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» Monday, October 19, 2015I Capture the Castle...But Don't Get to Keep It
We have several days already planned, but today was one of the unplanned ones. So I thought "Why not go to Gillette Castle?"
Gillette Castle has nothing to do with the guy who made the razors or the stadium where the New England Patriots play. William Gillette was a stage actor from the turn of the last century, a very celebrated actor, and a matinee idol. As one website commented, "He was the Benedict Cumberbatch of his day." He was also a playwright and an author, but his main claim to fame is that he brought Sherlock Holmes to the stage. This was after Arthur Conan Doyle, wanting to concentrate on more "serious" books, killed Holmes off in the last of his second set of short stories for the "Strand" magazine. Gillette got the rights to do a Holmes play, and, famously, he asked Doyle if he could have Holmes get married in the story. Doyle said offhandedly, "You may marry him or murder him!" He didn't care. So Holmes does marry in the play and there is no Watson. More importantly, it was Gillette, and not Doyle, who introduced the three things most associated with Sherlock Holmes: the calabash pipe, the deerstalker hat, and the Inverness cape. (Holmes does wear a deerstalker in at least one illustration, but he did not favor one. It's a hunting cap, for one!)
Gillette owned a good deal of beautiful land in southeastern Connecticut and had a good deal of money to go with it, so he built a three-story stone home, his "Castle," on the property. The house and grounds are now a state park.
So after breakfast we headed south, listening to "A Way With Words" and "Travel With Rick Steves." We were sent south on I-95, then I-295 to US6 through western Rhode Island. Good ol' "Suicide 6" doesn't seem to have been repaired since I left home, full of ruts and patches and uneven spots; thankfully we were soon on I-395 and headed in to Connecticut. We had some very nice fall color at the sides of the road, as brilliant as yesterday, but especially when we came off the freeway onto Connecticut route 82 through Norwich and westbound toward East Haddam. This was a lovely country road, with overhanging tree branches, dotted with homes, and swirls of golden leaves at every turn. This led to an even narrower country road into the park.
Except the Castle was closed for the season. Sigh... I remember when things were open until Hallowe'en. Now everything closes on bloody Columbus Day.
We were able to go into the visitor's center, and there is memorabilia there, including two deerstalker hats that Gillette used on stage. Like Walt Disney, later in his life Gillette got interested in small gauge railroad trains. The engine for one is in the center of the visitor center. So I took photos there, and of the beautiful view outside (like Biltmore House, the Castle was placed in that spot for a reason!), and the Castle through the trees.
I was disappointed, but the ride on the country road was totally worth it. People say they want to find a place where there are no fast-food restaurants? Come to this part of Connecticut (near East Haddam). We didn't even see a local restaurant, just barns and homes and groves of lovely trees.
Anyway, once on a book blog I had read about a place in Connecticut called The Book Barn that is just that, a barn. It looked like, online, one of those funky places with lots of wind chimes, funny signs, and little nooks. So I set the GPS for it. Just before we got there, we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for lunch. James had a ham-and-cheese on multigrain bagel, and I had a chicken salad on a "French roll." The chicken salad wasn't much, but the bread was worth the price of the sandwich.
So we arrive at the Book Barn, which is on the road with the house in the rear, and it's exactly as it looks online, one of those funky places with lots of wind chimes, funny signs, and little nooks! There are little sheds of different shapes between the barn and the house with books in them. Out front is where they buy books, a yard that is full of little carts with books in them, and then you walk on paths behind with garden benches, toys for kids to play with, a pen with two goats (one who tried to get me to feed her goat feed, but I didn't have the quarter), a small waterfall surrounded by garden decorations, a pathway decorated for Hallowe'en, a little kids' playhouse, a bigger shed in the back with mystery books called "The Haunted Bookshop," another airy shed with poetry and classics, and just cunning little signs, gnomes, metal flowers, etc. Up in the barn were histories, childrens and teens, self-help, and some others.
I found a travel book written by a man who travels from each of the World War I battle sites, part history, part travelogue, and part memoir, and James got a full-color book on aircraft. I told the cashier that I was looking for Christmas books and old children's books, and she directed us to the midtown store just down the street, but I didn't see either in the store! Maybe she misunderstood. Whatever. I found some L. Neil Smith books to replace James' missing ones, and a Third Doctor "missing adventure" with Jo and the Brigadier and the Master...jolly! There are four stores total, the actual barn (the original store, which the family has run for 28 years), the midtown store, the downtown store, and store number 4, which was closer to the Dunkin Donuts.
For the rest of the afternoon we went to the USS Nautilus museum in Groton. We've been there before, but James wanted to see if there was anything new, and there was: a new exhibit on the submarine NR1, which was retired in 2008. I took a few new pictures of the place, and tried out the panorama feature on the camera on the submarine itself. We did not go on it again as James would be unable to go below.
They closed at four, despite the notation on the website to the contrary, so we headed back to the hotel. However, I was keeping an eye on the time and as we approached Warwick noticed that it was bumper-to-bumper on the I-95 Cranston and Providence/Pawtucket traffic corridor. So I suggested to James that we stop somewhere to eat. And since we were pretty close to Iggy's, we went there (I told James we could go to The Inn, but he remembered how large the portions were; we have no place for leftovers).
We sat on the porch, which is enclosed for the winter although the sparrows can get under the covers; one did while were there and cheeped and flew around until he found his way out. Outside the seagulls cawed and quarreled among themselves, taking to the air and sailing around and then landing again. The ocean was like rippled midnight blue glass under a cloudless blue sky.
James ordered a shrimp platter and I a lobster roll; these came with exquisitely crunchy-outside fluffy-inside french fries, some not-overly-sweetened cole slaw, and tasty clam chowder. The lobster roll was seriously delicious, but now that I have eaten both kinds (this one with celery and a hot one with butter at Durgin Park on our last trip), I like the buttered kind better. :-)
And while we were there the sun lowered and shimmered orange on the edge of the horizon and then was gone, leaving only a emberglow in its wake and soon even that was gone. Sunsets always remind me of my parents. Mom would be in the kitchen washing dishes while Dad was in the parlor watching television. The parlor faced north and west and he could always see the sunset. If it was starting to look spectacular he would call for my mother and they would watch the sunset together.
Some traditions should go on.
Well, traffic was still stalled downtown, so I directed James to go down West Shore Road and follow 117 so we could get on I-295 again. Unfortunately, Apponaug apparently is undergoing another "streetlift." I swear every time we are instate they are fixing the road somewhere in Apponaug. There are orange barrels everywhere and we couldn't turn where we needed and had to wind our way around it. So by the time we got to 295 the traffic downtown was gone, but we used 295 anyway. We were heading directly to the hotel, but the GPS dropped us off right near the Barnes & Noble we couldn't get into last night, so...
I now have two of my four calendars for next year: a big New England calendar for work and a smaller one for my craft room. I was trying to find a 7 1/2 inch one for the spare room, where I usually put a travel-oriented calendar, but they didn't have anything local. I can get the generic calendars anywhere. I'll get a Susan Branch for our bedroom as usual.
So we're back at the hotel. Saw the end of an episode of The Waltons, Jay Leno's Garage, and are now on Castle, which is even more ridiculous than last week's show. The producers say they are trying to get back the "first-season feeling" again. Dammit, we've already done first season. What is with Ryan and Esposito being comic relief and Castle acting stupid? And Beckett is definitely not acting as she did in first season; she's eye-rolling and indulgent. It's horrendous.
Of course anything is better than what they're replacing it with for two weeks, some dreadful-sounding series about a pair of serial killers who are sexually involved with each other and find murdering people exciting. Where do series producers get these creepy ideas?