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Whenever I go to Connecticut, there are two places that I always visit. I have written about them in a previous post, but they are precious enough to mention again... and again! Both places are in Madison ... my all-time favorite town in Connecticut.

1) The independent bookstore, R.J. Julia Booksellers.

When you walk in the front door (pictured above), this is what is on the right. It is a nook where classic literature is shelved and where I was compelled to buy Jude the Obscure during one of my visits, a few years ago. YIKES!

I love the hard wood floors and all of the wooden book cases. This store really feels like home to me. It is cozy, with just enough light.

When you browse the shelves... not sure what to read... no fear! The staff has suggestions and they write little reviews on index cards to help you. See the example below:

The bookstore has a second floor! I get excited when bookstores have a second floor. The stairway is beautiful, too. This store is more to me than a place to buy books. It has architectural features that take my breath away.

The creaky stairs add to the ambiance! Maybe it's just me...

...and just when you've had your fill of browsing and you finally pick out that special book... R.J. Julia Café is the perfect place to read while you have lunch!

I took this picture in the middle of winter, but this is the outside patio. I like to sit out here in the summer. The bookstore sets up iron chairs and tables (pretty black ones) in the courtyard.

It is a nice place to relax while eating one of their many salad, soups, and sandwiches. When I go there, I always have the salad with cranberries, candied walnuts, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, and chicken. Yum!! I like to order the French Sparkling Lemonade. On a cold day, I order a bowl of Butternut Squash soup or Tomato Bisque.

I almost forgot to mention the book signings!!

Thanks to the R.J. Julia Booksellers book-signing events, I have met Peter Jennings,  Giada De Laurentiis and Jacques Pépin (a Madison, CT resident.) Last Valentine's Day, I gave my husband a signed copy of Jacques Pépin's "More Fast Food My Way. It meant a lot to him... and Giada is as nice in person as she is on her Food Network programs.

After going to R.J Julia's, I drove south on Route One to my other favorite destination in Madison...  Hammonassett Beach, on Long Island Sound. I arrived in time to capture the sunset. It was about 28 degrees outside, but I was bundled up, so I was able to walk up and down the beach without getting cold.

The seagulls were amazing. They were floating on the water, way off of the shore. They didn't seem to be diving for fish. They were just hanging out in the frigid water.

In the image below, I like the juxtaposition of snow on the sandy beach.

I like how the sunlight rests on the rocks in the image below:

...and the sun sets...

In the image below, notice how the clouds reflect on the water directly below the clouds. The left half of the water is colorful and the right half of the water is not. Cool, huh?

Love those seagull silhouettes!

... and finally, it was so dark that I could hardly photograph anything. This was the last picture that I took:

Hope you enjoyed our little online field trip to my favorite places in Madison, CT.

I prefer to own books, although I download audio books from my library's website when there is a book I really want to "hear." When I buy a book, there is nothing like going to an independent bookstore. When I lived in Connecticut, I frequented my favorite bookstore,  R.J. Julia Booksellers. It is so much more than a place to buy books. The tall wooden bookshelves are lined with handwritten reviews on cardstock, tucked underneath many of the books.

There are two front entrances to the bookstore. One leads into the main part of the store, with a Café straight ahead. To the left of the entrance is a wooden staircase, which is lined with books. The other entrance brings one into the magazine, cookbook, animal-related and blank journal section, with an assortment of gifts displayed. This description does nothing to describe how cozy and beautiful the bookstore is inside.

This is an exterior shot of R.J. Julia Booksellers:

rj-julia-booksellers

The bookstore is in Madison, Connecticut which is on the shoreline of the Long Island Sound. Madison is my favorite Connecticut town! Often, when I go to Madison, I will drive past R.J Julia's. Not too far from the bookstore is Hammonassett Beach State Park. I spend time there, laptop computer in tow, where I sit on huge rocks and write while watching the waves crashing against the rocks.

Here is a picture that I took while sitting on one of those large rocks. After a while, I could taste salt on my lips!

Hammonnasset rocks

After spending time there, I drive to R.J. Julia Booksellers. When I am there, I choose the book I want to read, buy it, then head into the Café.

I always order the same thing: Cranberry-Walnut salad, which includes organic spring greens topped with goat cheese, cranberries, mandarin oranges and candied walnuts. With that, I drink a carbonated lemonade. I bring my meal onto the back patio, which is made of uneven bricks, surrounded by wrought iron tables and chairs. There is plenty of shade from large trees that envelop the patio. It is a beautiful setting. When I lived in Connecticut, I treated myself to this experience once a week, on Fridays. Yea, the ritual became expensive... so sometimes I bought a magazine, instead of a book.

Although R.J. Julia happens to be my FAVORITE bookstore in the United States, there is a close second. It is in the town of Hardwick, which is nestled within Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom."

The Galaxy Bookshop, an independent bookstore, is in an old bank building. The children's section of the bookstore is in the bank vault!

Galaxy Bookshop vault

The bookstore, like R.J. Julia's, is very cozy inside. The woodwork inside the store is unpainted and the windows remind me of those found in a Craftsman home. The hardwood floors throughout the store also contribute towards the cozy "at home" ambiance.

To find an independent bookstore near you, click here.