and yes, i realize i am posting this in spring. shut up.
Meals With a View
Connecticut’s winding country roads provide optimal views of fall’s
most vibrant foliage, with quaint eateries providing stops along the way.
by Geoff Elterich
As a child, it was simply magic that changed green leaves to wonderful shades of red, yellow, brown and orange. Of course, we learned a long time ago that as the temperature gets colder, chlorophyll breaks down, revealing the vibrant inner colors of the leaves. If you need to be reminded of the beauty attached to this simple, natural occurrence, there are plenty of places you can visit in Connecticut that are sure to illustrate how magical nature can be.
Connecticut’s scenic delights range from hilltop panoramas to colonial villages, from deep forests to busy cities. As the capital city, Hartford boasts many historical sites and structures. Amidst the city’s metropolitan landscape, beautiful parks abound, such as Bushnell Park and Elizabeth Park. Perfect for walking or picnicking, these parks allow folks an opportunity to enjoy the foliage and unwind from the everyday hustle of the city. For a more rural approach to foliage exploration, a drive down route 169 presents travelers with a perfect illustration of Connecticut’s scenic marvels. It is a quaint drive through the Pomfret and Woodstock area with everything a traveler might expect to find on a drive through small town New England. Stonewalls and low-hanging trees line the one-lane road. Gorgeous rustic houses and barns are interspersed along the winding route and travelers will find the most charming local shops and businesses. Martha’s Herbary in Pomfret is a “unique gift shop” that sells plants and herbs and offers cooking classes. At the New England Center for Contemporary Art in Brooklyn, 20th century art blooms along with the vivid colors of the fall foliage. For real adventurers, the Woodstock Airport offers $20 airplane rides for an aerial view of the countryside.
If you’d rather stay grounded this autumn, Lapsley Farms is a great stop for the hungry traveler. There, you can pick your own apples or just eat some fresh ones. There are plenty of fruit stands all along Route 169, with a wide selection of the best fresh fruits. Those looking for a full meal will have no problem finding great spots to satisfy any appetite. The Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret is a wonderful little diner with a great selection of sandwiches and soup. On a foliage watching expedition, it should be mandatory to get the New England clam chowder—it’s delicious and a perfect compliment to the cozy, traditional New England setting of the café. The building is split into two sections: one room for lunch, and the other for dinner, which is served on weekends. The dinner specials range from sea scallops to beef ribs and to complement the meal, one can choose from a wide variety of wine and beer. A glass display case in the front room exhibits all of the cafe’s delicious desserts, making it almost impossible to pass up on the peanut butter chocolate chip brownies, or any number of treats.
Another fantastic dining experience for the foliage explorer is The Golden Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn, not far off of Route 169. On a hill overlooking the gorgeous countryside, The Golden Lamb appears as a large, classic red barn. Sheep and cows can be seen grazing on the premises. In the fall—year-round, really—beautiful sights abound, with open, rolling fields surrounded by the dense woods. Inside, the building feels like a rustic museum. It is a refurbished barn, with a high ceiling, wooden floors and thick wood beams from the floor to the ceiling. The front parlor is adorned with pictures of animals and the Connecticut countryside. Farm tools are decorated and on display, and a history of The Golden Lamb, as told through newspaper and magazine articles, hang on the wall. The kitchen is open from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays, serving delicious home-cooked meals. The dining room is located in the back of the building, through an unmarked door, as if a meeting place for a secret society lies beyond. In fact, the whole place gives off the feeling that one has stumbled onto a secret treasure, tucked deep into the Connecticut woods, there for only the true-of-heart explorers to find.
There is also a back porch for dining, or for simply taking in the breathtaking view. The porch overlooks a small lake, surrounded on all sides by lush foliage. If there is any one scene that best represents Connecticut’s fall foliage, this is it. Looking down from on top of the hill, one will see the luxurious forest give off a burnished glow. There is a virtual explosion of cherry reds, lime greens, shades of auburn, and bright yellows in the canopy of leaves above the sparkling waters of the lake. The scene would be a perfect postcard for autumn in Connecticut.
If Route 169 is not exactly your neck of the woods, there are plenty of other routes to take for a leaf peeping expedition. In fact, all you have to do to find beautiful Connecticut foliage is look out the window. Better yet, go for a walk. Smell the fragrant scents of the fading summer and feel the cool crisp air of the impending winter. One occasionally forgets the beauty that lies at our fingertips. Being continually surrounded by it, it can become overlooked, simply serving as the background. Sometimes you have to get in your car, or get on your bike, or strap on your boots and take a hike, with the expressed purpose of viewing the scenery, to remind you how stunning Connecticut’s background can be.
For residents, the knowledge of the beauty of fall in Connecticut is almost innate. Every resident has his or her own favorite spot to take in the beauty. Connecticut’s reputation for autumn splendor has even expanded beyond state borders. National Geographic Traveler and the Rand McNally Atlas rank the Litchfield Hills among the country’s most scenic driving destinations. Like so many Connecticut towns, Litchfield combines history and contemporary flair. Amidst the rolling Litchfield Hills, you will find historic structures—18th century mansions are kept as homes—as well as upscale boutiques and restaurants. A visit to town in autumn puts foliage aficionados in the heart of a region noted for its scenic driving, hiking, biking and antiquing.
A sign on the wall at the Vanilla Bean Café states, “Simplify.” It’s a perfect message in this day and age, when our lives seem to be getting more and more complex. It is more important now than ever to take time to appreciate simple pleasures and the beauty of nature. A simple drive reveals nature’s splendor all around us. There is so much opportunity to view Connecticut’s simple, magnificent beauty, you just need to keep your eyes open. On your way to work, remember to look around and take in the beauty. The Merritt Parkway is the ideal route for many New York and Connecticut commuters. It is one of the oldest and most beautifully designed highways in the country. With abundant roadside forests and vegetation, it boasts some of the most impressive fall foliage settings. Route 2 is another place to keep one eye on the road and the other on the surroundings. Stretching from Hartford to the Mohegan and Pequot Indian reservations, the route is one of the most pleasant drives in the state during the fall.
To enjoy the natural beauty of Connecticut in autumn, you don’t need a defined destination. Driving through the state, one truly discovers that the journey is more fulfilling than the destination. There are plenty of routes to take and places to visit, but if you’re simply looking for beautiful sights, get lost. Get in your car or put on your boots and just go. It is in paths untrodden that one finds the true splendor of nature. In Connecticut, nature’s beauty is never far away.
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