Finding Stars Hollow -- Sunshine Kisses and Pirate Tales
And the Best thing about Thanksgiving being over is?
At a Glance:
- Mom and I set off on an adventure to find Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow
- Turns out the town is fictional, but we found the next best place, Essex, Conn.
- From Gazebos and sunshine kisses to artful food and pirate tales, it was a beautiful day
I love Thanksgiving. I love pumpkins and cinnamon and construction-paper turkeys. And I love to enjoy my Thanksgiving. If a store has Christmas lights up before the last Thursday in November, I won’t patronize it.
Yes, Christmas is exciting and all, but I’ll take my holidays like my cartons of milk — one half-gallon at a time. Anything beyond that and it gets past its sell by date and begins to smell before you finish it.
All that aside, deep down in my subconscious there was a part of me that was excited-to-be-excited about the coming post-Thanksgiving season. And while mom caught me accidentally singing a Christmas carol a week before Turkey Day, it wasn’t just Christmas I was excited about.
Yes, there is a small part of me that dies as I admit this, but I may have been a little excited about Gilmore Girls’ new show, A Year in the Life's arrival to Netflix.
Now that Thanksgiving has passed and I am officially able to stop boycotting the bakery downstairs for setting up Christmas decor weeks ago, I have been been getting into the Gilmore spirit as well.
To be honest, Lorelai’s incessant whining started driving me crazy by the fourth season of the original series, but by then I found myself completely tangled up in these fictional, yet relatable character’s lives.
I was first introduced to Gilmore Girls when I was in ninth grade — the same year as Rory was in the show. I went through high school at the same pace as this fictional daughter of a single mother, as she faced many of the same battles and experiences I was going though as a teenager.
While I loved the characters, my Netflix-watching and sit-com drama tolerance slimmed as my education and business became more demanding, so I never finished the show.
When I heard a new series was coming to Netflix, however, I knew I needed to get back into the Gilmore-groove so that I could see what all the fuss was all about.
In mid-October, Mom and I decided to take a weekend trip to visit my grandmother’s cousins in New Hampshire. We took the Jeep up though New England to enjoy the fiery transition from summer to autumn illuminating the forrest-lined highways up the coast.
While we agreed that our main incentive for the trip was to escape the city for a little and to hang out with much loved relatives, I had one request.
I wanted to find Stars Hollow.
After some research, I was disheartened to find that the quaint Stars Hollow from the T.V. show, just like it’s warm characters, was a work of fiction.
No trouble. That was only a minor setback. We were in New England and I was determined to find, if not Stars Hollow itself, the essence of the town that Rory Gilmore grew up in.
Before long, mom and I came to the town of Essex, Conn.
There was no “Stars Hollow” sign posted, but the pale blue wooden shutters, creamy picket fences, and hand-painted shop names spoke for themselves. We knew we’d made it close enough.
There was a little Antique shop that caught my eye as we parked. We crunched through the piles of red leaves that lined the street and a little bell twinkled as we entered the shop. I half expected Rory’s best friend, Lane, to poke her head out from the stack of antique chairs in the corner, but all we found was a quiet shop owner with her nose in a book.
After having our fill of vintage prints, costume jewels, and embroidered aprons, we moved on to explore the sixteenth-century stone church that shot up above the other buildings. On our way, we passed a classic candy shop with striped everything against white backgrounds. Taylor, the town mayor of Stars Hollow, would have approved.
Outside the stone church three tables framed the welcoming faces of older people in the community who were hosting a hotdog fundraiser for the church and giving out warm smiles to passersby for free.
Across from the church, however, was the real Stars Hollow must-have.
An acre of still-lush green grass wrapped around the vast trunks of trees older and taller than the stone church, and in the center of the park, it framed a delicate white gazebo — just like in Stars Hollow.
It took me back to Rory’s first date with the rebel-hearted Jess and the town troubadour’s obnoxious banters.
The grass blended with the fallen leaves, sending a sweet, earthy perfume through the trees, and an even sweeter promise of hot chocolate brewing in the church yard. We took to a bench where the sun shot through the canopy of leaves overhead, leaving golden rings from a hundred warm sunshine kisses on my skin.
After peeling ourselves from the warm wooden bench, we sauntered past the array of colorful shops and exuberant cottages, where we found the pirate version of Lorelai’s Inn nestled into the shoreline.
The Griswold Inn is the oldest continuously run tavern in the country, and has seen more vibrant tales than any sit-com writer could ever conjure up.
During the War of 1812, the inn was captured by British troops and used as a base, and during the prohibition era, it still maintained a lively entertainment schedule for the local yachtsmen. It’s been looted for alcohol, a home to Temperance Movement riots, the scene of T.V. and movie sets, and even a one-room-school at one point. (More Griswold fun facts HERE)
Opening it’s narrow wooden door was like lifting the lid from Pandora’s box. It’s like I could feel the history of the building rush through me as a breeze moved my fly-away curls back into place.
The cedar walls were plastered in framed ship illustrations and leather books, and the ceiling was made from crushed oyster shells and horsehair. I could hear someone whistling behind the bar. Wanting a reason to stay, totally captivated by the Inn’s mysterious spell, we decided to sit down for lunch.
When our food arrived, the filthy pirates I’d pictured sitting at the slanted bar after weeks of looting at sea turned to images of elegant women in fine clothes after a day reading aboard their rich husband’s yacht.
Instead of tavern-esque grisley burgers, we were served a velvet butternut squash soup with candied walnuts and homemade bread with a hazelnut apple salad with fresh greens and pork lardons. Loralai’s chef friend, Sookie, couldn’t have done better herself.
On our way out from one of the best meals I have ever eaten, we ducked into a little room stocked with jewel-toned books and antique furniture. I dove into the bookcase, not even noticing the storied man with silvery hair that sat at the head of a long oak table with a salad. I didn’t even notice when he first struck up conversation with Mom. When I’d pulled myself out of the Poe book I’d found, I was excited to join the conversation where I learned this man was the owner of the Inn, and a fellow lover of art and adventure.
After his salad had vanished into a few pink swirls of dressing on the plate, he bid us farewell and we were on our way.
I like him lots better than Lorelai any day, I thought.
With bellies and all senses satisfied, we made our way back to the car to get back on the road for New Hampshire.
So I hadn’t been able to experience the Stars Hollow, but from the friendly faces handing out hotdogs and warm drinks, to the memory-drenched gazebo in the park, to the Sookie-worthy lunch, I think we managed to capture the essence of the town, and then some, quite well.
I still have one more season to catch up on before I can start Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, but now that I’ve had the proper Stars Hollow experience, and Thanksgiving is over, I’m ready to indulge in the popcorn-packed, wit-rilled return of Rory and her Mother to Netflix.
Oh, and I can now sing all the Christmas Carolls I want.
Yes to Michael Bublé.