Why I Picked My Town: Meet Catherine Siroka from “MACARONI KID!”
Sure, you drive through and check out the cute downtown, family-friendly neighborhoods and incredible amenities, but what’s it REALLY like to call the ‘burbs “home”? We asked some of our favorite bloggers—and ex-NYC’ers—to give us the scoop on why they picked their town, how they adjusted to life in an outerouterborough, and why they love where they live. And we asked them to tell YOU what life’s really like outside of the city limited.Here’s part 1 with Macaroni Kid editor and publisher—and Westport, Connecticut resident!—Catherine Siroka.
Why did you choose Connecticut and your specific suburb, Westport —how did you find it and was it your first choice? Did you contemplate any other towns?
We left the city about 15 years ago and originally settled in Greenwich, renting a home first then buying. Proximity to the city was key, and we looked for the closest town to the city with the most express trains to Grand Central. Greenwich is just that: Great town and close. After a few years, we started looking to upgrade in Greenwich but were striking out. So, we expanded our search to Stamford and Westport. Even though my husband works in Stamford, it wasn’t a fit for us as it’s much bigger and has too much of a city feel. Westport is smaller and quieter and was a fit for us because it’s an artistic community with cultural and religious diversity.It is also a community that cares deeply about its children: the schools are excellent and safe and there are plenty of activities. What’s more, Westport has a good economy if you’re looking to work in in town or in a neighboring town instead of the city.
The other communities are also nice; some are more secluded and woodsy yet still sophisticated and cultured like Wilton, New Canaan, or backcountry Greenwich which has alot of horse farms, stables, farms, hiking trails. It’s a matter of preference, comfort, how much you enjoy privacy and the woods or being close to town and the beach.
What was the most difficult part of adjusting to life in the suburbs?
The hardest thing to adjust to in the first few months is that everything closes early—some places by 10:30 and others before 12! Medical options stay open and you can still get a bottle of Tylenol from the CVS that is open for 24 hours, but otherwise that’s it. Norwalk, Stamford, Fairfield have more of a nightlife, though, and it’s nice to know that they’re nearby.
Also, it’s dark and quiet at night. Coming from New York, my husband couldn’t sleep for week!
How often do you come into the city, how far is your commute, and how do you feel about it?
The commute is 35 minutes from Greenwich to Grand Central on the express and 55 minutes from Westport to Grand Central. When we do go into the city – and it still depends on the event and the day—trying to find parking on a Saturday is a tough so we take the train—we drive in on Sundays when parking is easier. Be prepared, know the weather and what you’re doing that night, but you have options. If you take the train, check the schedule since the last train usually leaves at 12.
What makes your town special and unique?
Proximity and affiliation with arts and culture. It’s a mini New York but more manageable and with a lighter feel and pace.
As I mentioned earlier, Westport is also very caring of its children; the town puts a lot of effort into making sure the quality of life for its kids is excellent—there’s so much to do for little kids and plenty of kid-friendly places. Nearby Stepping Stones Children’s Museum, Maritime Aquarium, playgrounds, parks, etc.
It’s literally the halfway ground between NYC and Boston—accessible to LI, the Hamptons, airports, and Boston. Greenwich probably has most commuters to the city; there are also a lot of reverse commuters in towns from Greenwich to Westport.
Also, the walkability and the beach. We’re 5 minutes from the beach and town and towns in my area are known as “gold coast”. I picked in-town location because I liked the walkability. It’s “sub-urban”: not quite suburban and not quite urban, but a little of both. I can walk to the library, Starbucks, corner store, so it’s like Manhattan in that sense. Westport used to be like the Hamptons: a vacation town. But great schools now mean that this isn’t just a seasonal community. It’s not remote, yet it’s beautiful and still reminds me of the Hamptons.
What is your favorite activity destination with the kids around town?
Nature and things of the natural sort. Manhattan would surprise me with pockets of serenity, walking areas by the river and central park, and I was worried about being in the car all the time here. It’s true that you are in your car more here, but there is still a lot of natural beauty including hiking trails.
Where do you head for the nightlife whether it’s a girls’ night out or date night? There are many great places, and we have taken our kids as well.
Spotted Horse in Westport: Thursday night live music. Great for a night out with the girls or for a date night. Great for sunday brunch or a nice business lunch.
Barcelona in Fairfield, Norwalk, Stamford and Greenwich: When you step inside you feel like you’re in Spain! This lively spot is soothing with great music, drinks, décor and authentic food.
BarTaco in Stamford and Westport: The one in Westport overlooks the water and has a heated deck so you can sit outside and watch the stars no matter the season. The Stamford location has a hip, young business crowd.
Valencia in Norwalk: Makes you feel like you went to Mexico! Also Bodega in Darien and Fairfield—great margaritas!
Cozy coffee places: Steam, Java, Coco Michelle, Le Pain Quotidian, even Starbucks and Barnes & Noble…
The Whelk in Westport: The award-winning seafood restaurant will make you feel like you’re in SF. And instead of farm-to-table, it’s sea-to-table!
On another note…besides the cultural activities and fun restaurant scene, there are also many places to work out and take care of yourself like in the city, such as Soul Cycle, Equinox and many other nice gyms and spas. While living in the ‘burbs takes getting used to, it’s not that remote as you may think!
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