Friday, September 9, 2016

Our Latest Travel Adventure: O Canada, Here We Come

Last year we had plans to take a camping vacation to Nova Scotia, but it was a bad years for our bees and we ended up staying home to feed them so they would have a chance of getting through the winter. Both our hives made it and we were blessed with a great season this year that let us expand to four hives. And so...our delayed trip was back on the calendar and we left yesterday on the first leg driving from Woodstock to Stafford Springs, CT which is close to...get ready...Woodstock. Today we spent the late morning and afternoon exploring.

We started in Stafford Springs which is a charming little town filled with beautiful Victorian homes. At one time it must have been an affluent community because many of the homes are expansive on large pieces of property. There was also a railroad running through town. One of the local shopkeepers told us Stafford was a mill town with a big business in wool. An old closed mill opened up a gain two years ago and rehired many of its former workers. We were fascinated so we stopped at the mill to see if they had anything about their history. Sadly, no, but the very kind lady at the desk showed us around the mill where they dye the wool and explained some of the other processes. The mill has a contract providing wool pea coats to the Navy and they also provide some clothing items to J. Crew. It was great to find something being made in the U.S.A.

The town is charming with a downtown that hasn't been inundated with all the chains that spoil the uniqueness of a place: no Mickey Ds, no dollar bill stores, just little coffee shops, restaurants, gift stores. a pottery place and an antique store that made us laugh that advertised "antiques and oddities." We still haven't decided whether we qualify as antiques  or oddities, perhaps a little of both.

From Stafford Springs we went exploring. We stopped at a state park called Bigelow Hollow where we took a short walk, too hot and humid for more. Then we drove off to find a cooler spot to have our picnic. We ended up at a winery, Taylor Brook, where we sampled a few offerings and bought a bottle to drink with our lunch out on their patio.

Funny thing, the winery was in Woodstock. We've been laughing ever since that we left Woodstock, traveled ten hours and ended up back in Woodstock. I took quite a few pictures with Woodstock on them just for fun.

Taylor Brook Winery and its friendly proprietor
After visiting the winery we headed toward Woodstock for fun and stopped abruptly when we saw Rosedale Cottage with an "open" flag flying. (The word "cottage" is used loosely since the house was larger than many mansions. The dining room table had enough extra leaves to seat 23!) It was the summer house of a New York businessman and his wife, Henry and Lucy Bowen, who had ten children, seven boys and three girls.

The house was bright pink and I do mean bright! The docent said it had been many shades of pink over the years but always was painted pink.

Tending the gardens at Rosedale Cottage. Note the trash can!
The family entertained four presidents there including Ulysses Grant who bowled on their personal bowling alley.  But when he lit up his famous cigar, Henry Bowen invited him to take it outdoors to the chagrin of his sons. Grant ended up not staying overnight at the house because he was forbidden to enjoy his nightly whiskey and cigar.

The gardens were beautiful and we spoke briefly to a lady pulling weeds and tending to the beds. Most of the dwarf boxwood edging the gardens goes back to the 1850s.

The interior of the house was impressive, and I enjoyed everything, but my favorite room belonged to daughter Grace. Our granddaughter, Grace, would love it. There was a sweet picture of the child holding her doll dressed in clothes made to model her own.

Our last stop for the day was a stand to buy some corn for dinner, a few apples, and some local cider and honey. The honey is totally different from ours -- thicker and a little heavier tasting, but delicious. I love to pick up honey from the places we visit on our travels.

Tomorrow, we'll say good-bye to Stafford Springs and head toward Bar Harbor. But what a lovely day we spent in this little spot in northern Connecticut. And what fond memories we take home with us as well as several bottles of local wine and the sweet harvest of Connecticut bees!

Downtown Stafford Springs

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