Aunt Mary Beth is the queen of New England travel. I’d highly recommend booking her as your next tour guide of the East Coast. So far, she’s introduced us to Cape Cod, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and of course many excursions through Boston.
This month, she invited us for a weekend in a beautiful home in Manchester, Vermont. It had all the essentials: a large dining room table for family dinners, unobstructed views of the Green Mountains, and an amazing wood-burning fireplace with a circle of leather couches and chairs.
I think Anna’s goat selfie (above) represents this trip well: happy, cozy, quirky and a tad unexpected. The home had just the right amount of ’70s flair with its orange fuzzy pillows and rugs and some psychiatry undertones. One of the owners is a Greek psychiatrist and kindly left his self-published textbooks on “conflict theory” on the coffee table. From the upstairs bedrooms you could peek down over the living room and eavesdrop on the fireplace conversations. Or analyze people’s body language. Your guess is as good as mine. I do know that Dad enjoys his coffee though. Although it was too cold to hang out on the back porch we could still enjoy the views from our usual perch by the fireplace. We were fortunate enough to be in Vermont over Maureen’s birthday, so every night we were able to celebrate with cake, a pie, or cookies. Our house was set on a large estate ready to be explored. As we trekked through our backyard and looked up at the bare mountains we felt rather sorry for the ski industry. We originally had plans to go dog sledding in the snow with a happy group of Vermont huskies, but sadly Mother Nature had other plans. We consoled ourselves by looking at puppies on Craigslist. I was actually quite content with the lack of snow and warmer weather. I thought Mom’s red-hooded figure looked quite cute as she emerged among the white birch trees. Haven’t convinced Dad into getting a red coat yet. Our house was part of a larger estate with a few individual houses and one main grand historic inn where they host parties, weddings and reunions. Even with many of its trees bare, the mountains were still pretty amazing. Hard to imagine that this is them at their worst. Mom started to question living on the flat plains of the Midwest, as there really is something special about being among mountains. For our little dose of history, we paid a visit to the home of Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert. From 1905-1975 it was the home of Robert and other Lincoln descendants. Apparently historical bathrooms leave a big impression on me. As do old-fashioned linen rooms. Forget stately dining rooms, and tea rooms and an organ built into the stair case. Dad waiting for the night’s fire to burn out before going to bed. Mary Beth and Maureen had both brought socks for the family. Not just any ol’socks. These are special made in Vermont socks. And the “Darn Socks” have a lifetime guarantee! Of course, we couldn’t simply pass out the socks, we had to make it a competition. Instead of our standard trivia contest we had a haiku contest. Mom won with “lunatic baby surrender.” Let’s not even begin to psychoanalyze that one. While we were quite content to sit by the fire reading, we did make an excursion to the Vermont Country Store to sample their candy and maple syrup. Who knew maple syrup came in so many flavors?!On our way home, we stopped by the charming Taylor Farm where the animals roam freely. A little girl immediately ran up to us and offered us a farm tour. She didn’t know the names of any animals except for a large turkey named … Ginger! Judging from Mom’s reaction she was hoping to have a different animal as her namesake. The farmhouse had a bucket of kibbles and carrots where you could pay a dollar and go feed their animals. They must think we city folks are real chumps paying to feed their animals. But of course we put in our dollar and it was great fun feeding the donkey and goats. Doesn’t this donkey have the sweetest face? The farm girl kept jumping on his back and he was completely unfazed. His legs seem to defy evolution but he was actually very steady … Even when Mom slipped him a few sips of beer he didn’t stumble! Ok, it may just be apple cider but donkeys don’t know the difference. On Saturday night we dined at The Dorset Inn, which has been open since 1796 (!). We had a table near the fire and as usual were the loudest family in the place. Sometimes you need to compensate for tables that aren’t talking. I understand that comfortable silence is a valuable thing, but it has no place at the dinner table!
While we took pictures with the local bear, Mary Beth was inside the cutest little grocery store buying us the best chocolate chip cookies ever.
On our last evening in Vermont, we continued the vacation book club tradition. This time we discussed “When Breath Becomes Air.” It took a bit of coaxing for some people to read as it’s written by a neurosurgeon who’s dying of lung cancer. Not exactly a light beach read, but ultimately everyone read it which is an accomplishment in itself. These last two photos sum up the whole trip. Green mountains, a roaring fire, and a cozy chair for four blissful days.