An old friend emailed. He lives nearly an hour away now, in northern Fairfield County. His daughter would be coming to Sherwood Island to do one of those charity walks, or bike rides, or whatever type of fundraising event seems to take place every weekend. (Hold your fire. They're all for great causes, and raise much-needed money. I just can't keep them apart.)
My friend wanted his daughter to experience Westport, not just walk (or ride, or whatever). So he told her to hit Compo Beach. He wanted to know whether it was open to nonresidents in October. She wanted to know if she could drink beer there.
I said that after Sept. 30, the beach is open to anyone. As for the beer-drinking -- which he seemed to suggest would not be the best use of her time, but gave her credit for asking about -- I gave the technically correct answer: South Beach only. I also added the environmentally sound caveat: No glass bottles, please!
My friend also wondered where his daughter and her friends could have a Westport-experience lunch. That was a bit tougher than whether she could drink at the beach. I know where I like to go, but I'm not a 20-something female. I suggested Bartaco (tequila goes great with beer), Viva's (ditto), and the Spotted Horse. I'm not sure how often young women ask about cool places for lunch in Westport, but I guess this was a good sign.
My friend's third question involved "sightseeing." That's the toughest one. To me, "sightseeing" conjures up images of hopping on and off San Francisco cable cars, tromping through Roman ruins and buying overpriced T-shirts at cruise ship ports. I'd never considered Westport a tourist destination.
But apparently it is -- at least, for those living in the northern reaches of Fairfield County.
So where to go? And what to do when she and her friends got there?
Earthplace was out. It's a great place and all -- the only spot in Westport to wander through 62 acres of wildlife trails, check out nature dioramas and see lizards and falcons and stuff -- but you can't drink beer there. At least, you're not supposed to.
One nature-type alternative is Devil's Glen. You can certainly drink beer there -- I did, back in the day, and my friend probably did too -- and you can go cliff-jumping (though combining the two is not real wise, even for supposedly invincible people in their 20s).
I should add that both beer-drinking and cliff-drinking are technically illegal, though Devil's Glen is in Weston, so you've got Officer Obie-type police enforcement -- not exactly Westport level.
I should also add that because Devil's Glen is in Weston, it is technically outside the boundaries of what my friend asked for, which is "Westport sightseeing." Then again, the Vatican is not technically in Rome.
I have not been shopping on Main Street since Klein's was a one-story shop, so I am not technically the best person to weigh in on whether it's a good destination for my friend's daughter or not. I have been advised that there is a boatload of women's clothing stores there, but I have no idea whether "women's" means 50-something matrons, 30-something looking-young-while-pushing-two-kids-in-a-stroller, or 20-something hip. So if I suggested downtown Westport, it would be with a big ol' asterisk.
Sally's Place would have been a great destination. Unfortunately, the Greatest and Best-Loved Record Store on the Planet closed this month. In part because everyone loved it, but not enough people went there.
But wait! Just around the corner from the now-shuttered Sally's Place is Veterans Green. And while I am sure my friend's daughter has less than no interest in visiting a tiny park with a statue of a doughboy (that's World War I, in case she didn't know), and plaques honoring Westporters who served in Vietnam (from my friend's and my era), Korea (same general part of the world, but earlier) and World War II (we beat Germany and Japan), it just so happened that her fundraising walk was last weekend. And -- was fur ein Gluck! -- a "biergarten" appeared that day, on that very Veterans Green.
There was a ginormous tent. Beer by the barrelful. Pretzels and schnitzel and everything else a beer-lover could want, right here in Munich-by-the-Saugatuck. When I told my friend that, and he told his daughter, she almost had a ministroken-klappenoften (in English, "a little stroke brought on by clapping one's hands with unrestrained joy.")
In fact, she was so happy, she and her friends scrapped their plans to go to the beach. Or Bartaco, Viva's and/or the Spotted Horse.
Unfortunately, they never made it to the charity walk, either.