A college reunion took me back to Connecticut for a few steamy summer days recently. I hopped a train from New York’s Grand Central Station to meet a classmate, for a ride from Tarrytown. We were to stop at his family’s coastal cottage in Westbrook for a BBQ, before heading to the campus for three days of festivities.
Westbrook is a quaint shoreline community snug on the banks of Long Island Sound between New London and New Haven, right next door to the better-known Old Saybrook. I didn’t know the classmate too well and was thrust back into the college mode of ride-negotiating and flexible travel plans, as the friend I was traveling with was his old friend. Nonetheless, the plan was appealing, and a nice way to glide into the unknown of a big college reunion. Having lived in California for many years, I do often crave that New England spirit and style.
We stopped for lunch in Old Saybrook at a famous haunt called Vanderbooke Bakery, known for its cookies. I, of course, ordered New England clam chowda! Katherine Hepburn called this seaside town home and much of Main Street seemed like it hadn’t changed in a long time.
We shopped for the BBQ at a few local shops, including an incredibly well stocked liquor store (I always forget you can’t buy wine at supermarkets on much of the East Coast) and headed back to the adorably, un re-done cottage. I loved everything about it, the old-fashioned wall paper, the yellowing board games from another era, the bathroom off the back door of the kitchen, the wrap-around porch and hammock and the view of the Sound. The generations of memories were palpable.
We prepped our feast and took off for a walk on the beach. The house had been in my classmate’s family for years, he had spent summers there as a child and now brings his own kids. He was gracious to share it with me, such a tangential friend. Bunnies hopped on lawns and so many of my own childhood, New England memories were rekindled. There was something about the lushness, the smell of the Sound, the very different architecture and genuine poignancy about keeping things modest and authentic. The meal was delectable, the wine divine, the conversations flowed, and within three hours we all felt like old friends. We scrambled to make it to our college campus before check-in ended at 10 p.m. I felt completely ready for what was to come.