Friday, December 6, 2013

Exploring Beautiful Connecticut

What does an African elephant, a famous circus owner, midgets, famous woman writer and a child adventure writer all have in common?  Well, all you have to do is go to Connecticut to find out.

When we drove into Connecticut from Massachusetts we didn’t see much difference in landscape.  We saw green trees, green grass, green everywhere, dark lakes, miles and miles of country roads and Interstates with little towns or villages dotted here and there.  When we drove into our campground in upper CT we felt like we were back in CO with pine trees and lakes and rolling hills.

Our first trip was to see the capitol of Connecticut, Hartford.  To see the State Capitol was such a surprise to what I expected.  This was such a huge, impressive structure that sat upon a hill overlooking the city.  We decided to go inside and explore and we were shocked to see the creativity and designs that went into this monument of a capitol.  It was built in 1878 in a high Victorian Gothic style and is a National Historic Landmark. The marble floors, fountains, custom tiles, statues, designs on the walls and woodwork were all amazing.

The state’s hero and native born to Connecticut was Nathan Hale, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” guy and there is a huge statue of him at the entrance to the capitol. I have to put this capitol on the top of the ‘best state capitol building’ in the USA, so far.

Next, it was off to the Barnum Museum which housed a lot of the famous circus’s memorabilia.  As we pulled up to the building which was located in downtown Bridgeport, CT, I was not disappointed by such a different, red sandstone majestic building. 

The only thing that disappointed me was they had a tornado hit the building (yes, a tornado in CT) in 2011 and it did so much damage to most of the stored and displayed items and structure of the old building that they haven’t been able to open the museum up to its full capacity (lack of money) since.  Picking up my disappointment off the floor we were then escorted by a young volunteer showing just a few items in a small section of the museum.  We were able to see Tom Thumb’s personal horse carriage, chairs, sofa, circus wagon, etc. 
                                                          Tom Thumb's personal carriage
                                                                       Old circus wagon

 Then there was Mrs. Tom Thumb’s wedding dress, some of Mr. Barnum’s personal furniture, pictures of Jumbo the elephant (after he died he was stuffed). 
We put our money into the donation box and hoped that the museum would be restored in the near future. We walked around downtown Bridgeport for a little while but weren’t impressed with Bridgeport at all.  It was old and not in a good way, very depressed city that had better days. After a nice lunch in an Italian restaurant we were off to downtown Hartford.

We wanted to see Yale University while we were there, so we drove around the college and just took pictures of the buildings. 
Next we parked the car and walled around old town Hartford to experience the flavor of this college town.  What a delightful town, lots of shopping, food and upbeat attitude.   No I didn’t buy a “Yale” tee shirt, just felt it wasn’t me….I’m more of a MIT kinda gal…sure!

This statue of Mark Twain was made out of Legos

One of the places George really wanted to go to was the Mark Twain House.  We found out that the house and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house are right next to each other, so we bought the ticket to see both.  Mark Twain is such an American icon and so I was excited to see his custom house.  What a surprise.  It started off at the entrance to the museum….there stood a six foot replica of Mark Twain in Lego’s.  Next it was a short film by Ken Burns talking about Samuel Clemens’ life.  He was quite the traveler and had many jobs (riverboat pilot, printer, journalist and prospector in NV) before he settled down when he was 34 with his new wife Olivia Langdon. 

 They hired a famous architect to design this amazing home.  What impressed me the most about the home was Samuel’s comment about it.  He said he was the happiest when he was in the house writing and raising his four children.  His comment was he felt it had a heart and it welcomed them to live there (my feeble attempt to remember what was actually said).  One of my favorite stories about him living there was the fact that he would have his daughters (he lost his son as a toddler) come downstairs in the library before bedtime and he would start telling them a story and then use everything laid out on the mantle (the servants changed up the various vases, statues, assorted memorabilia daily) to embellish the story.  He also would pretend to be an animal and chase the girls in the glass atrium that held a small pond and lots of plants and trees.  It sounded like he really enjoyed his children and was a good father.

Then it was a short walk next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe's home (she wrote ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin").  It was a smaller home which was built much earlier than the Twain House.  One thing I learned from the house tour was she was an artist and there were many painting of hers throughout the home.  After seeing the house I decided to read 'Uncle Tom’s Cabin' and am enjoying it.  That book caused quite a stir in society when it came out in I know why.
We have seen and experienced so much while on the east coast that I feel like I could teach a college course on the subject! 

FYI:  One thing we laugh about is no matter how fast we go (as much as 10 miles over the speed limit) the cars in the back of us always act like we are at a snail’s pace.  I guess the speed limit is ‘just a suggestion’ in CT, NY and MA.
Happy traveling, Peggy (plus George & Coco)





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