Mystic & Region, Connecticut Part I
Mystic, Connecticut is a quaint ancient seafaring town on the shore of Connecticut. In it's hayday Mystic was known more commonly as "Portersville" and was known for shipbuilding and whaling. Seal hunting was also common but was secondary to whaling in that era. Recent history, that being when European contact is recorded starts at a period when the Pequot Tribal Nation ruled the area. Surrounded by their cousins and oft enemy the Mohegans, Narragansetts, & Nehantics the Pequots had a fort, exact location is not yet known to this date but is believed to be high on a hill overlooking Mystic and the river. In 1636 colonists from Hartford and Windsor petitioned Boston for soldiers to "eliminate" the Pequot problem after a boat of colonists is attacked and butchered on the Connecticut River. The culprits we're suspected to be the Pequots and with the help of local tribesmen the soldiers slaughtered more than 700 men, women and children with the remainder being sold into slavery. A statue to Capt. John Mason who led the soldiers once stood in Mystic but was removed at the start of the era of political correctness and now stands in Windsor the town he founded.
During the colonial times Mystic was a small local fishing and ship building area which began to flourish at the time of the end of the War of 1812. Several events in War of 1812 helped shape the history of Mystic but has been basically forgotten to time and a few knowledgeable scholars. Please contact me if you wish to hear more of these stories. With the advent of Whaling Mystic grew and it's whalers we're known across the globe as fierce competitors for whales. Although behind New London and New Bedford in total number of Whale ships Mystic still grew and had a great dependency on this industry. The Mallory family had several shipyards he Charles Mallory eventually earned a respective fortune in his time in this business. His home can still be seen just across the Mystic River.
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Mystic is a quaint area... thriving downtown, albeit minus a block of buildings that burned 6 years ago and still remains empty as local factions fight and plan, discuss and fight again what will happen. Looking aside from this Mystic has evolved into a tourist and summer vacationer mecca with million dollar ship captain's homes and condominiums throughout the area.
Mystic downtown is a main street filled with boutiques, restaurants and ice cream shops. Life fills the downtown and old lounges fill with new more hip restaurants catering to the 25 plus crowd which is great for us.
When starting downtown one parks at one of the few available parking spots for free or charge. To the west or Groton side the majority of the downtown area one can stroll the side streets for a respite from life's busy times or wander in shops, sometimes so packed with wares and people that it is uncomfortable but somewhat pleasing anyway... odd! Off Water Street is the age old Daniel Packer Inn... a throwback to colonial/seafaring times. The pub in the cellar or Tavern is out of the history books. Dark and dreary but quaint. Service is good and the pours are healthy. Food at DPI as it is called locally is excellent... Not far are local staples Margaritas and some Oriental food... both busy with locals and tourists alike.
Wandering further down the street one arrives at the busy intersection where the main street meets Water Street. To the left handside you will see Mystic Pizza, now a large tourist type establishment building upon it's fame from Julia Roberts "Mystic Pizza" movie fame. New to the area is Azu a tappas of sorts bar... cool and trendy, comfortable interior finally offering Mystic and the people of SE CT something else other than the staples of our beloved lobster, fish & chips, pizza and Chinese food. Azu which we attended on one night (Thursday) was packed to the rafters with an all age (no children) crowd. Good food, decent prices, nice decor soon to be recognized as "thee" meeting place for 23 plusses.
From here are some local favorites such as the venerable Harp & Hound Irish Pub . The Harp & Hound offers live music and a cozy atmosphere that makes you feel almost that you are in a pub just outside of the Temple Bar district in Dublin. Located just feet off of main street - definitely worth a trip and this coupled with the St.Patty's Parade each year... and one has a reason to go out!
Also in the downtown area other than a large empty lot of land called the "Central Hall Block" which burned more than six years ago and no one really seems allto interested in rebuilding are the age old local and tourist favorite Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream Shop. Nestled in a small building just to the side of the Mystic River, sloping and slanting almost to the point of collapse, homemade ice cream and long lines are the rule. Excellent ice cream, ideal for that warm summer nite walk. Suggestion: Grab an ice cream and head to the other side of the river, cross route 1 and enjoy a short stroll on the river walk.
For daytime delights the S&P Oyster House on the Stonington side offers a great location and ok food. Ideal for families in the daytime and a nice cocktail in the early evening S&P's views of downtown are the best around.
On this side of Mystic, aka the Stonington side one can wander up and down the side streets. Wandering south along the waterfront one runs into some local drinking establishments, one of which is John's Bar. A brown bar filled with college kids and longshoremen alike. Service is slow and dependably slower... In this area is the old Charles Mallory House... recently restored. Mallory owned the local shipyard that helped propel Mystic (Portersville) to fame as a center of Whaling and Shipbuilding. On this side of the river is also a favorite of new Italian called Bravo Bravo. Located just off Route 1 and just a hundred feet from the river Bravo Bravo is packed on a nightly basis so call ahead for a spot. The former Whalers Inn sits here and offers wonderful rooms for your enjoyment-overnight. Just to the other side of the liberty flag pole is Anthony J's known for their hot rocks food which if you are not aware... are hot rocks where you place your food on to cook. Somewhat of a Vesuvius meets fine dining.
In this area or the North Side of Stonington Side so to speak are places to rent canoes and cayaks albeit the service has never been friendly nor do they seem to enjoy their jobs... but in anycase a trip up and down the Mystic River is great on a nice summer morning. Located within 150 yards of the Mystic Seaport one can view the Charles W.Morgan Whaler and Joseph Conrad without the extra charge! Here are also located the odd public boat launch and public water access area. Please email me for more information on these spots. The homeowners are nun-too happy to have this but it is there for your and my enjoyment.
No stop at Mystic with a family or for history buffs alike is complete without a stop at Mystic Seaport! The seaport founded in 1929 is a recreation of a whaling village in the 1840s. Home to the last wooden Whaler the Captain Morgan (also it's oar is at the Griswold Inn in Essex, Conn.) the seaport offers a living history view of that era. Also are galleries, special events and dining (Seaman's Inne). The seaport is currently undergoing some changes and expansion to help continue teaching of this most important era. If you recognize some of the sights from the Seaport... well you are right... they we're in the Spielberg move "La Amistad" the story of the escaped slaves and their fight for freedom in 1839. Some of the movie was filmed here as was White Squall, the story of the training ship that ran into a "White Squall" back in the 1960's.
From here one can journey up to Mystic Village. An arrangement of specialty shops just off of I-95. This village is a recreation of an old village in Norway as the developer hailed from Norway way back when.
A bevy of restaurant (family style) and hotel choices can be had up in this area. One hidden treasure in this area is the Colonial Research Center at Old Mystic. Old Mystic was the original section of Mystic and is located past the hotels and toward Groton Center. Follow signs toward Old Mystic and one can research local history and even grab a cup of joe along the way.
And to frost the cake is the Denison Homestead and Pequotsepos... a bit of a meandering journey through the woods to this 17th century homestead that offers a summer market, tours, educational events and more... worth the trip for the history buff. Signs are located throughout guiding you toward this fine old place.
Now we head back to Mystic and Main Street...In the same area as the Mystick Village and just off on "I-95" is the Mystic Aquarium and Center for Exploration. Home to Robert Ballard and his treasures of the Titanic the Aquarium is one of the better ones in the country. Ideal for families and worth a few hours of your time especially to see the Beluga Whale exhibit and the Titanic displays. traveling back toward Mystic Seaport we pass by a large cemetery lying along the Mystic River shore. The Elm Grove Cemetery (entry) dates back to the early 19th century and possibly earlier, is lined with handsome grave stones, trees and and pathways. Many of the regions great ship captains, whaling masters and explorers are buried here. Worth a stop. Cemetery wanderings (tours) are available. Inquire at the Mystic Tourism and information center located at Mystick Village and downtown Mystic or at the Seaport.
From here head toward downtown again passing by the entry to Mystic Seaport, the handsome Seaman's Inne. If you fancy books and artwork on history and the maritime trade then the book store is ideal for you. The famous Rosenfeld collection is located just to the side of the Seaman's Inne as is a fine bake & coffee shop. Free to enter! From here you will see a couple of seafood shack type establishments... the best of which is Kitchen Little! Offering views of the river.. Kitchen Little is truly little. If you have a stroller..no worries as the staff and customers will help you get through to inside or outside dining. Experimental eggs and omletes. Where else would you be able to order a corn beef and hash omelet with hash browns and feta cheese? Great food...Great views!
Following toward Mystic keep to the Route 1 (Stonington) side passing around the rotary and heading toward Stonington Borough. From here you will see a fine hotel overlooking the harbor. The Inn at Mystic (view from the Inn at Mystic). (view of the Hotel)
offers views of Mystic and Mystic River, overnighting and fine dining at the well known Flood Tide Restaurant. The Flood Tide offers a Sunday Brunch that is hard to beat and in the center of the brunch is a fine ever changing ice sculpture. At one time this area was the outskirts of Mystic and when one ventured here you ventured to the end. Only a turn around was expected with some saying..."was that it" of Mystic? Well not any longer. From here there are shops for a couple of miles including the venerable and highly regarded Mystic Market. Loaded with fresh foods, ready to eat warm and cold sandwiches, wraps and gourmet take home the Market is always busy and folks come from all areas to enjoy there offerings. Follow toward Stonington for another days trip or an evening of dinner at quaint Stonington Borough. Stay tuned for our next Blog report on Stonington and Stonington Borough.
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Posted in Outdoor Activities Post Date 03/30/2019