Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow and Books, 8

So many plans for the blog this week, all ruined by snow. Ah, well. Such is Connecticut, I suppose. And this is why I have travel guides.

I almost didn't buy Book #8, Lonely Planet's New England's Best Trips: 32 Amazing Road Trips. I know that any book claiming to cover all of New England in 350 pages is probably going to shaft Connecticut. And as if to prove me right, when I opened the book I saw that each New England state was given a section of its own, except for Connecticut and Rhode Island, which were combined like semi-forgotten younger siblings forced to share a creaky bunk bed while the bigger kids get their own rooms.

But then I started flipping through it, and the Connecticut drives looked really tempting. Even though I'd essentially done them all many times. I'm a sucker for a road trip, always, so I took the book home.

Despite knowing exactly how tedious it can be to compile travel information of the "if you go" variety, I found myself  envying the fun I imagined writers Mara Vorhees, Amy C Balfour, Paula Hardy, and Caroline Sieg having as they drove around the region. And despite the book's omissions - which I am trying not to fault too much because you have to edit somewhere - I wanted to go outside, remove the snow from my car, point it vaguely towards Maine, and drive.

Today I Learned:  September is described as "shoulder season," i.e., in between the summer/fall high and the winter low. If that's the case in most guides intended for national and international consumption, it means one of Connecticut's most beautiful weather months is ALL OURS. Brooklyn is home to the Meadow Stone Farm Shoppe. How had I never known about this place? If it still exists, I'm going in the spring. [Update: or maybe not.] Hartford was once called, apparently, "the filing cabinet of America."

Amusements: "Those in the know pick up lunch" at Jonathan Edwards Winery, according to this guide. Umm, pretty sure "those in the know" actually go someplace that isn't guaranteed to be packed so full you can't get served, like for instance any of the other wineries. Gillette Castle is called a "ruined Gothic folly." I...think it's supposed to look like that?

Listings: For each state, the guide details several road trips, lasting from about two to five days. Within each of these, a few options for dining and accommodation (mostly well-known and entirely predictable spots) are listed, along with attractions to visit along the way. These are mostly museums, historic sites, State Parks, and so on. The Connecticut drives are: Quiet Corner, Connecticut Wine Trail, Lower River Valley, and Litchfield Hills Loop.

I wish there were more Connecticut cities involved in the trips. Many cities in other states get a mini walking tour called "Stretch Your Legs," but in Connecticut only New Haven qualifies for that. New London, for example, is reduced to one restaurant. And some of my favorite towns are completely MIA too. (Putnam? What's Putnam?)

Scattered throughout are little snippets of trivia, local tips, and information on how to link two road trips together. States are color-coded, and for each drive there's a little legend about who will enjoy it (e.g. families), or what it offers (e.g. outdoors, history.) Visually, the book is bright and organized and carefully put together, and though the writing never attempts to be entertaining in itself, if I'd had the time I would have read this thing cover to cover because all the suggestions sound so enjoyable.

The book also highlights a few "Classic Drives," which cover several states and take longer to complete. Connecticut's appearances in this category include the Fall Foliage Tour, Coastal New England, and the Ivy League Tour, but not (insultingly) the Connecticut River Byway.

The photos range from "average tourist snapshot" to "dang, I wish I'd taken that" and I suspect they're exactly the sorts of pics that make foreign visitors want to come here.

By the way, if you last looked at a Lonely Planet guide when the brand was all about hippies and shoestring budgets, this is not that. This is Max Downtown and the Inn at Kent Falls.

Quote: This book isn't really into quotes, so I'll go with this little understatement of the century: "Some of the region's big, old cities can be difficult to navigate." Yes they can, Lonely Planet, yes they can.

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