Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"These are a Few of My Favorite Things" from our Weekend in VT

So much to say, don't want this to be too long.  So, free association:

Heat wave:  It was unseasonably hot the whole time, without much AC anywhere.  In mid- to high-80sF.  I. HATE. Being. HOT.

Vermont Country Store:  Sis loves the today's cut cheese; Bud always goes for the chocolates; I like the summer sausage and crackers; Mama always finds the oddest stuff, like the little glasses cleaning doo-dad that works really well.  Got some purpley Zentangle-like earrings and a new robe.  Love wandering around the store.  Saw the Rogers statue group display, including the one we got for Christmas.

Stowe:  We met Gommie and Pop at a lovely restaurant in Stowe named Harrison's, where thankfully we had reservations.  We caught up on their travels almost to Canada and relayed our last days of school.  Mussels, smoked chicken, root vegetable pot pie, fish and chips, poached pears/walnuts/goat cheese spinach salad, calamari--mercy, we always eat well when we're together!  Afterwards, Gommie and I wandered the local cemetery a bit--mainly because the rest of the whole town--general store, yarn shop, tourist info--was closed already.  Some colonial headstones but mostly 19th century. And lots of mosquitoes whose bites I didn't notice until later (bugs bit me all weekend--I bet I have about 30 bites.)

Sis and the Icelandi Ponies, taken by Mama on her first horseback ride

Trapp Family Lodge:  "The hills are alive . . . "  Yep, those Trapps.  And it's a slice of Austria in VT, a lot like the movie--perfect and clean and wholesome.  Chocolates at turn-down.  Pilsner glasses, schnitzel, wurst, pretzels with mustard (dinner in the Lounge.)  Sacher torte, black forest cake, strudel, almond bear claw (that was breakfast at the Austrian Tea Room.)  Beautiful hotel room with views of the surrounding mountains, in gradations of blue and green.  We heard sheep all night, singing lullabies to Mama. Just like being in the Alps.  Gorgeous flowers--lilac, sage, a wild rose of some kind, so many that I can't name--and so many butterflies (especially black and yellow swallowtails), which we enjoyed from the patio.  We hiked to the stone chapel on the mountain, steep in parts but lovely (and humid!), while Sis and Mama rode Icelandic ponies, with the extra gait called tolting.  Mama had never riden before but did it for Sis.  They had a great time riding through the meadows.  Sis loved the horses and helped out in the stable, fitting right in. They are planning to go back to ride in the snow!!  Bud and Pop saw a snake on our hike, a friendly garter.  After the hike (and some time watching the dog agility contest being hosted on the grounds), we sat on the patio, drinking and juggling with Gommie, Pop, and Bud in the afternoon sun.  The scent of lilacs wafter over us with every breeze.  There was a wedding at the Lodge that evening, complete with about $100K of fireworks, a brilliant display lighting up the whole valley for half an hour.  It was a more elaborate display than our town does for July 4th!   Beautiful view with the explosions lighting up the hillsides.  And because they were being shot from a bit below us (in a field below the lodge), the fireworks seemed very close.

view from our Trapp Lodge suite

love the gradations!

These might actually be Shelburne sheep, but you get the idea.

The Trapp Lodge, with sage

Stone Chapel

Oh, the scent of lilac

Took me a long time to get this photo.

Mt. Mansfield:  The toll road opened the weekend we showed up and we went up 3,600' to the top of Vermont's highest peak.  Sis spotted the ski trails she wanted to come back and try.  Once we got to the top, we took a hike across the ridge to see Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.  Breathtaking!!  And kinda scary, right on worn rock faces without a really level path.)  Pop, the kids, and Mama even scampered further up.  Amazing.  Sitting on a rock lower down, I loved the view of the spruce "repoussoir trees" framing the Adirondacks in the distance and the Alpine tundra above the tree line.  Pretty amazing.  I was so proud of us for making the hike (especially proud of me for doing it and also not freaking out that the kids went higher), though we were tired and hungry afterwards.  (And waits were long at the Blue Donkey burger place we went to first, so we grabbed some really good pizzas at Piecasso.)

On the road to the top of Mansfield


Moss Glenn Falls:  Oh, the falls.  It was easy to get to the stream, a beautiful, very cold stream with big and small rocks.  There was probably some kind of mill at the shore--no right angles in nature, especially of piled rocks.  We hung out there for awhile, gathering courage to attack the rock-and-root scramble to see the falls.  Trying and tiring.  And very scary.  More scary than actually hard.  Especially because it reminded me of the rocky, wooded mount where Boromir was killed in The Lord of the Rings movie.  I even dropped my skirt to wear just my athletic shorts to crawl on my hands and knees. But oh so beautiful.   I'm so proud of myself!   And Pop and the kids went even higher!!  We hike well together, each taking care of the other.  Everyone hiking their own hike.  Mama takes pictures.  Pop presses ahead and then falls behind to help. I stop to listen to birds or look at butterflies.  Sis built a dam in the water.  Both kids made a cairn in the rocks.  All we needed was a picnic lunch (though, it was almost too warm to eat.)

For comparison, that's my dad in orange waving.

Glacially cold stream

Remains of a building

Ben and Jerry's:  On our first attempt to visit (right after the waterfall), we missed the last tour and then didn't want to wait in a 50-person line for ice cream.  Our second attempt was moderately more successful, in that we made the tour but still didn't want to wait in a really long line for ice cream.  The tour was great--short and quite literally sweet, with a sample of Americone Dream at the end (pretty tasty and so obviously freshly made and not in a store freezer.)  And I loved the shop, especially the rainbow cow shirt about love!

------At this point, we separated, with the kids spending two nights with Gommie and Pop alone (not too many details, but they ate a lot, watched several shows on Food Network, played ping pong, loved the exhibits at the Shelburne museum while also missing the rain, but were perhaps not as enamored of Fort Ticonderoga), and Mama and I taking a quick night to ourselves at the Inn at Shelburne Farms.------

Shelburne Farms:  I've been aware of Shelburne Farms for awhile but not even entirely sure what it was.  Dairy? Resort? Museum? Restaurant? I knew it was in upper VT and that they'd had a terrible fire a few years back that wiped out one of their barns and their old-growth wood collection.  Well, now I know better.  It is a dairy, an educational institution, an inn, restaurant, and an historic site.  And we got a bit of a taste of it all as we toottled around the Farm Barn learning about cheese and visiting the animals, having delicious sandwiches for lunch (ham/apple panini for me, avocado/sprouts for Mama, with cold carrot ginger soup), learning about the historic home and model farm built by Dr. Webb and his wife Lila Vanderbilt, and eating a "farm supper" (stuffed trout, stuffed tofu, parsnips, wild rice, 3-year aged cheddar, vanilla ice cream on a ganache-covered tuile), and then an amazing breakfast (buttermilk pancakes with maple mascarpone cream and rhubarb compote, a savory steel oat risotto with ham, spinach, and an egg on top) in the restaurant, plus tea and sweets in the afternoon.  Truthfully, I was so enamored with the ceiling of the dining room (or "Marble Room" which was once the ballroom) that I barely noticed dinner (which was just as well because I'm not that fond of a heavy hand with herbs.)

That's the barn!

Oh, the house.  It was like getting to stay at a famous house museum, like spending the night as a guest at the Breakers (Vanderbilts, Newport, RI) or  The Mount (Edith Wharton, Lenox, MA) or something.  Aesthetically, it reminded me of H.H. Richardson's "shingle style" houses but also something of the Arts and Crafts movement of William Morris (especially the niche in the stairs and the library; the tea room and dining room were much more formal neo-classicism or Georgian, if memory serves, with elaborate white moldings and huge formal portraits.)  I was happy sitting in the library with 6,000 books, the scent of which reminded me of Aunt Sis.  Mama and I made a pile--Victorian American foodways, a history of Lake Champlain, New England Gardens, the diary of a Victorian gardener--which we perused on the porch in matching rocking chairs.  Thank heavens for a stiff breeze or we would have been pretty uncomfortable.

Tea Room

Captivating dining room ("Marble Room") ceiling

Room past the tea room

Doesn't it feel like Arts and Crafts?

The library.

Our room, the "White Room" (actually on the third floor, once probably the valet's room with buttons to call the sewing room! and stairs leading to Dr. Webb's room), was in a turret overlooking the lake, a huge space with a seating area and desks.  I reclined on a chaise lounge while Mama sat in one of the overstuffed chairs, feet on a "poof."  We just watched the clouds move, the water flow.  It was all very decadent.  So relaxing.  The best part was the lightning storm that rolled in that evening--rain poured down the house and trampled the garden, flashes lit the lake and silhouetted the trees, but the thunder only rumbled and didn't crack like we expected.  Still, I love a good storm and we watched it until at least midnight.

Our sitting area

And views . . . 

Dr. Webb's trunk and our borrowed books

Gardens:  My first introduction to the Shelburne gardens was actually in the back of the house, in the parking lot, where I got a whiff of what I thought was jasmine.  I found out later from the gardener, who let me have some of the blossoms felled by the storm, that it was mock orange.  Ooooh, still, it reminded me of summer nights in Tunisia and Mama of temple offerings in Thailand.  The garden borders the lake, with a rocky beach and cliffs to one side and an "enchanted forest" to the other.  It was designed in terraces, rooms even (a la Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst and Gertrude Jekyll), with a whole space devoted to roses, another to peonies, a section with herbs, another with various flowers that I can't name (lilac and gardenia perhaps, and so much else), several little statues including a cement fruit-and-flower basket like my paternal grandparents had, a portico with seats and a table (and waxed leaf ligustrum aka Ligustrum japonicum "Texanum" which I recall from my childhood in Houston--love that scent!), ornamental balustrades, and a lily pond complete with fish.  It was two owl statues which led our way into the "ramble" so to speak, with several benches throughout the maze-like forest (the "enchanged forest"), including a ring of yew trees framing the bench overlooking the lake.  We were quite hidden as we watched the sun begin to set.  We visited this garden several times--in the heat of Sunday afternoon, in the shade of the setting sun with the thunderstorm approaching, and again the next morning as the gardener tried to revive the peonies and let me have a few of the cuttings.  The dampness of the garden just heightened the power of the scent of the roses and peonies.  Oh, it makes me wish I was a better, more dedicated and persistent gardener (I get lazy with the watering and the weeding, which means many things don't make it.)

Sunset over Lake Champlain and Adirondacks, with approaching storm

All peonies!

View from the enchanted forest

Porch views . . . .

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and Philadelphia:  Before we headed home on Monday, we decided to take in the Maritime museum (instead of the Shelburne which was bigger and had so much more walking.)  It's definitely a local affair but has many interesting artifacts and experimental archaeology projects, most notably a reconstruction of Benedict Arnold's Philadelphia, one of his slapdash gun boats built quickly of green wood (and so prone to leaks) to keep the British from taking the lake and thus separating New England from the rest of the colonies.  The original was sunk at the Battle of Val Coeur in 1776, but the copy sits in a small harbor on Lake Champlain.  I don't know much colonial maritime history and so was fascinated by all our docent had to say, including how 40 conscripted men slept upright in shifts against the wall of the boat while officers got benches!  The boat had no keel and was 5 times broader than it was deep so it could only sort-of sail, which meant there were oar locks all over.  It carried numerous large and small cannon for very close combat.  All in all, I would not have wanted to be on that boat in a naval battle.  Those poor men; though, they did their jobs and kept the British from taking the lake.

The Philadelphia

Long drive home:  After the museum, we ate a very tasty sandwich lunch at the nearby Red Mill restaurant, where it began to pour rain as we sat.  And the rain didn't let up for hours.  It was an awful drive home and more than once we contemplated spending the night somewhere to wait out the storm (but $371 for a night at the Equinox in Manchester was just too much.)  Losing all network connectivity didn't help because we couldn't 1.) navigate or 2.) keep an eye on the radar.  I actually read the map as we passed Tarbellville and Wallingford, neither of which had good places to pull over.  So we ended up in Weston at, you guessed it, the Vermont Country Store!  Yep, the store bookended our trip and really was a lifesaver.  We picked up snacks for dinner and a few more souvenirs.  And made it home a few hours later than we'd hoped.  Still, we were safe and the cats were happy (enough) to see us.

What a glorious weekend, indeed what a wonderful two weeks with my folks!  So many great experiences, so many lovely memories.  And really, we're not done . . . because we'll be heading to Texas later this summer.

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