Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 5, 2010

Long ago and far away

Vermont seemed like another country with its scenery, food, tourist sites and architecture so different from what I'm accustomed to.

We flew into Albany, New York because we'd heard the smaller airports of Vermont could be challenging in the winter. The Century House Hotel where we stayed the first night was on a several-acre property purchased in 1790 for five schillings - about $30 in today's currency. The federal-style restaurant made us feel as if we had been transported back to that era.

The next day, we drove into Vermont. It joined the Union in 1791 - the first state to do so after the original 13 colonies. The trees of the Green Mountains were flocked with snow and the villages were picture-postcard-perfect with their snow-covered churches, country stores and New England-style homes.

We stopped in Manchester Center, where we shopped and ate at a local pizza and pasta place. By the time we were done, it was late in the afternoon. Heavy snowflakes were falling as we headed down the road to Wells, our final destination for the day. We saw a snow plow for every four or five regular vehicles we passed, which was both reassuring and disconcerting.

Welcoming lights streamed from the Wells Country Store as we entered the village. But the last two miles to the chalet we had rented proved to be challenging as it was located on a steep, curvy road. Several "running" attempts proved to be fruitless and after each, we had to back down the hill. Just as the situation was looking grim, a snow plow came through.

"Now try," the driver shouted.

Success was ours!

When we awoke the next morning and pulled back the front drapes, a stunning view of frost-covered mountains and evergreens piled with snow greeted us. It looked like Switzerland or Austria.

The next few days involved adventures to Rutland, Poultney, Burlington and Middlebury. The winding country roads crossed many small streams, and the snow transformed the woods and hills into dazzling fairylands.

In Rutland, known for its marble quarries, we visited the Unitarian Universalist Church, where daughter Mariya and Lacey were married. After the ceremony, we ate at Table 24, a casual, yet contemporary restaurant.

In Poultney, husband Art and I wandered through the Original Vermont Store, laden with local goodies such as maple syrup and maple syrup candy, items made of slate and marble, Bennington pottery, books by Vermont authors and Vermont bumper stickers. We all perused the bookshelves in Hermit Hill Books, where Tucker, the corgi and Harriet, the cat, greeted us. The books, some old, some new, ranged in price from a few dollars to several thousand. A first edition of The Hobbit was priced at $5,000. We discovered later that our clerk and owner was famous chef Julia Child's niece. We ate quiche and corn chowder at Café Dale, a spot whose slogan is "It's not a community center; it's the center of our community!"

Burlington, population 40,000, is the smallest U.S. city to be the largest city in its state. Its Church Street Marketplace is a four-block shopping area lined with shops and restaurants. Our first stop was a Lake Champlain Chocolates store. It was followed by ice cream at Ben and Jerry's, shopping and lunch at Leunig's Bistro. The final stop was at the Lake Champlain Chocolate factory. It was too late for a tour, but not too late to sample some of its chocolate and coffee drinks.

On our way to Middlebury, we stopped in East Middlebury for a photo of Mariya, Lacey and youngest daughter Katie in front of the Waybury Inn of "Newhart" fame. With their goofy ear-flap hats, they reminded me of Larry, his brother Daryl and his other brother Daryl from that TV series.

We visited the Danforth Pewter Workshop and Store, where we watched employees through viewing windows as they fashioned vases, photo frames, ornaments and jewelry. A video showed the process from start to finish. Fred and Judi Danforth revived a family tradition of pewter-smithing started by Fred's great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Danforth II, who between 1755 and 1782 was a pioneer pewter-maker in the United States.

As we were watching, the owners walked through the front door. While chatting with them, we discovered Judi's interest was whetted by a summer art workshop in Lawrence, Kansas and their daughter had investigated going to college in Art's hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin. Talk about a small world!

We stopped at Two Brothers Tavern for wonderful New England clam chowder, quinoa salad, "sliders" - mini hamburgers, and other tasty morsels.

Like almost every day of our visit, the trip to the chalet that night was accompanied by fresh snow, making every journey a collection of Hallmark-Card scenes.

The time passed too quickly and, although it was only a month ago, it now seems long ago and far away. But I'm glad that we took time to visit the "foreign country" of Vermont and to get to know its landscapes, food, tourist sites and friendly people.

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