Monday, September 19, 2005

Conneticut River Valley

J!’s parents live in what is known as the Connecticut River Valley in a tiny town called Chicopee. Chicopee is nice—parks, brick school, good donut shops, and most of J!’s relatives have, at one point or another, lived there. This makes touring especially fun, because J!’s parents can point out all the houses where relatives/cousins used to live but no longer do, or where they still live but why those cousins are no longer on speaking terms. I don’t think Chicopee is especially small, but it does seem like everyone around here could play the six-degrees game via J!’s family. For example, the lady at Costco, who sold J! a new pair of glasses, just bought a house from a cousin of his mother’s, whose father gave the cousin the house but now lives next door. And also, the Costco lady didn’t like J!’s mother’s cousin’s mother. See what I mean?

There are a lot of small colleges around this area so we had fun touring all the college towns. J!’s parents had a great time driving me around, showing me all the little country roadside stands where one can buy local produce. It seems like every family owned dairy in the area has cashed in on the home-made ice cream market. Naturally, we had to stop and sample the local fare. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like snacking on a huge waffle cone full of delicious coconut ice-cream while breathing in the fresh aroma of the very cows that produced your tasty treat. Yum!

The Highlights

Paper City Brewing Company:

Paper City Brewing Co. isn’t really the best microbrew in the Springfield area. For that, according to several locals, you should look to Berkshire Brewing Co (BBC). My own personal favorite while I was a guest in Western Mass. was the Wachussets Blueberry Ale, which I highly suggest. But back to Paper City. The best thing about it, really, is that PCBC hosts a Friday night happy hour of sorts in an old factory in Holyoke, MA, on the eighth floor. For $5 (or $4 and a non-perishable food item) you get a plastic cup and as much of whatever they have on draft as you can handle between 6 and 8. After that, you can go back to drinking BBC at some other bar in town.

Souper Bowl:

Yeah, this is a soup place. As far as I know they also make some salads and maybe a sandwich or two but mostly it is just soup. This place opened when J! was a sophomore in college at UMASS. He went there often enough that when we went there last week to get some soup they still remembered him, even though he’s been on the West coast for two years now. The corn chowder is great.

Eric Carle Museum:

When Eric Carle was out in Davis for a book signing J! and I went--along with every child between the ages 2 and 8--to get our copies of The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar signed. When he finished autographing J!’s book, Mr. Carle looked up at my boyfriend and said, “so, you grew up with the caterpillar?” Such a sweet old man. Anyway, the museum has a lovely selection from Eric Carle’s personal collection in one of the galleries. The other gallery rotates, usually showcasing a well-known children’s book illustrator for about two months. I admit though, that much as I enjoyed the galleries, the bathroom was my favorite. I can’t speak for the little poet’s room (as J! calls it) but in the little scholar’s room, some of the tiles were decorated with animals from Eric Carle books and there was even a step stool so that tiny girls could reach the sink to wash their hands.

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