July 22, 2011

Due North, Day 2: Visions of Vermont

Sunday, July 10, 2011: I always feel much more like I'm on a vacation during the second day of a trip. The first day is always one of travel. A day of long car rides or flights. A day of fatigue and stiff legs. A lag day. It is only after I wake up refreshed in a hotel room that the heart of the adventure begins and I can fully appreciate my surroundings. On Day 2 of this trip, I rose to a world of maple breezes, covered bridges, and babbling brooks. A day of sun rays sparkling over distant mountaintops. I rose to a crisp Vermont morning.

It would be a day full of activities. After a continental breakfast at the hotel of homemade Belgian waffles, I was in the car again by 7:30. Horsfords Gardens & Nursery was to be my first stop. Boasting over two miles of meandering paths set on 40 acres of rich soil, this farm displays some of the most magnificent and rare plants available on the market--annuals, heirloom perennials, evergreens, shrubs, shade and flowering trees. Just when I thought that the grounds couldn't get any bigger, I would come across another trail leading to something wonderful such as a hidden greenhouse or a wooden swing in a leafy nook. I absolutely love places that feature little discoveries to reward the curious spirit.

Next, I took a tour of the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. It was fun to walk through all of the stages that go into the creation of a teddy bear: cutting, sewing, stuffing, etc. I also got to see the very first Vermont Bear, a simple stuffed toy with glasses that inspired the construction of a factory that would become into the fourth most visited site in the state. In the gift shop, there is a station that offers guests the opportunity to make their own bears. These personalized bears can be stuffed with a choice of imagination, giggles, magic, friendship, happiness, or love. (And I thought Snapple had the best stuff on Earth. LOL.) Oh, by the way, the next time you happen to come across a Vermont Teddy Bear, take a close look at the iris of its eye...

From there, I headed to the downtown area. With the University of Vermont being located just minutes away, the Burlington Waterfront has grown into an upbeat college town. Through its center runs Church Street--a bustling pedestrian mall. A path of bricks stretches from one side of town to the other, lined with trendy shops and street vendors; a clock tower looms at its end.

Across from the docks, I found the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. This building offers a glimpse into the ecology of Lake Champlain through interactive displays. On the upper level, guests can stroll through a maze of tanks filled with local frogs, turtles, snakes, and fish. The lower level houses the center's temporary exhibits, the present one being "Glow: Living Lights" which focuses on creatures of the deep that are capable of producing their own light. It was a little bit spooky when I looked through the viewing holes on a covered tank labeled "Flashlight Fish" and saw glowing eyes staring back at me. 

After the marine center, I walked to the pier where I had lunch at a dockside restaurant called Splash. Sunrays glistened on the surface of Lake Champlain as distant sailboats glided across the horizon. I ate fish tacos and corn on the cob. It was just a beautiful moment... 

Next, I decided to wash down my lunch at the Magic Hat Brewery. I took the tour of what they call their "Artifactory" - a building that is part factory, part museum, part wonderland. Very entertaining experience. The tour ends up in gift shop where I got to try a few free samples at the Growler Bar. Great ambience. Tasty beer.

Stretching over 45 acres with 39 buildings and 22 gardens, the Shelburne Museum is one of the most incredible museums that I've ever visited. Its exhibits are as unconventional and diverse one can imagine: a round barn displaying paper art and quilts, a horseshoe-shaped structure with a miniature circus parade stretching from end to end, a hunting lodge showcasing antique firearms and trophies, the 220-foot long steamboat Ticonderoga, the Locomotive 220, the carriage house with its aisles of classic horse-drawn vehicles, an entire restored village from the 1800s (including a blacksmith shop, general store, apothecary, shaker shed, covered bridge, lighthouse, and jail), several art displays, and many more rooms dedicated to old-fashioned design and Americana. I stayed at the Shelburne Museum for almost 4 hours taking in its rustic charms and honeysuckle aura, though it still wasn't enough time to see everything. It is an amazing site and one that I definitely recommend visiting if you're ever in Vermont.

To top off my Vermont stay with whipped cream and a cherry, I drove over to Waterbury to take a tour of the Ben & Jerry's Factory. A very cool way to finish up a fun-filled day! :)

"God's way is perfect.
All the Lord's promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him
for protection."

~Psalm 18:30