Sunday, August 21, 2011

CT Flash Tour 2011

What do Philip Johnson’s Glass House, Ticket to Ride, The Mystic Aquarium, and the USS Nautilus have in common?  Two things I can think of: they’re all in Connecticut and my family enjoyed them all over one of my famous, crazy 24-hour flash tours this weekend.

First the Glass House.

Philip Johnson's weekend retreat: The Glass House, 1949
I’ve made attempts – at least once a year – to go on a tour of the property since it opened four years ago.  It was either sold out (most frequently) or we didn’t have the time.  I really wanted to bring the girls with us because I think it’s good for them to experience examples of good design in order to cultivate a sense of appreciation for it, especially when we live in organized chaos. 

I was not mistaken – they loved it and were particularly enamored of the outdoor rooms meticulously designed by Johnson himself! 

The pond and climbing structure as one view from the Glass House.

Overall, Johnson’s Glass House is quite similar in layout to the ultra modern prefab box homes that I covet, but with much more glass, much less kitchen, and as of yet, unimagined  environmental control of every view – which is really saying something when all the walls are made of glass.

Mies van der Rohe was a friend and his
Farnsworth House was an influence on Johnson's design.

The modern architecture, the numerous follies, and the controlled landscaping made the trip well worth the significant price. We included the modern art collection in our tour, but all agreed on its sheer insanity.  Overall, it was a great experience!  (Thanks for the inspiration, Earl!)

One of the two "art" galleries on the property.
Its structure, including its play on light, was ingenious, if not waterproof.

Then things went south.

Actually, we went east from the tony New Canaan, CT to the very depressed New London area. Frankly, it was a little dicey, but when making reservations in an unknown area, it’s rather a crapshoot. Things ended well as we headed toward the beach for fireworks and the Fab Four. As we walked down the little boardwalk of the sad honky-tonk Ocean Beach Park area, it absolutely reminded me and Stephen of The Willows – a little depressed seaside park in Salem, but it was not as familiar as these weren’t our people (as types, they were the same, but we had no hope of having gone to high school with any of the smoking, drinking, inked-up folks we saw – and about this, we were happy). 

Some decent fireworks.
Anyway, when we saw the overweight older guys on the stage doing sound checks, we were a little more depressed than when we had walked in – but twenty minutes later they emerged, in 60s suits and bowl haircuts and sang and played their hearts out!  They were actually really good! Stephen, Victoria, and I sang all the songs OUT LOUD and Katy wished she were somewhere else.  After the fireworks, we watched the fellas come back out in their Sgt. Pepper’s era costumes and sang ourselves out to the parking lot.  They were a delightful surprise.

Ticket to Ride: A Beatles Tribute Band
Bad pictures of good music. 
Regarding the hotel, I’m just going to say that I clearly don’t understand the sleep number bed system and leave it at that.

The next morning we headed to the Mystic Aquarium. As so often happens when the children are five years apart, I had mistakenly checked off “aquarium” as experienced by my youngest when she had actually never been! Oh, the parental shame.

Touching slimy things: all part of growing up.
Well, we changed all that. She watched the three beluga whales, the black-footed penguins, touched the rays, sea stars, marveled at the hugeness of the sea lions and the pups (one we named Bob because he bobbed his torpedo like shape up and down vertically in the water), examined wildly different sized jellies, and oddly, fed free flying birds from a stick.  The reason this is odd is because I’m not really sure what the birds had to do with an aquarium, but it was really fun. The Cockatiels, parrots, and parakeets loved Stephen and one tried to come home with me in my purse. No one but me wanted to bother to go in the bird house, and it ended up being a big hit.
Beluga. Not sure if it's Baby.

Bob, the sea lion pup.

I just like bright orange and cobalt blue.

Stephen attracts all his birds by wearing Objectivism
on his sleeve. Or chest, as the case may be. 

Finally, we headed back a little west to hit the USS Nautilus Museum. The Nautilus was the first nuclear powered submarine in the world and is now docked in Groton, CT offering tours of its spacious interior. Frankly, I was concerned that I would get claustrophobic just being inside the darn thing – even with it open and the air moving! But I distracted by the incredibly condensed interior, the 1960s dummies they used to simulate the crew, and 1950s pin-up girls designed to represent the ladies back home. Stephen pointed out that on one control panel, all that was labeled for the viewer was the “cup holder.”

18" drawers to sleep in. Fun.

I think that's Ava Gardner.

Guess who took this picture.

We had actually toured another sub, the USS Albacore, which now sits in a ditch in Portsmouth NH in 2004 or so and in 2008, Stephen toured an active nuclear sub in Groton as part of ESGR employer support appreciation in 2008.

That concludes our CT Flash Tour 2011. I hope you enjoyed it at least a fraction of how much I did.

Next up: Newport in a Day.



Christina said...

We love the Mystic Aquarium and are headed there soon! The birds in the aviary loved E., too. Thanks goodness she doesn't regard birds as she does bugs.

Glad you had a good time!

Debbie said...

I go to Connecticut all the time and all I ever do is see my sister. Rethinking the entire state now. Thanks for the ride.

Lynne said...

Thanks for the suggestion! I was actually thinking of E while I was in there wondering about that very thing. Katy wasn't even too sure she liked all those birds flying around her!


Lynne said...

Debbie, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'd never done anything but pass through CT before (to my immediate recollection). No wait. I counted cars in Hartford once, for work.