things about the Christian life · travel things

Weekend Trip to Burlington

Or, The One Where We Celebrate Whit’s Birthday

Like I mentioned before, I planned a surprise trip to Burlington, Vermont for Whit’s birthday. He gave me permission to use some of our vacation money, which is very trusting of him since he had no idea what I was scheming. For weeks, I had the whole trip planned, was so excited, and was DYING to tell Whit! I was so nervous that for some reason it wouldn’t happen since I had the whole itinerary scheduled. πŸ™‚ Finally the day came for us to go!

I had had a taste of spring – the weather was getting warmer, and I had a wonderful week of 80-degree weather in Puerto Rico – so it was a little hard going up north where there was still snow all over the ground and EVERY river and lake was completely frozen. But that was part of the reason we were excited about going to Vermont – you can’t go to Vermont when it isn’t snowy, right?! Anyways, everything was even better than I imagined it would be, and we had a blast! Read on to hear about what we did and see some pics πŸ™‚

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The night before our trip, I laid out some clues on the kitchen table for Whit to guess where we were going (he had to know how to pack, right? And that way he could anticipate!)… Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Magic Hat beer, ski poles, a Mike Gordon CD, a llama, my sloth, and Tela (all Phish songs). He eventually guessed Burlington!

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It only took about seven hours to get there, maybe a little more because we stopped a few times. I’m so glad we went, because that’s probably the closest we’ll ever live to the city! Look at it on a map – it was the furthest north I’d ever been. Did you know it’s higher than some parts of Canada? It’s almost to Montreal.

I had to tell Whit the story that had been killing me for a month! I ended up telling him a few of the details of the trip too, but there were a lot of things he still didn’t know.

As soon as we pulled into town, we went straight to Nectar’s – the bar where Phish first started out!! The bar’s motto is “Fresh Music Served Daily,” and it’s true – they have live music every night. Surprisingly, there were only a few nods to Phish in the place, but that felt satisfactory for us, since so many other bands have started there too. Phish is definitely the biggest name that’s come out of there though.

We got there in time to hear a solo acoustic set of blues guitar. I figured that Whit would like that, since he’s always had a thing for blues. We ordered wings and fries, both of which were incredible. Watching the people there was enjoyable, too; most of the listeners were super chill middle-age people, with a few young folks and one crazy dancing lady. It was a nice crowd.

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Unfortunately, the schedule was incorrect when I looked it up awhile back, or else they changed it, but either way I didn’t know that there would be a great funk band after the acoustic set. I knew that on Whit’s actual birthday, which we couldn’t be there for (it was the next Friday), there was a band playing called Sophistafunk, which sounded super cool. But since the only thing on the schedule for the night we were going to be there was a DJ (lame!), I ended up buying tickets to see a different funk band at another concert venue, called Higher Ground, which was apparently owned at some point (or still is), by Trey (Phish’s guitarist).

It turned out that a funk band was playing at Nectar’s at the same time we were scheduled to see Earphunk. We loved it though, and figured it was more our style (more jazz influence) than what we had bought tickets for (electronica-ish). We stuck around for a few songs as we finished our dinner, and we were totally digging the atmosphere, music, and the vibes.

Earphunk was pretty fun, too. It was weird to go to such a small concert venue – there were only about fifty people there, including the band and the workers! Everyone there was our age, and while there were some more music-scene type of people, there were also some people who looked like the kind of people we would be friends with. We danced a little, Whit got a beer, and we enjoyed being in Burlington – finally!

The thing we couldn’t get over is that Burlington only has about 50,000 people – a quarter more than Blacksburg (!!) – but their live music scene is incredible. I mean, there were a handful of funk bands playing at Nectar’s during one month’s time period, a blues guitarist who plays every Friday night, Jon Fishman (drummer for Phish) is playing with a band there next week, along with tons of other bands, and there’s also this concert venue (which has two stages, so there was another thing going on while we were there), plus whatever else is happening downtown. Can you say…. jealous?!?

IMG_6897We stayed with a nice couple (though we only met the husband…the wife was out of town) who I found through AirBnB. They were super chill…. we loved their old house with hardwood floors and the way they had decorated it with lots of books and music posters. They were petsitting for Leo, a 1.5 year old lab-husky puppy (they asked beforehand if that was okay), who I fell in love with. We slept well and slept in not too late, but didn’t rush in getting ready for the day.

On the way to the mountain, we drove to Pingala, the cafe that Sue Gordon recommended for gluten-free specialties. It’s an all-vegan cafe, with lots of gluten-free options. I didn’t know what Whit would think about eating there, but he was surprisingly cool with it. I think he would have preferred eating meat for that meal, but after he tried his food there were no complaints.

He got a breakfast burrito which was packed with delicious items. Both of our meals came with a salad, which was delish but I didn’t eat very much since I wasn’t super psyched about salad for breakfast. I could only get halfway through my breakfast sandwich (with gf bread, vegan cheese, and a vegan sausage patty) – it was so dense! I think it was the cheese that made it really thick. I downed my peanut butter smoothie though. I was impressed that they used pea protein, not soy-based powder. I also snagged a strawberry cupcake which I ate along with the rest of my sandwich when I took a break from snowboarding later in the day.

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Our ski trip didn’t start off super well. We had to park pretty far away, and the last time we went skiing with our own gear we just put all of our stuff on by the car so we wouldn’t have to rent a locker or anything. That was probably a mistake this time because we had to walk up the hilly parking lot, and then we didn’t really know which lift to take first.

I was such a baby complaining about how I couldn’t move because of all my layers – but I was SO uncomfortable! I think I’m a pretty tough person, but winter is just not for me. Now I finally understand why some people don’t like to go to the beach and get all sandy and have to wear sunscreen; that’s how I felt wearing so many layers but still having my face exposed to the cold; it just sucked! But honestly, it frustrates me to no end how my ski jacket fits PERFECT everywhere except for the neck/chin. It is SO hard to zip up all the way, especially if you have any scarves or collars on. I was so hot everywhere except my face, which was freezing.

Then we got to the top of the lift (not the top of the mountain, oh my gosh there were so many higher slopes than the first one we went on!!), got out, and I could not remember how to snowboard for the life of me! Is it just me or are some greens super not-easy?!! This one was not very sloped, but it was fairly narrow and a little curvy. I would ride from one side to the other, and then just stop and fall down because I couldn’t remember how to turn. That went on about 15 times and I was on the verge of a breakdown because I was so mad that I couldn’t remember what to do, there was no one there to tell me (Whit only skis), and since I couldn’t remember what to do, I could only go a short ways before needing to turn and not be able to. And, there were a bunch of children skiing or boarding past me, which made me feel dumb.

Whit was very encouraging, thankfully, and I finally starting remembering what to do. It was a shame that my practice a couple weeks earlier didn’t come in very handy, ha! After the first run, I shed a layer, was able to zip my jacket to ride the lift, and felt much less stressed. By the end of the day, I was ACTUALLY SNOWBOARDING, which felt great!! I finally conquered my fear of turning down the very steep (to me) – and terrifying – blue. I was very motivated to learn after watching a my-age mom teach her 3-year old daughter on the very same slope. Ugh, there were so many 3-feet tall people skiing and snowboarding, it was insane! There were exactly TWO other adult learners that I saw. In the north, they start ’em young, I suppose!

I’m sure Whit would like you to know that he tried a double black diamond, which he is great at in Virginia and Pennsylvania, but it was crazy – it was a ten-foot-wide steep slope in the middle of the woods. Phew, I would have been so terrified. The reason that children skiing/boarding impresses me so much is because I’m a brave person! But it is very scary to start going fast down a mountain, and not be sure if you can control yourself or not. Anyways, I hope I keep getting better at this, because I don’t plan to stop snowboarding anytime soon, but I’d like to stop learning. πŸ˜‰

{Sorry for rambling about that so much!!}

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Fortunately Whit had a great time! I did too, by the end of the day. We were both tired and it had been sleeting for the last hour of rides, so the Farmhouse was in the perfect slot. A very hip, but classy restaurant known for its craft beer, we had to wait an hour to be seated. Fortunately, I snagged an open seat at the bar, and eventually we got one of the seats next to us when that couple left. We passed the time by selecting a couple of brews (mine was hard cider) and sampling off their local artisan cheese plate.

Can I just say, one thing I LOVE about Vermont is how prominently they feature their local goods?! It seems like they make everything, from beer and cider to maple syrup, cheese, chocolate, and ice cream, Vermont has everything a food lover could ever need! Everywhere we went had plenty of gluten-free options, and most places recycled and/or composted. I was in heaven! Burlington is actually the first city in the US to be completely powered by renewable energy. The people are super chill and intellectual, too. I would love for Whit and I to live in Burlington, though I would perish in the long winter. Maybe I could do it for a year or two. We’ll see? I’m super pumped to move back to Blacksburg, which has a great little culture of its own and a little hippie vibe, but not so much on the music or local food scene (though they have a great farmer’s market!). Anyways…

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We sampled cheeses like we were French, each trying a bite at the same time, noting the textures and describing the flavors. They were paired with some local apple butter, which was incredible. Our favorite was by far the blue cheese on the right. The others were goat cheese (far left), something I can’t remember but was very soft, and a cheddar which was straightforward but reliable. When we visited a co-op/grocery store the next day we found said cheese and a similar apple butter. Whit asked an employee to help him find the cheese, and told him we had tried and loved it. The guy was like oh yeah, it won best cheese in Vermont last year. Well, there ya go.

(We were finally seated, and got delicious burgers & fries, plus our server brought Whit a delectable airy chocolate cake for his birthday. I definitely ate some, even though it was full of gluten. :))

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Man, I’m wordy. I’m gonna try to keep this next half waaay shorter for your sake.

Sunday was Love Burlington Day. Not officially, but it was for us. We started out at the amazing breakfast place called Penny Cluse, a place that Fishman apparently enjoys. All of the places we ate were recommendations by Phish fans, or places where band members can be found. SO SADLY we did not see any of the band members, though we looked for them, for sure.

Penny Cluse had probably the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten, no lie. It was incredible…. breakfast tacos with corn shells, sausage, and avocado sauce, plus home fries. Yummmm.

Next we walked over to City Market/Onion River Co-Op, which I was expecting to be an indoor farmer’s market, and maybe kind of was? But was more like a grocery store. It was like a health foods store or Whole Foods, but with WAY. MORE. organic, sustainable, vegan, hip stuff. Whit and I were both like a kid in a candy shop. We could’ve spent so much time in there. There were aisles and aisles of bulk goods – that’s what I’ve been saying grocery stores should be like since I was in middle school! I bought peppermint soap in a mason jar, for crying out loud. We ended up with a half a bag of groceries that cost $100…. whoops! (Most of that was protein powder, vitamins, cheese, and cider… if that helps, haha).

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Isn’t Burlington the cutest?? It has this perfect balance of hippie, local shops and artsy stores mixed with upper-middle-class retailers like North Face and J.Crew. Wait, it’s basically me, in a town!! Oh my gosh, I just realized that… Another reason to move to Burlington.Β  Β  IMG_6937

This is a super, SUPER artsy/hip coffee shop called Maglianero. Supppposedly, Mike hangs out there pretty much every day. Well, we didn’t see him. 😦 It was crazy though because it LOOKS like the kind of place that creatives go to think and talk and drink coffee, but in reality it’s not just trying hard…. Mike Gordon, an actual successful creative, actually goes there frequently. Interesting.

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I am a little obsessive over MG, but this guy is hands-down my fave πŸ™‚

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Dogs and 3-D art, amiright?!

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Not sure how these Penny Cluse pictures got down here… Anyways, this was breakfast.

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No DOUBT! (I’m gangsta)

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Local artisan chocolate. Oh, Vermont…

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Okay, this place. Another one of Mike’s daily rituals (I knew this ahead of time though… he posts about it on social media from time to time). At the Philly museum of art recently, Whit and I learned about the Japanese ritual of tea. I didn’t know there was a big theology behind it, but it’s a very sacred practice. The whole ritual takes a few hours, there are multiple steps, you take off your shoes, etc. I think the theory behind Dobra is trying to capture some of that mindfulness. Phone use is discouraged, it’s a quiet, intimate environment, and there are several platforms you can lounge and linger on with friends or by your lonesome.

Whit and I split a pot of Chinese Jasmine, which I loved at the beginning but one round of which tasted way too much like a grandma perfume. I think we just steeped that one too long. I was yearning for some introvert time, so I asked Whit for some silence and just sat, read, thought, zoned out, and cheated and looked at Instagram. We could have stayed there for a loooong time. I would love to make the quiet ritual of tea a part of my daily (or at least weekly) routine. Β  SONY DSC

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The lake was frozed, so we stood on it and took some pictures before leaving town, which we were sad to do.

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Several inches of snow on top of all the ice. πŸ™‚

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Finally, we spent the night at the Essex Resort & Spa, a place where – cuhrazily enough – Sue Gordon was at when I posted a link to it on Facebook!! I really wish we could’ve run into her or Mike, that would have just been the cherry on the top of this already amazing trip. Oh well. Maybe next time. πŸ˜‰

After saying bye to Burlington, we had pizza (I got gluten-free) at Mimmo’s nearby the resort. We checked in and were shocked at how nice our room was. Well, I wasn’t as shocked, since I booked it, but I wasn’t sure if they had upgraded us or not (I paid $35 at the end of booking to have our room upgraded if it was available). Whit felt so, so special, especially since I had ordered wine to appear in our room when we arrived. πŸ™‚ We also did get to enjoy the fancy outdoor hot tub!

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I have to tell you, this was super cozy and intimate, but that fireplace is not real!! What a joke…. charge me extra money for a room with a fireplace, and it’s just a picture of a fire?? Come on. At least we thought it was real for a while, hah, and it did have heat coming out of it sooo whatever.

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Our last morning we had one last breakfast and stuffed ourselves well beyond our capacity, since we had already eaten so well the rest of the weekend. We ended up taking half of each of our breakfasts home and ate them later in the week. Hooray for saving a little bit of money after spending more than we intended to! Lol.Β  Β Β  IMG_6976

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The final hurrah of the trip was the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour. Tons of business started near Burlington, including Magic Hat and Burton. I intended for us to visit those as well, but we wanted to savor our time just wandering the streets of the city, so maybe we can do them on a later trip one day. Ben & Jerry’s was everything you might imagine it would be! Quirky and fun, lots of pictures and cool stories, an admirable mission, and delicious ice cream. I was tempted to buy everything in the gift shop… how do they do that?!?

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I completely cheated and snuck this picture. Well, now you know! They were making Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough that day.

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We got to taste a flavor that’s never been outside the tasting room: Mint Brownie Fudge, or something like that. Oh my GOSH it was delicious!! I didn’t care about the gluten because it was soooo good.

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Of course we had to buy some! Even though we were so stuffed and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. But we were on vacation…

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The flavor graveyard, where they “bury” all the previous flavors that aren’t around anymore. The tombstones were really clever.

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On our way out we split a barbecue sandwich (duh, why didn’t they think of splitting a meal before?!) at Prohibition Pig. We got North Carolina style, and it even came with a Cheerwine! (Well, we knew to order it, but it was on the menu.) They buy them by the pallet. It felt like the time we were in New Zealand and Whit got “American-style” wings. I felt proud to be a Southerner and actually know what Cheerwine and BBQ taste like. πŸ™‚

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Thus ends the chronicles of our first, and hopefully not our last, trip to Burlington, Vermont. It was a fantastic trip, full of good food, cool vibes, and great time spent with the one I love. Happy 28th birthday, Whit!!!

4 thoughts on “Weekend Trip to Burlington

  1. It sounds like you had such a fun weekend! I can’t believe how thorough you were in planning everything! I could never live there – I hate winter!! And I am not much of a hippie haha, but I could get into the Ben & Jerry’s πŸ™‚

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  2. This makes me miss my college days (I went to JSC). I may or may not have spilled an entire plate of gravy cheese fries on the dance floor at Nectar’s… I’ve also seen so many concerts at Higher Ground! πŸ™‚ Some of my friends still live up there – I should really pay them a visit!

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