I recently returned from my sisters wedding in Connecticut and there is definitely a different look and feel between the east coast and the west. (Also the reason I haven’t posted in a few days). In my quest for the “perfect” city -walkable, yet somewhat urban- this gave me a fresh perspective of a small town’s central area.

The biggest difference that struck me when comparing the east and west coast was the size of the towns and roadways. I take pride in knowing my cardinal directions and can find my way around most towns within minutes, but without a N/S and E/W grid to follow I become a little lost. The roads in CT are windy, poorly marked, and difficult to see with so many trees covering the view. Don’t get me wrong; I love visiting new locations and getting a feel for different cities, but driving in CT was more difficult than driving out west. I also noticed that most towns I drove to were small, under 20,000 people, with only houses and trees in between. Of course, I did stay outside the major metro the entire trip minus the visit to the airport, so maybe that explains things a bit.

Perhaps it was the town I was staying in , but I heard as many sirens in a town of about 20,000 as I normally do in a town of 4 million. There was a very strange vibe in the city near my sister’s wedding location. It was beautiful, but the number of vagrants was a little perplexing. It’s a college town, per se, but there were all kinds of people living in the area and the police activity was quite heavy. For instance, one morning the police were questioning someone on the sidewalk and their police dog was going crazy for about 15 minutes while I was picking up my coffee.

Not to sound so negative, in contrast I loved the fact that I could walk up and down Main Street (do all small towns have a “Main Street”?) to get coffee, choose from a selection of restaurants and bars, and pick up Chapstick all within a mile. However, as much as I loved walking everywhere, I found that I was dying to drive somewhere! I think that’s the effect Los Angeles has had on me.

Litchfield -about an hour from where I was staying with a very small, charming, “main street” and great vibe.

Walking everywhere was terrific, but another challenging thing were the crosswalks and stoplights. In CT pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk whether the signal is green or red. Sounds great, but it was terribly confusing for people from out of town like myself. I never knew if I was allowed to walk or not; I’d push the hand signal and it would take forever to change while I watched people cross on a red light. Eventually I just started walking too. At one point I crossed on a red hand signal right in front of a patrol man (they were literally on almost every block) and realized I wasn’t going to be handed a jay-walking ticket.

There are many things I appreciate about older, smaller towns (like their architecture) but I know for sure that I need to live in a slightly larger city.

How does your town rate? And for those who live in Connecticut, what is up with walking on a red light?!

6 Comments

  1. my city isnt really known as “walkable” but i’ve found that I can get to most places I need to go walking or on a bike – it is nice to have a grid system to help navigate though!

  2. I don’t think it’s just small towns… I think just about every town (small and large) has a “Main” street somewhere. Just about every town I can remember being in seems to have one.

    I agree with you, though, that it’s cool to have a wide variety of things to do in a small space that’s kind of cool about small towns, but at the same time, I like the “driving somewhere” too. Small towns never really seem like there’s much to do to me and quite often, they “shut down at sundown”. Okay… Maybe 9. But either way, when you’re used to a lot of things being open until 10Pm, 11 PM, or midnight (or even all night), a town that “shuts down” might make it hard to do what you want.

    Although I was born in Connecticut, I left there when I was still very young, so I have no idea about the walking on the red lights.

    • @Grady – Stores did close early (like at 5pm!) and that was unusual for me. However, the restaurants seemed to stay open late so that worked out to our benefit.

  3. Something to consider about east coast vs west coast cities. East coast cities can be very old and expanded with need where more west coast cities were planned on grids. Not all of them are like this but the west coast was definitely settled much later than the east.

    • @Lance – That’s definitely true. I like the windy roads of the east (especially the cobblestone streets – so quaint), but they are more difficult to navigate.

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