By Jo-Anne Bowen and Elsa Dixon
Day 1: Arrival in Burlington
Vermont, called the “Green Mountains” by Samuel de Champlain, a French navigator, holds to its name, especially in the spring. A feast for the eyes, the shades of green, ranged from Green Mountain vistas to lush forests of maples and birch trees, to fields of crops and herbs, and to the shimmering blue-green of Lake Champlain. In addition, since Vermont was the first state to prohibit roadside billboards, one is assured of unobstructed views. We planned our road trip through emails and google docs and finally met in Burlington where we rented a car to embark on the first leg of our Vermont tour.
Day 2: Exploring Lake Champlain and Burlington Pub Breweries
We began the morning with a Spirit of Ethan Allan Harbor Cruise on Lake Champlain. We enjoyed the informative narration highlighting the history, geography, and folklore of the area. The lake, named after the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain was discovered in 1609. It is 12.2 miles wide, 120 miles long, and as deep as 421 feet making it the largest freshwater lake in the US, after the five great lakes. Its area extends into Vermont, New York State and Quebec, Canada. Rumor has it that a friendly monster named “Champ” lives in the lake. We eagerly watched but he must have been sleeping that morning so we didn’t catch a glimpse of him!
The Burlington Waterfront Park is a community park along Lake Champlain featuring a boardwalk, sailing lessons, kayak and canoe rentals. The Waterfront Bike Path (the Greenway) runs the length of the city from North to South and ties into more than 30 miles of public trails.
It was lovely to stroll along the green, tree-lined area, and an even nicer surprise when the free College Street Shuttle stopped along the road, picked us up, and dropped us off right across the Vermont Pub and Brewery where we were heading to. The Vermont Pub and Brewery was the first pub in the history of Vermont to be allowed to brew and serve malted beer on site, thereby rewriting the brewing license laws. We opted for a flight of beer so that we could sample the different brews on offer and both loved the Grand Slam Homerun, an American pale ale. Our talkative server regaled us with stories about the brewery until we were served our delicious lunches: an Atlantic Scrod Fish and VPB beer batter Fries and Burly Beef Stew flavored with VPB Burly Irish Ale.
We returned to College Street for dinner and turned on to St Paul Street to park right across American Flatbread Burlington Hearth, The sprawling restaurant occupies two areas indoors, a lovely outdoor patio and an upstairs floor outside. The Burlington Hearth oven is built of the common red rock found in this area, reflecting the local geography. American Flatbread uses age-old artisan methods and makes their dough fresh daily, using 100% organically grown wheat, mountain water, kosher salt and fresh yeast. All ingredients used for toppings are natural and fresh, locally produced.
We opted for the New Vermont sausage pizza: house-made nitrate-free maple fennel sausage made with local fresh pork, baked with sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheeses and fresh herbs.
Zero Gravity Brewpub is located in the restaurant next to the kitchen area and one can observe the brewers at work through the windows along the hall. We sampled the refreshing Little Wolf Pale Ale with ABV 4.7%, very smooth on the palate. We were tempted to try the Forty Thieves, but with a double IPA, ABV 8%, it seemed a little too daring!
Accommodation: Hampton Inn, Burlington, Vermont
Day 3: Shelburne Museum, Ben & Jerry’s and arrival in Stowe
Early morning, we headed east on highway 89 about 10 miles to the turnoff for Shelburne. We stopped at a convenience store to ask for directions to the Shelburne Museum. “Just keep going south on this road and when you think you’ve gone too far, just keep going! You will see it on the right” was the advice of a local.
What a museum!! There is a hop-on-hop-off shuttle to help navigate the 45-acre site. The Outdoor Museum features several exhibit buildings and 25 historic structures highlighting history, architecture, daily life, art and artifacts depicting life in the past four centuries. Several of our favorites included the Hunting Lodge with its taxidermy specimens and mounts, the Red Barn with its vintage coaches, carriages, and sleighs, the Toy Shop with its vintage toys, dolls, and dollhouse furniture, and the Hat and Fragrance Textile Gallery with its featured vintage quilts. The museum owns over 400 quilts and displays 100 at a time. Dorset House holds one of the largest decoy collections in the nation. The Art Gallery changes exhibits every 4-5 months. Check out the Shelburne Museum website for current and upcoming exhibits.
We enjoyed lunch at The Skinny Pancake onsite. We shared two crepes: The “Johnny Crepe” consisted of Vermont pulled pork with caramelized onions and Cabot cheddar served in a cornmeal crepe. It was mouthwatering! For dessert, we share a “Lovemaker” – A sweet French-type crepe with sliced strawberries smothered in choconutty butter and topped with whipped cream. Scrumptious!
After lunch, we headed back to Highway 89 and turned north on Highway 100 heading to Stowe. Just 1.5 miles off the junction, outside the town of Waterbury, we found Ben and Jerry’s Factory – yes the ice cream Ben and Jerrys! We timed it just right – the tour started in 10 minutes! There were three parts to the tour:1. Brief six-minute video explaining how Ben and Jerry took information from a correspondence class on making ice cream and turned it into a multimillion dollar company. 2. Guided Plant Tour allowing us to observe the plant on a second-floor walkway although they were not making ice cream that afternoon, and 3. To the Tasting Room where we each enjoyed a sample.
Feeling blissfully satiated, we enjoyed the last 20-minute drive along the VT-100 N to our next destination, the quaint village of Stowe, set against Vermont’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, in the foothills of the Green Mountains. This eclectic village was put on the map when the famous musical von Trapp family settled there after fleeing their native country, Austria.
It was drizzling a little when we settled into a slightly weathered, but very charming hotel with all the necessary amenities.
Accommodation: Northern Lights Hotel, Stowe, Vermont
Day 4: Trapp Family Lodge and Beerhall
After an excellent breakfast, we followed a winding road through a forested area to the Trapp Family Lodge, a unique lodge built in Austrian style. Besides the hotel, there are villa rental and guesthouse accommodations available. The lodge offers activities for all seasons and prides itself on its old-world comfort and service. We were warmly welcomed and escorted to an activity room where we watched a most interesting video featuring the history of the von Trapp family as well as a fascinating interview with Maria von Trapp. This was followed by a tour of the tiny graveyard where the gravesites of the von Trapp family can be visited.
After we strolled around the premises, admiring the Worcester Mountain range and Mt. Vernon, we drove back to the entrance where the von Trapp Bierhall is situated. The beer brewery, famous for its von Trapp Lager brewed in Austrian style, is operated by Johannes von Trapp, the youngest son of Maria and the Baron. During a most informative tour of the beer brewing facility, we were very impressed by the spaciousness and ultra-modern equipment, and thoroughly enjoyed the flight of crisp Austrian lagers
We stayed for lunch at the excellent von Trapp Beerhall Restaurant and were seated at awindow in a glass alcove with a lovely view. We shared a generous entree of chicken and beef kebabs, freshly prepared vegetables and salad with a lemon garlic dill yogurt sauce.
Heading back to the hotel in Stowe, we took a detour through the village and was surprised at the through-traffic in this off-season. There are about 50 boutiques, sporting stores, country stores, specialty stores and galleries offering quality products, dotted along the route.
We enjoyed the swimming pool and hot tub facility at the hotel and settled in for an early night.
Accommodation: Northern Lights Hotel, Stowe, Vermont
The next leg of our trip takes us to Southern Vermont.
Watch for Venturing through Vermont: Part 2