From the Mystic River to the Mystic River

... an easy ride into history

from Jim Tierney

Up the road apiece, about 100 miles on I-95 into Connecticut, you go from one Mystic to another. Why travel that distance when you have the Mystic River in your own back yard, in Everett, Charlestown, Chelsea, etc? Well, we may have the Mystic River, the Mystic Tobin, the Mystic Valley, etc, but we don’t have the Inn at Mystic, Mystic Seaport, Mistick Village, etc.

We FINALLY got to use a gift certificate to the Inn at Mystic that our children gave us 2 years ago, after several attempts were interrupted by other happenings. We stayed at the Inn’s main house, a regal Colonial Revival mansion built in 1904, overlooking manicured grounds with formal gardens, and Mystic Harbor and Long Island Sound. Our room was decorated with Victorian furniture, canopy bed, and a “hidden” closet that blended into the wall. We were afraid to move the picture over the fireplace that may open a secret passageway. We had the “run of the house”, including large living rooms, sitting areas, vestibules, kitchen, etc. Although there were only a few guest rooms in the mansion, other buildings increased the total rooms in the complex to sixty-eight.

There was a wedding reception at the mansion, while we were there, in a very large permanent tent area alongside the mansion. The “rules of the house” include that all activities stop at 9 PM and it was unusual to see a party end so early. The Inn’s “claim to fame” was that it was the honeymoon site of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in 1945, one of the steamiest May-December romances in Hollywood history. They even have an anniversary package dedicated to the event each year.

We visited Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea. America’s leading maritime museum houses the largest collection of historic boats and ships in the world. Stepping back in time, its 17 acre site is taken up by a re-created coastal seafaring village complete with a schoolhouse, church, and dozens of homes, stores and workshops that bring 19th century maritime America to life. Fully rigged sailing ships are docked here and open for visits. Among them, the Charles W. Morgan (1841), America’s last surviving wooden whaleship (complete with “blubber room”), and the 1882 Danish vessel Joseph Conrad. The exhibit “Voyages” examines the nation’s connection to its oceans, rivers, and lakes.

Mystic Seaport also features the S.S. Sabino, on which we took a cruise, one of the last coal-firing passenger-carrying steamboats still operating in the country. There is a daily regular schedule of events, including a whaleboating demonstration, a rope making demonstration, and spirits, shipwrecks, and superstitions talks. This was Arctic Boat Weekend, featuring Kayak rolling demonstrations, and building, launching, and paddling a Umiak (the original kayak, an Ituit and Eskimo large open wooden boat covered by stretched skins). The ship Amistad, subject of the slavery mutiny/ rebellion of 1839 and a Spielberg movie, was also docked here for visitors to board.

Another “don’t miss” is Old Mistick Village, a replica of early villages-a further step back into the 1700’s and vintage American charm and beauty. Its 60 quaint shops, include a unique collection of specialty shops, general store, candy store, restaurants, bakery, a colonial meeting house and Victorian Gazebo. Visiting downtown, you will experience the hustle and bustle of a busy community with more things to see, and you can blend in with the “natives” getting on with their daily lives. One of the highlights is watching everything and everyone come to a complete halt as the Main Street drawbridge goes up and down as the tall ships sail through out to the harbor, or back in. Most things described here are within walking distance, if you can walk comfortably, that is.

Although we didn’t wander too far from Mystic, other areas within a short driving distance are the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, the historic ship the Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine in Groton, Jonathan Edward Winery and Stonington Vineyards, Foxwoods, and Mohegan Sun, as well as many lighthouses along the coast.

It’s well worth the trip to Mystic Connecticut to see the “other” Mystic.

April 6, 2007

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