Friday, April 22, 2016

The Wait Is Over

Most people, if asked to imagine a sidewalk situated between some busy train tracks and a nuclear power plant, would picture something pretty unappealing. Those who have been to Niantic recently, however, might conjure up something like this.

The mile-long Niantic Bay Boardwalk, having been under construction for seemingly forever (it was damaged by hurricanes Irene and Sandy) is now finally fully open. That means walkers can access the boardwalk from both Hole-in-the-Wall Beach and Cini Park, and stroll the length of it uninterrupted by orange cones, warning signs, or wire fences.

As you walk along the boardwalk, seagulls strutting below and Acela trains speeding by above, there are signs explaining various facets of Niantic's past and the ecology of the region. There are steps down to the beach, as well, if you want to get off the concrete and onto the sand.

The new boardwalk was built to withstand harsh coastal storms, and there is something inherently New England about the way it encourages visitors to appreciate this area's subtly astonishing beauty - even as commuters whoosh past to more exciting destinations and industry lurks in the distance - while we can, before we're all swept away.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ocean Beach Park

In last week's post on Waterford Beach Park, I mentioned that that unspoiled stretch of coastline is adjacent to New London's Ocean Beach Park.

I was about to add a link to my previous post about Ocean Beach Park, but to my surprise I discovered that I have never written a post on Ocean Beach Park.

It had appeared here, in some early posts, in the form of a few pictures with vague text. But amazingly, I had never thought to sit down and write an entire post about this popular southeastern Connecticut destination. (I say popular; that's in the summer. In the fall, winter, and spring, this old-fashioned waterfront entertainment spot with soft white "sugar sand" and a lovely wide boardwalk is practically deserted.)

So here it is: I'm writing a post to tell you to go to Ocean Beach Park.

Walk along the boardwalk and you'll see ferries crossing the sound, passing the New London Ledge Light as they come and go.

At both ends of the boardwalk, you can stop and stare out at the horizon, or step onto the sand and walk further.

There's food available (though not in April.)

There's a playground, too.

And a miniature golf course.

There are also amusement park rides. (This is not one of them.)

 And all of it is refreshingly retro.

Looking at this view, you wouldn't think of Robert Moses, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, or Polka festivals, but all three of these figure into Ocean Beach Park's past. (I know this because I once wrote an article called "Fun Facts About Ocean Beach."

As crowded as the park gets during the summers now, it was even more of a scene in its early years.

But once you get out past the boardwalk, everything changes.

This is where the waves of Long Island Sound meet the marshy, sheltered Alewife Cove.

Follow the Alewife Cove Nature Walk, and you'll see a completely different side of this beach.

It's calmer here, and quieter, but it's wilder, too.

Even in the off-season, when the boardwalk is empty, this trail feels emptier still, and practically untouched.

That's not the case, obviously. Though it might feel like you're the first person to have strolled out this way, you are not. Luckily the people who came before you built an observation deck.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Secret Beach

Shhh. This is a secret.

Well not really; no place can be a true secret in a state as small and old and densely populated as Connecticut. But Waterford Beach Park, tucked between Harkness Memorial State Park and New London's Ocean Beach Park, can certainly feel like an untouched spot, carefully concealed behind salt marshes and sand dunes.

In the summer there are fees, but in the off-season this stunning sliver of coastline is free and frequently empty. Just thought I'd pass that on.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The New London Mural Walk

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I'm living in New London again. I haven't really had time to re-explore the city yet, but the other day I took advantage of a free hour and went downtown to check out what's known as "New England's largest mural walk."

New London's walls have been adorned with murals for as long as I can remember, and residents and visitors have admired them (or not, as the case may be - some people apparently become apoplectic  at the sight of a Caryatid) for many years. But in 2012, Hygienic Art and the City of New London, along with other local cultural and business organizations, made it official, dedicating Wall to Wall: the New London Mural Walk.

Though I was already aware of most of the murals on this self-guided tour, I wanted to do the Walk properly, starting at the Hygienic building on Bank Street and following the New London Mural Walk map. I'm glad I did, because it forced me to pay attention to a few newer works that I hadn't realized were part of a larger plan. There's a little something here for everyone, except I suppose people who dislike art and walking. If you dislike art and walking, you'd be well advised to skip this attraction, but then, you probably wouldn't have clicked on this post in the first place. Anyway. There's a wall of Wyland whales here, and, if you venture indoors, a collection of WPA murals and a lobby full of Sol LeWitt. There are works by newer artists as well, and references to New London's history and culture(s), and nods to classical art. (The murals in this post are just a few of the ones you'll see if you take this route.)

But you don't need a map to appreciate how public art has proliferated in New London recently. Just wander, and keep your eyes open.


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