East Coast Post - Mark Twain and Such

Our new home.


Oh, I wish!
In Hartford, nestled among the lush trees so that you almost miss it completely, is the Mark Twain house and museum.  Easily the coolest "house" I've ever been inside.  Livy Clemens had some awesome taste.

Unfortunately they don't allow cameras inside.  In my wilder days I might have waited for the guide to turn his back and then snuck a few illegal pics.  {Like at Wordsworth's house}  But I guess I'm just oh-so mature and responsible now, so you'll have to rely upon my words.

Check out the amount of detail in the porch alone.  They spent $45,000 on this house, which would amount to about 1 million if you consider inflation.  But now-a-days it would cost much, much more to have artists work on all of these gorgeous details.  The ceiling, the banisters, the doors, the molding, it all had personal and artistic touches that took my breath away.


There are 25 rooms in the house.  Lots to clean, right?  Unsurprisingly, they had some help.  We got to see the servant's quarters, which were considered extremely spacious, but plain, as you would expect.  We wandered through different sitting rooms, a drawing room, a dining room for entertaining, and peeked into bedrooms.

Each room was filled with things that were closely matched to what was actually in the house when they lived there, right down to the Dutch clocks.  A few of the pieces were actually originals, like the gigantic bed frame they purchased in Venice which was in the master suite. But apparently Clemens' daughter donated most of their belongings to the museum of Sam's boyhood home.

But the library… I had to grab Kirsten's arm to keep from swooning.  The hand carved wooden shelves filled with books, the conservatory at the end of the room with a bubbling fountain and plants growing wild, the velvety chairs, the mantel over the fireplace.  This is Heaven.  I'm pretty sure this is where the Pearly Gates lead.  Right here.


Clemens liked technology, so they had electricity, flushing toilets, a telephone, and even an intercom system.  A large room adjacent to the nursery was originally supposed to be Sam's study, but you can imagine why he abandoned that idea.  It became the schoolroom for his children.

The writer moved his own projects up to the billiard's room, which occupies the top floor.  Behind the pool table, on the other side of the brick mantel, there was a small and inconspicuous desk wedged into the corner.

The original desk.

The desk that gave support to the pen that birthed Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and the Prince and the Pauper {to name a few favorites}.  The moment I laid eyes on it, goosebumps tickled down my neck.  That was the place where some of the best American stories were given life.  I imagined how Sam would fan the pages out on the pool table during his editing process.  How he might pace the balcony, gleaning inspiration from the dense, green landscape before him.

This was when it was hardest to keep my hands off of my camera.  And Roy even nudged me in the back once the guide turned out of the room, but I still couldn't do it.  It was like the space was too sacred.  So I tiptoed out, the last person, trying to sear it all into my mind.

Don't even bother looking for the picture online.  Bad angle.  Doesn't do it justice.

Standing on the Twain front porch, you can look across an expanse of grass to see the house of another famous American author.  Harriet Beecher Stowe {author of Uncle Tom's Cabin} clearly didn't see the need for such extravagances as her neighbor, but I still love the detail in the eaves.  They just don't make houses like that anymore.

Also, I love the idea that they hung out together and had the same friends.

We peeked inside the windows and quickly skimmed through the Stowe museum, but we didn't have time for a tour.  Even though her house wasn't quite as fancy, her writing was just as {if not more} influential for our country.  Go Harriet!


Before and after the house tour, we got to peruse an impressive Mark Twain museum.  I learned a lot of new things about Sam and his family, and I decided that we would have probably been friends.  I mean, we both like cats.  Clearly it would have been a beautiful friendship.

I took a few pics of our museum experience, but this one is a favorite.  Their family sleigh!


For the second half of our day we had plans to head to a particularly beautiful part of the coast, but sometimes it's more fun to scrap the plans and fly by the seat of your pants.  So we whipped out a map and chose a coastal town at random.

New London, Connecticut.  A place we never would have known existed, but now holds a special place in our hearts.


"Have you ever seen a cuter Subway in your life?"
"No."
"Take a picture!"


Also notice the adorable nautical theme of this place.  It was very reminiscent of our beloved Newport. In fact, there's an artist named Wyland who travels around the world painting these murals in coastal cities, and he's hit up both Newport and New London.  It was a precious find for my little coasties.




The soldiers and sailors monument was pretty cool.  This obelisk was erected in the late 1800s to honor those soldiers and sailors who fought in the civil war.  But the best part of this picture is that handsome man smiling in the bottom corner.  We were having too much fun.


If you didn't already gather… New London has a history rooted deep in whaling.  Roy thought that was awesome.  Kirsten thought that was horrible.  It was like I was hanging out with a couple of siblings or something.


I was sad the whaling museum was closed, but we got to see this awesome historical whaling boat they were restoring.


In the spirit of pant-flying, we took a detour on the way back to Scott and April's.  You would have too if you saw a sign that said "Mystic Seaport."  Sounds like an adventure waiting to happen, right?!



It was so late in the day that everything was closed or closing, but we got in some good pictures and even a little bit of shopping.  Then we were back on the road.

Kirsten got ridiculously excited about these 12-foot frog sculptures as we passed the Thread City Crossing.  The whole town was dotted with frog decor, so I had to find out what was up with that.  Apparently it is all about the legend of the Frog Fight.  In the 1750s a strange and terrible sound got all of the colonists out of bed and in the streets with their muskets.  By morning the streets were littered with huge, dead frogs.

What a bunch of pansies. ;-P


And finally we made it to Scott and April's house in Coventry.  Scott is Roy and Kirsten's cousin, and his family is the coolest.  He and April have three daughters and a little boy.  Those girls were so outgoing and fun, it was endless entertainment.  Even though I'd never met any of them before I loved them right away and felt at home.  I'm devastated I didn't think to get a picture with them, but they were gracious to let us stay in their basement.

Coventry is the most beautiful rural town I've ever seen.  Narrow roads cut through lush forest and then suddenly a picturesque red barn appears in a cleared field, like it's straight out of a painting.  Each day I was able to go on a run when everything was still covered in dew, and I truly felt like the air was fresher.  The trees were greener.  Everything seemed to alive and healthy.

One day on our drive "home" to Scott and April's house we passed an ice cream parlor.  We hadn't been inside their house for more than thirty minutes when we decided to go back out and get some of that ice cream.

Ever dependent on our smart phones, Roy searched the number of what we thought was probably the ice cream place.  Only he was given some strange instructions.

"Go ahead and just drop the money in the box and take the ice cream out of the freezer yourself.  We don't really open shop until the kids get out of school."

We thought that was odd, but we as soon as our GPS got us on the road we realized we weren't going to the little parlor we'd passed earlier.  Instead we went further into Coventry, where the trees seemed to get more and more dense, before we turned onto a small road.  Once we rounded the bend everything opened up before us: a glassy pond, a field of black and white cows, and of course an awesome barn.

We could see the house the family lived in a ways off on the property, but other than that there was no sign of people.  We parked in front of the barn in search of our ice cream.





I felt like I was in Charlotte's Web.  I'm sure the farmers could see me from their living room window, running around taking pictures with my phone like the deprived city kid I am.  It was all so gorgeous.

We found the little room where the ice cream is sold.  But they also sell cheese wrapped in paper and milk in those classic glass bottles and all kinds of dairy products straight from their cows.  There was a large window where you could see them making everything fresh {although I assume it doesn't open until "the kids are out of school."}


Just as the trusting farmer asked us to do, we dropped our money in a small wooden box on the counter, and we took two pints of ice cream.  One strawberry, and one chocolate chip.

Once we got back to the house we thought we'd share it with the kids.  Yeah… that was really, really hard, on account of that fresh ice cream being the best thing that I ever put in my mouth.  Oh man, I can't--I gotta go.  I'm slobbering on the keyboard.


^^^^^  Dear Fish family, please adopt me.

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