When I was a little girl (remember I’m the one with the ideal childhood in an intact family in central Connecticut.) I used to go to Lake Waramaug. I still remember the route we took. (I also remember the route my parents took as they drove to Millerton, New York every other Thanksgiving, where we celebrated with my parents best friends, the Velleys. I always thought Millerton was in the Adirondacks, but that’s another story.)
What I want to tell you about is how the sleepy village of New Preston, the town which contains Lake Waramaug, has come alive in the many years since I was a little girl.
First of all I always loved the lake. The cottage where we went was way over on the west side of the lake, near the state park. (Hint: go to the state park some day, it is a very lovely place for a picnic.) The cottage was perfect to a 12 year old, and in retrospect, would be perfect now. It had simple pine interiors and simple pine furniture. But all those pine studs were loaded with books for rainy days, and there was a lawn that rolled down to the lake, in the middle of which was a white birch tree. (It WAS an ideal childhood, after all.)
Today New Preston and Lake Waramaug are buzzing with country inns and vineyards and all manner of chic things. Included among these are the shops in the little village center, which is just south of the lake, below an old barn that is being restored, which is just below the waterfall.
Before parking in the village to check out the shops, I’d recommend a drive all around the very pleasant lake with the lake in sight most of the time.
On the only street in town, well, OK, there are two streets, but one runs off the other. The main one is East Shore Road, and off that to the east runs Main St. On East Shore Road, one now finds a huge shop called J. Seitz, which has clothing and furniture. It is a great place for both, and also for jewelry and gifts, etc. Out back there is a charming deck, where one can go and sit and listen to the aforementioned waterfall.
Just above this shop is one called NPKG. Lest you think this is the acronym for a secret club, it is easily discerned as being the New Preston Kitchen Goods. It contains a myriad of the items you never knew you needed for your kitchen, but you suddenly must have. The staff is unusually accommodating, making it a very pleasant place to stop.
Back one building toward the lake, one finds a shop that rather defies definition. It’s name escapes me, mea culpa, but you cannot miss it. Just don’t go on a Tuesday, when everything except Seitz and the Kitchen Goods is closed. This shop has antiques, wall hangings, lamps, together with all sorts of lamp accessories. Again a very accommodating proprietor, if you discount the fact that he seems to want a day off each week. (We had made the drive just to do business with him, but had to make do with what other places we could find.)
Don’t miss the small jewel-like jewelry shop tucked in next to this last place, where a young woman designer makes really lovely one of a kind pieces.
Crossing over to Main Street one finds a place called Dawn Hill Antiques, where I like to lick the windows, (borrowing from the French idiom for window shopping, which adds the proper note of covetousness to the activity.) The shop has what I like to refer to as Scandinavian antiques, but best of all has incredibly beautiful antique porcelain of all sorts, just my cup of tea, no pun intended.
All of this shopping tends to build up an appetite, and although there is a lovely looking restaurant right in town, called Oliva, a Mediterranean cuisine venue, it is closed on Monday and Tuesday. There is also the fabulous Boulders Inn up on the lake front, AND the Hopkins Inn on the far side of the lake (check these last two out for fall weekends, if they are not already fully booked.) But it was not dinner time, and we just wanted a bite of lunch.
Much to our genuine delight, the perfect place is right there, called NINE Main. From the number of cars pulling in and out of the parking area, we decided that it was not only open on Tuesday, but pretty popular, and pretty fast. We ankled on over (my favorite Ann La Farge verb) and sure enough, there were luscious sandwiches (made fresh while one waited,) chilled herbal tea and juice selections, home made brownies, lemon bars and scones in a very visible glass case, a few tables and chairs, and even a few copies of that day’s New York Times. We couldn’t have conjured up anything more alluring, and we quickly ordered a curried chicken sandwich and some iced tea. It was the pause that refreshes.
It would be easy to spend a lot more time here in New Preston, but we had lots more towns to explore on our never-ending quest to drive every road in Connecticut. (I actually think I’ve already done that, but I can’t remember some of them.) I urge you to take a drive to a Connecticut town, starting with New Preston, but it could also be Litchfield, Washington Depot, Kent, et cetera. None of them will disappoint you. And let me know what you find and how you like it.