Saturday, October 16, 2010

Travels with Gary #7 - Zig Zaging Through Vermont

We left our hotel in the "Northern Kingdom" of Vermont before the sun came up. A dense fog lying in the valleys and the below freezing temperature frosted the car and the fields with ice crystals. 10 miles west of St. Johnsbury we turned south off of Hwy 2 onto a country road that climbed up into the hills where we witnessed a glorious sunrise.

Cows, horses, small fields of berries, and a few tiny settlements with interesting names such as Peacham, appeared now and then along the almost completely deserted tree-lined road. It was as though we were driving through a Robert Frost poem such as Mending Wall or The Road Not Taken.

The peaceful country road led us to Hwy 302 where we turned west toward Barre, known for granite quarries and Montpelier, the capital. Every town we saw on our New England journey no matter how small had at least one church and one cemetery. In Barre five churches faced the town square and the cemetery was filled with elaborate granite monuments, mostly carved by Italian and Scottish immigrants.

Not too much further west we arrived in Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the United States. The gold domed Vermont State House, dating to 1859, sits comfortably back from the street in front of a tree-covered hillside. The primary material used in the Greek Revival structure is of course Vermont Granite from Barre.

In the hills north of Montpelier, we visited the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks where we taste tested different grades of maple syrup as well as an assortment of unusual preserves. Apple Pie in a Jar was one of our favorites.

Back on the road, we joined Interstate 89 which would take us south from Montpelier to a scenic loop highway that runs along one side of the Green Mountain National Forest and right through some prime ski areas. Some of the most intense autumn colors of our trip were in the hills near Plymouth Notch Calvin Coolidge's birth place.

A stop at the Bridgewater Corners General Store produced an unforgettable sandwich - smoked turkey, crisp apple slices, and creamy Vermont cheddar sandwiched between thick slices of homemade whole wheat bread buttered with an herb sauce - I am salivating just thinking about it.

By now we were going east again, toward Woodstock founded in 1761. This village of well-preserved brick and clapboard homes is considered one of the most picturesque in Vermont. It is also one of the busiest tourist spots and on the Sunday we visited, they were hosting an art festival. We found a parking lot where we could leave the car and walked along the crowded sidewalks past lovely homes and interesting shop windows. One vintage clothing store displayed a finely detailed burgundy wool walking suit in the window. A charming church and a covered bridge offered popular photo opportunities. We decided this was a place we could live and began picking a new home from the multitudes of fine residences.

A few miles east of Woodstock, we came to Quechee Gorge referred to as the Grand Canyon of Vermont. Instead of joining the hordes of tourists in the over-full parking lot, we decided to continue on to White River Junction where we crossed the Connecticut River into New Hampshire for a short drive south along the water. A return to Vermont via one of the longest covered bridges in New England brought us to Windsor where early settlers created their own country and wrote a progressive constitution banning slavery before Vermont became the 14th state in 1791.

Another country road led us to the village of Grafton restored in the 1960s by a foundation set up by a wealthy investment banker. The Windham Foundation, dedicated to preserving the vitality of Vermont's rural communities, operates the Grafton Village Cheese Company and the Old Tavern at Grafton where we planned to stay.

Grafton is a picture perfect Vermont village and the Old Tavern is a picture perfect inn. It felt like we were on a romantic holiday when we walked into our room furnished with antiques including a four-poster bed. A wooden cutting board holding a small brick of Grafton cheese, Carr's Water Crackers and an apple was left on a side table for our enjoyment. The charming parlor down the hall in our cottage was inviting.

We tasted more than 10 different cheeses at the cheese factory tasting room, walked the lanes looking at houses, and visited the cemetery located on a hill near the white church. I have to admit the unflappable friendliness of the people combined with the perfection of the setting made us concoct a Twilight Zone inspired story about what might happen after midnight. The sudden mysterious disappearance of Gary's sunglasses fueled the tale.

A quiet dinner in the elegant candle lit dining room brought our last day in New England to a perfect end.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos!!
    I really need to get to the cheese factory, I love their Sage Cheddar!
    Don't you love the "Walk your Horses" sign on the covered bridge?