We have officially been married 10 years. I give mad props to Nick for dealing with me.
For our anniversary, we will be celebrating for a couple weeks. Why not, right?! The perfect gift for me will always be… a cookbook, a new lens, OR ….. a vacation! I get two vacays out of this landmark anniversary: one with the three of us and one with friends. The highlight for us will be will be a southern Caribbean cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico with our neighborly friends the Lomedicos. As most of you may know, we honeymooned on a southern Caribbean cruise back in 2003. We can’t wait to experience this part of the Caribbean again with Xander and our pals. But to kick off the festivities, I planned a long weekend getaway for the fourth of July.
But where to go? Originally, we thought about traveling to Boston (where we celebrated our first anniversary) or New York City (just because it rocks), but in the end I took over the “where to go” component. I wanted to surprise Nick. My mission? I wanted to go somewhere new and someplace where the three of us could ALL have fun. We are a pretty easy going family; as long as there is a pool or swimming spot for Xander, beer for Nick, and delicious food and picturesque photography spots for me, we are set! It’s July, so ultimately, I wanted someplace “outdoorsy.” In short, someplace to celebrate summer and all its beauty. Yet, I also didn’t want to spend a fortune prior to our cruise.
My final decision was … Vermont!
I love this time of year in New England: summer! I fondly remember my days living in New Hampshire when the grass was bright green, the air was fragrant with perennials and wildflowers, the sun lazily set late in the day, seasonal ice cream stands opened, and the evenings smelled of bonfires and roasted marshmallows. It’s soothing to drive the winding roads with the windows down, looking for farms stands, babbling creeks, and the best views. I have step foot in Vermont on two occasions, but both were very brief. Like 3 hours total, maybe. When I think of Vermont, I think of covered bridges, Ben & Jerry’s, and syrup. It definitely had that and more. Vermont is earthy, fresh, and laden with mountains, farms, good food, and friendly people.
Woodstock, where we would stay for the first two nights, proved to be about4 and a half hours away from Syracuse. We took the highway for most the drive, but opted to stop for lunch in Queensbury, NY. We ate at The Silo, a barn that was reconstructed in the 1980s and made into a country-style restaurant and store. Basically it was a Cracker Barrel, but with better food. I had French Dip Barnyard sandwich (roast beef, onions and peppers served with au jus) and Nick had the chicken philly. Both sandwiches were piping hot and delicious. After browsing the store and Nick seriously considering the Adirondack stool set, we set off for Vermont. The drive into the state was very dramatic; the Green Mountains suddenly appeared, and it was like ‘oooooo’ and ‘ahhhhh.’ There’s no reason to wonder WHY they are called the GREEN mountains.
We stopped in Rutland briefly to check out our first covered bridge.The hike down to the bridge was a bit treacherous, due to road erosion, but we arrived alive and enjoyed walking its length and checking out the white caps beneath it. We hopped back on the road and continued our trek to Woodstock. We stopped at the Farmer’s Market (aka a local supermarket) and picked up snacks, some local beers for Nick, a bottle of organic wine for me, and organic juice smoothies for Xander . When Nick came back out to the car he exclaimed, “They don’t sell any recognizable brands, except for Coke.” It’s true! In this part of Vermont, everything is local. You won’t see a McDonald’s or Walgreens, though we did see one Dunkin Donuts. Instead, it’s farmer’s markets, and family owned general stores and restaurants that feature local products.
Ashley of Hither and Thither has an excellent travelogue, and it provided me with our starting point: the Kedron Valley Inn. The Kedron Valley Inn, a hotel featured on this old-school Budweiser commercial, is where we spent our first two nights. It is located in a historic Vermont town called Woodstock that’s dotted with Federal style homes and nestled in the Green Mountain region. The Inn boasts a pond for swimming, and a free hearty Vermont breakfast featuring local farm fresh products. We were given room 32, which is part of the lodge located behind the Inn. Our room had two queen beds, a wood burning fireplace, a modern bathroom, and AIR CONDITIONING! Thank goodness for that air conditioning unit because it was 90 degrees outside during our visit. There were Adirondack chairs and small side tables in front of our room, and we utilized them often. Overall, we were very pleased with this small Inn.
We easily found our Inn, but quickly noticed our phones weren’t working. Apparently, we were not anywhere near a cell phone tower. The lady at the Inn confirmed it: “There’s no cell service in South Woodstock, but we have Wifi.” It’s a weird feeling being ‘unplugged,’ yet refreshing. After checking out our room, we changed into our swimsuits and headed toward the Inn’s spring-fed pond. The water was a bit cold for this Florida-girl, but Nick and Xander dove in and swam out to the floating dock. I took residence on a lounger and READ. It’s nice being able to have the time to actually indulge in something as simple as reading a novel of my picking. Thank goodness for teacher summers!!! After an hour, we went back to the room to shower and prepare for dinner out.
For dinner, we headed to Quechee Gorge for a 6:30pm reservation at Simon Pierce. Quechee Gorge is a scenic area known as Vermont’s little Grand Canyon. The gorge was formed by glacial activity approximately 13,000 years ago.
Simon Piece restaurant, which is actually part of a glassblowing factory, sits over the Ottauquechee River, flowing 165 feet below. It’s magnificent! Xander (and I) loved walking onto the newly reconstructed covered bridge to marvel at the rage and mist of the water. It’s a photographer’s dream!
The restaurant experience at Simon Pierce was a positive one. The host and waitress were informative, friendly, and prompt. The menu was small, yet enticing. Everything was fresh and was supplied locally, even Xander’s root beer! For an appetizer, I had the artisan cheese plate which featured local cheeses and some delicious crackers known as ‘Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps.’ Basically, they are thin, crispy crackers with cranberries, flax seed, pistachios, and roasted pumpkin seeds. They were AMAZING! Nick had a mixed greens salad with an egg on top. For our entrees, Nick had the filet and I indulged in the cocoa seared niman ranch pork tenderloin with tomato and poblano salsa and rosemary and garlic aïoli. We both ate every bite! Oh, Xander had noodles tossed in Vermont cheddar (and a small bowl of shredded cheddar for garnish). Yep, at first he casually sprinkled a few bits on, but ended up dumping the whole bowl of shredded cheese onto his noodles. Good boy! 🙂
After dinner, we walked done stairs to watch the glassblowing. They blow glass until 9pm at night. I’ve been to the Corning Museum of Glass, but it was amazing to talk and interact with the glassblowers here. They are literally RIGHT in front of you. The blower we spoke to was making a wine goblet. Xander was absolutely fascinated and we eventually had to pull him away.
The Simon Pierce store contained many beautiful pieces, from bowls to vases to glasses to lamps. Unfortunately, it was all a bit too expensive for my tastes even though I thought the pieces were stunning.
The next day, the fourth of July, began with breakfast in at the Inn. Choices included homemade blueberry muffins, maple spiced Greek yogurt, maple bacon, spinach frittata, and hash browns. While eating breakfast, we looked at the weather; it was gonna be a HOT, HOT day with afternoon thunderstorms. We decided to start out at the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences (VINS). It was a quiet little place located near Quechee. We looked at the kiddie room, the 3 snakes, and the tank of fish and painted turtles. We looked at the caged raptors and read their biographies (how they got injured and where they were from). Then, we sat and watched the raptor presentation which was excellent. The grand finale was watching the hawk swoop in to attack the pretend rabbit. It was now 11:30 and the next show didn’t start til 1. After looking at the little cage of song birds and the baby robins in the ER, we decided to move onto the next destination: the Harpoon Brewery.
The Harpoon Brewery and Restaurant is located in Windsor and is next door to a Sustainable Farmer store and a vodka distillery. There weren’t any tours operating today, so we sampled some beers and opted to eat at the restaurant. The food was good, and I thoroughly enjoyed their cider. The property is beautiful and much more clean and modern than Long Trail brewery (located outside of Woodstock). At some point during lunch and while looking at a map, I realized we were only about 90 minutes away from our old house in New Hampshire! Crazy!
It was sticky and extremely hot, so we decided to head back to the Inn so we could enjoy the pond. On the way we stopped at another covered bridge to snap some photos. A lady stopped at one point and told us the bridge has been around since the 1800s. Someone ran into it, though, so it’s suppose to undergo a slight renovation in the near future.
After a dip in the pond and a crayfish hunt, we drove back out in search of ice cream. We stopped at the White Cottage snack bar. It is situated on a river and has fantastic views. They have picnic tables, gliding tables, Adirondack chairs, and patio tables with umbrellas out back that face the wide river. Wildflowers of all colors grow on the banks, too. It’s Vermont at its summer finest! We opted for the hard ice cream choices- chocolate, mint chocolate chip, and cake batter. I wish we had come during the dinner or lunch hour; the food smelled amazing. After a very brief stop at Long Trail brewery (no air conditioning and near closing time), we went back to the Inn. Originally we thought about going to the local high school to watch the fireworks, but dark clouds were rolling in. Sure enough, as soon as we arrived back at the Inn, the sky started to bellow. We sat out on the Adirondack chairs by our front door and listened. Nick poured some drinks, and we enjoyed watching and listening to the impending storm.
The Inn has a nice restaurant, but we didn’t feel like dressing up; Nick grabbed a menu and brought it back to our room. We ordered the cheese and country pate appetizer, the cod cakes, and clam chowder. Xander had a cheeseburger. For dessert, Xander and I shared a maple creme brulee– I think he got more bites, though! The little rascal! We sat outside and inhaled the food as the rain fell and the lightning cracked; it was a perfect, dramatic ending to our fourth of July.
After breakfast (happy anniversary to us!) we said goodbye to Woodstock and the Inn and headed northeast toward Burlington. The drive up was beautiful. I wanted to stop at a goat farm for some cheese, and I decided on Fat Toad. My GPS went nuts at some point as we drove deeper and deeper into the woods and onto gravel roads. I kept saying, “This can’t be the right way!” But alas, we did end up finding the farm and three dogs promptly ran up to our car to say “Welcome!” Xander was mostly interested in the dogs, but we did entice him to try some goat’s milk caramel sauce.
As we continued to Burlington, we stopped for lunch at Prohibition Pig: a little BBQ joint in Waterbury. When we arrived there was not a wait for a table, but when we left, there were about 8 people waiting. We had the brisket sandwich and the fried chicken sandwich (with an egg on top) with duck fat fries. Xander had the grilled cheese, and he sampled another locally made root beer. He said he preferred the clear-colored one from Simon Pierce.
We arrived at our hotel in South Burlington, a generic Best Western, and we quickly suited up for a dip in the pool. Afterward, we went to the downtown area, which was buzzing with activity. There’s a pedestrian-only street that is lined with cafes, familiar shops, and street performers. We found that all the restaurants had 45-90 minute waits, so we opted to eat near our hotel at a generic Buffalo Wild Wings. This part of Vermont, I found, wasn’t NEARLY as charming as the parts we had seen earlier in our stay. To find that charm again, we had to leave Burlington. The next morning we packed our bags and made one last pit stop: Shelburne Farm.
To get to Shelburne Farm, a 1,400 acre working farm and a National Historic Landmark, we had to ride a tractor-pulled wagon. The Farm’s main building is quite stunning and dramatic. Inside you can watch them make their artisan Vermont farmhouse cheddar (and sample some aged varieties!). Additionally, you can visit their bakery and purchase breads, cookies, and other delicious freshly baked items. We couldn’t resist! I bought a loaf of ciabatta, some peanut butter cookies and a chocolate croissant.
Next we explored the children’s farmyard area. Xander bee-lined for the the chickens. He LOVES chickens. The farm near our house has a ton of them, and he loves feeding them and watching them.
Every morning at Shelburne, there is a ceremonial chicken parade; the chickens basically march out of the coop and into the yard. Afterward, the kids get to go into the coop and look for eggs. Xander didn’t find any, but he did get to hold lots of chickens. He loved this!
Oh, and he milked a cow. But, that paled in comparison to the chickens.
So there you have it. Vermont is AH-MAZINGLY beautiful. I want to go back and explore more areas…. maybe in the fall when the leaves are changing?