Visiting Essex, Connecticut
When it comes to charming towns, one place instantly comes to mind: Essex, Connecticut.
First settled in 1645, Essex is the quintessential New England village with its brick sidewalks, white picket fences, antique shops and boutiques. I love looking at the beautifully restored Colonial homes that fill the town.
And since it's located on the Connecticut River, Essex is steeped in maritime traditions. The dock and harbor have its own special allure as boats of all sizes come and go.
A mainstay along Main Street is the Griswold Inn, which was established in 1776 and is one of the most authentic Early American inns still in operation. A visit to Essex would not be complete without a stop at the Griswold for refreshments in The Tap Room, with its potbellied stove and nautical antiques, or for a sumptuous weekly Sunday Hunt Breakfast, an English tradition that dates back to the War of 1812.
For those staying at the inn overnight, old-fashioned latchkeys reveal cheerful rooms with four-poster beds (rates range from $95 to $200 a night; 1-860/767-1776 or www.griswoldinn.com.
There's a lot to do and see in Essex. At the Connecticut River Museum on the town wharf, you'll enjoy a wonderful collection of maritime artifacts chronicling the river valley's history. In addition, the Essex Steam Train offers a scenic jaunt through the countryside and eventually meets up with a riverboat for a cruise.
I'm amazed at the simplicity of the winding country roads and unspoiled landscape surrounding this village. Every year, I try to visit during autumn to get my fill of leaf peeping. Because temperatures are milder along the tidelands, the peak colors occur later than in other parts of New England.
But no matter what time of year you visit, Essex is always in season.