So finally, here I am back in the trenches after a great time away, and, if I don’t write this today, I may as well wait and call it December!!!
I went with my good friend, Debbie, who once worked at Grapevine in Guest Services and the Gift Shop, and she and I had shared many a happy time at the Phoenix gift shows, where we did no end of damage to the balance sheet – so it was a dangerous thing for us to be turned loose together on the east coast!
We had a good trip over, albeit we had to change planes in New York. We flew Jet Blue and I will always endeavor to take that airline in any future excursions. The seats had plenty of leg room and the dispensed goodies were actually edible, though not as plentiful as I recall from airplane trips taken many years ago… Ah yes – gone the days of full scale meals of real food served on real plates with real cutlery – perhaps that still happens on transcontinental flights, but as I munched my peanuts, I did miss it. Still – it was a good flight.
We arrived in Vermont, and it is not only a state different from the Southwest, it may as well be a different continent! Vermont has only about 700,000 people in it, which makes it very desirable from my point of view – but there is a price. A few days after we left, the temperatures dropped to 24 deg. F in the daytime – not something I would enjoy, no matter how beautiful the place. I was amazed at the number of outdoor markets and the number of people growing things which are then sold on street stands – I was also amazed at the fact that there apparently are no fat Vermonters – everyone I saw was slim and fit – well, I take that back, I did see one plump lady, but who knows, she may have been visiting!! Well, I guess a person would be slim, though – they walk everywhere, and all the houses have at least two floors, so at least twice a day you scuttle up and down stairs, burning who knows how many calories in the process! Most of the houses are built of wood and, as I said, all of them are at least two stories high, painted all colors of the rainbow – so cheerful and neat. My niece’s house was built in 1907 and is the typical two story structure, cozy inside, and so neat on the outside – but I was disagreeably struck by the huge pile of firewood stacked alongside the driveway – wood, which, she assured me, would be mostly gone by the time spring came along. I had a good, thoughtful look at that woodpile and revised any plans to move to the northeast – not that I had them, but you know, when you travel, you tend to think, I could live like this… well, no, I couldn’t, given that pile of wood. She has an oil furnace, of course, but also a stolid wood burning stove in the living room, and I could see that this business-like piece of equipment could make short work of that wood pile. As I am writing this, we are experiencing one of our rare cloudy, gray days – rain is forecast, 70% chance of it today, and it is chilly – all the way down to 50 or something – and that 24 degrees does not sound appetizing. I guess Vermont will always be in my heart and memory as a lovely place to visit – which I hope to do again – but in the summer…
We went to a lot of tourist places, of course – many of them old houses of the colonial era and in one of them we found an exhibition to end all exhibitions of horse drawn carriages – I had no idea there were so many designs and uses. I am currently re-reading Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, where there is intermittent talk of people taking droshkas and sleighs going here and there, and it was good to have an inventory of images to draw upon.
One of the highlights, for me, of the Vermont visit was a dinner at a restaurant to which Carrie and Debbie took me for my birthday – it was truly memorable. It is a small restaurant owned by the chef, a young woman of around thirty, I would say, who is a pure genius at combining the most unlikely ingredients into truly heavenly dishes. I ate so much that I almost foundered myself – a wonderful evening. The name of the place is The Black Krim Tavern, in Randolph, VT, and if you are anywhere near there, I urge you to go and enjoy!
The Trapp Family Lodge was another place I had long wanted to visit. I can quite see why Baron von Trap and his wife settled in this spot – so very like central Europe, a beautiful place to visit and vacation in. We had lunch there, and it was distinguished by two features – first of all, the lodge is lovely, the dining room with a crackling fire in a big fireplace was most inviting – and the lunch was incredible. And why? It was not only an excellent soup, but it also had the distinction of being THE very hottest thing I have ever eaten on this earth, and I have lived and eaten hot stuff in places like India, Pakistan and Mexico. But this soup was beyond all that, it was a culinary hell on wheels – almost a torture to eat it, although very tasty. Not one I would like to eat again, though … and I wondered also at the reaction of other diners, who all appeared to be normal sort of people – not like Debbie and me, chili loving gourmands!! We both managed to finish it, though I paid for it later with a mild stomach rebellion.
Another unforgettable place is a small farm run by friends of Carrie’s who sell all kinds of farm produce and who also sell goat milk – so I got a chance to visit with some special, bearded, four-legged and horned Vermonters – members of my favorite tribe! The farm is the Green Mountain Girls Farm in Northfield, VT. The farmers are Mari Omland and Laura Olsen, and not only do they have some delightful goaty and other animal friends, they also offer accommodations and farm vacations. A wonderful place to stay … in warm weather, unless you like to ski! The last two days our temperatures here have dipped down to someplace in the low 40’s and, as I helped Chris with the feeding, I thought about those gals – not only feeding, but milking the goats twice a day, tending the chickens, taking care of the pigs, to say nothing of the acres and acres of tasty produce.
Yet another highlight was a visit to a shop where Carrie wanted to look at some lampshades. She didn’t buy one, but I did – these are lampshades of a most unusual kind, hand painted by the owner, an artist – I just couldn’t resist! I have an antique lamp stand in the living room, with an old, sad and dusty shade which was not even quite long enough for the stand, and I could see the lamp would vastly benefit with one of these hand painted shades – here is a photo – stunning, especially when the light is turned on. The shop is called Lampscapes, and it’s in White River Junction. The owner and artist is Ken Blaisdell.
Please click on either one of the thumbnails below to see full size images. Thank you.
All in all, Vermont was a very satisfying, lovely place!
We took the Amtrak to New York, as we wanted to see more of the countryside – I don’t think I have ever seen so many trees!! The colors, which were beginning to fade in Vermont, were in full glory the further south we went, and the trip, which was around 6 hours, was comfortable and interesting. I don’t think I would like it as a weekly commute, mind, but it was certainly worth doing once.
New York was, as always, bustling, impersonal and yet, in an odd way, friendly. We got a bit muddled returning from some excursion, and asked a passerby for directions. Not only did he spend a long time trying to explain to us what to do and where to go, but, on realizing some time later that he had given us incomplete directions, he actually took the trouble to find us again and clarify his instructions. I can’t see that happening in Phoenix or Tucson, sad to say!!My sister and her husband have a brownstone in Greenwich Village – the house was built in 1832 and consequently also consists of several floors. I was a bit worried about all those stairs before we left home, as my back does not enjoy them too much, but I managed quite well. The front door opens on an entrance hall with a long flight of stairs to the living room and kitchen, then two more flights to two bedrooms and bath and one more flight to the study and guest suite, on the top of the house. This last flight, leading as it does to what used to be the servants’ quarters in the old days, has risers about a foot high and is almost a ladder, so I found it quite convenient to go up it on all fours. But it was lovely up there – my sister has the place fixed up with a kitchenette, and she had it well stocked with snacks, coffee and goodies, and we truly enjoyed our time there. We did most of the tourist stuff, like taking the ferry to Ellis Island, only just re-opened after Sandy, and many trips to several museums. It’s difficult to say which is my favorite – The Cloisters, which is a medieval monastery, and which houses medieval art, is on top of the list, as the Middle Ages are my favorite time in history – not that I would like to live then, mind you, but it is a fascinating time to read about.
And then, of course, the Metropolitan Museum, which is so vast that it would take several months of daily visits to sample it all – again, we drifted to my favorite spot, the medieval section, and there we found, to my delight, two suits of armor which had actually belonged to King Henry VIII – one of the iconic figures of English history. It was amazing to us, given the size of the later armor, made for the king when he was already well into middle age and corpulence, that anyone of that size, with all the weight of the armor as well, could find a horse big enough to carry him! We went to the Metropolitan Opera, how could you not, being in New York, and loving music – and saw “Norma” and “Tosca”. There really aren’t words sufficient to describe performances such as that, so I won’t even try – both were unforgettable evenings.
The most touching was our visit to the 9/11 Memorial. Seeing it on television doesn’t do it justice – it is sad, seems removed from the human bustle surrounding it, eternal, remote. The deep pool of quietly running water surrounded by long walls with the names of the dead was heart-breaking. I was interested to see that the long lines of people waiting to clear security to get into the Memorial consisted of many foreign visitors. Some of the names had red roses beside them – we found out that these were placed there on the person’s birthday.
Later that week my sister and brother -in-law took us to their country home, a farm in upstate New York, not far from West Point. Predictably, this has always been my favorite place to visit on my excursions east. It is an old farmhouse with a barn dating back to pre Civil War days – at that time the place had been part of a large farming estate. Today the barn is being expensively propped up and constantly lovingly repaired by my brother-in-law – but the old stanchions for the cows where they were fed and milked are still in place, and you can get a good idea of how labor intensive farming was, in days gone by.
The farm is also close to many famous houses and monuments – we visited several, but the one most in my memory is the Vanderbilt Mansion, built by Frederick Vanderbilt as a summer retreat, influenced by the style of Versailles, I would think. The tour guide said that it was only visited for a couple of weeks in the summer when the Vanderbilts entertained their friends there. I could live like that – but only for a week or so…. As in Vermont, we also visited many roadside farm stands with acres of farm produce – one wonders there are enough people to eat all that up!!
But – I am glad to be home. Tuffy, who had been left at the ranch, and who stayed with my friend Steve, and then with my other friend, Chris, was noticeably plumper, attesting to many goodies given her by her fan club – naughty, naughty!! She was nevertheless happy to see me, and the puppies, who had been exiled to a dog sitting place run by a friend of mine, were fit and well. So they should have been, as they had done their best to destroy my friend’s place. Apparently they had eaten a telephone line, and torn up some other stuff that I hardly wanted to hear about. I can only imagine the destruction they could have wrought on my house, left to themselves! As my friend was herself leaving for a trip the day before my return, Danny picked up the pups the day before I got home, and they were overjoyed to see me. I was amazed at how much they had grown – they are not pups any more, they are now young dogs – but young dogs who know their place in life!One of those places is my bed, which we all share, would you believe! This was cute and nice when they were teeny tiny, but now that they each weigh over 50 lbs and can stretch to several feet in length, it’s less cute, as they insist on snuggling up to me – and pushing me out of bed. Many’s the morning I wake up on the very edge, with two dogs stretched out sideways, snoring away happily, their heads tucked someplace into me… And the puppy take-over doesn’t end with the bed. Now that they are big enough to be trusted not to chew up everything in sight, they come and watch television with me and Tuffy in the evenings, and it wasn’t’t long before the Wars of the Couch erupted. I have a small library/TV room and the couch there, is, appropriately, for two people only. Initially there was a nightly dispute as to who was going to sit on the couch next to me – later both pups squashed in with me, but eventually there was no place for me at all. Finally, in the interests of peace, I moved an easy-chair in so I can sit on the chair while the pups have the couch! I must add that the easy-chair addition was after a couple of nights of actually sitting on the floor while the dogs had the couch – something wrong with that picture … ya think? But they love me!!!
And so, to end, a very happy Thanksgiving to you all!! May your turkey be plump, your waist line remain slim, and may you be safe and happy!