Weekending in Washington - My Family Travels

     You are a young professional and very stressed, reading this newspaper bleary eyed and desperately seeking to know enough current events to avoid being labeled by your boss as one of those-GenYers who spends too much time glancing at his own reflection, consumed in the new-age narcissism of his generation.  You work hard, right? Millions work hard. To rise from lowly intern, you need to work hard at making connections.
     This epiphany lead me straight to Connecticut; it is the perfect weekend destination, and not simply because “connect” is in this state’s name. What better way to embed myself in boss-culture than seek the easiest point of entry—travel where he goes and pay attention. So, roll up your newspaper and jump in your car; as you commute, I will give the exclusive on my Washington, CT weekend.
      My adventure into the country-club stereotyped land of Connecticut began on a Friday. By Sunday I had redefined the town of Washington: While having aspects of the prep-snobbery I expected to find, it is on a whole both inviting and relaxing.  First stop was 20 Bee Brook Road to eat at the GW Tavern. GW stands for George Washington. The whole town is named after him; so I guess in traditional matchy-matchy ribbon belt to cardigan fashion, they went ahead and named this after him too.  A quick and cynical skim of the menu confirms that this place takes it all very seriously, paying homage to our 1st president, general customer service and dining requests.
     I immediately test the waters – not the lake that this 1850’s converted Colonial home overlooks, but the metaphorical waters.  Turns out if you want to curl up next to the floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplace (listening to the hissing logs burn while the locals, all buttoned up in oxford shirts, gossip in hushed tones) just ask.  The server will seat you there and encourage unhurried dining – no deadlines to fret over.  I am secretly impressed.

     The picturesque eatery is favored by celebrities, who I imagine also keep their joy a secret. All patrons, regardless of status, exercise restraint. The unspoken memo: it would be uncouth to approach a diner. Despite an undertone of austerity, I spot many a local family dining cheerfully. As I wait for my lunch to arrive, I notice each beverage sweats inside a glass mug that resembles a mason jar; it’s affixed with a handle and etched with a portrait of (naturally) President Washington.   I wonder if the matriarch seated at the adjacent table is a shrewd CEO of a company, and I am observing her lesser-known soft-side as she wipes applesauce from her baby’s lips. 

     A warm mustard-colored wall is the backdrop for all the country French furnishings; similar to one of the hanging pieces of art, the scene feels framed.  Its cohesiveness and charm lull me into a personal sense of peace—of being at home.  A frequent CT-weekender explains, “it feels like home, but far more relaxing than if you travel home.” 
    I decide to drive a lap around Lake Waramaug; its prominence draws me in, just don’t ask me to pronounce it. Winter chill has not yet frozen the deep un-rippling water to my left. A wooden sign informs me this sprawling 95 acre expanse was named for an Indian chief of the Wyantenock tribe. I feel a trend developing.  These Washington folks are namers by nature. As I drive, I note the impeccably manicured mansions to my right, also named.  Could that impossibly charming brick one, with the crawling ivy be named Highland Fling by my boss?  At this point in the trip I am losing interest in answering this question and beginning to see, despite my frosted windshield, how easily I am enjoying this place.   
     With caviar taste and a tight budget (read: intern, working ass off for free), I found Washington offers me an escape.  Traveling the way I presume my boss does – surrounded by mansions, prep schools and wineries – was liberating.  Fully engrossed in my new lush lifestyle I began to shop, imagining the interior of that aforementioned brick mansion.  When antiquing at Tulip Tree Collection (92 Depot Rd) prices can get steep.  I like to make it about admiring craftsmanship, not opening the wallet.  Tulip Tree, like the other storefronts dotting Depot Rd., closes at 5pm.  It has over 7,000 square feet of space filled to the brim with breath-taking furnishings, so it’s worth getting there on the early side.  

     For evening activities head to the Washington Art Association, WAA, to watch DJs spin the latest underground electronic music.  WAA hosts different guest DJs in their Project Room the first Saturday night of each month— go ahead, dance the stress away! I did. My Washington weekend may provide me with valuable future talk-points that bridge the gap between me and my workplace superiors.  But even if I do not widen the latitude of possible conversation topics available to me on those seemingly endless elevator rides, I enjoyed my weekend getaway.
     My motto, weekenders should un-button their collar.  Since GW Tavern prices are not as scary as I thought, an extra ladle of French onion soup, please. Washington does offer pricey indulgences: spa and horseback-riding excursions. But, it is also a landscape prime for unwinding in a fabulously frugal way.  Weekending in Washington is a beautiful reality for all those exhausted New Yorkers who dream of escaping to the rolling hills and scenic vistas of the country, without draining their wallets.

GW Tavern
20 Bee Brook Road P.O. Box 397
Washington Depot, CT 06794
(860) 868-6633 [email protected]

Tulip Tree Collection
92 Route 47 P.O Box 58
Washington Depot CT 06794
(860) 868.2808

4 Bryan Memorial Plaza Washington Depot, CT 06794
Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 to 5, Sundays 12 to 5.
Project Room: 1st of month open for late evenings
            (860) 868.2878

Directions From New York City
Take your preferred route to I-684 north (From the West Side, Hudson Pkwy to Saw Mill Pkwy. From the East Side, FDR.) Take I-684 north to I-84 East, get off at Exit 7. Turn right at traffic light to continue on Route 7 North/Route 202 North to Rt. 109.. Continue on Rt. 109, turning right at T intersection, into Washington Depot

*If traveling via train you can rent a car for the weekend at Hertz. call 203-777-6861 to reserve and pick up your car next to your train stop at 50 Union Avenue Amtrak in New Haven.

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