Who: Lori and Melissa
What: A day by the sea
Where: Mystic, Pawcatuck & Stonington
When: August 7, 2016
Why: Rivalry
 Sites Visited:
 Mystic Pizza

Competition. If you're looking for it, you can find it anywhere. At home. Work. School. Walking down the street. Pushing a cart down the grocery aisle. Filling out paperwork at the DMV. Even sitting back and reading a friend's blog. One day, you could be minding your own business. The next, you're telling your friend you could be a better passenger/photographer/travel companion than anybody else ever could and you need to go out and prove yourself. 

Yup, there are actual people who exist in my life who've turned TV Travels with Lori into a photography showdown. Actually, wait, that's not true. There's only one person who gives even a sliver of a damn... and her name is Melissa.


Two years ago, back when my movie-stalking was just a fun little obsessive compulsive hobby and not a disorder, Melissa accompanied me to the prison from The Shawshank Redemption -- and then that was the end of our travels. I'm not sure if it was the 8 dozen photos I made her take of me or the never-ending car ride to Ohio that did her in, but a few weeks ago out of nowhere she reached out and said she was all about a TV-travel. I would have way more fun with her than all the others, she told me. She would take WAY better photos. It would be great! 

I'm no psychotherapist, but whatever emotional crises someone might be going through that can be cured by feeding into my emotional crises, I'm all in.

Off we go to Mystic!

Mystic, CT, 2 and a half hours away from NYC is a village along the Mystic River filled with shops and water activities that would fill any tourist with delight. It also serves as the filming locations for Mystic Pizza, the movie that was inspired by an actual pizzeria located on Main St. Melissa, I knew had seen the film several times throughout the years, so while she was out trying to turn us into the next Skipper and Gilligan, she could at least enjoy the overall experience. (I'm a giver that way).

We left at 10am on a Sunday to make the big trip to the sea and it was quite an enjoyable car ride filled with laughter and all-around general merriment. Points to Melissa on that one -- although I can't in good conscience declare her the best. I've had good times with all my travel companions and if I had to size everyone up, the prize would eventually go to Jen, who endured approximately  6-7 hours in a car with me for 8 days straight without throwing herself into traffic. Jen - 2. Melissa  and all other friends - 1.

The first stop that I had planned for us was actually across the border in Westerly, Rhode Island where creepy dad who slept with his daughter's 17-year old babysitter lived. During my Google searching for the house, I was only able to find a street name, not an exact address, so my need to see this house ended in epic failure. 

Located somewhere on the water, to get to it, you have to (1) drive down a street completely filled with gravel and (2) actually know where you're going. The last time I went down a graveled road, I was in Nebraska with the aforementioned Jen, and punctured my tire with a rock. Unaware of just how far down the road the house actually was, and not anxious to spend the whole day waiting for roadside assistance, I turned around and left without seeing anything. No tires were damaged in the process of searching however, so I'll give Melissa an extra point. Melissa - 2. Jen - 2.

We crossed the border again, back to Connecticut, to Pawcatuck to the homes of Kat, Daisy and Jojo, the Portuguese pizza teens. In the film, all three are supposed to be poor and trying to get the hell out of their hometowns. But let me tell you, if living in a house right across from the bluest water I've ever seen, is poor, then someone needs to take all my money.  

The town could use some bigger streets though because convenient parking is pretty much nonexistent. If Jojo ever threw a party, there'd be about 30 pick-up trucks lining her lawn.

I was thankfully able to find a spot at Connors & O'Brien, a marina shop, which judging from Julia Roberts' walk down her street in 1988, has been in business for at least 28 years.

The store has embraced less in-your-face signage over the past 3 decades, which made for less recognizable photographic comparisons, but congrats, Connors & O'Brien for continuing to sell those fishing poles! Or whatever it is you sell at a marina shop...I'm from the Bronx. 

Melissa did a fine job with the initial photography, although the house shots ended up being a bit more difficult, as not only do people not seem to lock their doors in Pawcatuck, they also don't close them. 

(Mystic Pizza Jojo house location)

I can see you in there, residents! Please don't see me as I stand in front of your house trying to be Lili Taylor!!

(Mystic Pizza Jojo house location)

For Julia Roberts' house, there was even more difficulty as most scenes were filmed on the side of the house or the back of the house or somewhere along the house that I couldn't find on Google maps or when I was actually standing directly in front of it.

(Mystic Pizza Daisy house location)

Somewhere there's a door that's next to a group of windows, and Julia Roberts was there and she spoke to her mother,  but I certainly wasn't walking around a stranger's yard to find it. So we took a photo that maybe was sort of close by, and that was it.

(Mystic Pizza Daisy house location)

Then I ran to the water and made Melissa take this photo so I could at least get some sort of proof I was once in the same spot as a 1980s Julia Roberts. 

Look, those stones along the water are the same!

Melissa was very helpful and willing to spend as much time as needed for me to get the correct shots, so in that area, she did rank higher than some of my other friends and family (I'm talking about you, sometimes Monica, sometimes Theresa, JAMES)

We left Pawcatuck after about a half hour and made our way to Stonington, which is either the best named town in the universe, or one day residents heard what their town was called and went and got a whole bunch of rocks. Because there are stone walls EVERYWHERE. About 15 minutes away from Pawcatuck, the town served as the location for the fictional Mystic Pizza, now the New England Science & Sailing Yacht Club. The real Mystic Pizza, located in the heart of Mystic's tourist trap of Main St did not seem the best place to plant a film crew, so they set up shop here.

(Mystic Pizza film location)

Thanks for staying relatively the same 28 years later, wall along the side of a building!

There were more places to go in Stonington, but since it was almost 2pm and lunch was a necessity, we hightailed it out of there and made it down to Mystic for some pizza pie nostalgia.  

As the world's furthest thing from a foodie -- I'd be cool with a basket of dinner rolls and a packet of crackers -- all I really care about is the general feel of a place. And for the majority of people there looking for their inner Julia Roberts, Mystic Pizza is the place to be. 


The minute you walk in - Mystic Pizza playing on the big screen with a display case full of a whole bunch of ridiculous merch available for sale. Then once you're seated - reviews, newspaper clippings, press photos, autographed photos, production photos, taking up every single inch of every single wall and Mystic Pizza playing on a loop on every TV. The place knows what it is. It embraces it. It is my everything.

The pizza? Eh. Not my fave.

We walked around for a bit afterwards to see the water and also to peruse the shops that appeared never to have been updated since the 80s, except for their prices which might end up being reasonable sometime in the year 2026. 

In front of what used to be a dry goods store but is now a toy shop, we stopped for another photograph.

(Mystic Pizza film location)

Points taken off for getting a thumb in the corner of every single photo she took. Laura, Kim, Danielle, Heather, Jen C., James, Theresa, Monica - they always knew where their fingers should go. (Come on, Melissa! This is your own made-up rat race!)

(Mystic Pizza film location)

But it worked! So points returned.

Over the bridge that we watched being raised up and down for passing ships, I tried to get this shot but it didn't work out so well.

My fault. I didn't care enough to fix it.

Once Mystic was adequately witnessed, we got back in the car and back to Stonington for the wrap-up of our tour.

The Peg Leg Pub!

Now Zack's Bar and Grill, the whole gang of Mystic players got sloshed over here and general antics were experienced outside.

Trees got in the way of a true recreation, but look at that overhanging window on the left! Still going strong.

(Mystic Pizza film location)

As is the overpass on the side of the parking lot. A double whammy!

(Mystic Pizza film location)

We then went on a hunt to find the home of good old Charles Gordon Windsor Jr., a house that Julia Roberts stood in front of more than she did her own. During my initial research days beforehand, I had only been able to find out that the house was on Church St, which I figured would be enough information. When in the middle of Church St with no house in sight, I realized that, nope.

Thankfully my Google searching inside the car turned out to be more fruitful.

Hey there, 53 Church St!!

Taking up pretty much two blocks, the ridiculously large house overlooks the water from pretty much all angles and is so fancy, in order to get to the front of it, you have to get off of the safe public sidewalk and onto the private driveway which curves towards the left.

When I saw this obstacle staring me in the face, I had second thoughts about trying to get a picture there. I could tell someone was home by the car that was parked by the doorway, and also by the blonde woman I could legitimately see through the back window. So what if Julia Roberts walked down those steps in a fit of Portuguese rage and yelled at her stupid rich boyfriend? It wasn't worth it. Fear should always win.

Then I threw my phone at Melissa... and RAN.

(Mystic Pizza Windsor house location)

I called out to Melissa to come closer for a better shot, but she refused to move from her spot against the wall.* When we visited the mansion from Stepmom, I had to stop my friend Heather from going up and ringing the homeowner's doorbell. Melissa, if you're really trying to win this thing, you're going to need to step up your game. TV Travels has no room for pussies. Melissa - 10. Heather - 100. 

(Mystic Pizza Windsor house location)

But doggone it, she got the shot anyway! Bonus points obtained. 

Grateful we weren't chased away by aristocrats, we admired the blue water of Mystic one last time and then made our way back to New York civilization with a late night 2-hour drive.

Once I had returned home, I sent Melissa some of my comparison shots so she could see her hard-earned work. She then replied with what I believe to be the humblest of all humble responses:

Sometimes you try to have a healthy competition. Sometimes, the results end up being whatever you believe inside your heart.

Whatever works. 

Thanks for the mem'ries, Mystic! 

*Melissa contests this part of the story, claiming she did not hear me calling out to her to come closer. We've agreed to disagree... (but she's wrong). 

**For more information regarding Mystic Pizza locations, visit here!!