Go West




Explore the rural - and artsy - charm of Cornish and Plainfield.Midsummer is made for a lazy weekend of leisurely garden strolls, admiring art and an easy paddle down the Connecticut River.Saturday MorningWe chose Common Man Inn in nearby Claremont as a base for exploring Cornish/Plainfield and a bit of kayaking on the Connecticut River. The Home Hill Inn in Plainfield could be another fine choice, but we have not tried it yet. Skipping the complimentary breakfast we headed north on Route 120 to nosh on fresh-baked goodies at the Saturday Cornish Farmers Market in Cornish Flat. While there we gathered provender for a picnic lunch. Heading toward the river through Cornish Mills, we found two covered bridges, Blacksmith Shop Bridge, built in 1881, and Dingleton Hill Bridge, raised a year later.Saturday AfternoonAt North Star Canoe Livery they loaded kayaks onto the shuttle that would take us to a put-in about four miles north, accessing a stretch of moving flatwater shallow enough to be free of power boats. Helped by the light current we paddled downstream, under the long 1866 Cornish-Windsor Bridge, America's longest historic covered bridge. Just beyond we stopped at Chase Island, pulling the kayaks onto the beach to eat lunch and watch a heron catch his. Back on the river, we saw more waterfowl before North Star's big red barn and beach came into view.DinnerA mill building adjacent to the one housing the inn is now Common Man Restaurant, with exposed brick walls and original architectural features. All that paddling worked up an appetite, so we began with Uncommon Flatbread, topped with caramelized onions, cheddar, mozzarella and Gorgonzola, before digging into braised pot roast and pan-fried Rock Crab cakes. No question why they've won "Best Crab Cakes" in this magazine's awards.Saturday EveningWe'd arrived too late on Friday to give the inn much attention, so we settled in after dinner for a game of Scrabble in front of the fireplace in the lobby - without the fire, it being August. We retired to our large room overlooking the Sugar River Falls, whose rushing waters lulled us to sleep.Sunday MorningAfter muffins and fruit at the inn, we stopped at Stone Arch Bakery on Main Street for a picnic lunch, then headed back to Cornish. In the early 20th century an illustrious group of artists and writers built summer homes in Cornish and Plainfield, forming what was known as the Cornish Colony. They were their era's Who's Who of American Art, and included artist Maxfield Parrish and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose home and studio are preserved as Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. After the short guided tour of his house, we explored the studio and galleries to see his work. In the beautifully maintained gardens were some of his most iconic sculptures, framed in summer flowers. Find concerts on the grounds on Sundays in August from 2 p.m to 4 p.m.Sunday AfternoonWe decided to admire one of the state's least-known art treasures, a stage set by Maxfield Parrish in the Plainfield's little town hall. The painted backdrop depicts a mountain rising from a lake with granite boulders on its shore. Side curtains of pine, birch and maple trees frame a woodland glen, and a fluttering of colored leaves above completes the autumn illusion. It is illuminated by 25-watt bulbs on dimmer switches that bring the scene from night through dawn to midday and into blue evening shadows.
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