Shawnee says: Vermont is my new second favorite place. Northern New Mexico will always occupy the top spot, but this weekend we discovered Burlington, a hippy-tastic, nature-rific, foodie-friendly paradise. I loved the woolen caps, the many dread locked heads, the small businesses and organic farms, the rolling hills, the beautifully dilapidated barns, the old-timey covered bridges, the hike we took through the woods, and the ice cream. I also loved playing softball on a field surrounded by bright yellow, red, and orange trees, spending time with our friends, stumbling upon the tiny little restaurant that makes my favorite kind of frozen pizza, and how the whole place was covered in a magical mist. The whole trip was heavenly. Sometimes it feels like our country is moving towards total homogeny. With all the strip centers, chain stores, and cookie-cutter homes it often feels like every place could be any place, but Vermont is so gloriously unique in ideology (it’s only US representative used to be a socialist) and in it’s glorious landscape. I loved it’s authenticity and it’s character. The place was so special that I felt giddy all weekend.
Mike’s run down: After sleeping on the floor of JFK airport (we took a red-eye from SD to NYC), we arrived in Burlington on Friday morning. We met up with our friends Justin and Kelly, who were staying at a hotel in Burlington. The four of us went to a restaurant on Lake Champlain, which had great NE clam chowder. Shawnee said that it was better than the chowder she had in San Diego, which I didn’t take to be a great compliment. This was just after I drove like a complete moron, hopping over a curb on a right turn and generally driving in a way that did not inspire confidence.
Then we walked through downtown Burlington in a pedestrian area that Kelly described as “just like the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.” It did look like that, but the people in shorts with thick beards in 50 degree weather were definitely not LA.
We went to the Magic Hat Brewery, which makes beers like Magic Hat #9 that we’ve liked for a long time. We gave ourselves a self-guided tour of the brewery, which featured insightful comments from me like “see those drawers, that’s where the oompa lumpas sleep.” But the highlight was the tasting bar, which had free samples of 9 of their beers. Shawnee’s choice on which beer to try: “All of them.” One beer was called Chaotic. To our surprise, it tasted like whiskey and was 14% alcohol. Then we realized that we could buy jugs of beer to take to our inn for the weekend. We bought 3 of them and were on our way.
We stayed at an Inn in Waitsfield, VT called the Tucker Hill Inn. This uptight British couple owned/ran the place and appeared to not enjoy running a bed and breakfast. This was a problem considering the fact that they were the only employees of a bed and breakfast that operates 365 days a year. They charged our friend for an extra night just for checking out late. We had a great room that we shared with our friend Brian (two separate bedrooms and a living room). Our room was the party room where all our friends met up. I made sure that the room smelled like beer that night, as I spilled a beer in the exact same spot twice. This was a problem because you weren’t supposed to bring your own booze into the hotel. It was like we were back in high school, smuggling beers into the room in our suitcase.
On Saturday, the groom’s brother set up a softball game. We played in a field surrounded by vermont foliage and then ate hamburgers. It was great. Shawnee was the only woman that played and she played well, getting several hits and playing a mean second base. She was so happy that when she would run the bases you could hear her saying, “I love games” and “This is AMAZING!”
The wedding was in a round barn in rural vermont. It rained the whole night, which made the atmosphere even more quaint. They had a quaker wedding, where they was an introduction by the officiant and then silence. The silence was broken when someone in the audience stood up to speak. About 12 people spoke and it was wonderful to hear what everyone had to say. Andy, the groom, wrote the program and it was so wonderfully written that I almost cried reading it. Andy is a director at Second City and his friend does a lot of music for them. His present to Andy was a Middle School Choir that performed at the wedding. The Choir sang two times: the first time was a song telling everyone to go upstairs for dinner (with a not-so-subtle plug for Obama) and the second time was a very touching song about the bride and groom. When the choir came out, Shawnee turned to me and said “I’m so glad that I’m not in Junior High anymore.” I looked at the kids and started laughing. They all had frizzy hair, braces, and generally looked really awkward.
Then we had a great meal, drinks and dancing upstairs. There was tons of vermont cheese and homemade pumpkin pie. It was phenominal. Then we went to a bar that looked like your crazy uncle’s living room. Finished the night at the party room in the Inn.
On Sunday, we went to a brunch back at the round barn. Great OJ and bloody mary’s. Then we went to the Ben and Jerry’s factory. Again, Shawnee was so giddy that when the tour guide asked the generic “are you guys excited to be here” question, everyone kind of groaned “yes.” Shawnee’s response, “I LOVE ICE CREAM!” By this point, we were stuffed from brunch, so we didn’t have much ice cream though.
There was a Ben and Jerry’s video that covered the history of the company. Strangely, B&J weren’t in it. They just showed this one picture of the two of them. It’s pretty clear that when they sold the company in 2000, they got the hell out of there. And that the purchasing agreement only gave the company the right to use a single picture.
After the tour, we said goodbye to our friends, which was not fun. Then we went for a hike in the VT hills. It was so much better than we expected. There were several streams and the leaves were piled on the path. The path was also very rough, so you really felt like you were out in nature.
In Burlington, we went back into town and ate at the American Flatbread pizza restaurant. Everything is local and organic and you could really tell. Even the pepperoni was flavorful. They were excited to hear that we bought their frozen pizzas at Whole Foods back in Chicago. Then we chilled out at a coffee shop and read the paper for a few hours.
Before we went, we were a little skeptical about Vermont and flying all the way across the country for a weekend. But we had a great weekend and really enjoyed the Vermont area. It was a lot prettier than we expected.