Even at 5:30 AM it was hot and muggy. As we made final preparations for departure around the house, we were hoping that the northern climes of Vermont would be more comfortable. Laura is compulsive about air travel, so we got to the airport in plenty of time for our flight. Enough time, it seems, to be serenaded by an out-of-tune janitor, crooning to a saxophone/Muzak version of Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” This was followed by the more obscure “Left of Center” by Suzanne Vega, and since he didn’t know it, the janitor left me to sing along by myself.
The flight, with stopover in Philadelphia, was uneventful. The lulling pulse of the engines and semi-consciousness turned mirage cloudscapes into fanciful cities, while the reality below was obscured by a gray haze. Soon enough we were descending over Lake Champlain, and came to a bumpy landing in Burlington. The airport is about the same size as GSP, and we were quickly able to get our luggage and rental car. As we left the airport, it felt odd to turn from the parking area directly into a residential area, complete with very old cemetery right next to the runway. Maybe that’s not such a good thing.
Burlington itself is a lovely city on the banks of Lake Champlain. Victorian houses line the main street, and the University of Vermont sits on a hill overlooking the town. We drove to the Church Street Marketplace, and, after on minor difficult, were able to get parked. The Marketplace is a street that has been closed to form a pedestrian mall. This reminds me very much of Pearl Steet Mall in Boulder, Colorado. The airline pretzels had long since worn off, so we took a table at the first neat-looking place we encountered, Sweetwaters. Our table was on the street, so we were able to observe the parade that accompanies most college towns – from the fashionably coifed to the much less fortunate, and everything in between. When it comes to fashion, there is a point at which the bizaare itself becomes conformity, and to revolt one does NOT wear multiple piercings and dyed hair.
Our meal was quite good, but after sitting all day so far, we felt the need to walk. The marketplace had some interesting shops, but quickly degenerated into Gap-inspired mall pablum. If I wanted that, I’d just go to Haywood and and save the airfare. As we walked, we could see storm clouds building to the south, so we decided to head on to Middlebury. Instead of following the main road, we decided to take a more scenic rural route. We drove past large farms with rolling fields at the base of the Green Mountains. I noticed that almost none of the older farmhouses had porches. Before long, the rain finally reached us, and our drive became less scenic as visibilty diminished. We passed through several rural communities, each with its complement of shops and restaurants.
We finally reached Middlebury around 3:30, and found the Inn on the Green . This is a beautiful Victorian B&B with a mansard roofline. The owner greeted us, and informed us that since we were staying a week, she had upgraded us to a suite. The rooms were marvelous, with multiple windows looking out over the town. After settling in, we decided to walk and explore. A small collection of shops surrounds the village green, and boarders the falls on Otter Creek. We went into a couple of artisan shops and used book stores, then crossed the creek below the falls on a pedestrian bridge.
Vermont had proven to be no less muggy than Greenville, and we were tired, so we headed back to the Inn. Our host suggested a place for dinner, but first we needed to wait out another strong storm. After watching the lightening and heavy rain roll in for about an hour, we headed out for dinner. Tully and Marie’s is located just above the falls on Otter Creek. The decor is art deco, with multi-levels overlooking the water. We ordered a half-bottle of Clos du Bois, then entres. Laura got a shrimp/bacon dish with pineapple, and I got a Cajun salmon with mango salsa. Everything was outstanding, and their chef appears to be quite innovative. All-in-all, it was a great start to a vacation.
After dinner we decided on a drive, first around campus, then through the county on a search for wildlife. We were lucky right off the bat – behind the physics building in a field we encountered a small red fox. We had no maps, but decided to take the road we were on out of town. The route took us on a circular loop past large farms with old Victorian houses. We also passed through several small towns and communities, similar to the ones seen on the way into Middlebury. It appears that this area has escaped the rampant development of our area that has consumed most of the local farms.
Back at the Inn, our bed had been turned down by the staff, with exquisite chocolates on each pillow. We plan to turn in early tonight and tour more of the countryside tomorrow.