Vail Weymann is a Darien native and mother of three. She is juggling a lot these days as the co-founder of Purrch, the first social network for the pet community. She took time off her busy schedule to talk to Suburbs 101 about her move back to Darien and to give us a peek into her life in Darien, CT.
Many people are moving out of NYC to the suburbs. How is life in the suburbs different from life in the city?
Living in the suburbs with children, especially during COVID has been great. The opportunity to have access to a backyard or a nearby park has given our children a greater sense of freedom (at a younger age) and the confidence to take more risks. If you have active children, it’s easier to get from place to place in the suburbs and to pack more activities in during the day. Compared to living in NYC, the suburbs has definitely made life easier for my family and afforded us a little more breathing room than what we experienced in NYC. While it was hard to leave NYC, the sense of calm that we felt after moving to Darien was a welcome change.
Any advice for someone who is looking to make the move from NYC to Fairfield County?
There are so many wonderful towns in Fairfield County. While it might not be for everyone, I’m confident that Fairfield County, with all that it has to offer, is great for most. And, with each Fairfield County town offering something unique and wonderful, there is a perfect fit for everyone.
Describe your move from NYC to Darien. Why did you decide to move to Darien?
My husband and I loved living in New York City. We moved to NYC after college and lived in New York for 15 years. Two of our children were born in New York, we never thought we would move out of NYC. However, when a family member fell ill, we decided it was time to move closer to family. It made sense for us to move back up to Connecticut since both of our parents live in Connecticut.
When we were looking to move back to Connecticut, we considered several towns in Fairfield County. Greenwich, New Canaan and Westport were among our top contenders, but in the end, it came down to town size and commute length, with Darien giving us best of what we were looking for. At around 20,000 residents, Darien was large enough to constantly be meeting new people but small enough that you don’t feel lost or disconnected. It was easy to get involved and to connect with the community in Darien. The commute was also another reason why we moved to Darien. The Metro North train ride from Darien to NYC is manageable. I like how there is no need to switch Metro North trains to get to NYC. Darien was the perfect town for us.
Why do you like living in Darien? What part of Darien do you live in?
I really enjoy living in Darien and have appreciated it even more this past year. Our family lives in the Noroton Heights section of Darien. Noroton Heights is close to Darien High School and only a stone’s throw away from my childhood home. While we looked at houses in other parts of Darien, we ended up choosing Noroton Heights because it was convenient — close to schools, the grocery store, downtown, the train station, restaurants, parks, the beach and even Chelsea Piers. From our home, you can essentially walk everywhere.
How would you describe Darien residents?
If I had to describe Darien residents, I’d characterize them as casual and sporty but fairly competitive. I think like many of the surrounding NYC suburbs, Fairfield County attracts high achievers. Darien has gotten younger over the years with many families moving from urban areas. As such, youth sports are a huge focus and Darien parents take it very seriously… perhaps even too seriously. But overall, Darien is incredibly welcoming and people are friendly and inclusive. About half of Darien moms work so regardless of your employment status, everyone can find their crew and made to feel valued.
Any advice for newcomers on the best way to meet people in Darien?
I had the benefit of growing up in Darien, so the move back felt quite familiar. Many of my closest childhood friends live in Darien, as do a few of my husband’s colleagues, so we were fortunate to have an immediate core group of friends to spend time with. That all said, we were also fortunate to make a lot of new friends through our child’s preschool, as well as Winetasters (a club organized by the YWCA in Darien). Joining Darien’s sports leagues – for example town paddle – is also a great way to get involved and meet people.
Joining a club in Darien is also a great way to meet people, with some waitlists longer than others. And while clubs are a popular option, membership represents only a small percentage of the town’s population.
Are you a member of a country club in Darien?
We belong to Wee Burn Country Club, but there are so many great options for families in town. In addition to the town’s seven private clubs, Darien has 30 acres of shoreline beaches and 11 public parks.
Growing up we were members of The Tokeneke Club, which as a kid, felt a lot like summer camp. The main activities at The Tokeneke Club are swimming, sailing and tennis. Each club in Darien offers a little something different. Some clubs are more golf-focused, while other clubs prioritize sailing or horseback riding. Some clubs offer year-round activities while other clubs are seasonal, so it really depends on what you are looking for. For us, my parents were already members of Wee Burn Country Club so that was a natural fit for us.
How old are your kids? What do you like to do with your kids in Darien?
My husband and I have three children (2 boys and a girl), ages 12, 9, and 6, respectively. We are a big soccer and tennis family, so we tend to spend a lot of our time enjoying these sports. Our favorite beach in Darien is Weed Beach (which also has a great playground) and we absolutely love The Darien Nature Center. We live close to Darien High School and enjoy walks around the new running trail. In the winter months we spent a lot of time at Hands on Pottery, the Darien YMCA, the Norwalk Aquarium, and Get Air. Chelsea Piers is also a great place for recreation offering a host of opportunities for all ages.
Tell me more about your pets
We are a big pet family. We have a dog, birds, chinchillas, and a bearded dragon. Our current dog, Aries, is new to our family – 2 months and counting. We adopted him from a rescue in Chicago.
Where is the best dog park in Darien?
Darien is a very pet friendly town. Dogs are pretty much allowed in most places in Darien except the Darien beaches during the summer months. Most parks in Darien require dogs to be on leash except Tilley Pond Park, where dogs can be off leash Monday to Friday from dawn until 10:30am. Aries favorite park in Darien is Woodland Park. It is a wooded area full of trails that he just loves.
What has your experience been with schools in Darien?
Darien public schools are a fantastic choice. I personally received a great education through the Darien Public School system and now my children are benefiting from it as well.
My oldest son just completed his first year at Middlesex Middle School. The teachers challenged him regularly and really helped him take his learning to the next level. I was also impressed by their response to COVID. The transition to virtual learning was as seamless as one could expect.
My middle son is at Holmes Elementary School, one of five elementary schools in Darien. Funny enough, I went to Holmes too. Holmes Elementary School has a very nurturing and inclusive culture that is perfect for children of this age. The teachers at Holmes Elementary School are phenomenal, they try to personalize the learning experience for every student as much as possible.
My youngest just completed preschool. She was the last of our children to attend the Methodist Family Center Preschool in Darien, which we loved. There are many great preschool options in Darien, but we felt Methodist Preschool offered our children the right balance of learning and free play. The student body size was also ideal, not too big, not too small. The Methodist Preschool in Darien was the perfect fit for us.
That all said, if the town’s public schools are not a good fit for your children, Fairfield County has many wonderful private school and magnet school options too.
Do you or your spouse commute to New York City? What has your experience been with the commute from Darien to NYC?
My husband and I both commuted to New York City when we first moved to Darien in 2013, but currently just my husband commutes into NYC. After a rocky start commuting to NYC on the Metro North, the train service has improved and the trains to NYC mostly run on time. The commute is about 54 minutes from Darien to Grand Central Terminal with the express Metro North train only stopping in Stamford and at 125th Street. Darien has two Metro North train stations – Darien and Noroton Heights. My husband catches the train from the Norton Heights station, but the commute time difference is only about 3 minutes. We don’t have a monthly parking spot, but I’m told the wait time is a few years although I imagine this may all change post COVID.
You co-founded Purrch, a social network for pet enthusiasts. Tell me more about Purrch.
Besides my family, I have two passions in life, childhood education and animal welfare. When I adopted my first dog as an adult, I found it to be quite difficult to find a network of people, places and things that could help me tackle some of the challenges I faced with Rosie. Even though I was surrounded by pet related content, finding and harvesting information specific to my needs was unnecessarily hard. I knew there must be a better way.
Fast forward a few years, and the opportunity to tackle this challenge presented itself after meeting my business partner Ken Herbert, a talented developer and passionate pet owner. Together we built purrch, a community platform that unites pet parents around common experiences, interests, and affiliations. In doing so, we’ve been able to leverage the power of social to create a better every day live for companion animals and the humans who love them. Purrch is available on the app store for free and great for anyone who loves pets and wants to be a part of a niche community of like-minded people.
Have you read any good books lately? Any book recommendations?
I’m currently reading the book White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. I highly recommend it as it does an incredible job shaping issues of racial and social justice and providing a framework for more productive conversations and rules of engagement for helping us make things better.
Purrch is the only pet-first social network in the world—a social sanctuary created by pet nerds for pet nerds. Using unique technology, it brings together pet people of all types and locales, giving them a place to unleash, learn, and create friendships. It’s the place to find community, have authentic conversations, and of course get a good LOL. Purrch’s technology also helps rescue organizations find that perfect forever home fit for animal companions in their care. Website: Purrch and Follow Purrch on Instagram.
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