What do you do if you’re a professional travel writer and the travel business essentially evaporates in the face of a global pandemic?
If you’re Greenwich resident Anastasia Mills Healy, you stay local — more or less.
“People in the travel industry were getting together on Zoom to talk about how to handle the situation,” Healy, who has written for Fodor’s and Frommer’s, among others, told the Business Journal.
One of those conversations led her to the website of Reedy Press, a St. Louis book publisher that specializes in titles about local attractions. “They didn’t have anything about Connecticut, except for Hartford,” Healy said. “They have a ‘Secrets’ series, and since I’ve lived here for a long time and traveled around the state, I pitched my book and was accepted.”
Thus was born “Secret Connecticut: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure,” a breezy trip through 84 of the state’s lesser-known attractions.
Instead of the Mystic Aquarium, there’s the nearby Enders Island, where one can learn about Gregorian chants and the history of bagpipes; those who know Ira Levin set his classic “Stepford Wives” in Wilton may not be aware that a mansion in New Canaan served as an important set in its two film versions.
“I initially came up with about 10 ‘secrets,’ which was hardly enough,” Healy laughed. “So I went to the Greenwich Library website and started researching, taking notes and following leads.”
Even with Covid-19 protocols in place, she was able to conduct in-person interviews with some of the curators and overseers of such attractions as Action Wildlife, a zoo in Goshen that provides drive-through “safaris,” and Winvian Farm, a luxury resort in Morris whose eye-opening features include a room with a helicopter (which has a bar inside).
Healy said the most surprising finds she made were that Martin Luther King Jr. spent some formative summers in Simsbury, and that there is a Stonehenge in Woodbury. (“There’s another one in Guilford,” she noted, “but it’s on private property.”)
Readers can also learn of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s connection to the state; the strange tale of “The Leatherman,” an 1880s wanderer whose photo depicts what looks like an extra from “Twin Peaks: The Return”; the even stranger tale of Amy Archer-Gilligan, who definitely did not hang out with a millionaire and his wife on an island; and what a “trobairitz” is.
When asked where she’d like to go next — Healy has visited all 50 states and 64 countries — she said, “We had to cancel a trip to New Orleans (when the pandemic began). That’s one of my favorite cities and I’d planned a really great trip there with my family. I really want to do that trip!”