We packed up and then headed to a Bagel Cafe to get some authentic Montreal Bagels. They were DELICIOUS. So after carb-loading and a hot drink, we drove out of Montreal, across the bridge, and into the U.S. of A. Burlington, VT is very close to Montreal and so we were there before much had happened. Didn't stop us from going to a local brew pub, getting some craft beer, ordering more food, and then walking through the town in search of souvenirs and local charm. Burlington is even more college-y than most college towns, and even though there were gray skies and a chilly wind, we had a great time walking through it. Our next stop was Waterbury, VT to see the Ben & Jerry's factory.
Except for the free ice cream at the end, this is like any other factory tour - one long commercial. It's also a lesson in sustainability and responsible product-sourcing. I appreciated learning how Ben and Jerry's makes a concerted effort to get milk from Vermont farmers, and their heavy emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility. Lots of MNCs could take a page from their book. And I didn't know that Unilever had purchased B&J. But all that was nothing compared to the absolute best part of the tour, and one of the funniest parts of the whole trip - our Ben and Jerry's tour guide.
We saw one other tour group be corralled and leave before our tour was called. The tour guide was kind, an older gentleman, and gave an energetic and friendly welcome to his tour group. Then we met our tour guide. She started her cattle call with a something like this:
She made terrible jokes without a second thought and seemed to love them more because they were terrible. She wanted to share her love of Ben and Jerry's with everyone lucky enough to be on her tour. She told this joke when we were overlooking the production floor through glass windows:
A woman had heard that taking a bath in milk is very good for your skin. She obediently called her local dairy farmer and asked for a bathtub full of milk. On the other end of the line, the somewhat shocked dairy farmer responded kindly to her request. "Well, sure...we can do that. Do you know how many gallons your bathtub holds?" The lady didn't know exactly but asked for 60 gallons. Then the dairy farmer considerately asked, "Would you like that milk pasteurized?" And the lady, somewhat miffed at being interrogated, sighed, "Look, I just need a bathtub full of milk, have you ever heard of a bathtub that goes past your eyes? Sheesh."So after our tour guide told that joke there was complete silence. It took me a minute to get it and then I started laughing, first at the joke and then at the utter silence and the tour guide's undaunted continuance of the tour. She was a little disappointed that no one got it. But she pressed on! Clearly this wasn't the first time she tried this joke. After the production room, we went to the TASTING ROOM. They do this very well, and the sample flavor of the day was Strawberry Cheesecake. When we asked our amazing tour guide to take a photo of us, she photobombed us first and took this picture:
This picture kills me every time. And then after her little prank, she took this picture of Christi and I together. Which we tried to set up like the one we had taken in Venice 10 years earlier.
(Then in Venice)
(Now in USA)
Later I tried the Liz Lemon flavor which has blueberry, lemon and lavender flavors. Ben and Jerry have really outdone themselves.
After the factory we decided to head to Woodstock, VT, a quintessential Vermont village. We got there after dark and all the general stores and cute towny things were closed. We drove through, admired the quaintness and then decided to head to White River Junction where we were staying so that we could prepare for our final dinner together. We booked a very late dinner, 9pm, so we had time to check in to our hotel, rest, and pack everything for the next day.
It was very warm in our hotel room so as we started to lay things out and get ready, we opened the window and a short time later, we heard awesome bluegrass music drifting in on the cool night air. We abandoned our packing and repacking and headed downstairs to check it out. Turns out, it was First Friday in White River Junction, meaning the local art galleries and shops stay open late and people meander from one to another for special showings and after-hours events. There is usually outdoor music and other fun things. So we struck upon a wine tasting and they offered very generous pours since it was the end of the event and they had a lot left over. We took to the streets to get a better listen to the music being played. There was a group of middle aged men with two guitars, a banjo, an upright bass, a harmonica and a mandolin and they sounded absolutely lovely. They played "Long Black Veil" and "Gently on my Mind". It was cold and smelled like fall and rocking back and forth to the sweet country music put me in a great mood.
We drove to Quechee to have dinner at Simon Pearce which is an artisan glassblowing workshop/gourmet restaurant. We got to the reservation a little early to have time to shop around and see the glassblowers at work. It's pretty amazing to see the sparkling and elegantly shaped finished products in the showroom upstairs and then to descend into the fiery basement to see two unkempt guys wearing metallica t-shirts with earbuds in, reaching in to furnaces and skillfully working with molten glass and shaping it into goblets, platters, glasses and bowls.
Our dinner was the second best of the trip. We both ordered the same thing, the acorn squash special with root vegetables, ancient grains, and dried cranberries. We sat at a table overlooking the dark, peaceful creek, and tried to find the new moon. I was sad to be leaving such gorgeous surroundings and my excellent companion.
The next morning I woke up early and we headed to Lebanon, N.H. a mere two miles away but in another state. The Lebanon, NH airport is an amazingly small airport with crazy friendly people. Security screening made me laugh- there were as many guards as there were passengers on my plane. And then my plane looked like this:
It reminded me of the Caribbean and all those single prop planes I flew between islands. My flight from Lebanon to Boston was beautiful. The fog and low clouds inhibited my view of the foliage but at the beginning and the end of the flight I got sweeping views of the countryside and it made me even more regretful of departing.
It was very nice to get home though, even to a balmy 80 degree day. I left autumn behind me when I got home from the Northeast. I think I will need to return, however. If for nothing else to replenish my maple syrup stash.