For My Birthday Getaway That Brought Me Back to New England: Part I/Introduction and Connecticut Activities
As I mentioned in my recent birthday blog (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2013/02/for-my-31st-birthday.html), I went on a weekend trip to Rhode Island. Technically I went to Connecticut and Rhode Island. I always like to make the most out of a trip.
I knew that on my way up to Newport, Rhode Island I would be passing Hartford, Connecticut and Mark Twain’s house. As it turns out Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house was nearby and I would get to see that too. They are landmarks. I have these on my hit list for quite a while. I love to see where famous people have lived. It is inspiring to me especially when they are writers or political leaders. Sometimes you get lucky and get both.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was a woman light years ahead of her time. Famous for her book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (I proudly picked up my copy at the gift shop); she defied society convention as a prominent white American and fought against the bigotry she saw around her. This is not the house she wrote the book in or even the house she grew up in. This is the house she and her family lived in the last twenty-three years of her life after the publication and success of her famed book.
I wanted to see these places because of their historical natural but also because a home is the closest thing you can get to knowing someone that is after reading their writing. While these authors might no longer be with us seeing how they redefined their lives and how they chose to live them is intriguing to me.
I knew the houses were close. From my research I understood them to be around the corner from each other. I pulled up to what I thought was the front of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and from that vantage point you can actually see the entire compound, both houses, visitor centers, gift shops, and magnificent horses giving carriage rides back and forth. These majestic creatures added such a holiday sparkle to the season and the location. I felt like it put us back in time a bit. But their leg warmers reminded me of my childhood in the 1980s.
When I arrived I was under the impression the tour of each house was separate. But what I learned was I that I could purchase them together and for only twenty dollars! The tours would be back to back. I just had to wait about thirty minutes for the next one to begin. It was a cold rainy day but there was so much to do inside. I went into one building for hot beverages such as hot chocolate, coffee, tea, delicious homemade snacks such as cookies and cakes. It was so welcoming.
After that I was able to watch a video in one of the gifts shops on the life of Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was so educational. They had a lot of interesting artifacts as well.
When it was time to begin our tour we started in the Stowe home. It was a quaint place with a lot of charm and personalized touches. There was the room for her twin daughters, her kitchen with all of it’s “modern” touches, the master bedroom, and my favorite her living room. I loved that the most because it had so called souvenirs or rather mementos of her life like a copy of her book, the statute that inspired her leading characters, and furniture handmade by her husband. It wasn’t a mansion but it was big step up from her previous house. What I liked most was that she wanted to still stay true to who she was and live her best life.
Next we walked down the path to visit the Mark Twain residence.
Mark Twain’s house in Hartford is where he lived after he had become a famous author, gotten married, and settled down to have a family. From the outside you can see the wrap around porch and the dark wood gives you the vibe you are about to walk into a home where prominence and creation were bountiful.
It is a grand place with several floors and many rooms with details of each family member. In the family room there was even a small creek where the children probably played while the adults relaxed. You can see the books on the shelves and the formal dining room.
By far my favorite was the ornate heavy oak wood staircase, running my hand over it I could hardly believe how amazing it was. The detail and the carvings were so impressive. I wish photography had been allowed inside the house but that will always be burned in my brain. I also loved Mark’s study on the top floor of the house. It had such a powerful landscape view and I imagine in his day it would have been even more so.
I have to admit I have never read any books by Mark Twain, no Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer for me, yet. But having been inspired by walking a mile in his shoes I have added it to my reading list.
Sadly after seeing Mark Twain’s house this sightseeing day was over. Until I went even I didn’t realize how beneficial the cost savings and education value of seeing these estates together would be. In fact Mark Twain bought his property to live near his friend Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Another bonus was that there were an additional two things crossed off my bucket list. It was also a great way to start my vacation.
What are the odds of getting two authors and their homes for the price of one? Apparently for me very high that day!
I wish this were a trend I could duplicate everywhere. I could be so much more efficient this way. I wish other facilities related to these authors were closer as well as their birth sites and burial grounds so that I could have the complete experience all in one day.
Ah what a tourists paradise that world that would be.
For your trip to see this amazing homestead:
Tomorrow- For My Birthday Getaway That Brought Me Back to New England: Part II/ Connecticut Food………………………………………………………………………………………………….