Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fond Memories of Mystic, Connecticut

The first time I visited Mystic, I was 6 years old. The year was 1976, the country’s bicentennial, and my family took the quintessential 1970’s family vacation. Dad and Mom loaded the sailboat (a small sunfish-type boat) on top of the “grocery getter” (a wood-paneled Town and Country station wagon), piled the three kids in the backseat, and swung by grandma’s house to pick her up. There we all went to Cape Cod, Massachusetts with a stop in Mystic on the way. I have fond memories of the trip – seeing the tall ships decorated in the stars and stripes for the bicentennial, jumping over sand dunes on the Cape, and being saved by Dad from the hungry jaws of a sand shark as I was about to get out of the sailboat. O.k. so maybe small sharks do seem bigger when you are six!

Eagle under sail.
I remember visiting the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle on this trip and, to this day, love to tour it whenever possible. The 295-foot Eagle is America’s only tall ship. Ironically, the ship that trains our “coasties” was built in Germany in 1936 and was one of three sail-training ships operated by the pre-World War II German Navy. The U.S. took possession of the ship at the close of the war as war reparation. She was re-commissioned as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and has been stationed in New London, CT ever since. When I was contemplating what college to attend, I was interested in the academy. My mom was quick to point out that maybe military service was not the right choice for me because; as she put it to me bluntly, I don’t follow orders very well and prefer giving them rather than receiving them. I also made the realization that my grades were probably not sufficient to be admitted to such a prestigious place of higher learning. An honest assessment on both our parts. I never did join the Coast Guard.

One morning Betsy and I decided to make the short drive to New London and visit the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. We were sorely disappointed when we arrived at the academy only to learn that the museum was closed because the curator was not there and no one else could let us in. We drove through the campus which seemed quite sterile and bland compared to the U.S. Naval Academy. The town of New London is far more industrial and less charming than Mystic so we decided to head back.
We were easily able to occupy ourselves for four days in and around Mystic. There are casinos, shopping, beaches, museums and galleries, the CT wine trail, boating, and great dinning. The Mystic Aquarium has wonderful indoor and outdoor exhibits with the highlight being the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibit in the U.S.

Black-footed penguin at the aquarium.

The belugas captivate children
as well as adults.
 A short drive from the aquarium is the village of Mystic Seaport the Museum of America and the Sea. This waterfront facility is a re-creation of a 19th century coastal village. The streets are lined with more than 30 authentic 1800’s trade shops and businesses that were brought to the site from towns throughout New England. Docked along the harbor are wooden sailing ships available for touring (including “The Amistad” slave ship) and short cruises. Currently, the seaport is undergoing renovation of the only surviving wooden whaling ship in the world. The monumental 10 million dollar project is on-display and visitors can board the ship during the restoration or watch the sawmill in action from a viewing area. Mystic Seaport is a “must-see” and one could easily spend a full-day there. We spent our final half hour in their bookstore which has an extensive selection of maritime books. With a book on Ernest Shackleton’s expedition on the Nimrod in hand, we departed the seaport and headed for a lobster pound.

Mystic seaportt village.

Tugs are one type of boat
on display at Mystic Seaport.

An old oyster processing house.
An exhibit on figureheads that decorate the bow of

Needless to point out for everyone who knows Betsy, she is a real “lobstaholic”! In fact we found a t-shirt with that on it and she has been wearing it proudly as she is eating lobster. Mystic was our first exposure on this adventure to New England steamer clams and lobster to buy in lobster pounds or in restaurants. So far, not a day has not gone by that she hasn’t eaten either one. They are cheap here and we have been buying them and cooking them at our campsite. It’s so much fun to be outside eating lobsters and steamers.

Only a true "lobstaholic" wears this t-shirt!

More photos from Mystic Seaport....

The last surviving wooden whaling ship in the U.S. getting a make-over.

All pieces and parts of the ship are fabricated onsite, including the wooden pegs that will
hold the planks in place.

Six different species of wood are used in the restoration.

Above the sawmill, are exhibits that explain the restoration process and causes of deterioration
of the ship.

Downtown Mystic.

The park and waterfront in downtown Mystic.

Look what we found for dinner!

Yummy and cheap.

1 comment:

  1. My uncle was an Admiral in the Coast Guard. Loves the Academy and loves the Coast Guard. He would have gotten you into the museum.


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