NEW HAVEN, Conn. — There's April in Paris, January in Park City and November in Tokyo. There's October in New York, resplendent in
Then there's September on Chapel Street, which is not resplendent or especially magical at this or any other time of the year. Unless you have a thing for that moment when a college town welcomes back its meal tickets, when the streets seem silent and muggy one week, crowded with confused clusters of freshmen the next.
University art galleries, in a sluggish torpor through July and August, suddenly are occupied by cross-legged students sketching madly. Pizzerias buzz, and the languor of a college town summer welcomes autumn.
So sue me, I like college towns in fall.
You don't need to visit
Only New Haven, though, has the Study at Yale, a 124-room boutique hotel that opened in 2008 on the Yale campus (203-599-4111, studyhotels-px.trvlclick.com). It's a modernist dorm of sorts, delivering a vague Ivy League aura to college town tourists at state college prices (starting at about $200 midweek for September). This doesn't mean that room service offers Jell-O shots or a sock to stick on the doorknob.
It means the Study is smart and bookish, with a smidge of hipster mod in the slick contemporary chairs in its lobby and Barbara Cole photos on its walls; it's not stuck up like some haughty hotels around here that think they're so great.
Its logo is a pair of eyeglasses.
The clerk slides you a fresh baked cookie at check-in (the microwave is hidden beneath the desk), and a bookmark is tucked alongside your room key. And the rooms — or "studies," if you splurge for a suite — do indeed resemble dorm rooms. Well-appointed dorm rooms. My bed was draped with a scratchy throw blanket in Yale blues and grays (the kind you would wrap around yourself at a football game if, in fact, you had the patience for Ivy League football).
My room also came with a blond oak desk that ran the length of the window; on it was a craning Tolomeo desk lamp, pencils and sheets of graph paper. Late at night, I sat on it and read, curled into the window, watching students across the street smoke outside the School of Art. Unable to sleep, I went down to the lobby and picked through the art books in the floor-to-ceiling bookcases.
I asked for a cookie and received two.
When I returned to my room, long after midnight, the studio lights still burned in the art school windows.
The next morning was Saturday. I seemed to be one of a handful on campus who was awake. On Chapel Street, I found an egg sandwich with soy bacon at the veggie-hippie-throwback Claire's Corner Copia (203-562-3888, clairescornercopia.com).
Afterward, also on Chapel, I spent an hour in the stately Louis Kahn-designed
And finally I sat on a stone bench in the quad on Yale's Old Campus, a corner of the school that dates to the early 18th century. It's full of ivy and slate and weathered carvings, and as I read a book, my attention wandered, and I listened to dorm stereos blare to life, the cacophony traveling window to window with each waking room. Frankly, though I wholeheartedly recommend campus tourism — Yale's Sterling Memorial Library, with its vaulted ceilings and carved inlays and cloistered hallways, is worth an afternoon on its own — after a while you do start to feel a little creepy.
The university may encourage tourism, but, in the end, you don't belong here.
So here are two options, and though both include eating, I suggest you take both. First, swing by the Original
And then — road trip!
Drive a half-hour north toward Hartford, pulling off at
Also, remember to tip the townies well. Because, in a way, you're one too.