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Great American Drives

Whitney Lawson The Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Photo: Whitney Lawson

New York City to Kent, Connecticut

Smart shopping, from antiques to boutiques

Distance 100 miles
Driving Time 2 hours

The Appeal

A self-reliant Yankee spirit permeates Main Street in Kent, a pre-Revolutionary village in Litchfield County where art galleries and antiques shops coexist with bucolic cornfields. Cafés, boutiques, and independently owned bookstores occupy 19th-century houses set back from the street. "The stores are personal reflections of their owners, who are usually on the premises," says local antiques dealer Elaine Friedman.

Driving Tips

From Manhattan, choose leafy Riverside Drive over the often jammed West Side Highway to the Henry Hudson Bridge. Pass up speedy I-87 and 684 for the far prettier route along the Saw Mill and Taconic parkways. The Taconic is called a parkway for a reason; the meandering four-lane highway (no trucks or rest stops) has handsome stone bridges and rustic wooden guardrails. The final five-mile stretch of the drive, on Route 7 North to Kent’s town center, hugs the Housatonic River and is one of the most picturesque parts.

Stop and Shop

Kent’s residents are beyond discerning—influential people from the worlds of fashion, publishing, the arts, and philanthropy own second homes here. A refreshingly idiosyncratic mix of shops meets the exacting standards of locals and visitors alike. Friedman, the owner of Lyme Regis, Ltd. (43 N. Main St.; 860/927-3330), makes twice-yearly visits to England to select her quirky assortment of oddities, from figural inkwells and snuffboxes to vintage valentines. The boldest antiques are found at R. T. Facts (22 S. Main St.; 860/927-1700) where owners Natalie and Greg Randall stock muscular griffins, statuary, and lanterns, for the home and garden. And B. Johnstone (4 N. Main St.; 860/927-1272) is a winsome boutique run by Bartley Inge Johnstone, an effervescent interior designer who handpicks her collections of clothing and new and vintage housewares.

Where to Eat

Kent’s rather limited dining scene got a boost three years ago when Christine Holland opened Restaurant Moosilauke (23 Maple St.; 860/927-4145; dinner for two $96) in a rustic 18th-century house, a romantic setting for market-driven dishes such as mulled cider-glazed Berkshire pork chops. For a quick pick-me-up, discriminating chocoholics will want to make a pilgrimage to Belgique (Rte. 7 at Rte. 341; 860/927-3681), a European- style patisserie proffering handmade truffles and brioches in a mustard yellow Victorian carriage house.

Don’t Miss

Eric Sloane (1905-85) was a local artist, author, and illustrator whose extensive collection of Early American, pre-Industrial Era tools was the nucleus for the eccentric Sloane-Stanley Museum (Rte. 7; 860/927-3849; www.chc.state.ct.us/sloanestanleymuseum.htm; open May through October). The wall-mounted displays of axes, saws, baskets, and other farm implements recall Julia Child’s iconic peg-board of pots and pans. A dog treadmill, which harnessed canine power to churn butter, is a reminder of the ingenuity of American farmers before electricity. A full re- creation of Sloane’s studio—with its massive fireplace, jars of paintbrushes, and crowded bookshelves—rounds out the picture of the New England renaissance man.

Overnight Option

Staying at the six-room Inn at Kent Falls (107 Kent Cornwall Rd.; 860/927-3197; www.theinnatkentfalls.com; doubles from $195) is like visiting your stylish "country" friends who are partial to Frette sheets and cushy, snow-white-slipcovered furniture. Owner Ira Goldspiel, a former New York fashion executive, and general manager Glen Sherman, a Florida transplant, greet guests each morning with a breakfast of housemade granola and double-baked brioche French toast. The floors in this meticulously renovated 18th-century farmhouse creak just enough for atmosphere, but everything else is up-to-date (rooms have Internet access and CD players). If it’s available, book the Lakes Suite, which has a claw-foot bathtub set in front of a candlelit fireplace.

—Dan Shaw


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