road trip

Our Celebratory New England Road Trip to Norfolk, CT

There was lot’s to celebrate last weekend – which called for a quick trip out of the city!

But before I get ahead of myself, I’ll divulge that the reason why I’ve been quieter on my blog this month is because I got a new job! Tomorrow I will start at a new media agency as an Associate Strategy Director for an international brand – which is a promotion. After working at the same company for five years, I am excited to start this new chapter in my career.

The two other reasons why my boyfriend and I planned a quick vacation are good, too! My boyfriend and I were celebrating our nine year anniversary AND he had completed a deal in his finance job! He had been working every day (including weekends) for a month straight, so we wanted to find a way to celebrate all three of those milestones and reconnect as a couple.

Thus, at the last minute we decided to book a quick trip that would be within driving distance from New York City for an overnight retreat. After getting several recommendations from friends for destinations within a two and a half hour drive of our urban life, we landed on a small town in northwest Connecticut called Norfolk.

There were dozens of these "welcome to Norfolk" signs throughout the town

There were dozens of these “welcome to Norfolk” signs throughout the town

Neither of us had been to this area of the country before, which is nestled in the hills below Massachusetts’ famous Berkshire Mountains. Norfolk was incorporated in 1758 (aka older than the United States itself!) and offered several things that enticed us. First, it contains easy and beautiful hiking opportunities at numerous nearby Connecticut State parks. Additionally, it has a small-town New England mentality (it hosted both a farmer’s market and library book sale while we were there – which we happily wound our way through while buying tons of souvenirs). Lastly, for a town of 1,800 people, it has a funky music and culinary scene that attracts folks from all over the region.

Common area near the front entrance at our hotel - Blackberry River Inn (huge fireplace!)

Common area near the front entrance at our hotel – Blackberry River Inn (huge fireplace!)

The hallways in the main building at the Blackberry River Inn

The hallways in the main building at the Blackberry River Inn

The breakfast room at the Blackberry River Inn

The breakfast room at the Blackberry River Inn

Our room in the cottage at the Blackberry River Inn

The cottage room at the Blackberry River Inn

Hiking: I am very enthusiastic about hiking, especially when there is a waterfall involved. My boyfriend and I were planning to drive up to Massachusetts to see Bash Bish Falls on Saturday until the front desk agent at our hotel (The Blackberry River Inn) recommended Campbell Falls State Park about fifteen minutes outside of Norfolk. Wanting to optimize our time, my boyfriend and I drove to the closer and recommended option. The hike was beautiful, and we meandered along a lazy stream until we finally reached the falls. I loved that I was able to scramble up one level of the waterfall to reach a landing where I felt isolated from the other hikers below. It was as if I had my own corner of nature. (Note: there are many other state parks within an hour drive of Norfolk, and we actually stopped at Kent Falls State Park on our way back to NYC on Sunday – it was more crowded and cost $15 for out of state residents, but it was VERY pretty!)

Hiking in Campbell Falls State Park

Hiking in Campbell Falls State Park

When Derek and I found our own private landing in the falls

When Derek and I found our own private landing in the falls

A bridge over the stream at Kent Falls State Park

A bridge over the stream at Kent Falls State Park

An easy hike at the base of Kent Falls

An easy hike at the base of Kent Falls

Food and Music: Norfolk may be best known for housing the Yale Summer School of Music as well as the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, but its music scene does not end there. We experienced Norfolk’s influence on local music via immersing ourselves in the crowd gathered on Saturday night to hear the Led Zeppelin cover band performing at the Infinity Music Hall and Bistro. My boyfriend and I popped into the neighboring Wood Creek Bar & Grill for some pre-dinner drinks around 7pm and could barely find a place to stand at the bar! Once the concert hall opened up and folks started wandering inside, we closed our tab and made our way next door into the Bistro attached to the music hall. There, we sat near six jovial New England couples in bright polos with popped collars while we all simultaneously chomped on delicious locally-sourced grub – an interesting contrast to the faint sound of rock music exuding from the other part of the building. That said, the food was divine and rivaled New York City quality cuisine. I had the free-range chicken while my boyfriend enjoyed the steak frites – very tasty!

Infinity Hall

Infinity Hall

Shopping: Along with the Farmer’s Market held on Saturdays as well as the book sale that the Norfolk Public Library that we stumbled upon, we also found several other noteworthy stores to explore. Along the main road (Rt. 44) was Freund’s Farm Market selling everything from fresh pies to local produce to gardening equipment. I can attest that the nectarines and plums we purchased were the tastiest we had eaten all summer! Additionally, there were several boutiques in downtown Norfolk. While I regret not pulling the trigger on buying a gorgeous locally carved butcher block cutting board at one of the artisan boutiques on Station Place, I did end up buying a beaded clutch  at another. There are many artists and craftspeople in the Norfolk area, and these local boutiques help you connect with their creative spirit.

Lastly, it’s important to note that there are copious antiquing opportunities in the area as well. We strolled through a high-end antique store in downtown Norfolk, which had a beautiful collection from historic New England and Europe. That said, the antique store we ended up making a purchase at (bookends) was found standing isolated on the side of Route 7, as if it was a checkpoint on the way to Kent. The older woman who owned the shop was incredibly chatty and even regaled us with the tale of when Meryl Streep came into her store and purchased several quilts!

Jars of jam for sale at the Norfolk farmer's market - I bought Strawberry Peach and it's delicious!

Jars of jam for sale at the Norfolk farmer’s market – I bought Strawberry Peach and it’s delicious!

Vendor tents and red wagons at the Norfolk Farmer's Market

Vendor tents and red wagons at the Norfolk Farmer’s Market

My boyfriend browsing the Norfolk Public Library book sale - one of the highlights of our weekend! We bought eight books!

My boyfriend browsing the Norfolk Public Library book sale – one of the highlights of our weekend! We bought eight books!

Rows of books at the book sale

Rows of books at the book sale

Gorgeous antique table in a shop in downtown Norfolk

Gorgeous antique table in a shop in downtown Norfolk

All in all, our two days in Connecticut were exactly what we needed to escape the urban masses and have a fun adventure as a couple. My biggest takeaway was how stunning and dynamic the countryside and its people are in that region – all just two and a half hours from the city! If my boyfriend and I are ever craving a hike or small town charm in the future, we now know just how/where to satiate that urge!

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San Francisco Trip In Review: Road Trip To Mendocino!

During the second day of Derek and my weekend stay in San Rafael, the four of us decided to take a road trip to the coastal town of Mendocino. Derek’s brother had recommended it highly, since he knows it is exactly the kind of thing we like to explore:  a town chock-full of artist galleries and quaint shops that is adjacent to a gorgeous state park.

Although the town of Mendocino has under one-thousand residents, it is heavily supported by day-trippers from SF, the nearby Alexander Valley wine industry, rural-roaming artists and hippies, and a military base several miles up the road. To get to the town, we had to drive many hours through wine country and a Redwood Forest – both of which bared incredible views. At certain points the roads became so windy as we maneuvered up/around the hills that we all felt a big of vertigo hit our systems!

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Winding hills through Mendocino County during our drive to the town

Standing in the Redwood Forest on the way to Mendocino

Standing in the Redwood Forest on the way to Mendocino

Once we arrived in Mendocino around 2pm, the town was packed with fellow travelers who were in town for the Mendocino film festival. Unfortunately it took much longer for us to get there than we had calculated, so we missed the lunch seatings at the restaurant we were planning to try (Cafe Beaujolais). However, we ended up at a friendly joint in the downtown area called the Goodlife Café and Bakery.

Split pea soup

Split pea soup

Mocha and chocolate chip cookie

Mocha and chocolate chip cookie

Bread pudding

Bread pudding

After grabbing a quick bite, we bee-lined over to the Ford House Museum building before it closed at 4pm in order to learn about the town’s history and scope out the artwork of one of Derek’s brother’s clients.

Ford House (image source: mendoparks.org)

Ford House (image source: mendoparks.org)

The building itself was constructed in 1854 for a local family, and now houses a historical museum featuring old photographs as well as models of the town in the nineteenth century. I loved wandering through the downstairs living rooms while learning about the logging industry that founded the town.

Once we made our way through the museum, the four of us ventured out into the Headlands state park to explore. I’m a huge fan of hiking, and we spent the rest of the trip exploring the sea-eroded rocks, grassy cliffs, and sandy beach.

Our group exploring the coast

Our group exploring the coast

Me taking a look at the rocky coast along the Headlands

Me taking a look at the rocky coast along the Headlands

View of the old Presbyterian Church from the Headlands

View of the old Presbyterian Church from the Headlands

An awesome tree I found

An awesome tree I found

Gorgeous wildflowers along the bluffs

Gorgeous wildflowers along the bluffs

View of the rocks jetting out into the Pacific

View of the rocks jetting out into the Pacific

Me and Derek enjoying our hike along the Headlands

Me and Derek enjoying our hike along the Headlands

Trail marker along the bluffs

Trail marker along the bluffs

Stunning view of the Mendocino coast

Stunning view of the Mendocino coast and vintage buildings

Walking over the rock tunnels

Walking over the rock tunnels

Matt and Liz exploring the rocks during low tide

Matt and Liz exploring the rocks during low tide

Graffiti on an old shipping dock

Graffiti on an old shipping dock

Me and Derek enjoying the sandy beach during a low tide

Me and Derek enjoying the sandy beach during a low tide

When it came time to head back to San Rafael (around 6:30pm so we could be pass the windy roads before dusk), I had an urge not to go. The coastline had bewitched me, and I felt like I could spend weeks exploring the trails along the water where the lush foliage and bright flowers grew effortlessly out of stony cliffs. I had never seen rocks and bluffs like the ones in Mendocino – and they inspired me.

Mark my words:  someday I will go back!