Most years we manage to miss winter altogether.
Since we are up north this season, we decided to make the best of it. Christmas time in New York and some quality time with the offspring. Because we had heard it’s such an NYC thing to do, a quick getaway trip to the mountains in Vermont sounded like a fine idea. Something romantic for our anniversary.
Going north on the Old Merritt Parkway out of the city Veronica noticed that as we crossed from New York to Connecticut, officially into New England, things instantly turned quaint. The quaintness factor continued to increase the entire trip. So much so that when we turned off the main road in Vermont, just past a “Moose Crossing” sign (Veronica immediately began muttering about how moose don’t really exist), we were greeted by a picture perfect covered bridge over a snowy stream.
Vermont is famous for these bridges, having more covered bridges per square mile than any other place on Earth. This was the Hall Bridge, also known as Osgood Bridge of Bellows Falls. Turns out that this “historic” bridge is really a reconstruction, since back in 1980 some doofus with a thirty ton load of rocks tried to drive over the century old original and ended up in the middle of Saxtons River. Two years later this replica was built to the exact details of the original, right down to having a team of oxen move it into place. Vermonters are serious about their covered bridges.
Got us to wondering, why are the bridges covered? Well, it seems that an exposed wooden bridge will succumb to the harsh Vermont elements in about ten years, but if it is covered, the structural beams are protected and the lifespan is increased eight to ten times. Plus, they look quaint.
Speaking of quaint, a few miles further up State Route 121 the pavement abruptly ended. Google maps didn’t bother to mention this little detail and, call us wacky, we generally don’t expect state highways to be dirt. That’s a bit too quaint for our liking.
The pavement reappeared and we arrived safely at our destination of Manchester, Vermont, a burg of about four thousand folks that dates clear back to 1761. One might use a certain “Q” word to describe this village tucked away in a Green Mountain valley, but let’s go with charming instead.
At the Olympia Lodge, “The motel that feels like an inn,” our innkeeper Trish checked us in and gave us the scoop on the area. In the course of our chatting she told us how she had come up here a few years ago to escape Brooklyn with her husband and three kids. Now they are living the Vermont lifestyle with a real GypsyNester spirit, even though their kids aren’t yet grown.
Once we had settled in we decided to check out the town. This is a year-round resort area. Hiking, fishing and camping in the summer, spectacular foliage in autumn and snow skiing in the winter months. Shops, restaurants and inns cater to all of these events. Manchester has also become a bit of a shopper’s Mecca with outlets stores popping up all over. Sort of like high end crap shops. Instead of jackalopes and cedar outhouses they have Brooks Brothers and Kate Spade. Not our cup of tea, but our exploratory tour did reveal a very interesting choice for the evening’s repast, the Ye Olde Tavern. When Trish back at the lodge also highly recommended it, our plans were set.
Built in 1790, the Ye Olde Tavern really is old, with or without the “e.” Originally as The Stagecoach Inn, then as Lockwood’s, Thayer’s and finally The Fairview Hotel, the building accommodated tired and thirsty Vermonters until closing down in 1904 due to losing its license to sell “spirituous beverages.” When electricity made it to these parts in 1924, the olde inn was renovated and reopened as a hotel and antique shop. Another extensive restoration took place in 1975, and it became the Ye Olde Tavern.
Obvious care has been given to retaining the original look and feel of the colonial structure with antique furnishings, a blazing hearth and wavy window panes. The doorways and floorboards slant in wonderful, uneven chaos from centuries of settling. Some people might even use a certain word to describe it, but we’ll go with historic.
When a gentle snowfall began it seemed like the icing on the cake for this magical evening. Well almost, it was our anniversary so some real cake was called for. What better way to have our cake (but not to eat it too) than flaming? So to top off our venison and Yankee Pot Roast we ordered up the Mocha Chocolate Bombe. Ah yes, cocoa flavored cake, mocha crème and Belgium chocolate ganache doused with Gran Marnier and set ablaze. Happy anniversary baby, got you on my mi-hind! OK, OK, we won’t sing.
The next day we hit the slopes at the nearby Bromley ski area. The previous night’s blanket of snow made for nearly perfect conditions.
We noticed a curious thing while riding up on the lift – some sort of tubes going down the mountain. They looked like water slides, only much more insane.
Turns out Bromley is also a year-round playground. In the summer it becomes Sun Mountain Adventure Park. The tubes are The Alpine Slide, the only triple, and one of the longest cart slides in the world. Maniacs actually ride tiny carts down these tubes. There is also a water slide, Vermont’s biggest of course, and if neither of these are crazy enough, there’s The Sun Mountain Flyer. A 2,400 foot zip line flying through the forest. Makes skiing seem downright safe to us.
Schussing concluded, all limbs intact, we stumbled upon someone’s great idea, a soup shack right outside the parking lot of the ski area. Smokin’ Bowls features organic home-made soup served up in Mason jars, the perfect warm up after a day on the slopes. To die for. David had the chowder and Veronica happily sipped on tomato parmesan bisque.
On our way back down to The Big Apple, via paved roads this time, we drove through several picturesque mountain hamlets and passed a couple more covered bridges. Quai… OK, I won’t go there. We also saw a few more “Moose Crossing” signs which really got Veronica going. She has now been to any number of places that claim to have moose running rampant, but has yet to see hide nor hair of Bullwinkle. Whenever she asks the locals about the creatures, they try to explain that moose are shy, or only come out early in the morning, or it’s the wrong time of year or any number of other excuses which she has now dubbed “moose-cuses.”
Personally, I’ve seen moose, but only in Alaska, so I do have to wonder… maybe they put up these signs just for the tourists.
Maybe they think they’re quaint.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com