The last stop on our week-long, whirlwind spring break road trip through New England was Vermont. We were only there for 1 night, and we stopped in Montpelier before heading up to Stowe to see how the other half lives.
We basically stopped in Montpelier for maple syrup and fabric. I’d read about Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks in our guidebook, and I really wanted to get my hands on some syrup to bring home. Sugaring season kicks off in March, so we were just in time. Morse Farm is one of the oldest there is, going back 200 years.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from the sugaring experience, but Morse Farm was basically a very muddy parking lot with a few small buildings and a store. Seriously, do not wear your good shoes if ever you find yourself there. You could stand at the edge of the farm and see all the trees tapped together, leading down from the forest and into the processing building. But there were no tours or real explanations of what was going on. It was almost a little voyeuristic; the family just going about their farm lives while tourists stared at them and shopped in the (surprisingly awesome) store.
But maybe since we were there on a Thursday we didn’t get the full tour experience. There was an ancient TV and VCR set up in a corner of the store with a couple of folding chairs, and you could help yourself to watching a video of the long-deceased patriarch in his heyday. That was kind of worth the trip just for the anecdotes because that man, who passed away in 1999, was not PC. Much discussion of Arabs and the Japanese, but he was so darn homespun and delightful that you almost didn’t know where to look or whether to laugh. We definitely felt like city folk.
However strange the farm itself was, I’m in love with the store. We left with syrup. Oh, boy, we left with syrup.
This was the first time Adam and I got to sample different grades of maple syrup, and it was definitely interesting to see what we each preferred. How could you not love a store with friendly honor system signs like this?
We also bought some of that maple cream on the left, btw. Heaven in a jar.
And, of course, I ran into the local quilt shop. Adam and Hannah hung out in the car, but I made a quick spin around A Quilter’s Garden before we headed off to Stowe. I didn’t buy much here; they were very excited to tell me about the new, modern fabrics they were starting to get in. I did get a fab Amy Butler print and a cute fabric book panel.
And then, Oh My God, Stowe. We stayed at the Stowe Mountain Lodge on Thursday night and had absolutely no idea that Easter week is like the last big hurrah of the season for skiers. Adam skied as a kid, but I have never done it in my life. It was just so gorgeous up there. The lodge, the mountain, the cute little town. I seriously want to learn how to ski now. Our plan was to stay 1 night to get a feel for the whole apres ski experience and drive straight home Friday. That’s what we did, but man did we seriously think about tacking on more time.
The place was packed with fancy people who knew what they were doing up there on that mountain. We did feel a little out of place when the staff kept asking us if we had ski gear, needed anything ski-related, etc. We honestly just didn’t know it would be so packed with real sporty people.
Truth be told, we were there to chill out, eat, and explore the town. The lodge’s restaurant was insane. This chocolate cherry bread pudding was my dessert, but my appetizer was the most amazing local cheese plate I’ve ever had. Thick, opaque honey, amazing walnuts (and I hate walnuts), and my choice of 3 cheeses. I went with Cabot’s clothbound cheddar (the best thing Cabot makes), Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery’s Bijou (the most outstanding little aged goat cheese), and Lazy Lady’s Oh My (like a ridiculously good brie). I’m still dreaming about that cheese plate two weeks later. The Lazy Lady was just…well, read this NY Times piece on the farm if you want to know how lusted after her cheeses are.
An outdoor heated swimming pool. That everyone used, even in the snow. We took Hannah in it before bedtime and skipped her bath. For some reason she lost her s**t every time we tried to give her a bath in a hotel this trip, so by the last night we were just in bedtime survival mode. This kind of pool was new territory to me, but Adam informed me it’s pretty common in ski lodges. Who knew?
Beautiful, foggy , and full of people disappearing up into the top. This was a whole subculture I’d never experienced firsthand, even though I have several friends who ski and snowboard. It wasn’t something we could afford as kids, and it just never occurred to me to be interested as an adult. Now I see the little kiddy ski camps and picture Hannah there in a few years.
I loved the town. We had this delicious beer fondue at Crop, made with their own delicious beer. Everything we saw from Maine all the way through Vermont was very much with a farm to table, locavore spirit. And to me that was the best part of the New England experience. It’s what makes me want to go back, just that inherent commitment to good ingredients.
Stowe Fabric and Yarn had really traditional fabrics, not really my thing, but I did indulge in some frankly amazing alpaca wool made at an alpaca farm right there in Stowe. And what’s crazier, they must have carried at least 3 or 4 different brands of alpaca made on farms in town or just outside. Again, that insanely cool commitment to all things local. I’m a little obsessed now. They don’t have a website (again, super trad), but if you find yourself in Stowe you must go get you some!
On Friday morning we decided that yes, despite the gorgeous locale we really were ready to just get home. A week on the road with a tiny human is wonderful and exhausting, and we learned during last year’s England road trip that anything more than a week is really pushing your luck. I left home with Hannah on Friday night, and we returned the following Friday night.
But not before a few stops along the way. Like to the Cabot Creamery Annex Store just past Stowe in Waterbury. Amazingly, they had all 3 of the cheeses I had at dinner the night before, so we bought them all and feasted on them for breakfast the next morning at home.
We also stopped at Cold Hollow Cider Mill for drinks and donuts before making our way to the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
I don’t really know what to add about Ben & Jerry’s. The little museum of history on the way in was so inspiring. I’m not even being trite; in the face of my current work situation I just found them really amazing. I bought a bumper sticker in the store that says, “If it’s not fun why do it?” YES. We also got some great little ice cream bowls there. We did not take the tour because it was packed and there was no actual ice cream being produced that day. But we shopped the store, walked the grounds, and obviously indulged in some great ice cream from the shop.
And that was the end of our road trip. We left Ben & Jerry’s around 4 in the afternoon and drove the 6+ hours straight home, collapsing in our own beds around midnight. With a couple of gas and leg stretching stops, and a stop to take some photos of this:
Not a bad way to spend spring break, let me tell you.