Just Across the Pond

After parking at the University of Bridgeport where we teach, my wife Amy and I hoisted our light bookbags on eager shoulders and began to walk.  Striding up Lafayette Street, we passed the old Warner Brothers factory, manufacturer of corsets and baseballs. I told Amy the story of when the First Lady, Francis Cleveland, came to dedicate the Seaside Institute for single working women.  A short fifteen-minute walk later, we reached the ferry slip, sitting at a picnic table to await the “Grand Republic” ferry.  At last it slid into Bridgeport Harbor, down the channel dredged so many years before, a far-sighted move which increased the harbor’s importance tenfold and allowed huge ferries and ships to carry passengers like us.

On board Amy bought tickets and we sat by the window, remarking on the clarity of sky and sea.  It was the perfect day to take this fascinating transport, and for an overnight getaway across the Sound at the ancient seafaring village of Port Jefferson.  We had taken the ferry before to explore the vineyards of Long Island, but this time we were foot travelers only.  The ship pulled away, past the Buglight and Pleasure Beach. We sat port so that I could tell Amy about the events that had led to the amusement park’s decay. Emerald Seaside Park spread out to the west, and I stepped onto the deck to watch the city recede in our wake.

Soon the green shore of the Island approached.  Sailboats lazed in the calm sea and the arms of the small bay enfolded us into the marina.  After disembarking, Amy and I walked up Main Street, window-shopping.  We passed Barnum Avenue, named for the time Bridgeport’s entrepreneur bought land here across the pond.  We turned onto Liberty Avenue and found the Golden Pineapple Bed and Breakfast.  A charming Victorian house, packed with clocks and birdhouses, Chinese prints and 19th Century American paintings.   An enormous fish tank separated the living and breakfast rooms.  Trunks, curio cabinets, floral pillows, and plush chairs made us feel instantly relaxed.  

Jennifer, the hostess, greeted us and showed us our room with its king bed and antique furniture.  A spring breeze coasted through the windows, and far-off I heard the hoot of the ferry leaving the dock.  After a short rest in this marvelous room, we walked back downtown, taking East Main Street past the Free Library and a dozen charming shops.  Reaching Broadway, we turned left to the Fifth Season.  At this fine restaurant an artisanal cheese plate of Vermont cheddar, blue, and Camembert delightfully set off our red and white local Long Island wines.  The arctic char and halibut followed, framed on luscious beds of rice and couscous.  For dessert we tried the toasted almond crème brulee and a molten chocolate cake with hazelnut gelato.

The brisk May air echoed with laughter and conversation.  Some people walked the streets with ice cream cones, while others sat and chatted on comfortable benches.  As Amy and I wound up the long hill of Main Street again, I held her close and she remarked on the perfection of the evening.  I agreed.

After a long, comfortable sleep, we woke in time for breakfast on the porch of the Pineapple.  The host Tom served us a fresh fruit cup, coffee, tea, and French toast on multigrain bread.  We discussed his diesel engine, which he filled with vegetable oil to save money.  We left this oasis with regret and headed down the hill to shop.  At Tumi, the Peruvian store, we bought a handmade belt, and at Tabu we bought a Buddhist temple bell for our porch.  We stopped at the Pindar/Duck Walk tasting room and sampled some Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and lovely Meritage blends.

After noting the British telephone booths that the city had installed, we decided on lunch at the Tiger Lily Café.  Hot from the sun, we eagerly drank healthy fruit smoothies, munched on green salad, and ate a warm brie and pear Ciabatta sandwich.  It was nearly time for the ferry, and we took a quick look around at this charming seaside town, so close to Bridgeport.  We would be back for sure.

On the ferry back, Amy and I laid on the benches of the upper deck to drink in the sun.  As we slipped towards the breakwaters of Bridgeport Harbor, I could almost see the far-off statue of P.T. Barnum watching us.  Bridgeport was ahead, and home.