Every time I visit Boston, or more specifically, my home state of Massachusetts, there is one place that I always make sure to visit within the first twenty-four hours of my arrival. I crave a visit to this place so much that as soon as I walk through its doors, I have a strong desire to kiss the ground, although I refrain from doing so due to the staff’s apparent lack of interest in the benefits of vacuuming. But considering that those same staff recognize and welcome me enthusiastically on account of my dozens of visits, I have now come to consider this place to be my second home (not that I have a first home).
This place is none other than the Bombay Cafe Indian restaurant in downtown Boston, whose unbelievably tasty, high-quality, $6.95 lunch buffet is, as my ever-so-colorful grandmother would say, “out of this world.”
However, even with that said, I do not intend for the Bombay Cafe to be the focus of this post and truthfully, I have no idea why I even mentioned it in the first place. So let me try to get back on track, although, if you’re at all interested in Indian food, you might want to have a look at TheCurryProject.com, a website (run by Alan from The9to5Alternative.com) that I contribute to every now and then and where I’ll soon be posting my review of the Bombay Cafe!
I really wanted this post to be written, not about my favorite place to visit when I return to the region of my youth, but about my second favorite place to visit during these yearly trips.
And even though this gem of a destination has nothing to do with Indian cuisine, ever since I ‘discovered’ it for the first time back in 1997, I knew I would be returning over and over again. After all, where else on Earth can one enjoy a beach walk, blueberry scone, eucalyptus, snow angels, a misty meadow, a bonfire, birthday cake, a splash of rain and some apple pie all in the same location?
How is this possible? Well, all you need to do is hop in a car, travel two and a half hours west of Boston to the small town of South Deerfield and ask anyone where you can find the Yankee Candle Company’s headquarters and flagship store.
As you enter the 30,000 sq-foot candle heaven, you’ll be transported into an intriguingly pleasant, yet undeniably wacky, environment (think ‘Willy Wonka’s Candle Factory’), one full of toy trains, snowfall, talking bears and of course, every single scent of candle that Yankee Candle has to offer. Within minutes, many of these scents will bring back long-forgotten memories of your youth, others will remind you of special people who have passed through your life, and unfortunately, a handful of candles just might make you vomit. (Rhubarb plum comes to mind.)
THE GRAND TOUR
Just to give you an idea of how this massive ‘store’ is laid out, I’ll share with you the route that I normally take during my wanderings through the building. And if you can believe it, one complete circuit generally takes me an hour and a half to complete!
Starting out in the educational toy section, I proceed through the medieval nutcracker castle, then into the Bavarian Christmas Village. From here, I wander around the elf workshop before visiting the beach cottage, full of seasonally-fragranced candles. And then I move through the New England crafts corner, stopping briefly in the country kitchen, before entering the fascinating mini-candle room, with its rows upon rows of every scent imaginable. After a lengthy look (or smell) around, I make a quick stop at the ‘dip your own candle’ nook before taking a tea and freshly-baked pastry break in the quaint cafe. With energy restored, I move slowly in front of the home-made fudge counter while staying far enough away to prevent me from hopping over the counter and stuffing all of the sweet-smelling fudge into my mouth. I then pass quickly through the less-exciting gifts and collectibles room, with a brief glance at the food section, and then into the sale and clearance corner, which is where the prices suddenly drop for many of the very same candles displayed in other parts of the store. After a bit of wandering up and down the aisles here, and after a few last sniffs of my favorite scents, I finally put my head down, pinch my nose and run straight through the candy store towards the exit, managing only a sloppy wave goodbye to the ever-so-friendly staff wishing me farewell.
I rarely buy anything during these visits, as in the end, what is a permanent nomad going to do with a bunch of aromatic candles? But regardless, I’ll trek out to South Deerfield as often as I can in search of refuge from my typically chaotic visits home. Sometimes I just need some scented-candle therapy, is that so wrong? Filling my nostrils with the aromas of freshly cut grass, baby powder, early sunrise, maple pancakes and pineapple cilantro is calming to me and helps me to clear my mind.
And perhaps as equally rewarding as the store itself, is the drive from Boston to reach this part of the state. Assuming you avoid the highways, you’ll have a range of excellent country drives to choose from, from the Old Mohawk Trail to the windy, forest-covered Route 122. These slow-going roads will also allow you to visit an endless number of picturesque New England villages and unique sites, including my two personal favorites, the New England Peace Pagoda in the town of Leverett and the Montague Bookmill, an incredible used bookshop set inside of an 1842 gristmill on the banks of the Sawmill River.
So, is it so wrong to enjoy scented-candle therapy? Have you ever been to the Yankee Candle Company flagship store? Or any other place that offers you a perfect, temporary escape?