If you are one of the 14 million people living in the New York metropolitan area or even one of those who will visit the region this autumn, here’s a tip; Set aside a day, hop on the MetroNorth train to Connecticut and visit Old Greenwich, my little town.
For the entirely reasonable price of around $8, an electric train will carry you from the congested chaos of the city to the tranquil Nutmeg State and voila! there you are in New England. Didn’t think it could be so easy did you? You can thank me later.
The mantra in our home from the beginning of September until the last golden leaf has fluttered to the ground is “Thank God we live in Connecticut in the fall.” Which is why this little excursion is so perfectly timed for you to take advantage of. Right. Now. So get up and get moving. No, wait. Let me provide you with an itinerary first.
Your destination is Old Greenwich, that’s Old but not Olde, and on this trip you won’t leave without seeing proof that the first settlement of greater Greenwich was established right here in 1641.
When you step off the train, fifty-five short minutes after boarding and getting to watch urban dissolve into suburban right before your very eyes – head to the main street in town, called Sound Beach Avenue.
Walk as far as you like. One mile will take you to the end of Sound Beach Avenue, past some beautiful, stately homes and to the right, you will see the rambling, straight-out-of-a-movie, Harbor House Inn at the edge of Long Island Sound.
Now choose between Applausi Osteria (Italian) or the Beach Cafe for a more formal meal or the Upper Crust Bagel Shop, (Yeah, I’ve had Zabars, these bagels are better.) or Sound Beach Pizza Grill and Deli for fantastic hand-tossed pizzas, calzones and other Italian luncheon fare. Don’t eat too much, you’ve got a walk ahead of you.
Back toward the direction of the train and up the hill and you’ll see the original 17th century cemetery of the First Congregational Church. Headstones here go back 300 years and those names; Potter, Palmer, Binney, well they show up on street signs in town, too.
Cross the street and stroll around Binney Park, bequeathed to Greenwich by the Crayola Crayon magnate, Edwin Binney and his wife. At the pond stop and imagine how nice it would be to ice skate here and duck into the gazebo for a hot chocolate. When it’s good and cold residents do just that – minus the hot chocolate unless we bring our own – but back when Olympic gold medal winner Dorothy Hamill used to practice on this very pond, I hear there cocoa was served in the shelter by the fire.
Cross back over at the red brick Perrot Library a private/public lending library with a sunny airy second floor reading room that’s worth a visit. Okay, go ahead and use the computers to check your email if you like, we don’t mind, but don’t linger! You can do that anytime, but more of Old Greenwich remains to be seen.
From the library go away from Sound Beach Avenue on Harding Road towards the Helen Binney Kitchel Natural Park. Half way up the block you’ll see the trail leading in. When my kids were little, this is where we would go for our Thanksgiving morning hike and we would pose for our Christmas card photos here. Speaking of thanks, you’re likely to see some of the wild turkeys who live here. That ought to get you into the spirit of the season.
You can return the way you came or make a big loop around the backside of town by the Old Greenwich Riverside Community Center which will give you a brief look at some of the homes and the Innis Arden Golf Club. Those big iron gates outside the club have a story. They used to stand in front of the 37 room mansion J. Kennedy Tod owned on the point of land that is now Greenwich’s largest waterfront recreation area. When the house came down the gates went to the golf club he designed and founded in 1899.
Keep walking down past the golf course and in about half a mile, you will end up at Tomac Cove. This lovely, tiny park on the water is the site of the founding of Old Greenwich. Read the plaque for the full story, then enjoy the antics of the swans and ducks who live in the cove.
When you start to think about heading home, before you get on the train stop in at the shopping plaza beyond the railroad tracks and get a little something for the road. What kind of “something” you ask? That’s up to you.
Longford‘s serves amazing homemade ice cream and I’m not using the word “amazing” loosely. For something more adult, MacKenzies is in the same plaza. It is our neighborhood pub where everyone; local or out-of-towner is made to feel welcome.
After all, how friendly must we be to invite all of you to come on over for the day?
Now you can thank me.