Global Greenwich (3) Old Greenwich, Connecticut

Visiting the Greenwichs of the world – so you don’t have to…

Thought it was about time I did another in my ‘Global Greenwich’ series, about the sundry Greenwichs (what is the plural for ‘Greenwich?) around the world.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for any amount of time may remember my outing to Greenwich, CTT – a slightly baffling visit to a satellite town within commuting distance of New York, where I managed to see about two human beings in the whole visit.

If you recall, I’d been somewhat floored by, when I actually came to get off the train, there being two Greenwich, Conneticuts – within four stops of each other. I reckoned they must be about six miles apart, so it seemed a bit unlikely that they’d be part of the same place – especially since there was a large expanse of water between them – but it seemed equally unlikely that someone would have been unimaginative enough to give two places so close to each other the same name (albeit a very good name, natch…)

The only thing to do was to hop back onto the train, go three stops along and see the other one – ‘Old Greenwich.’

The railway line goes over, curiously enough, one ‘Greenwich Creek’ – though it’s slightly swankier than its gritty London cousin. You don’t get this sort of view from the DLR:

From the train it looked like a cross between a beach and a marina, though finding my way back to it without a car was going to be tough…

I’m not really sure what I expected from ‘Old Greenwich.’ I mean – nothing in the US is particularly old, even on the East Coast, but some of the places in the main town had looked as though they’d seen a couple of centuries.

Old Greenwich’s clock told me the place had been established in 1640. There didn’t seem to be much – if anything – even half that age surviving – but I guess we can’t boast much better in this , the way we play fast and loose with our heritage on occasion.

It was certainly grittier – somehow more ‘human’ – than the Stepford-Wives territory that the main town had been. There were fewer upmarket stores and chi-chi coffee bars, and – heavens – there were one or two actual people in the streets, but again I just didn’t get anwhere near that nigh-on smothering friendliness I’ve found elsewhere in the States. If anything they seemed even more reserved than us Brits…

The main street is low-rise, large-windowed and expansive, if rather short. I wandered up and down its entirety in about ten minutes; most of the shops – a craft store, a couple of homewares emporia and a toy store of the variety I remember as a kiddie – seemed to be shut, though it wasn’t lunchtime. At the far end, the impressive fire station is easily the largest building around:

A charity shop (not a thrift store) was open and had people inside it. Since there appeared to be an age before the next train back, I wandered in and checked out exactly the same sort of tat we have in charity shops over here (albeit rather more expensive Stateside) and enjoyed a chat with a lovely old guy who, as soon as he found I was from Europe, told me all about his forthcoming trip to Turkey. I asked him about the history of the town; he didn’t know. I asked about the beach. He waved vaguely. Who wanted to talk about local things when there was Turkey to be discussed?

There was still ages to go before the train back. By this time I was getting hungry, so stopped in the only cafe I could find for a tired salad and a so-so coffee. It was a pizza place, but the girl told me they only fired up the oven on Wednesday evenings.

I tried wandering down a few side streets. The same large, close-boarded houses as in the main town, each with its own neatly-clipped lawn and Stars and Stripes flag. The odd car in the drive. But again – no one. Anywhere.

I found the bookstore. Surely here there would be something about the town’s history – even, perhaps, what made the place tick. A sign in the window asked me not to let my dog jump at the plate glass as the window was Stella the cat’s favourite sleeping place, but even Stella the cat was nowhere to be seen.

After a discussion, the assistants agreed that there had been a book about Old Greenwich out sometime, but it wasn’t in print now. Later, I looked up the town’s history on Wikipedia and though it couldn’t explain why there appeared to be two towns of the same name within six miles of each other, it did at least say what the book Murder in Greenwich that crops up on Ebay from time to time is referring to…

When I came out of the bookshop, I found the only decent-looking caff in town. A converted – what – bank? Town hall? Market building? – now a trendy wine bar. I’d just had a bad coffee and a horrible salad round the corner but I went in anyway. While I’d been eating said horrible salad, I’d missed a train. At least the coffee there was good.

There was one place left to visit. The mini-supermarket. There was still 35 minutes to the next train and I was virtually next to the tracks, so I wasn’t in a hurry. Here is a list of things I bought:

Extra-large, extra tough muffin cases
Birthday candles in the shape of Champagne bottles
An orange
Cat breath-fresheners
A box of Dots

I had exhausted Old Greenwich. Rather, it had exhausted me. If there was a beach to be found, I had failed. If there were humans to be found, I’d failed there too.

I’m sure I missed something here. The party that was going on right round the corner, if only I’d gone one street further, perhaps. Please – if you’re from Old Greenwich, CTT, and you’ve stumbled onto this blog by accident – put me out of my misery and tell me where that party was…

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