Hear about travel to Vermont as the Amateur Traveler talks to Dana Freeman of findandgoseek.net about her adopted home state. Dana has lived in Vermont for 14 years and someday her children’s children may be Vermonters.
“Vermont is absolutely beautiful. Lot’s and lots of states can claim that they are beautiful too. Aside from April, which is mud season, and November, which is something we call ‘stick season’, it is really pretty much always stunning and there is always something to do. There’s always a fair or a festival or an event. There is something going on for your family or for you and a reason to come and visit. But more than that I always tell people to come and visit because Vermont is a state that is really just one small community made up of some really fantastic people. We are a small state. We only have about 600,000 people living here and so the whole six degrees of separation doesn’t really hold true. We’re pretty much two degrees of separation and that makes us really tight-knit and we want to welcome people here and we mean it.”
Dana’s family loves winter sports in Vermont but she is still partial to the Fall which is “visually an absolutely beautiful time to be here”.
Dana describes an itinerary that starts in Burlington. She suggests we spend some time on Lake Champlain, shop and eat at the Church Street Marketplace, and grab an ice cream at a Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop. She makes recommendations for places to stay and eat in Burlington. You can learn about Lake Champlain at the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center and rent a bike to explore the Burlington Bike Path. Keep on the lookout for Champ which is the Vermont version of the Loch Ness monster.
Dana then takes us south to Shelburne Farms a “magically gigantic farm which is absolutely stunning”. You can see the animals but can also hike the hiking trails and stay in The Inn at Shelburne Farms. “They have some of the most beautiful landscaped gardens I have ever seen.” While we are in the area she also recommends we take in the Shelburne Museum which is a folk museum.
From Shelburne, we head to the beautiful small towns of Middlebury and Vergennes. Vergennes holds the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum which describes the maritime culture and history on the lake including the naval battles fought on Lake Champlain in the American Revolutionary War.
For winter sports or any season, Dana recommends a stop in Stowe. In the summer you can hike the trails in the area.
Learn about maple syrup, Vermont cheese, covered bridges, the Trapp Family Lodge (Sound of Music) and more as we explore the Green Mountain state.
Find and Go Seek
Hotel Vermont: Drinking & Dining
Church Street Marketplace
Ben & Jerry’s
Lake Champlain Chocolates
Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center
Burlington Bike Path
Maple Landmark Toys
Basin Harbor Club
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Lake Champlain History: Revolutionary War
Mad River Valley
Vermont Ski Museum
Stowe Mountain Lodge
Stowe Pinnacle Trail
Woodstock Inn & Resort
Billings Farm & Museum
Sugar on Snow
Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tours
Vermont Cheese Council
Trapp Family Lodge
Vermont Brewers Association
I love your podcast so first I want to thank-you for putting in the effort to make it. Please keep doing it.
Next year I am planning a 6-12 month trip with a lot of diving in the indo-pacific. Most of my planned destinations you have already done podcasts on but I would like to request podcasts on Fiji and Palau. If you have the opportunity to interview people who have been there, please do so.
Thanks a lot and I’m looking forward to the next show!
Chris: Amateur Traveler episode 440. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about long lakes, mountains, farms, and Ben and Jerry’s as we go to the Green Mountain State, Vermont.
Welcome to The Amateur Traveler, I’m your host Chris Christensen. This episode of The Amateur Traveler could be sponsored by you. If you’re looking to reach travelers and you’d like to do it in an audio form, then this may be the place for you. Send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com for sponsorship information.
I’d like to welcome to the show Dana Freeman, who’s come to talk to us about Vermont. Dana is from findandgoseek.net. Dana, welcome to the show.
Dana: Thank you, I’m glad to be here.
Chris: And Dana, you have lived in Vermont for 14 years, as I understand.
Chris: Which, as before we were talking, does not in any way qualify you to be a true Vermonter, is my understanding.
Dana: Nope, it doesn’t. I think you have to have lived here for several generations to be considered a true Vermonter. Parents, and then grandparents, and then even some more grandparents.
Chris: Well, and I told you the story before we started recording of I had a roommate in college who was from northern Vermont, up in Saint Albans, up in–as he described it–the land of eleven months of winter and one month of poor sledding. Who described a woman who died and her obituary said so-and-so of New York died at age 80, having lived in Vermont for 79 years.
Chris: Why should someone come to Vermont?
Dana: Well, Vermont is absolutely beautiful, and lots and lots of states can claim that they’re beautiful too. And aside from April, which is mud season here, and November which is something that we call “stick season,” it’s pretty much always stunning, and there’s always something to do. There’s always a fair, or a festival, or an event. There’s something going on for your family or for you, and a reason for you to come and visit. But more than that, I always tell people to come and visit because Vermont is a state that is just one small community made up of some really fantastic people. We’re a small state, we only have about 600,000 people living here, and so the whole six degrees of separation doesn’t really hold true. We’re pretty much two degrees of separation, and that makes us really tight-knit. And we want to welcome people here and we mean it.
Chris: Excellent. And before we get into what kind of itinerary you would recommend for us to see Vermont, I want to talk a little bit about what season you would recommend. I think of Vermont having tourists in the summer, and then obviously leaf peepers coming up there in the fall, and then winter sports in the winter. First of all, is that correct?
Dana: Yes, I would tend to agree.
Chris: Okay, and then do you have a favorite of those seasons?
Dana: We’re a skiing, snowboarding family, so I definitely love the winter, but I am partial to the fall. I think that it’s visually an absolutely beautiful time to be here. It’s those warm days in September, it’s still sometimes in the 70s, and those cool nights. I mean, you want to put on a sweater and your boots and you want to drink warm apple cider and eat everything apple and pumpkin. And I mean, it’s really that quintessential fall thing we’ve got going on here, no kidding.
Chris: Well, and I live in California as we’ve talked about on the show, and love California and I would say three seasons of the year, I would rather be in California. But New England fall, there is no competition there. I completely understand what you’re talking about. Excellent. What would you recommend for an itinerary if I had say, a week to see Vermont?
Dana: Burlington is where our major airport is, so I would say fly into Burlington, and – if you’re flying – and start here. I would stay one or two days and make Burlington your base. I would suggest staying at our new Hotel Vermont, it’s been here a little over a year. It’s a boutique hotel downtown, and so great location about half a block from the water front. A lot of people don’t realize but Burlington is a lakefront city. We are right on Lake Champlain, which divides Vermont and upstate New York. Plattsburgh is the equivalent of what’s right across from Burlington on the New York side. So I would stay in Hotel Vermont which is made up of all Vermont products, so that’s really kind of cool. So not only are you staying in a really nice hotel, but you’re staying in a hotel that’s got a great sense of place.
There are three great restaurants within it, Hen of the Woods, Blue, and Juniper, so that also gives you a nice opportunity for eating. And then right up from the hotel is the Church Street Marketplace, which is a pedestrian-only, about four block street area where you can walk and shop and eat. In the warmer months, which we consider all the way to now, October, you can still sit outside and grab a cup of coffee and have a meal, and it’s a great place for people watching, and an opportunity to take it all in. You have your Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop there, some other real Vermont type places that you’re probably looking for on your hit list. There’s a lot of artesian shops, you can get some pottery and things that are just from Vermont. Lake Champlain Chocolates has a store on the Church Street Marketplace, so I would recommend taking home some chocolate, if you’re a chocolate fiend. So that’s a great way to spend a day, is definitely strolling up and down Church Street.
Chris: Before we leave Church Street there for a second, we stopped a bit at Ben and Jerry’s, and I think both you and I there for a moment assumed that everybody would know what Ben and Jerry’s is, but some of our listeners are not even from the U.S., so we should stop here for a second and talk about that we’re talking about a very . . . I don’t know how to describe Ben and Jerry’s, but it’s an ice cream store.
Dana: Yes, ice cream, very famous ice cream started by Ben and Jerry. You’ve got every flavor possible coming out of there, and then they’ve got new flavors coming out, very famous flavors all the time. There’s actually the factory stores out in Waterbury, and you can take a tour.
Chris: And when you say flavors, we’re not just talking about vanilla. I think of famous flavors from them like Cherry Garcia, named after the band member . . .
Dana: From the Grateful Dead, yes. Exactly.
Chris: . . . named after Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead.
Dana: Exactly, and they have this whole new line called “Core,” which means that in the very center they’ve got ice cream that’s right in the core, and . . . it’s famous ice cream and well worth having a bite if you haven’t had them. So there are several scoop shops here in the Vermont area, but there’s one right up on Church Street that you can get some.
Chris: Excellent, and then continue your tour there that I so rudely interrupted.
Dana: Lots of great places to eat in Burlington. Pop into August First, which makes some of the best breads and pastries, so go and get your morning coffee and have some breakfast or also stay for lunch.
Chris: I am curious, do you know why it is called August First? Is that the birthday of the proprietor, or . . . ?
Dana: It’s the birth-date of the restaurant.
Chris: Oh, okay. Well there you go.
Dana: Yeah, and then I would also recommend Bluebird Tavern, they have just some fantastic food. They also have a little kiosk right on Church Street, so if you just want to get some great coffee and a muffin or something, you could do that. I would also recommend going down to the waterfront. We have something called the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Great way to learn about Lake Champlain actually, and the Lake Champlain basin. Good place for kids, good place for adults actually, really just an interesting place to visit. And then we have something called the Burlington Bike Path, that you can hop on right there. You don’t have to bike, you can certainly walk. Plenty of places to rent bikes, we have something called Local Motion right down there in Burlington, down by Echo if you wanted to rent bikes though and hop on the bike path.
Chris: And you mentioned that you were sitting on a lake there, and I think that probably some people who don’t have a good idea what Vermont geography looks like, are picturing a little tiny lake, lake Wobegon or something like that. You’re talking about a lake that is – I looked it up – 125 miles long from north to south, but only 14 miles wide, so it mentioned the border there. I should point out that that is five times the length of Loch Ness, and apparently, and I had forgotten about this until I was looking up, Googling Lake Champlain, also you have your own version of the Loch Ness monster. The Lake Champlain monster . . .
Dana: Oh, Champ.
Chris: . . . Champy, or Champ.
Dana: Yep, Champ. Everybody’s always Champ sighting.
Chris: You may or may not have I should say.
Dana: Yep, Champ, you’re always looking for Champ. Echo does a whole Champ week. So yes, be on the lookout for Champ. We have a local baseball team, a Minor League Baseball team here, Champ is the mascot for that . . .
Chris: Oh excellent.
Dana: . . . so yes, we do have our own version. And getting out on the lake is a great thing to do too here. You can do it in lots of different forms. There are plenty of places to rent stand up paddle boards, kayaks, sailboats, all sorts of things. If you are not qualified to sail yourself, there are plenty of people who will charter you for an hour or two, or all day if you wanted to, and we have plenty of scenic cruises too, the kind where you can go out and have a sunset cruise and have brunch or dinner or whatnot on the boat as well.
Chris: Well and one of my best memories of a day spent in Vermont was the day that I spent on Lake Champlain on a friend’s boat out of Burlington, we had gone to a wedding there. I went to school in upstate New York just across Lake Champlain and down a bit from there, and I would definitely second your recommendation of getting out on the water.
Dana: Yeah, it’s really just a beautiful . . . and we’re really, really fortunate to have Burlington be right on the lake on the waterfront. It’s beautiful.
Chris: Excellent. Anything else we should see in the Burlington area or are we ready to head further afield?
Dana: I would head a little bit further south, still making Burlington your base for your hotel. I would go a little bit further south down to a town called Shelburne, about 15 minutes south down Route 7, and I would take in two places there. One being Shelburne Farms, which is just an absolutely magical places for young and old alike. You can start your visit with a tractor ride from the visitor’s center which will take you out to the farm. When I’m talking about a farm, I’m not talking about a little red barn, I am talking about a magical, gigantic farm that was built 100 years ago that is just absolutely stunning. Please remember to bring your camera. There they have a children’s farmyard, where you can see the baby sheep and milk the cows and see the donkeys and the bunnies and etc. But you can also, they have hiking trails there so you can hike all over the property. You can actually stay, there’s an inn at Shelburne Farms, it’s called The Inn at Shelburne Farms, and you can stay there and make reservations. It is seasonal, so you can only stay from May to October because there’s no heat . . .
Chris: Wow, okay.
Dana: . . . everything’s done by fireplace, and there’s a wonderful restaurant there. Make reservations for brunch, and they do do special things like tea, or Mother’s Day tea, so you can do that. And I have to tell you, they have some of the most beautiful landscaped gardens I’ve ever seen. So really, that’s a must do, and that I would make sure you put on your list of things.
Chris: So it sounds like when you say this is a farm, it also sounds like it’s really a folk museum also.
Dana: It’s a working farm, it’s a historical landmark, it’s located also as well on the edge of the lake, so you can come down to the lake. In the summertime there’s camps that are there, so if you happen to also be staying here with your family or your children during the summer, look into maybe enrolling them in one of the camps because that is a really unique opportunity to be able to go to camp at Shelburne Farms.
Dana: So, very cool thing to do. The other thing I would suggest in Shelburne is Shelburne Museum. So Shelburne Museum is a working museum that’s all outdoors, it has got over 150,000 works in 38 buildings that are all outdoors. So you go from building to building with paths in between, and you get . . .
Chris: And what types of buildings are we going in-between here?
Dana: Well, like there’s the Round Barn. Or there’s a beautiful, historic, like homes.
Chris: Then you mentioned a schoolhouse I think before we started recording.
Dana: Yep, there’s a schoolhouse, there’s a jail, there’s a covered bridge. There’s just a little bit of everything there because it’s supposed to be recreating a Vermont experience. In 2013 they actually opened year-round, which is really nice so that you no longer have to just be here during the season in which they’re open. There’s also a carousel. There’s a circus building which is actually one of my favorites. They’ve got the most incredible circus collection of posters and little figurines, and all sorts of just cool Americana things to look at. But they also have an incredible collection of great impressionist things from Monet, and Manet, and Degas, and quilts and just something that you really wouldn’t know it was here, and you should really not miss.
Chris: And you’ve mentioned now for the second time covered bridges, and I assume that most Americans are aware of these, but this may be something that is different for our foreign listeners. So we’re talking about a bridge that is almost a long shed. I don’t know how else to describe a covered bridge. It’s got a roof and sides on it, because you have winter . . .
Chris: . . . in Vermont, so this is a particularly Vermont thing. There are more than a few of them in Vermont, I have no idea how many.
Dana: That is exactly a great way to describe it. It looks like a shed that has open sides for the most part, almost like little windows that have no glass, and then a roof over the top, and it’s a covered bridge. It’s a way to get across a little river.
Chris: Apparently there are just over 100 in Vermont.
Dana: Oh, well there you go. And they’re beautiful, and people photograph them all the time, and people stop to look at them all the time, and they’re really pretty.
Chris: Excellent. Where should we head next?
Dana: After you’re done with Shelburne, if you can do it all in one day, you could continue on to Middlebury, or you could make this another day’s visit. You could combine Middlebury and Vergennes as another day, making Burlington still your home base and still heading south. Middlebury is home to Middlebury College, it’s got the Otter Creek running through it. There are some cool shops like Danforth Pewter is here, there’s also something called the Maple Landmark Toys, which are all wooden toys . . .
Chris: Oh excellent.
Dana: . . . that are made there. Yeah, and you can see them being made, like a lot of times they’re actually working on them and you can see them. It’s a very sweet little town. Otter Creek Brewing Company is there, but it’s a nice day trip. It’s definitely, you could do that for the morning or the afternoon, and then continue on to Vergennes, which is very close by, 20 minutes. In Vergennes, we have a place called the Vergennes Laundry, which is a great place to stop and get . . .
Chris: Your laundry done.
Dana: . . . lunch. Not a laundry, it’s a coffee shop.
Dana: A lunch place. Great place for beautiful pastries and coffee or lunch. And from there you could continue to the Basin Harbor area, and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is there, and that is a collection of just what it is – it’s a maritime museum. So lots of old boats, re-creations of old boats, and lots and lots about the history of all the battles that were fought by boat on our lake.
Chris: And when you say battles fought by boat on lake, you know that I’m a history buff here. We’re talking about especially a major battle that was fought in the Revolutionary War when both sides – both the British coming down, invading from Canada, and the Americans who were trying to hold them up eventually defeated them at the Battle of Saratoga just over the lake there – built fleets to fight each other and as part of this big invasion. And the American forces largely being directed by the great hero, we don’t know him that way now, of Benedict Arnold. So yeah, fascinating maritime history there on that long lake.
Dana: Yes, so this maritime museum has a collection of large and small watercraft built over the last 150 years, and they actually have the largest collection of wooden shipwrecks in North America. And they have a full-scale replica of the Philadelphia II, which was a Revolutionary War gunboat, in case you didn’t know what that was.
Chris: Oh excellent.
Dana: Yeah. Pretty cool. So that would be another day outing that I would suggest. You could combine Middlebury and Vergennes together.
Dana: After that, I would suggest moving out of Burlington and perhaps moving out to Stowe, or what we call the Mad River Valley area. Most people think of Stowe as like a ski town . . .
Dana: . . . which it totally is, but Stowe is great in all seasons. So even if you’re not a skier, I would still go visit Stowe. Lots of neat things there. There’s the Stowe Ski and Snowboard History Museum, real tiny . . .
Dana: . . . probably off the map, but really interesting. Especially if you are a skier or a snowboarder, great history to be found there. There’s a beautiful little covered bridge right in town. I would suggest staying at the very top, up at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, even if it is off-season and you’re not skiing, I have to tell you that they have a spa to die for.
Chris: And do they run the lifts in the summertime also for hiking, as some some ski resorts do? Or . . .
Dana: They do, and they have a gondola.
Dana: One of the things that the guidebooks/tourist books miss is something called the Stone Hut. It is at the the top of Mount Mansfield, it was originally build in 1936 as a warming hut by the Civilian Conservation Corp. But now it’s a rustic, overnight lodging facility, heated only by wooden stove, and you and 11 of your closest friends can stay there. Super cool experience, but you need to know that reservations are done through a lottery by the Vermont Parks and Recreation Department. So, if this is something that you’re interested in doing, which I hear is really cool and I’m going to put my name into the lottery, because it’s a lottery so it takes a while to get in and get done. I would suggest going on the Vermont Parks and Rec Department website, and putting your name in, and who knows. You get to take the gondola . . . I mean . . . it’s either the gondola or the lift up, and so it’s whatever you can carry on your lap, you carry up, you spend the night, and you can ski down.
Chris: Oh fun. And we should say that Mount Mansfield is the highest mountain in Vermont, the “Green Mountain State,” for those of you who don’t speak French. And the summit, I just looked up, is only about 4300 feet, almost 4400 feet . . .
Chris: . . . above sea level.
Chris: Or 1339 meters for those of you in the metric system that is used by most of the other people in the world. Anything else on our week-long itinerary of Vermont?
Dana: While you’re still out in Stowe, if you’re there during a season while you can hike, I would suggest hiking Stowe Pinnacle. That is one of the most beautiful hikes that I’ve ever done, because when you get to the top, the view that you get of the Stowe Basin if you will, or the Stowe area, is just absolutely stunning. So I’m going to say that’s probably not your winter hike, that is either a summer or a fall thing to do.
Dana: It’s not on a scale of like, easy to super-hard. I’m going to put it on your moderate. Your kids can definitely do it, I’ve seen four-year-olds on the trail. We’re pretty hardy here in Vermont. It’s a good hike.
Dana: Continuing on, if you want to go a little bit further south if you had another day, I would say go down to Woodstock.
Chris: And when we say Woodstock, we’re not talking about the Woodstock of rock and roll fame . . .
Dana: No, not New York.
Chris: . . . that’s in New York.
Dana: No, although that’s great in itself. We’re talking about Woodstock in Vermont. Lots to do in Woodstock, and I would stay in the Woodstock Inn and Resort. If you’re there during ski season, ski Suicide Six. Do not be imposed by that name, as I was until this year. I was like “Suicide Six?” I’m like “Geez, that name in itself!” I’m like “I’m not going there, it’s probably all black diamonds!” It’s really just the most lovely little ski area you’ve ever been to. I mean, on a Saturday afternoon, at noon, I pulled up in the front row and got the first parking spot. It’s that small. It’s really lovely. The other thing to do there is go to the Billings Farm and Museum, which is another great little working farm and museum kind of Vermont-y place to go and see history and things to do. Woodstock, the town of, is just fantastic. It’s one of your little, total quintessential Vermont towns, and I know that you probably hear that about every town, “Oh, it’s a Vermont quintessential town,” but this really is.
One of the cool things that’s there is the Gillingham and Sons General Store. I’m kind of a sucker for the general store. You know, I love to walk around and look at all that stuff. This one opened in 1886, and is still owned and operated by the same family, and it’s super cool. You could spend a whole day just walking around the town of Woodstock, there’s just lots to do there. So I would recommend spending the night, and spending a day down there.
Dana: A lot of people like to drive Route 100, it’s very famous, and very, very scenic. So if you can plot and plan to drive Route 100 along the way, that’s a great way to get around.
Chris: Excellent, and I want to give at least a nod do way further south than would fit into this itinerary to the town of Bennington, Vermont, just over the Massachusetts and just over the New York border, just because it is one, a very pretty town, but two, it’s also where my wife had her first date with me. My first date with her was someplace else, but that’s another story. But if you are down there, I’m sure you could go to the Dunkin’ Donuts where we had our first date and see the plaque. I’m sure there’s one there.
But also there’s the pottery . . . I don’t know if it’s still open there, but there for many many years has been Bennington Pottery, which is an interesting stop if you happen to be in that area.
Dana: There’s a Bennington Pottery in Burlington, so if you don’t make it all the way down there, you can check out the one that’s in Burlington.
Chris: Excellent. And as we start to talk about larger themes, do you have a position on Vermont versus New Hampshire maple syrup?
Dana: Oh, well there is none. I mean, it’s only Vermont syrup, and you need to come here in March and experience sugar season. I mean, that’s just a total must-do.
Chris: What happens in sugar season? I mean, I know that we’re tapping the trees as the sap starts to run, but are there events then built around the sugar season?
Chris: Are they slow-moving events or . . .
Dana: So all of March is considered sugar season if you will. The last weekend in March, if you’re going to plan it that way, is open-house weekend which means that most or all of the sugar houses open their doors and invite you in for samplings and tasting. They’re encouraging you to buy their syrup from them right there on the spot, rather than anywhere else, which you can do, you can get fresh maple syrup here pretty much anywhere. And what you’re doing when your there is having something called “sugar on snow.”
Chris: Okay, so they do that in Vermont as well. Okay.
Dana: Yes, for those who are not familiar with the “sugar on snow” concept, that would be hot maple syrup drizzled over snow until it turns kind of tacky, like taffy . . .
Chris: Almost like taffy, right.
Dana: Yes, and then it’s served here with a doughnut, and then a sour pickle.
Chris: A sour pickle?
Dana: Yep, that’s mostly the reaction that people get. Why the pickle? Most Vermonters will say to you “Well, sweet and sour. . .”
Chris: Right, yeah.
Dana: “. . . It cuts the sweet.” I’m not sure why you want to cut the sweet, but they all do it, and it’s just tradition. So when you go for “sugar on snow,” to a maple open house, you are going to get maple syrup on top of fresh snow, with a doughnut, and a sour pickle on the side. And just go with it.
Chris: Excellent. One thing the guidebooks recommend that you think is probably a waste of time?
Dana: I love Ben and Jerry’s, like we were talking about before. I think you can skip the factory store in Waterbury and just get some Ben and Jerry’s from a scoop shop. The factory store is usually a long line and I don’t think that it’s just a “must-do” here.
Dana: I also think that you could probably skip – I’m sure you’ve probably all heard of Cabot Cheese, pretty famous, comes from Vermont. You can probably skip the Cabot Cheese factory tour, and that’s because we have lots and lots of little cheese producers that are far less commercial here. As a matter of fact . . .
Chris: And mostly cheddar?
Dana: No, not mostly cheddar.
Chris: Okay, see then when I think Vermont, I think cheddar, so . . .
Dana: Right. We make them all. We make great Blue Cheese, we make great sheep’s cheese, we make great everything cheese. As a matter of fact, when you come here you can look up something called The Vermont Cheese Council. They produce a map . . .
Dana: . . . of the Vermont cheese makers. And you could choose to spend your entire time here just visiting the cheese producers.
Dana: And on this map, it will show you which ones are actually open for business and open for tastings. And they are all over the entire state of Vermont.
Chris: And do you have a favorite one? You’ve said Cabot not so much?
Dana: It’s not that I don’t love Cabot cheese, because when I go to the grocery store, for sure. Do I buy it? Yes, definitely. It’s great. And would I choose that over the more commercial, like Kraft Cheese? Yes, I buy Vermont products all the time. I love Jasper Hill. When I pick a cheddar, I like Shelburne Farms cheddar quite a bit, I like Grafton cheddar quite a bit. I’m not too picky about my cheese. Cheese is cheese. We actually have cheese festivals here, so you could come just for the cheese festivals.
Chris: And cheese festivals, you crown the Cheese Queen and roll the cheese down the hill? Or what is a cheese festival?
Dana: It’s where you get to come and taste just a bunch of good cheese. That happens . . .
Chris: Well that sounds pretty good, okay.
Dana: . . . come in late July for that.
Chris: Excellent. What is going to surprise me about Vermont?
Dana: Well if you didn’t already know, which some people don’t, the Trapp Family Lodge is here. And that is the Trapp Family Lodge of the . . .
Chris: “Sound of Music.”
Dana: . . . von Trapp, “Sound of Music” von Trapps. And Johannes von Trapp, which is the youngest of the singing von Trapps, still runs the lodge. And he and his family are omnipresent in the lodge. They’re here. And so if you go there, and I quite recommend that you do, they’re out in Stowe, you’ll get to meet them. So that might surprise you. They make an awesome beer, the Trapp Family Lager beer. And you can take a tour of the lodge which is something that I recommend doing, because it gives you a really good picture of the von Trapps and not the “Sound of Music” version. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just a little bit different than what you think you know. And the inn is really . . . or the lodge is really, really beautiful. You can go to the deli bakery, and sit out on the back, have a beer, and sort of feel like you’re in Austria, even though you’re in Stowe. It’s a neat place to spend the afternoon. That might surprise you.
Chris: Excellent. As you were talking, and I’m picturing Vermont, I’m thinking of all of the stories I’ve heard of Vermont over the years especially from my roommate Chris who grew up there. And the one story that I want to relate that just gives a little difference between New York and Vermont – and New York used to claim Vermont as did New Hampshire – but Vermont is a different place. He had a roommate, or a friend who was coming to visit him from New York, and very New Yorker stereotypically, and he pulled into a gas station and pulled in really fast, and actually pulled six feet past the pumps or something like that, and he shouts out the window to the owner of the gas station – a little tiny gas station out in the country – and says, “I guess I need to move the car.” And the Vermonter, without missing a beat, just says “Well, can’t move the pumps.”
Dana: Sounds just like a Vermonter.
Chris: So yep, it’s a fun, beautiful place. If I had to say you’re standing in the prettiest spot in Vermont, where are you standing and what are you looking at?
Dana: Aside from my backyard?
Chris: Aside from your backyard.
Dana: All of Vermont is pretty. I think one of the neatest or one of the prettiest things is the causeway. The causeway is a bike path that runs straight out through the middle of Lake Champlain. Which is unusual. It’s built out of marble, and it used to be a railroad track . . .
Chris: Oh, okay.
Dana: . . . so yeah, kind of cool.
Chris: So it’s a “rails to trails” path.
Dana: Exactly. But so people bike it and run it, and you can feel like you are walking on water. Like you are just standing out in the middle of Lake Champlain and you can take a look around, and get this beautiful panoramic view once you’re far enough out of Vermont. And it is definitely one pretty place.
Chris: Anything else we should know before we go and plan a trip to Vermont to go try all the cheeses?
Dana: You need to pair your cheese with beer.
Chris: Okay, all right.
Dana: You might not know that Vermont is one of the biggest craft beer states. So same holds true for like the way that we have our Vermont Cheese Council, for such a small state we produce a lot of craft beer. More than just like you’ve probably heard of Magic Hat, or maybe Long Trail, because those are two of the older ones that have been around and word’s gotten out. But we have a lot of them, and then so there’s something called the Vermont Brewer’s Association, and if you go to their website, they have a list of guided tours that will be able to help get you out there to see and taste some of our finest. And again, you could spend a whole day doing that.
Chris: Excellent. As long as somebody else is driving.
Dana: Exactly. Well no, they provide the transportation . . .
Dana: . . . exactly. It’s one of those where they’ll drive you around and get you out, and get you to taste and see some of our craft beers and whatnot. Another thing is like right now we’re in the middle of apple season. We’re very much, we’re like a pick-your-state, so . . .
Chris: Oh, right.
Dana: . . . picking your own apples, picking your own raspberries, picking your own strawberries, picking your own blueberries. Everything is P-Y-O here. I would recommend if you’re here during a season where you pick something, like right now during apples, do it. Even if you’re just going pick the smallest amount possible, just because it’s an experience. So like right now during apple season, I would go up to Hackett’s Orchard up on South Hero. Not only do they have 34 different types of apples to pick, they have some awesome apple pies, apple cider, the cider doughnut, if you’ve never had a cider doughnut you’ don’t know what you’re missing . . .
Chris: I haven’t, but I’m completely willing to. It’s fried in cider or something? Or what . . .
Dana: It’s just, it’s made with apple cider . . .
Chris: Made with cider, okay.
Dana: . . . it’s got cinnamon and sugar on the outside, it just . . . it’s one of those things.
Chris: Thirty-four different types of apples. I have to ask, do they have the Mackintosh apple?
Dana: Oh, everybody has the Mackintosh apple here. That’s like your go-to.
Chris: People out here in the west are used to delicious apples, and until you’ve had a Mackintosh, you don’t know the way that red apples are supposed to be, a real crisp apple. A little more tart than a Delicious apple, but not as soft.
Dana: Yes, no Macks are like the go-to. That’s like, “oh everybody has the Mack.” You’re looking for things like they Honeycrisp . . .
Chris: Oh, there we go. Okay.
Dana: We have islands here, so they happen to be up on the Vermont islands, so they’re up on South Hero.
Chris: Excellent. One thing that makes you laugh, and say “Only in Vermont.”
Dana: Well, people refer to the “Northeast Kingdom.” A lot of things come out of saying “the Northeast Kingdom,” because that is up in the north and up in the east, I’m not sure why it’s called “the Kingdom.” I don’t know, that kind of makes me chuckle, and I don’t know why. It’s up near Canada, it’s far, but it’s a great place to go up and see. A little slower life than our major metropolitan, Burlington-ish life down here. Things that make me laugh are when people say “You don’t have Target?” And I’m like “Yeah, we don’t have Target, and I’m glad we don’t have Target.” And things like that. I like our slower pace of life.
Chris: The more famous Vermonters, one who was elected to President, “Silent Cal,” Calvin Coolidge, who someone once bet a friend that they get him to say three words, and they went up to the President and said “I have a bet that I could get you to say three words.” And he said “You lose.”
Dana: That makes me laugh.
Chris: The Texas farmer and the Vermont farmer were talking, and the Texas farmer starts bragging and saying “I can get on my tractor and drive straight from dawn until dusk, and not get to the end of my field.” And the Vermont farmer says “Yep. I had a tractor like that once.”
Dana: All right, you got me.
Chris: Finish this sentence. You really know you’re in Vermont when what?
Dana: You’re stuck behind a tractor on a road? Which happens all the time, and you just can’t pass them, and you’re just going to have to be patient and wait.
Chris: If you had to summarize Vermont in three words, what three words would you use? Calvin Coolidge could probably do it in two, I should point out.
Dana: Probably. Community, beauty, and food.
Chris: Excellent. Dana, thanks so much for coming on the show. Our guest again has been Dana Freeman from findandgoseek.net, which I assume is the answer to the question where people can read more about your travels, but are there other places they can find you? Or is there something they should particularly look for at findandgoseek.net?
Dana: They can find me on Twitter, as @MissMagpieFGS . . .
Chris: Find and go seek . . . okay, got it. Okay.
Dana: They can find me up and findandgoseek.net, and from there you’ll bounce around and find me all sorts of other places.
Chris: Excellent. Dana, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Dana: Chris, thanks so much for having me.
Chris: And we hope that someday, you or your great-grandchildren may in fact be able to claim the title of “Vermonter.”
Dana: I hope so. I hope to be here a really long time.
Chris: In news of the community, I’m back from a week off from my daughter’s wedding which was wonderful. And no, I didn’t cry, and the odds were really against that. I heard from Jessica who said “I love your podcast, so first I want to thank you for putting in the effort to make it. Please keep doing it.” Thanks Jessica.
“Next year I’m planning a six to 12 month trip with a lot of diving in the Indo-Pacific. Most of the planned destinations you have already done podcasts on, but I would like to requests podcasts on Fiji and Palau. If you have the opportunity to interview people who have been there, please do so. Thanks a lot and I am looking forward to the next show. Jessica.”
We’ve actually done a show already on Palau, as I wrote to Jessica, that you can find in the “Federated States of Micronesia” podcast that we did with Gary Arndt. I think the first time that Gary was ever on the show, and then I had plans to do a show with David Brodie, fellow travel podcaster from “Travel in Ten,” who has podcasted almost the same time that I have, who has recently been to Fiji.
I’m getting ready to head out to Athens to the T-BEX Europe Conference, where I’ll be doing a keynote, which is pretty cool, so say “hi” if you’re at that conference. I do want to remind you that if you are interested in reading one of these episodes, or sharing it with a friend who doesn’t like to listen to audio, which frankly I just don’t understand, that we have transcripts of all the recent shows. And that’s being sponsored by JayWay Travel, that are experts in Eastern European travel, so thanks to JayWay for doing that sponsorship of the transcripts.
With that, we’ll end this episode of The Amateur Traveler. We do still have spots in the April 2015 trips to Morocco, so check that out in the “Book Travel” tab of amateurtraveler.com. If you have any questions, feel free to send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @hris2x. And one of the next 10 people who likes the Amateur Traveler Facebook page will make it 4000 people, so check that out. And as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.