In 2017, I moved to New England, but not just any place in New England. I lived in New Haven, Connecticut for two years to study at Yale. While I was there, I had a Gilmore Girls activity list of sorts running through my mind.
The list encompassed two of the show’s most important worlds: Stars Hollow and Yale. I’m going to discuss the former first. As fans know, Amy Sherman-Palladino stayed at the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, Connecticut, where she gathered inspiration for Stars Hollow.
Washington is next to Washington Depot, and those two towns became a weekend sanctuary for me while I lived in Connecticut. My husband and I would take the leisurely hour ride every few months or so, and we always went home a little happier.
At first, I wanted to see anything that could have inspired the components of Rory’s fictional hometown. And I did! Marty’s supposedly was like Luke’s, and the Hickory Stick Bookshop was right around the corner. Our very first trip to the town, we walked right into a special community event at the bookstore, and I won a goodie bag! Then there was the local hardware store, right across from a market with a facade very similar to Doose’s, and you can’t forget the town hall! Though not everything looks identical to what the Warner Brothers lot created for the series, there are certainly some resemblances here and there.
When Gilmore Girls debuted in 2000, I was in the first grade. As its last episode aired, I was finishing seventh grade. I’d say I was basically too young to appreciate or understand the show during its original run. It wasn’t really on my radar during those years. Even in high school, I don’t remember any of my friends talking about it or watching reruns. Finally, in college, one of my best friends introduced me to the land of Stars Hollow via the classic DVD boxed set. I was hooked and watched the entire series rather quickly.
That’s why I was determined to do what Rory did while I had the privilege of living in beautiful New England. The CW hour drama was certainly what got me on the road for quaint Connecticut adventures.
But over time, these trips became special because of Washington/Washington Depot itself. We found our favorite spot to eat at (The Pantry), we always loved browsing at the Hickory Stick, and we had fun walking around the small main area of stores, especially during nice fall weather. One of my favorite purchases at the local gift shop was a cute little winter hat that I still wear (I went from Connecticut to Michigan).
Even once you leave Washington/Depot to head back toward New Haven, you’ll find plenty of other roadside pleasantries, especially if you’re into antiquing. The truth is, there are a TON of towns all over the state that will give you Stars Hollow vibes. Try Guilford, where you’ll see a true town green surrounded by restaurants, local stores, and a buzzing food center. Keep going along the shoreline and you’ll find more gems. In Essex, you can eat at The Griswold, one of America’s oldest inns, and visit the Connecticut River Museum during the holidays for the best display of trains. You’ll find small-town charm in Chester, Madison, Old Lyme, and countless other destinations.
The special thing about my time in Connecticut is that it blends my television nostalgia with my real-life memories. 2017 feels miles away, but also like yesterday. When I look back on that time, nostalgia takes on many layers. I feel happiness for the good memories that I made, but I also feel sadness for the fact that an entire chapter of my life came and went so quickly.
Stars Hollow was important because it was the heart of Gilmore Girls. Yale became a second home for Rory, and Hartford was (somewhat reluctantly) another destination for her and Lorelai. Jack worked in Hartford while I was in school. While some neighborhoods there, and in West Hartford, will remind you of Emily and Richard Gilmore’s house, much of the city of Hartford will not remind you of their lavish dwelling at all. There’s a stark contrast between the poorer sectors and the wealthier neighborhoods. At our church, people from all over the area worshipped together.
My studies were also religious. At Yale Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music, I earned a Master of Arts in Religion and Music. You might remember Rory referencing “the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle” aka the quad? Here it is:
My program of study was concentrated “up the hill” and about a half-hour’s walk from the downtown buildings of Yale College and other graduate/professional programs. I also took several courses downtown, studied at the main library, and sang in concerts at one of Yale’s most well-known venues, Woolsey Hall.
Our first Thanksgiving there, my parents and sister came to visit, as well as Jack’s twin sisters. We saw a ton of Gilmore Girls staples, including Rory’s residence, Branford Hall, which isn’t too far from that lucky toe at Old Campus.
The thing about Yale is, you can live there for multiple years and not see everything. There are a few museums I never went to, libraries I (so sadly) didn’t check out, and other little secrets throughout the historic campus that I missed. For all that I never saw, I still got to experience so many incredible things. Maybe sometime I’ll share my tours of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, or the medical school, the law school, the main library, or my favorite coffee shop and bookstore, Atticus. (You see that there are a lot of books involved here…)
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more on the blog and on Instagram!