Now I know a lot of people pooh-pooh Rockwell, for various reasons, but the man was incredible. In his lifetime he finished some 4000 artworks, most of them finely detailed paintings and his portraits were exquisite. He didn't consider himself a "fine artist"...he thought of himself solely as a pictorial storyteller; a true illustrator. The museum was situated on lovely grounds and was spacious and light-filled. There were several galleries of his work on the main floor and seeing the familiar images in large-scale was astounding. Not a fine artist, indeed.
Due to our late start we didn't stay and tour Rockwell's studio, though we did spend quite some time in the museum store. We headed out to drive another hour and a half to Hartford, Connecticut to the Mark Twain House. Little did we know that the directions Google had given me were on a 2-lane highway that took FOREVER winding through the Berkshires. And unfortunately we had to be at the Twain House by 4:30 in order to make the last tour, so we couldn't stop at any of the bazillion antique places that were LINED along the road after the first hour. It was pure torture to keep zipping past them. I've never seen so many antique signs in a row in my life!
We finally got into West Hartford and barely had a chance to admire all the huge beautiful homes lining the streets as we found our way to the Museum parking lot. We raced into the Museum Center a few minutes after the last tour was scheduled to start only to be distressed at the fact that there was no one there waiting for a tour. AAGH! We'd missed it! But no, the woman at the front desk said not to worry, and she whipped out a walkie-talkie and told the guide to wait for us. Down the hallway, up a twisting flight of flat stairs around the second floor and out again onto the terrace, then past the carriage house we hurried, and there they were! The guide and 3 other people waiting for us. As we caught up to them and caught our breath and introduced ourselves and thanked them for waiting, another 3 people came rushing up. So then we all set off into the home. It's only open to guided tours, you can't just wander around inside by yourself, and as we came into the foyer, I could see why. It was BEAUTIFUL. And full of beautiful things. The foyer itself was just stunning. Wood-paneled with a beautiful staircase and silvery stencils designed by Tiffany all over the walls and ceiling.
The guide was really great, full of interesting anecdotes and information about the house and the Twain family who lived there for 17 years. Since the book I had been reading for an entire week (at that point) was Mark Twain's Autobiography, I was pretty well up-to-date on the major events of his life and had actually just finished reading about his marriage and subsequent move to Hartford not too long after. Perfect timing! And since Mom and I hadn't thought we'd make it to Mark Twain's house at all, it felt like a major bonus that we had managed to get there in time for the tour. The guide also told us that if we had the opportunity we should come back around Christmastime because they give a really great holiday tour then. That won't be so easy for me, but I sure would love to some day! There were other tours of the house (we only saw part of it) and the Museum Center as well, and the Harriet Beecher Stowes lived literally a stone's throw away across the yard, so I could definitely spend a lot of time there.
I've always been partial to Mark Twain and have read a great many of his books, though not all, by any means. He was a fascinating person in an interesting time. After the tour, in the museum store (which was all that was open after the tour left), the woman there told us to drive back into the center of old West Hartford to find the shopping district where all the restaurants were. Unfortunately, we made a bad decision (our first and only of the trip) regarding the restaurant for dinner and though Mom enjoyed her meal, I think, mine was disappointing and didn't agree with me at all.
Despite that it was a good day and the end of a delightful trilogy of good days. I hope to get back there one day! And even given the incredible amount of stuff we packed into the Labor Day weekend, it's rather daunting to think that of all the things we considered doing during our 3 days, we only made a really tiny dent in the veritable plethora of things to do and see in the area! Two fixes in one day: a great artist and a great writer! Who could ask for anything more?
Barrelfuls of Big Birthday Wishes to elemmennope!