After getting in late Saturday night, we still crawled out of bed determinedly at an early-ish hour on Sunday morning, because we had a Plan. Back in the car (and grateful our shoes had dried out overnight), we headed from western Massachusetts down to Connecticut, to the Essex Valley Steam Train. Where we took photos designed to make our two small nephews beg for a visit:
My husband has been a rail fan practically from birth (his first word was reportedly "choo-choo!"), and he particularly loves Essex because they run steam all the time, as opposed to many tourist railroads, who are forced by finances to run diesels a lot of time and only bring out the steam locomotives occasionally. The expressions on the faces of the kids are always a blast, too. One small boy's father explained to me that it was his son's birthday, and although they had offered to bring him to one of the Thomas-themed weekends at the railroad, he had insisted that he wanted to ride on a 'big black train with chuggers!' (the long camshafts that are visible driving the wheels of steam trains).
We had a lovely train ride up the river. (We opted for the train-only ride, instead of the train and steamboat combination. Steamboats are not as cool as trains, you see.) And I took some notes for my train-themed thriller (which has been shamefully neglected in recent months, but which I don't intend to languish forever). And I knitted more sock.
From there, we went up to Gillette Castle, built by William Gillette, a 19th and early 20th century stage actor, playwright and director famous for (among other things) playing Sherlock Holmes.
He built the place as a retirement home, and we immediately identified with him as another person who may have gotten older but never grew up. He loved trains too, and built his own miniature steam railroad (alas no longer in service, though the restored locomotive is on display in the visitor center). The house looks more like a stage set than anything else, but a lavish one- native field-stone on the outside (bought from local farmers at a few dollars a load), and the interior done on a combination castle and nautical theme, with a great deal of faux-rustic woodwork, elaborate wooden latches on doors and windows (the door latches are all different and very cool looking), and clever details everywhere. Gillette also loved cats, and had a table with dangling wooden ornaments around the edges, designed for the cats' entertainment. We decided that castle was perhaps a little grandiose- (as one of our friends would put it, it's more of a 'bijou castle-ette'). But worth an hour if you happen to be in the area.
Then we headed back north with a stop in Mystic (where we found they no longer make their awesome cream soda and ginger beer- wah!) and in Providence for dinner. By the time we got home, we'd covered four states in one day. And traveled by car, boat (there was a ferry ride across the river) and steam locomotive, not to mention shank's mare. Fun, but I'm actually looking forward to part of a weekend at home this week!