No matter how many places around the world that I have traveled, there is nowhere that is quite like my hometown village of Washington, Connecticut. Nestled among rolling hills, this is the town where I learned how to ride my bike, had my first ice cream cone, and countless other childhood memories. What makes it incredible is that after twenty-six years, not that much has changed! Every summer that I come home to visit, it looks almost exactly like I how I remembered from the year before. Of course, there have been additions in terms of shops and restaurants, and the old pharmacy and Texaco gas station are long gone, but generally the village remains a snapshot of a perfect quintessential New England oasis.
We actually live up on the hill away from the center, but the depot is just a five-minute drive down the road. First you come to Washington Greene (not to be confused with the Depot!) where there is the large Congregational Church proudly taking center stage. When the towns were being settled back in the 16th century, the church was usually the focal point of the society, thus most town centers always have a church in the middle. Right across the street you can find “the Greene” which is a cafe/restaurant attached to the local post office. We never had a mailbox at home (too much mail and packages coming in for Momix), so the Post Office was a daily stop when running errands. The Greene is also a popular hangout for students at The Gunnery, a private college-preparatoy school just across the street. To the left of the church is the Gunn Memorial Library, a cute little building with a plethora of books to take out. If only I had more time at home, I could take out a lot more books. One summer I challenged myself by checking out at least 8, managing to race through only about half of them in the few weeks before I headed back to Europe.
Books have always been a problem since I moved away, since English books are hard to come by and quite expensive “over there”. That was until I received a Kindle for Christmas. Wary at first, now I don’t know how I could have lived without it! No more suitcases loaded with pounds of hardcovers, no more overweight charges and extra bags. I miss the old-fashioned turning-of-pages, but the convenience is definitely worth it!
I have strayed off track, however, so back to little Washington…Leaving the Greene, you head down the hill (past another two churches) until the little strip of town comes into view. A small bridge that goes over the Shepaug River leads to the “main street”. If you are driving by (at, say, 25 mph) you will pass it in about three seconds, so don’t blink! To the left is the majestic town hall, crowned with a golden dome. Right in front are placards advertising the local events, such as pot-luck charity dinners, yoga classes, lobster sails, county fairs, etc.
The Washington Food market is just next to it, a little grocery store selling everything that you might need, although we tend to do our big shops at Super Stop and Shop in nearby Southbury or New Milford. It’s good for last-minute things, or anything you might have forgotten. My mom likes to get her morning coffee at the deli, and it’s so communal that the minute she steps up to the counter they already have her small flavored coffee with skim milk and honey ready on the counter. You never need any cash around because everyone has house accounts. It’s all terribly convenient!
On the other side of the main road there is the Washington Supply, as well as the Bookstore, both having been around ever since I can remember. As I said earlier, pre-Kindle (p.k.?) I was a huge supporter of the bookstore, making several trips throughout the summer to stock up on bestsellers. In the next plaza are some new additions, such as Marty’s coffee shop and Norimaki Sushi. Marty’s is exactly what the town needed, a kind of homey-Starbucks where you can meet people and sit and chat over a cup of hot brew or cappuccino. They even serve breakfast and lunch, and have just started a doing Tapas and Wine on Sunday night. I remember when I was in high-school, there was nowhere to just go and meet your friends (if you were not one to hang out in parking lots). We would drive 25 minutes just to be able to sit down in Starbucks! That was (if you can believe it) the one and only Starbucks in the whole county of Connecticut. Things have changed in that department, for sure. As for the sushi restaurant, it is extraordinary. Small and intimate, with just about 8 tables, it is a perfect zen escape right in the middle of Washington. The owners are extremely friendly, the service is excellent, and the food is delicious. Our favorite dish is the “crunch roll”, which is an inside-out maki that has…well, actually I don’t know what it has in it, but it is…crunchy! We also love the shrimp dumplings and the sesame spinach. Across the parking lot is another old-favorite, The Pantry. Also homey, they serve in-restaurant as well as take-out and they also cater. We used to like to get sandwiches and eat them by the river, but they now also have some picnic benches and tables outside on the grass.
Looking at all this, I realize that despite its small size, Washington certainly does have a lot to offer in terms of culinary delights. It does not have the energy or hustle-and bustle of New York City, but that is why many New Yorkers have weekend and summer houses up here. They call it being in “the country”, and country it certainly is! My favorite season is autumn, when all the leaves turn a radiant orange and a shocking red, turning the hills in to a spectrum of color. Winter is shockingly cold, with feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures, but being inside by the fire is cozy and nice. Spring always feels great because it’s after winter, when all the daffodils and crocus come up and the birds chirp again in the morning, and you can finally shed those layers and layers of winter coats! That brings us to summer, where we are right now, and which is sadly the only time that I am home to enjoy it. The leaves are lush and green, my Dad is slaving away in his sunflower garden, the cicadas are buzzing at night, and we can enjoy home-cooked dinners outside on the porch while watching the sunset. Vacation? I wouldn’t give this up for anywhere in the world.
Here are links for some of the places I mentioned, if you are ever passing through little Washington, CT!
Norimaki Sushi: http://www.yelp.com/biz/norimaki-washington
Marty’s Cafe: http://www.seeyouatmartys.com/
The Pantry: http://www.yelp.com/biz/pantry-washington