in downtown, and I began to film my “Let’s Visit” video. Walking along the main downtown district felt very tranquil as I got to see the townspeople do some shopping and getting something to eat. As I walked south, I passed by the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. The building was built in honor of actress Katharine Hepburn as she once lived in nearby Fenwick (just south of Saybrook Point). Near the building is the town hall, and the view of the town hall with the leaves starting to grow on the trees made for a beautiful scene out of a postcard.

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I got back in the car, and I continued my way over to Saybrook Point. Before going there, I took a quick drive down N Cove Rd which has some very historic homes including the Black Horse Tavern (from 1712) which is now a private residence. It’s amazing to think that a residence today used to be a tavern from colonial times! I had some difficulty finding the building at first, but I found it as I was turning around to head back to the main road. After I got back on the main road, I made it over to Saybrook Point which was another mile east. Saybrook Point is one place in Old Saybrook I would definitely check out as it contains both the remains of Fort Saybrook and a marina looking out at the Connecticut River, the longest river in New England. At the site where Fort Saybrook was, you can see remains of railroad tracks and stone objects. After the fort was gone, the Connecticut Valley Railroad had its roundhouse and turntable at this spot. Although the fort is long gone, it gave me the feeling inside of what life was like back in the 1630s when Fort Saybrook was first built to protect Saybrook Plantation, one of the first settlements in what is now Connecticut, from the Native American tribes (including the Pequot) in the area.

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After checking out the monument park, I walked over to the Connecticut River, and I saw how beautiful the river looked as it was emptying out toward Long Island Sound. Before bridges were built in the early 20th century, ferries used to transport people and goods across the river since the 17th Century. From the marina area, you can also see the Lynde Point Lighthouse in the distance. Unfortunately, that lighthouse and the grounds are not open to the public as I learned later once I crossed the causeway over to Fenwick. Nevertheless, I was able to drive around the area (where I could legally go) for a few minutes and take in the great views of Long Island Sound. I was beginning to see why New England is so beautiful!

I got back into the car, and I continued east toward New London. Fortunately, New London is not very far to the east, so I only had to drive for about a half hour. On my way to the parking garage in the city, I drove through the historic downtown area, and I was already amazed by how beautiful and historic the buildings are. I literally felt like I went back in time by driving in a time machine, and no I did not see Marty McFly anywhere! I found the parking garage, and I collected my ticket, so I could pay on my way out. I got out of the car, and I made my way up State Street over to the New London Superior Courthouse which is at the northern end of the street. The courthouse, built in 1784, is one of the oldest courthouses in the United States (the oldest in Connecticut) still in use today. From the courthouse I began my historical walk by walking down State Street. Along the way I saw many beautiful, historic buildings including the New London City Hall (1856). At the end of the road, I made it down to the main square in the historic waterfront district which contains the awesome Soldiers & Sailors Monument, a civil war memorial. The obelisk stretched 50 feet into the main square.

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Looking to the south is the New London Union Station which is the train station for rail services such as Amtrak and Shoreline East. New London is a seaport (dating back to colonial times) as there are numerous ferry services which go to destinations such as Block Island and Long Island (New York). When I got to the end of the boardwalk behind Union Station, I got very lucky, and I was able to see one of the ferries take off! I also have this on video in my “Let’s Visit New London, CT” YouTube video on my YouTube channel. I was at the right place at the right time!

I walked back to the main square, and I continue down Bank Street. I continued to see an additional line of historic buildings housing different stores and restaurants. As it was early afternoon, I was getting hungry for lunch. I had heard great reviews of the Seehund German Pub & Restaurant along Bank Street. Along the way I passed by the Custom House Maritime Museum, the oldest operating custom house in the United States, and the Shaw Mansion. The Shaw Mansion was built by merchant Nathaniel Shaw in 1756 which is now owned by the New London County Historical Society since 1907. Nathaniel Shaw’s son, Nathaniel Shaw, Jr. also fought against the British during the American Revolutionary War. After I stopped looking at the Shaw Mansion, I turned to the left, and I saw the Seehund Restaurant. I walked inside, and I was immediately seated as there were not many people dining at all. For lunch, I wanted to try the chicken schnitzel sandwich with a side of German potato salad. Normally I am not a fan of potato salad, but I overheard another customer hyping about the potato salad, so I went ahead and ordered it. I am so glad I ordered it as it was delicious! The homemade German potato salad with the chicken schnitzel sandwich made for a great lunch. Eating at the local restaurants in any city or town is a great way to support local businesses and make great memories!

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After my lunch, I walked back to my car and paid for the parking. Fortunately, it did not cost much for the parking that day. Anyway, I drove out of the city, and I got back on I-95 to continue east toward Rhode Island. In my next blog entry for the New England road trip, I will discuss my voyage into Rhode Island and my arrival into Massachusetts. Thank you for reading, and this is Scott signing out!

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