Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why Spring Break in Vermont?

My facebook feed is full of my teacher friends off in some beachy, warm location -- frolicking in waves, drinking tropical drinks, wearing Mickey Mouse ears. (My feed is also full of stay-cations involving day trips to Toronto, Niagara Falls, and the wine trails.) I get the pull of the sunshine and heat -- even though it hasn't been a super harsh winter like last year's, it does seem like winter isn't loosening its frosty grip on things quite yet. I've had a lot of flowers stop and start, and my daffodils are finally starting to bloom (but we're supposed to get snow Sunday). This is our last break before the 12 week stretch before summer, and many people were just itching to get away, to have ultimate relaxation, to feel the sun on their faces (and legs and tummies).

We don't do the beach for relaxation. We do Vermont.

Vermont? Cold, New England-y Vermont for Spring Break?


We have been going to the Inn at Grafton for years now -- we counted that this was our 6th trip this past weekend. It is the ULTIMATE in relaxation, and no bathing suit is required.

This is where we go when we need to be just the two of us, on our own schedule, which is to say no schedule. We eat. We drink. We hike. We play board games. We read. It used to be there was no cell service there, but now it does hold that distraction (but we try our best to refrain). There aren't any TVs in the rooms. There's breakfast in the Garden Room (which is like a glass conservatory), and dinner in either the Phelps Barn Pub (for live music and casual atmosphere) or the Tavern (for something more fancy). Lunch you're on your own, but there's a little cafe across the parking lot and they MAKE CHEESE here, mostly fairly famous cheddar. So that's in everything. There's also a little town nearby, Chester, that houses a very hippie shop that's a grocery/gift shop/cafe/art gallery in one, where we argue you can get the best tuna melt EVER (and they have gluten free bread). There's the Misty Valley Book Shop, an independently owned bookstore with a great selection for adults and kids, and often books I haven't seen elsewhere. If you stay longer than a weekend, there's Manchester 45 minutes away, home of my favorite bookstore ever, the Northshire, and a whole lot of outlet shopping. Plus some yummy Mexican food.

This time around we were just there for a weekend, as apparently they close for all of April (Mud Season, they call it) and were closed for all but two nights this week for a radio station convention/retreat thing. So Easter Weekend it was. No time for runs into Manchester, and we probably could have made it to Chester, but time was limited and Sunday most things were closed for Easter, so we made it entirely low-key.

Traditionally, we bring a small bottle of champagne and toast in our new room upon arrival, before dinner. This time though, we got in at seven because Bryce had just gotten in from a business trip in L.A. midnight the night before and so was discombobulated. So no time for that, but we did get a half bottle with dinner in the Barn, so the tradition wasn't completely put to the wayside.

You can't see the champagne, but it's there. I love the lights they put up in the barn. Below us was a two-man acoustic band that played a lot of Dylan, and Ray LaMontagne, and some old fashionedy country.
The pub used to be no go for me (not a lot of gluten free options, a lot of burgers and pizza), but they expanded their menu. I had the Lamb Shank, which was really good but also wracked me with guilt for eating a baby sheep. It came with beet risotto, which was very pink, and I made that my last bite because it wasn't lamb murder.

Afterwards, we had a bottle of Pinot Noir up in our room while we played Memory (the Eboo Nature version, which is very pretty). Memory is actually an excellent sobriety test. We followed Memory up with Scrabble Pod, which is a lovely fast-paced version with letter dice and only two words on the board at any given time, which really opens things up and you don't end up stuffed in a corner of the board with nowhere left to go. I don't think they sell it anymore, but it is a fun game.

Memory, all set up with our glasses in the living area of our suite. Yup, that's Bryce in my pastel pajamas, he forgot his in unpacking/repacking from his business trip, and so I wore yoga pants so he could be cozy. The sacrifices we make...
We slept in a bit, because Bryce was feeling a bit under the weather/supertired from flying and then driving for hours. We made it to breakfast at 9:40, which apparently irritated everyone since they serve from 8-10, and they don't mean that they SEAT you from 8-10. Which is probably something to clarify, "Last seating at 9:30" or something like that, because to me 8-10 means I can come in at 9:50 and still get breakfast because...it's between 8 and 10. They were fine though, just grumbly at first until Bryce worked his charm and mentioned flying in the wee hours the night before and still being on California time.

After breakfast, we went for a hike. This is where the reflection photo came in. We went through the pond area, through the barn, across the babbling brook bridge, and up into the Alpine Meadow and then the trails around the mountain, which dumped us out onto an unpaved road that we enjoy hiking up (and it is UP) to the top and then back down again. This time we found a side trail that takes you by the stream and back up into the meadow. It was beautiful, and I'll let the pictures do the talking now...

The other end of the pond, and that picturesque-church-looking building behind the trees is not a church--it's the elementary school. Those two birch trees looked like werewolf teeth to me, or wild boar maybe. 

Could there be a more stereotypical babbling brook? The answer is no. This sound is on meditation tapes everywhere.
Bryce on the bridge, looking ruggedly handsome in his lumberjack coat.

Me on the bridge, facing the other way, reveling in my pastiness and fashionable yoga pants/fleece-with-droopy-sports-bra ensemble. It's probably an excellent thing that we don't go anywhere near the Equator, now that I think about it.
Halfway up the mountain, this pretty little rivulet crossed under the sand road. I have no clue what happened that the left side is all grayed out, I was bummed because it was a really pretty spot. WHY, phone, WHY?

Almost to the top when we see these alongside the road, what I called "very large dog with big claws" tracks but knew what they REALLY were. There was a lot of suspect "large dog poop" in the road at this section, too. The top of the mountain has a house with a great view, but one that's very deserted and you can't help wondering if you will get shot or end up on the business end of a meat hook in the stable or something. (The guy who lives there is actually very nice and a ski instructor, we met him in his pickup truck once.) But there's also a really creepy well up there, so his aesthetic needs some work. I was happy to hightail it down, but Bryce kept stopping to look for black bears in the woods and the trees, because he was EXCITED to see one. Me, I like my face intact.  
Lacy ice on the secret streamside trail reminded us that while it's technically spring, winter still has us in its grasp.
Emerging from the woods to a clearing, and apparently I've LOST MY HANDS! AAAAAA! Still rocking the purple-fleece-and-yoga-pants, which means the pajamas were mine again that night. More proof that the sun is not for me.
The boardwalk trail to the Alpine Meadow. It really was refreshing and the air was brisk but pleasant, so it felt like maybe Heidi's mountain air refuge (although those don't look like Alps at all), or at the very least like we should run out of the woods, twirling our dirndls and singing "The Hills are Alive." 

After our hike, we relaxed and read (and showered), and Bryce took a nap. While Bryce napped I read out on the second-floor porch, on the porch swing that made protesting noises at first and actually sent me to the front desk to make sure it wasn't just decorative. It wasn't, just neglected. 

Doesn't that just look like the epitome of relaxation? In the sun, next to the barn, in the cool mountainy air? Coffee in hand and kindle on lap? (He's reading Ready Player One on my kindle, which he borrowed for the airplane.)

Then we gussied up for dinner at the Tavern. We had a three course meal each included in our package, minus wine. We had so much deliciousness and pretty much consumed whatever was expended on the hike. Appetizers of amazing pork belly with mache and pomegranate bourbon glaze, smoked salmon with cucumber flats and some kind of cream sauce... Bryce's pork chop and my filet mignon, and then I shared the cheese board (all Grafton cheeses with apricot chutney, strawberries, and figs) and Bryce got a slice of carrot birthday cake from a sweet couple near us, so we sent them some port. It was a lovely evening, capped off by cheating and watching The Twilight Zone Season 2 Episode 28 on Bryce's laptop that he brought in case he had to work. It was black-and-white, so maybe it's not cheating? It's a great episode where a flying saucer crashes in the snowy woods and footprints lead to a diner where a bus has just stopped due to an unsafe bridge -- except the bus had 6 total people and now there are 7. WHO IS THE ALIEN??? If you haven't seen it, do it. It is fantastic. 

We clean up pretty well, I think. 
The next day we had a delicious Easter Brunch that was WAY more food than any human should eat. They also had mimosas and bloody marys, which we couldn't enjoy because we were about to drive for 5 hours and Bryce wasn't feeling super well at this point. (Spoiler...he has the flu now, and I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with it, too, just a few days behind.)

What do you do after monster brunch? PING PONG. It's not Grafton if we don't ping pong. Then, we went for a walk around the pond again, and saw at least 5 yellow-bellied salamanders, a boatload of minnows, and several squirrelly and obscenely giant-sperm-like bullfrog tadpoles. 

View from the pond of the ridge and the sleigh ride horse barn, not quite as blue-skied on Easter

If you look really, really carefully and closely in the lower right hand quadrant below the plant, you'll see a little salamander swimming about towards the midline. Bright yellow belly, but you can't really see that here.
And then it was time to drive home. 

Grafton is really a place that begs three nights, but it wasn't possible this year. We really did eke out as much as we could from those two nights and one and a half days, though. This is our place to recharge, to enjoy each other and our present two-ness. Occasionally we get a little sad that we've been coming for 5 years (our 5th visit was in June for just one night on the way home from Maine, strange to be there in summer) and we still don't have a baby with us. But then we think of all the wonderful things we do just us two, and see other families with little babies at the inn, and know that we can still do this (although modified) when Mystery Baby comes. The sadness is passing. Because in Vermont, you can drown your troubles and leave them behind with the salamanders...and just soak up the crisp mountain air and cozy reading time and be present in the beautiful NOW. 


  1. Looks like a wonderful trip! Hubby and I have been craving a get-a-way. This just made me want to do it more. Hopefully work slows down for us soon and we can go do something!

  2. That sounds like a wonderful and relaxing trip. Vermont is just so pretty!

    I can't imagine my husband wearing my pajamas- he probably would just have elected to walk around in his boxers!

  3. I'm with NSC-no way would my hubby have worn my pjs lol.
    Wow-this place is so beautiful. It sounds like such a wonderful and relaxing time in the perfect place. And can I just say you and Bryce are so freaking adorable...seriously it kills me!!
    The picture of Bryce napping in the sun is awesome...it looks so warm and perfectly cozy.
    Very glad you got to have such a nice, albeit short, time away.

  4. What a wonderful vacation! You guys certainly packed a lot into a short period. But it looks like it was both a lot of fun and very relaxing/rejuvenating.

  5. Such a fun trip! The hiking sounds awesome