Last Day in Vermont – Manchester

It dawned on me today that I hadn’t sat down with the photos from the last day of our trip to create the final installment of trip blog.  Sorry about that – hope you weren’t on the edge of your seat waiting.

img_6255 Since we had an early evening flight out, we didn’t have a full day to spend in Vermont.  Looking ahead at art galleries and other activities, Manchester made the most sense for a Sunday, it was only a couple hours to the airport, and offered some unique experiences.

img_6262The first was the drive in and seeing the fog (clouds) rolling off the mountains.  It reminded me of the Smokies.  We’d been down these roads before on the way to Bennington, but not in the morning.

We arrived in Manchester which is all it’s written to be – very upscale shopping, and an impeccably maintained downtown area.  Doing a little research uncovered Manchester is one of the primary ski destinations for other New Englanders (persons who hail from New England – would that be New English?). Skiing in Manchester is like Huskers to Nebraska – even the elementary kids have ski lessons courtesy of the schools.

We stopped in Manchester Hot Glass first.  The owner/artist, Andrew, was there to greet us – a very authentic person who creates beautiful glass work.  If you’re there at the right time, he also teaches glass blowing classes.

After, we went over to Epoch, which is a cooperative gallery of Vermont artists and artisans.  The work there ranged from fine art to fine craft and all was exceptional.


img_6267We finished our trip to Manchester and Vermont with a self-guided tour of Hildene.  Hildene was worth the drive to Manchester, and we certainly could have spent more time exploring the grounds, but it was chilly, and there was a plane waiting for us.

Many original furnishings and other artifacts are throughout the home:

img_6270 img_6271




A view out of Mary Todd Lincoln’s room overlooking the formal garden – imagine how beautiful it is during warmer months!

img_6275 img_6278

A restored Pullman car, open to view on the inside as well:


There were certainly places and spaces we didn’t get to in our short trip, which leaves us plenty of opportunity to return.  In fact, I had about a half dozen hiking paths listed on our possible to-do’s, so we’ll have to plan a trip during a warmer season so we can climb to the top of some of those green mountains.


Northeast Kingdom, Ben & Jerry’s and Church Street

In hopes of seeing a Vermont sunrise, I set my alarm early… only to be greeted by grey skies and mist.  But, since we had a big day ahead of us heading North and West, getting an early start wasn’t so bad.

We headed up the Connecticut River Byway toward St. Johnsbury.  I took a lot more pictures along the way.  And YAY, today I was able to capture not only Witch Windows, but cool misty mountain photos.

The byway led us through more farmland than we had seen the previous day.  Along the way we found fields of Pumpkins, Brussel Sprouts, and my favorite, farm animals like the adorable (Scottish) Highland Cattle.

I’d never seen long haired cows before and made Jim turn the car around because I was udderly clueless what I had seen – were they huge sheep with horns?  Of course, Jim made fun of me just like the day before when I declared, “Boy they have big black birds here.” And he promptly corrected me that they had RAVENS.  Whatever, they were big, black and birds. 🙂

The City of Bradford was between all this farmland. As we came into town, I spotted a cool mill, but Jim quickly pulled into the parking lot because he spotted the waterfall that once fed the mill.


We kept on for St. Johnsbury, and I pulled out our handy Tourism Guide which led us to the Museum of Natural History and the Athenaeum.  The museum guide was friendly and we opted to visit at our own pace.  Filled with taxidermy from around the globe, and unique items across many cultures, it is definitely worth the visit.  They also have a planetarium, but we opted not to stay for that show.


Museum of Natural History, St. Johnsbury, Vermont


The only Moose we saw in Vermont.

We wandered into the Athenaeum, which is loosely translated into “a place to encourage learning”.  In St. Johnsbury, it hosts the Public Library as well as an incredible Gallery featuring many paintings, sculptures and original books from the 1700-1800s!  The docent there, Ewa, was passionate and steeped in knowledge about not just the Athenaeum, but fine art, architecture and history.  She was clearly excited to have visitors and give a tour. On our own we would have spent far less time, and had almost no appreciation for what the Athenaeum offered. Not to mention, having someone else tell the stories beats reading articles and museum signs any day!

After our tour, we headed toward our next major destination: Ben & Jerry’s.  Not too far away I spotted a sign for Cabot Creamery and made Jim follow the sign because I remembered reading that they had a factory tour.


We sampled many delicious cheeses, and learned about the industry, co-op and cheese-making process.  Did you know cheddar is lactose-free?

The tour wasn’t long, and we were back on the road heading to Montpelier, the state capitol. Being Saturday, the Vermont State House was closed, so we snapped a quick selfie and set our sights on ice cream.


Ben & Jerry’s isn’t too far away from Montpelier, and we pulled up to what could be mecca for many an ice cream lover, or hippie, or both!  The factory overlooks the town, so there is a winding ramp or stairs to take to get there. We went in and purchased tickets for the tour.  Although ice cream wasn’t being made on Saturday, our guide was quite comedic and did a good job explaining, or perhaps making stuff up, about the process.  We had samples at the end of the tour and mozied to the Flavor Graveyard before departing Waterbury.

Ironically, I grew up in Wisconsin, the Dairy State, and until our trip to Vermont, I had never experienced the cheese-making or ice-cream making processes.

It was late afternoon, and knowing we had a limited amount of time the next day to tour, we opted to travel onto Burlington for the evening.  We chose the fastest route in hopes of beating sunset, and found our way to the hometown of the University of Vermont. As with many college towns, Burlington is bustling with life, even after 5:30pm!  We stopped in a maker space, Generator, and took a tour and made our way to Church Street Marketplace on total accident.  My goal was to find the Burlington City Arts Gallery, and turns out it’s right in the middle of this awesome area that’s like the towns you see in the old Christmas Movies when folks are window shopping.  After visiting the Gallery, we strolled the three blocks, popped in a few shops and then decided to find a place to eat.  We ended up at The Scuffer, and were able to sit at the bar and eat, good food, nice bartenders.

Up Next: Last Day in Vermont – Manchester




Woodstock, Brattleboro & Bennington



Our first morning out was a bit damp and cool, but it didn’t stop us from making our trek.  We set out for Woodstock, and the nearby Sugarbush Farm.  Along the way we spotted our first Covered Bridge.  Vermont is home to over 100 covered bridges.  While covered bridges weren’t necessarily on our checklist, they are cool, and we stopped for several more during the trip.

After following the old winding roads that follow the river and lead to the farm, we arrived at the Sugarbush Farm.  The goats greeted us, one was eagerly trying to get us to spend money to give him food, but they had a huge bale of hay, so we didn’t feel bad.  We found our way into the cheese wrapping area and store where we sampled several delicious cheeses.  But more importantly, sampled REAL VERMONT MAPLE SYRUP!  Our hostess explained how the different grades occur, and told us about the sugarhouse, which was open to see how maple syrup is made.

img_6158After touring the sugarhouse, we made our way back to the byway and headed toward Brattleboro.  Driving the byways is both beautiful and educational.  There are many pockets of small populated areas, some are actual towns.  One of our checklist items was Witch Windows (aka Coffin Windows).  We saw only a couple during our drive the first day, and inevitably Jim would say, “There’s one.” and the car behind us would be too close for him to slow down or stop so I could take a picture.

We found our way to downtown Brattleboro and the Vermont Artisans Designs.  The gallery displays beautiful arts and crafts made by Vermont Artisans.  We spent quite a bit more time on the 2nd floor than I would have anticipated walking in.  There were many unique items and a wonderful gallerist, Greg Worden, who told us about some of the work as well as American Craft Week.  We wandered up the street to a local restaurant and had soup, New England Clam Chowder, and chili for lunch before heading out to find local Blacksmiths.

Our next destination was Grafton.  There is a blacksmith shop there, and the website advertised that the smith would be in on Friday.  We found a closed shop and stopped in the local gallery.  The gallerist there pointed us to Chester.  So we drove to Chester, most of the way GPS-free, because we entered a “No (cell) Service” zone in this part of the state. We found a small artisan outlet, though not exclusively Vermont artisans, but no Blacksmith.  Jim had looked up another smith before we left the hotel and we pulled up his information and headed to Saxtons River to see if Ian Eddy was in.  He was, and gracious to let us drop in, gave us a tour, Jim and Ian talked shop and tools while I admired his very fine work.



Ian said we needed to visit the Vermont Country Store img_6167which wasn’t too far up the road.  And that’s where I found Anti Monkey-Butt Powder!  Seriously, I had never heard of or seen it before – I know many of you have because you commented on my Facebook post.  I must admit, I’m not sure why it’s the VERMONT Country Store, I’d guess only about 10-20% of the store is stocked with local merchandise.  They do have a covered “kissing” bridge between the two parking lots.

Our final destination for the day was Bennington.  I did the driving on this leg, so no photos of any of the pockets of houses and towns we went through.  The drive was beautiful as it wound up, down and around the mountains.  One of the things I noticed is that the houses in Vermont are very colorful!  Sure, many white, cream and tan houses, but the houses in periwinkle, yellow, purple, pink, blue and rich greens easily outnumber them. The newer houses were generally double-wides, most with multiple additions.  Many are very close to the road, similar to old Europe. I’m sure this is mostly to minimize snow removal.

We drove past ski resorts and down into Bennington.  It’s not hard to find Bennington because the Bennington Battle Monument stands out.  It was dinner time when we arrived, and found that most of downtown Bennington was, well, closed on a Friday night at 5:30.  What made this more interesting to us is there was a lot of car traffic, and Standing Rock pipeline protestors on the main corner – but we’re not sure why since there really wasn’t anything to “do” as far as we could tell.  We shared a Cottage Pie (YUM!) and Chocolate Mouse Pie (also yum!)  at the Madison Brewing Company Pub before driving over to the monument.  I wish I had my SLR and a tripod, the monument was beautifully framed by the stars that night.

Then back on the road to White River Junction for a good night’s sleep.  Despite MOOSE signs on the interstate, we encountered none.  I guess that’s good, they’re pretty big.  By the way, the featured image at the top of this post is a flower pot in Brattleboro, I had never thought of planting cruciferous veggies as decoration, but why not?

Up Next: Northeast Kingdom, Ben & Jerry’s and Church Street

Vermont or Bust!


Stick Season – more leaves on the ground, and not as many in the trees

About a month ago I decided that Jim and I needed to get away and scope out what Vermont has to offer.  I went through Vermont as a teenager on the way from Boston to Montreal, and have fond memories of the drive.  Plus, my friend Gary Dulabaum hails from Vermont, and he’s pretty cool, even if he decided to move to a warmer climate. 🙂


Global warming allowed us to see quite a bit a foliage normally on the ground

Before leaving, I pulled up some fantastic tourism guides – Vermont is a state that really knows how to market itself!  I also read several bloggers and discovered some things that we would just have to watch for.

We flew into Manchester, NH and drove to White River Junction, just on the state line, across from Dartmouth.  White River Junction seemed about 2 hours to everywhere in the state from what I could tell, and it turns out, that it pretty much is.  We stayed at the Fairfield and the night manager was great in helping us with restaurant options. img_6150

We ended up at Tip Top Cafe, which happens to be in a building housing (mostly) creative professionals.  The food was incredible, and after, Jim and I wandered the halls looking at the art and offerings before heading back to the hotel.

We set our alarms and called it a night.  Up next: Woodstock, Brattleboro and Bennington!



Days 8 & 9: London

An early morning trip on the metro led us to the Paris Nord train station to board the Eurostar to London.  We arrived with plenty of time, but the workers, while not on strike, weren’t there to open up.  The lines and anxiety grew, and they finally arrived about 50 minutes before train departure.  We went through immigration, got our tickets and boarded the train.  A mere 2 1/4 hours later we were in London!


We were quickly introduced to the subway system, aka the “Tube”, which was far easier to figure out than the Metro, and massively easier than the subway in Washington D.C.  We took the Metro, had a walking tour and then broke for lunch.  Erin and a couple of friends opted for a Fish & Chips lunch – we hit the Sherlock Holmes.  Then back to meeting up with the group.

IMG_4720 IMG_4738 IMG_4749 IMG_4754 IMG_4761

The next day we had a fantastic bus tour with a guide, Keith, who was funny and incredibly interactive.  Too bad he was only with us for 2 hours.  We had the BEST spot to watch the changing of the guards!

IMG_4790 IMG_4833 IMG_4862

Later we went to Oxford Circus for dinner (do not ever eat at a place called The Best British Food, it was British, but definitely not the best), and Picadilly Circus.



Day 7: Versailles

We left Normandy and headed back toward Paris.  A couple of hours on the road and we arrived in Versailles.  IMG_4695First we broke for lunch and then met back up at the Palace.  The gate around the Palace was recently restored and glistened, even against the sun-less sky.

IMG_4703The Palace was full of people from all nations and at times almost impossible to move.  We did have a Tour Guide, which was nice, as she pointed out things we might not have noticed.  That weekend there was a modern art opening, we had a sneak preview of some of the exhibits as the artists were installing that day.IMG_4697

Day 6: Normandy, Omaha Beach and WWII Museum

Day 6 was full of history and much more somber.  It’s really amazing how much the French respect the allies and Americans for all our vets did during WWII.

The museum is quite amazing.  I didn’t read all that was displayed, but they do a very nice job of telling the stories of all people involved.

I didn’t take many pictures because it was such an intense day.


Since D-Day was soon approaching, we saw a lot of soldiers and Veterans.  Many were wearing historical uniforms.IMG_4676 IMG_4680pointeduhoccalaisarromanches2 IMG_4685

Day 5: Mont Saint-Michel & St Malo

We drove through several small villages in the Northern part of France.  It’s amazing how little space there is between the very narrow roads and the buildings – often too close to take photos of the architecture.  Our bus driver was quite adept at navigating those narrow roads and cornering, although sometimes requiring some tricky back n fort moves to make it through.  Not once did he scrape the bus on anything!


We finally arrived at Mont Saint-Michel and spend about 3 hours there, including a tour provided by our tour director. The original top rock is safely protected in the Abbey.


Soon the road to Mont Saint-Michel will be taken out to allow the Channel currents to flow properly again.  Groups can walk on the sand “beach”, but only with a guide – we saw these kiddos out there enjoying barefooting.  Later we found them singing at the exit while waiting for the rest of their school to arrive – so cute!


We hopped back on the bus and headed to St Malo, where the tour director let us explore freely. Several went shopping, some explored the beach and water, and a couple of us decided to go and get a decent dinner since we knew we’d be eating at the hotel.

IMG_4670 IMG_4666

Little did we know that this hotel tucked away in the countryside would be very hospitable and cook a very nice dinner.  We had to apologize to them for not eating well because of our previous experiences.  Once we told her what we were served, she understood. 🙂


Day Three – Surrounded by Water

We started the day off at 8 am and hit the road for Cathedral de Chartre. The drive was wonderful. Passing through many villages almost too old and small for a tour bus to navigate, we arrived at Chartre and walked to the Castle and touristy downtown. Found a yummy shop with chocolates and baguette sandwiches. 

We found several sculptures on our short 2 hour walk. 

Then we hopped on the bus for our journey to the Chaumbourg Castle. Unfortunately for these tourists, this is where our journey took a major detour. The rain has been falling so long and hard in Northern France, the water has nowhere to go. 

We went along odor a bit, passing through several small villages. At one point the bus stopped in what we thought was our stop.  But he got back on the road and went back the direction we came from.  riding in the back of the bus, most of us thought the driver was lost. We didn’t realize what was happening – the road we were on had been closed. 

As we back tracked through the little villages, the bus started going slower and slower.  We looked down the aisle and through the front window we could see all the cars and trucks ahead of us. we sat in that village for probably a half hour before making it onto another larger road. 

The bus proceeded slowly down the road in stop and crawl traffic until we finally made it to the next traffic circle. We could see a McDonakds and supermarket to our left. At this point we were on the bus about 3 hours. The bus turned right and no one was in front of us. Then we made a turnaround back into the traffic circle. With nowhere to go, we took a rest stop at McDonalds and the market. 

Fortunately for us, emergency personnel were there and our driver was able to find out what roads were open. We noticed they were bringing in military vehicles, and saw others filling multiple gas tanks at the gas station. We figured this was for stranded motorists. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that we would find out the next morning they evacuated residents and put folks up in shelters.  The flooding had sealed into some homes as high as as the bottom of first floor windows.

 After everyone got back from the break, we started down the road, moving along pretty well.  And then up ahead, there were police stopping traffic. The bus pulled off and our tour director hopped off and talked to the police. The road ahead was closed but the police told him alternate paths to high ground. We were on the way again.

Another hour later our tour arrived at the hotel destination. I guess it was good we were already scheduled to eat dinner there. Dinner was interesting, a slice of ham and scoop of rice. There were bowls of ketchup on the table. No one knew why. 

We never did figure out the ketchup, but at least we were safely off the bus and had a place to sleep and shower. 

The Castles cont.

After Chambord we went to Amboise, had lunch and then went on a guided tour of Chateau Chenonceaux which is over the Loire River. The tour was fantastic and there was more to see than we had time for.

We jumped back on the bus and road back to Amboise to see Château Royal d’Amboise, which is where Leonardo DaVinci is buried. There is only a portion of the castle left, and the views from the top are amazingly!

We concluded our day with a short visit to a vineyard, which included wine tastings. Then had a delicious dinner.

Tomorrow – Mont Saint-Michel.