Winter Break in Connecticut

A peculiar element of the New England school system is the oddly placed February recess. Rather than receiving the usual two week break around Christmas and New Year’s, we only get a week. The second installment was granted this past week and Ali was fixed on the notion of getting out of Boston. I had a lot of school work to do but I reluctantly agreed. So toward the end of the week, we packed up my Maxima and headed for New Haven, Connecticut.

You might be thinking, why New Haven? Well, I am not sure either of us are entirely sure, but it was close and it’s the home of Yale. Other than that there was no real compelling reason. Oh yeah, the Mohegan Sun casino was booked. Anyway, we had a sketchy plan of stopping along the way in Hartford.

Despite being assured that the only thing that could happen to us in Hartford was a mugging, we stopped at Mark Twain’s House and Museum. That may have turned out to be the best part of the trip. Both of us really enjoyed the place. The house was beautiful and is in the process of being pristinely restored. You see Mr. Clemens married well and it shows in the swank digs where he crafted all his classics. In fact, the interior design of the house was done by a young Louis Comfort Tiffany, before he struck out on his own and started all that stained glass. Aside from that, if you are not really familiar with old Sam it is place that instantly reminds you of just how funny the guy was. My favorite part of the whole museum was in the exhibit containing many books from his library. Painted on the wall was the great quote about Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, “Every time I read that book I want to dig that woman up and beat her with her own shin bone.”

Photo: Mark Twain Home - Hartford, Connecticut

From there we made our way to New Haven and the less than stellar accommodations that awaited us by reservation. It was all the luxury Econolodge could provide. Nevertheless we made the best of it and wandered around the Yale section of town, which is architecturally fascinating. It is as if a medieval university was dropped in the New World as some of these photos show.

Photo: Yale Old Campus Building Exterior

Photo: Yale's Clock Tower
Photo: Ali standing at one of Yale's gates

Photo: One of Yale's Old Campus Buildings

Pretty impressive considering it was established in 1701. Most impressive were the university art museums (Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art ). For as small as they were they had some impressive pieces, a number of things anyone who pays attention has seen before. In fact, the main art museum was started as a result of a gift from John Trumbull, an American Revolutionary and artist who chronicled the era. The famous Constitutional Congress painting is one of his.

The other really impressive place was the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Although it is a rather ugly building from the outside, it is rather beautiful on the inside. With no windows to allow damaging rays to degrade the 180,000 volumes in the central tower, thin layers of translucent marble help to illuminate the space. They had a special exhibit on JM Barrie of Peter Pan fame, recently brought to life in the Oscar winning film Finding Neverland. Although on permanent display is a two volume copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which is more appropriately described as twin tomes. All in all it is a pretty impressive space.

Photo: Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Exterior
Photo: Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Interior

For me a major interest in Yale has always been the theatre program. It is widely regarded as one of the best in the country and hosts Yale Repertory a Tony winning regional theatre of considerable standing. The Rep has premiered virtually every August Wilson play of the last twenty years. We took in the company’s pretty good production of Comedy of Errors. However, that was the extent of the reconnaissance for this trip. Although I have to admit, I am not sure how many others there will be.

Aside from the university New Haven doesn’t really have a whole lot happening. You really don’t have to stray too far from the main campus to find yourself in fairly exciting neighborhoods, complete with boarded up houses. Unbeknownst to us, until Ali did a little reading on the way down, there is a healthy “tension” between the school and the surrounding residents. While I never felt completely in danger, it wasn’t an area where you would want to walk your kids. Regardless, we still found a way to have fun.

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