After just two short days of Canada (sniff) we were back in the US. We had entered via New York and on our way back we crossed almost directly into Vermont. Although I had been to New England twice already, Vermont was the only state we somehow always missed. I had seen enough photos of the Vermont countryside to know that it has an endless supply of of breathtaking post-card vistas. On top of that, we were going in at the height of the Indian Summer so you can imagine how much I was looking forward to this state.
Crossing the border was already a little adventurous. We took the TCH into Quebec and then at some point started heading south for the border. The details are a little mushy at this point, but there were a lot of small roads through the Quebecois farming countryside. At one point we had to stop at a gas station to ask for directions. The combination of my rusty European French talking to back-country Canadian French made the inquiry somewhat demanding. When we found the border crossing it was literally just a small hut with a gate and two very friendly troopers. After they had laughed at our outdated maps and our lack of direction at this point, they pointed us towards Vermont which was just a short drive through some corn fields.
The next few hours we drove through the rolling hills Vermont and across it’s river islands. In the town of “Hero” we stopped for some lunch. The only place in sight was “Hero’s Welcome”, a white wooden family-run general store on the edge of the bay. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a general store which had pretty much everything you’d need on a daily basis: Fresh, canned, refrigerated food, all sorts of kitchen and household supplies, and a lot of stuff which didn’t fit into any particular category. Part of the general store was also the local Post Office and a gas pump. Our lunch there was yummy, we had a homemade wrap with sweet cranberry sauce and some coffee to keep us going. The rest of the day was a lot of driving through lush countryside until we reached Burlington, our first night’s stay.
Burlington is the biggest city of Vermont and home to the University of Vermont. It was also named the healthiest city in the United States in 2008, despite the many delicacies to be found in Vermont. We strolled through the small city-center of Burlington for a while and went down to the harbour. It’s hard to get a read of the city even of this size, but the people and the city itself had a very relaxed vibe to it. At dusk we located a nice little restaurant where we had stone-oven Pizza and some Ben and Jerry’s icecream afterwards.
The next day took us East, ultimately towards New Hampshire. This being Vermont, we obviously had to stop at a small road-side shop called the “Vermont Maple Outlet” to get said substance in its purest form. We also got a hearty taste of other Vermont specialties: Cheddar cheese, beer, chocolate and fudge. Heading on, the highlight of the trip was the Smuggler’s Notch pass. As we went up the mountain, fog set in, the roads narrowed down and the drop next to it became ever more menacing. At the final bend we were really going slow, yet almost missed the peak of the pass had it not been for people stopping in front of us. As we got out of the car there wasn’t a sound to be heard, either natural or from other vehicles. The mountain was covered in fog and the bright yellow foliage added that special something to the eerie atmosphere.
Coming down into the valley again, we next came upon Duxbury where we had a brief stop at the Ben and Jerry’s headquarters. Ultimately we decided against a factory tour and instead kept on driving to make better use of the daylight. In the city of Stowe we had a short stroll through the city center and looked at the historical train station. Further stops along the way were at a cemetery next to the road, because the foliage there was simply breathtaking, and at a covered bridge (another Vermont icon). A short while later, we entered the state capital, Montpelier, which is the smallest state capital in the US with roughly eight-thousand people living there. The downtown area is accordingly small and so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. At nightfall we had already reached our hotel in North Conway, NH. While we only had two short days in Vermont, we got a good idea of what makes this state special: It’s laid-back atmosphere, the remoteness and the stunning countryside which encompasses some of the very essence of New England, or at least what I imagine it to be when thinking of it.