Johnna Kaplan writes ones of my favorite blogs about Connecticut, The Size of Connecticut, and we’ve even taken some day trips together (to Simsbury and to Saltwater Farm Vineyard), so I was thrilled she agreed to participate in my favorite places series.
How long have you lived in Connecticut, and what brought you to the state?
What brought me to Connecticut the first time was that my family moved here (to Westport) when I was very young. What brought me back about five years ago (to New London, then Putnam, then New London again) was discovering and becoming completely enamored with this whole other Connecticut that I never knew existed growing up. I’ve lived here for over twenty years if you add it all up, though it doesn’t feel that way.
What is your favorite town or region?
Oh, so many. My favorite regions are the Shoreline, which I guess I’d define as the coastal towns of New London and Middlesex Counties; northern Windham County with all that beautiful farmland, and the Connecticut River Valley from Old Saybrook and Essex up to Middletown. There are other places I love too though.
Favorite place in Connecticut to be outdoors?
It’s hard to narrow it down, and the answer will probably change when I find some entirely new place next week. But a few of them are Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, the Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, and any walking trail that combines a unique downtown with a history lesson. Coventry and Putnam both have trails like this, based on their old mills.
Favorite place to be indoors?
I’m usually more comfortable in new (to me) places, so I love going to a town or city and finding a coffee shop I haven’t been to. Most Connecticut towns, even the very small ones, seem to have good ones. For example I was in Stafford Springs recently and went to a cool cafe called Middle Ground, right by the railroad tracks.
The most amazing interior I can think of though, purely visually, is the Garde Arts Theatre in New London.
Restaurant you take out-of-towners to?
In New London this is tough because as soon as you find one, it closes! I usually use visitors as an excuse to go someplace different I want to try. But I always take them to Muddy Waters for breakfast, and they always demand to be taken back. In Putnam it was 85 Main or Bella’s or Victoria Station.
Favorite Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter activities to do in Connecticut?
In Winter, when it’s not too cold and snowy, I love the beach – any beach. Solitary, dramatic, and free.
Fall is for farm stands and apple cider, and just being out among the changing leaves. It’s also perfect weather for walking anywhere, either in the woods or along some pretty street full of shops.
In the Spring, just trying to figure out what the heck to wear every morning takes up all my energy. Seriously, if I’m forced to leave my apartment during a Connecticut Spring, I think waterfronts, like near the docks in port cities, are the only places that are really beautiful in the rain and fog, with the seagulls freaking out in the sky.
In Summer I love vineyards, long drives in rural areas, and ice cream stands at dairy farms. I also like that tense, baking feeling of cities in very hot weather – maybe I just miss New York!
Read more favorite places.
Johnna Kaplan is a freelance writer and compulsive traveler based in Southeastern Connecticut. Her work has been published in Newsweek, the Christian Science Monitor, and various online travel magazines. She blogs about her conflicted relationship with the Constitution State at The Size of Connecticut and has written columns on local history and covered local news and travel for numerous Patch.com sites in the state. Her essay “Flyover Country” was published in Travelers’ Tales The Best Travel Writing 2011. For more, visit Johnna’s website or follow her on Twitter.
Photo / Ruth Kaplan