Author shares tips on picnicking and day trips in Connecticut

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Colchester - posted Mon., Jul. 29, 2013
Jan Mann reads from her book, ‘Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket,’ which includes locations ranging from historic homes to a ferry cruise around the Thimble Islands, at Cragin Memorial Library as part of the 2013 Connecticut Authors Trail series. Photo by Brenda Sullivan.
Jan Mann reads from her book, ‘Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket,’ which includes locations ranging from historic homes to a ferry cruise around the Thimble Islands, at Cragin Memorial Library as part of the 2013 Connecticut Authors Trail series. Photo by Brenda Sullivan.

You might not expect a book focused on picnicking to be a hot item, but one guide to this popular summer activity is now in its third edition.

Author Jan Mann talked about the origins of her book, “Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket,” at the Cragin Memorial Library on July 22. Her visit was part of a series of authors’ talks and book signings across the state as part of the annual Connecticut Authors Trail. (www.connecticutauthorstrail.org)

Mann’s book includes tips for 42 different day trips paired with recipes for a picnic tailored to the location, either by theme (i.e. seaside) or practicality (eating on a bench, tailgating, a backpacking hike, etc.)

Mann said she decided to write the first edition of her book because she enjoys combining some kind of activity with picnicking. Her locations are divided into sections reflecting what she likes to do: Arts, Music & Theater; City Walking Tours; Fall Fun & Foliage; Hiking & Biking; Historic Homes & Gardens; Mystic; Shopping; Special Interest; Spring Wildflower Hunt; Water Fun; and Wineries.

Once she got started, she realized that a book on picnicking should also say something about food. “I thought, then I might as well do recipes… so the book took longer than I expected, but I enjoyed it,” she said.

For a walking/cycling visit to Mystic, Mann suggests a picnic recipe called “Crab & Crackers.” “It’s a little more involved than I like for my recipes, but for one thing, it works hot or cold,” she said.

One of her favorite daytrips, under the category of City Walking Tours, takes the visitor around downtown Hartford, where she grew up. The half-mile stroll takes in Constitution Plaza, the former Hartford Times Building, the Travelers Building and the Ancient Burial Grounds, and ends at Bushnell Park with a ride on the carousel – following by a picnic in the park.

Some locations in her book may be familiar to Connecticut readers, such as Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam and the Mark Twain House in Hartford. However, she said, “With places that are well-known, I try to glean something unknown.” For example, she discovered a pet cemetery at Harkness Memorial State Park (famous for its seaside mansion and gardens) in Waterford.

Mann also shared that while researching the third edition of her book, she was let in on a discovery at Roseland Cottage (also known locally as “the pink house”) in Woodstock.

This grand summer home, built in 1846 by Henry Bowen, was originally painted the color of his favorite rose, with green shutters to represent the color of leaves and brown trim for the color of stems. The house has since been painted “at least 13 different shades of pink,” Mann said.

When she revisited the historic site, however, a paint sample of its original color had been discovered in the basement: “A kind of coral/salmon,” Mann said.

Other sites Mann highlighted in her talk included the Boothe Memorial Park and Museum in Stratford, named for two eccentric brothers who built and imported buildings to house their copious collections, including a 44-sided blacksmith shop; the Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic with hands-on activities and a tranquil area for picnicking; the Connecticut College Arboretum in New London, where something is blooming every season; the Thimble Islands cruise from Stony Creek Harbor in Branford; the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield; and Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, where “people go to a tasting, pick out a wine, go back to their table and stay for hours… it’s always hopping,” she said.

Mann noted that a book like hers is bound to have some locations that will change or disappear altogether, so she intends to post updates, including new locations, on her website at http://cruisingconnecticut.com.


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