weekend 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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A Little Lakehouse Lovin’

The first lesson learned on my trip last weekend to a lakehouse in southern Michigan was that it’s always very important to pack your laptop charger if you are a blogger – rookie mistake!

But, I digress – let’s get back to chatting about the trip!

My family and I had an incredible time at our family friend Chas’ lakehouse in Union, Michigan last weekend. We’ve roadtripped there many summers since I was sixteen, and I find it to be the perfect escape from busy city life.

The lakehouse is roughly a two hour drive from my hometown of Chicago, and just north of the Indiana border near Elkhart, IN. To be honest – the area is really rural. And I LOVE IT!

View from the dock of Chas' lakehouse

View of Chas’ lakehouse from the dock

Boathouse at the lakehouse - where all the fun water toys are kept!

Boathouse at the lakehouse – where all the fun water toys are kept!

In my opinion, the back-country, rural feeling you get from being at the lakehouse is part of the charm of that type of weekend vacation. Although it rained on the first day of our trip and therefore prevented us from  going on the boat at first, we were able to do some acrylic landscape paintings and play a family euchre match. And boy oh boy did my family spend time in the kitchen cooking some gourmet meals! The food throughout the weekend was remarkably delicious – and so filling! I always forget how fresh meat tastes in the Midwestern states due to the proximity to farms.

Whether dining indoors or outdoors, there was always a view of the lake!

Whether dining indoors or outdoors, there was always a view of the lake!

Sizzling bacon on the griddle

Sizzling bacon on the griddle

Eggs cooking in the pot for breakfast

Eggs cooking in the pot for breakfast

Delicious gormet steaks that Chas cooked on the grill for dinner

Delicious gourmet steaks that Chas cooked on the grill for dinner

But let’s face it – my FAVORITE part of a weekend stay at Chas’ lakehouse is being on his speed boat. There is something about cruising over the water that feels eternally relaxing. Plus, the water sports you can do on calm Midwestern lakes are unparalleled to those on the open ocean, and Alexa and I enjoyed tubing and swimming on the sunny days.

Me and Alexa tubing behind the boat

Me and Alexa tubing behind the boat

Alexa and I jumping off the boat to for a swim - so much fun!

Alexa and I jumping off the boat to for a swim – so much fun!

Another highlight of the weekend was when my family decided to venture into South Bend rather than cook on Sunday night, and I lucked out to be invited to ride with Chas in his new Mercedes convertible to the restaurant! It was a total blast! He was able to accelerate to wild speeds on the backcountry roads, and my aunt (who was driving the family’s SUV behind us) joked that we left them in the dust – haha!

Me and Chas in the convertible about to speed away

Me and Chas in the convertible about to speed away

It’s hard to describe the overall feeling of leisure and contentment that you encounter at a lakehouse. The feeling seeps into your spirit when you arrive and slowly relaxes your soul throughout your stay. I would venture to guess that even the most jaded New Yorker tasked with keeping a watch over the tranquil morning water as it twinkles in the sunlight would be overtaken by a feeling of peace.

Spying on an early morning fisherman

Spying on an early morning fisherman

Chas smiling and waving hello from the balcony

Chas smiling and waving hello from the balcony

This is the face of total relaxation. I think I may have actually taken a quick nap on that chair right after, even!

This is the face of total relaxation. I think I may have actually taken a quick nap on that chair right after, even!

That said, it helps tremendously if you have cherished family and friends to share each lakehouse moment with. For that, I am truly blessed!

Everyone having a blast on the boat!

Everyone having a blast on the boat!

Five Things NOT To Take To A Lakehouse Weekend

As many of you already know, I’m from the Midwest. It’s that little region of the United States where recreational lakes are a dime a dozen. That’s why to me and millions of other Midwesterners, lakehouse weekends have become a symbol of summertime.

With that in mind, I’ve developed some sage wisdom over the years about the difference between what people think they should take to lakehouses vs. what they really should take. Fashion companies and pop culture can steer you wrong, so there are a few key items where I want to set the record straight:

What you should NOT take to the lake:

1.  White jeans

I recently bought a pair of white skinny jeans from Boden that are PERFECT for summer. They’re high quality and really trendy right now. Despite that, I will NOT be taking them to the lake this weekend. Why? They will get dirty. A few examples of lakehouse activities not friendly to my new jeans: squeezing ketchup on a freshly grilled burger, sitting around a fire pit with marshmallows in hand, sitting on a dock looking at the lake, sitting on a chair on the deck… really just sitting anywhere in an outdoorsy environment. Whatever the case, they will inevitably get stained on the first day I wear them and then will be out of commission the rest of the weekend. And even if they don’t get dirty, they will somehow get wet and become see-through (I mean, why else am I at the lake?). Therefore, I’m leaving them at home.

I hope she's not sitting in a puddle! (image source: wheretoget.it)

I hope she’s not sitting in a puddle! (image source: wheretoget.it)

2.  Chunky Knit or Cashmere Sweaters

As much as you may want your lakehouse attire to look like you just walked out of a J. Crew photo shoot in Kennebunkport (I really, really do), the lake is not a New England yacht excursion (womp womp). If you feel that bringing a sweatshirt isn’t fashionable enough and you want to replace it with a brightly colored cable-knit cardigan in order to look stylish, just recall how long it takes that cable knit to dry if it gets wet. You’re at a lake doing water sports, so there is a strong chance that will happen. Thus, next time you feel like dressing like an Irish fisherman, remember all those lads have probably switched to American Apparel zip ups these days.

"We won't tip the canoe, we promise!"

“We won’t tip the canoe, we promise!” (image source: westendknitwear.ie)

3.  Sperry Topsiders

“What? But I’m going to be on a boat!” That’s true, but it’s summertime so you probably want to wear flip flops instead. Every time I’ve brought my Sperry’s to the lake I’ve regretted it because I end up wearing my J. Crew Havianas all day – they dry so much faster and show off my pedicure!

"Hey guys! I'm ready to water ski!" (image source: planetshoes.com)

“Hey guys! I’m ready to water ski!” (image source: planetshoes.com)

4.  Sunscreen lower than SPF 20

Okay, I’m really guilty of this. In the past when I’ve brought SPF 8 and 15 to the lake I’ve either a.) burned because the sun is twice as strong on the water OR b.) reapplied every twenty minutes out of fear of burning. I think this year I’ve learned my lesson that higher SPF means fewer applications….but we’ll see.

Don't you just love the smell of Coppertone in the summer?

Don’t you just love the smell of Coppertone in the summer? (image source: nanotechproject.org)

5. Swim Bottoms That Aren’t Conducive To Water Sports

Ladies and gents, just bring shorts that will stay on your body while you’re tubing. Take it from me – worrying that your bikini bottoms are going to fall off makes water sports 10x less enjoyable. Oh – and make sure your shorts are fast drying! Your daisy dukes will look really cute, but it’s really uncomfortable to get in and out of the water in wet jorts.

Beyonce's shorts look a little clingy and heavy, right? (image source:  denimblog.com)

Beyonce’s shorts look a little clingy and heavy, right? (image source: denimblog.com)

I hope this helps with your lakehouse packing strategy. When it comes to weekends at the lake, I find that practicality is usually the best tactic – but let me know if you disagree!

Any other things that you think are better left at home this summer when visiting a lakehouse? Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments!