Think of the things that bind New England: mountains Green and White, the rocky coast and sandy shore, the trackless forests and hillside farms, the gritty cities and humble villages.
Then there are the Warrens.
More than just a surname of some distinction, the Warrens of New England actually link the region by their very existence. There is a town by that name in each of the six states -- and it is the only town name that can boast such ubiquity. (It should be noted that there is a town of Washington in five New England states, but in Rhode Island it exists as a village of Coventry.)
That the Warrens are more prevalent than towns bearing the names of such distinguished figures as Lincoln (none in Connecticut) and Jefferson (only in Maine and New Hampshire) can be attributed to the preferences of our forefathers and the fact that they are actually named for two very different men.
Two of the towns are named for Admiral Peter Warren of the British Navy, who earned the admiration of the Colonists when he captured the French fortress at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, in 1745. The other four are named for Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston, a heroic Revolutionary War general who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.
And be assured New England is not parochial in its fondness for Warrens -- there are more than 30 towns and cities bearing the name across the United States.
Being intrigued by all things Warren, we decided to visit each of the six in New England to get a sense of the people and life as it is lived in each place.
What we found, after driving nearly 1,400 miles, were towns in the mountains and by the sea that ranged in size from more than 11,000 residents to fewer than 900. We found great wealth, hard times, and communities all wrestling with the pressures of growth and development and change that is inevitable.
We also discovered many rewarding things to do, places to eat and sleep, and people who were invariably welcoming, proud of where they live, and eager to share the best attributes of their particular Warren.
In other words, we found New England.
Where to stay
West Hill House
1496 West Hill Road
Innkeepers Doty Kyle and Eric Brattstrom make visitors feel at home in their beautifully appointed eight-room bed-and-breakfast. Rooms $125-$180 ($10 more during holidays and foliage season).
The Hopkins Inn
22 Hopkins Road
New Preston, Conn.
Eleven guest rooms and two apartments in a handsome inn that has been welcoming guests since 1847. Dine inside or on the garden terrace overlooking lovely Lake Waramaug. Rooms $85-$190.
Warren Village Inn
254 NH Route 25, South Main Street
The former home of potato baron Frank Clement, restored by Merv and BJ Newton, welcomes visitors to the ''quiet side of the mountain." Rooms $79.
Where to eat
6 Washington St.
Rod's prize-winning weiners, with their secret meat sauce, have been packing them in since 1951. At $1 apiece, have two weiners, and a small side of fries for $2.25, and you are in lunch heaven for under $5.
The Warren House Restaurant
2585 Sugarbush Access Road
Originally, the Sugarbush Sugarhouse, the aptly named Warren House serves delicious contemporary cuisine with rustic charm near the ski area entrance. $4.95-$24.95.
17 Tarleton Road, Route 25C
Owners Stephen and Charles Eddy serve up a tasty whole roasted garlic bulb with olive oil and fresh bread for $3.95. A bowl of vegetable beef soup ($5.95) and a 16 oz. Anchor Steam draft ($3.50) and you're set for the day.
Silver Lane Bistro
1 Silver Lane
The only place in town with a full liquor license, Silver Lane Bistro seats 30 people in a former sheep shed. Diners come from up and down the coast to sample hanger steak and brick-oven seafood pizza. $2.95-$19.95.
What to do
25 Hopkins Road
New Preston, Conn.
www.hopkinsvineyard.comTake a tour of the vineyard or enjoy a tasting, and take home some of the fine wines produced on the hillsides above Lake Waramaug.
The Warren Store
284 Main St.
Shop at your own risk. The downstairs is full of gourmet items, fine wines, and an outstanding bakery/deli. Upstairs you'll find irresistible clothes, jewelry, decorative accessories, and retro toys.
155 Water St.
Mother-daughter team of Sara Volino and Keri Cronin have opened a gem of an ''upscale boutique" in a part of town known for antiques and used goods. A small space filled with unique clothing, lingerie, jewerly, and accessories.