The Blackburn and Suessdorf standard ‘Moonlight in Vermont softly serenades as a languid late afternoon summer sun greets us as we roll through the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont. It has been a long 9-hour drive, and we are in the middle of Vermont ski country, in August and neither of us ski. Our hotel’s website offers outdoor activities such as ‘romantic sleigh rides’ and ‘grab a pair of snowshoes’ but we have decided to discover the beauty of Vermont with the last waning days of an unusually cool and wet summer and tour the green, rural roads of small town New England. Southern Vermont resorts offer a unique style of vacation and are completely different in early harvest ‘moonlight’ August than in the ‘icey finger waves’ of February. From hiking Vermont’s state parks or fishing and wildlife viewing to those simply craving quiet downtime or a ‘romantic setting’ long weekend at a luxury resort, there is nothing like a summer vacation in Vermont. Enjoy some country luxury, indulge in some down time, wander in the green. ‘You and I and moonlight in Vermont’: beautiful in any season.
‘Pennies in a stream, Falling leaves of a sycamore.’
Windham Hill Inn’s Innkeeper Lyndsey greets us with an easy smile and local charm and quickly upgrades our original three-day booking to her ‘preferred view’ of the rolling Green Mountain National Forest and walks us over to the Barn Annex and unlocks the door to Williams room, the patriarch of the original Lawrence family farm. Our room is full on Vermont charm: a comfy, king four-poster, two welcoming wing chairs to curl up in, sliding glass doors with spectacular green views across the valley. Oh, and did I mention the pool is a skipping stone distance from our Muskoka Chaired patio? It is mid-week, and we seem to have the pool all to our greedy selves. Lyndsey speaks of the history of the original house, built in 1825, and she leads us on a quick tour of the property including the private cottage, spa and the gardens from which Chef David Crone forages his garden to table menus before inviting us for a pre-dinner cocktail and some great Vermont cheeses. Dinner tonight is a quiet affair: we share our candle lit dining room with only two other couples and toast our first ‘moonlight in Vermont’.
‘Telegraph cables, they sing down the highway
And travel each bend in the road.’
We enjoy coffee on our deck with some early morning sun gently touching the tops of the Green Mountains before heading over to the main house and a welcoming ‘Good Morning’ from staff. We plan our day over a sumptuous breakfast of Vermont Scramble, fresh squeezed juice and continued cups of coffee, enjoying the view over Frog Pond from the wrap around windows of the Inn’s dining room. Our server Peggy offers recommendations and a detailed map of a possible driving itinerary today, and we quickly agree! First stop Grafton and the Grafton Cheese Company facilities. Established in 1892 as the Grafton Cooperative Cheese Company and restored in the 1960s with the help of the Windham Foundation, Grafton’s cheddar is synthetic and hormone-free and made mostly from Jersey cow milk from Vermont family farms. We press our noses to the glass and watch great vats of milk and cream prepped for some delicious and famous hand-crafted aged cheddar cheese. In July 2008 the company celebrated the opening of a new production plant and retail store in Brattleboro, serving up “more than 70 types of cheeses, wine, Vermont microbrews, fresh bread, maple products and other gourmet food items and accompaniments.” We pop into the Gallery Northstar and enjoy some local artisans work including a new favourite painter James Urbaska, whose oil on linens and soft palette paintings create a tonal and poetic view of the local landscape.
We continue our quiet wander of the main street of Grafton and step into the charming and historic Grafton Inn, one of the oldest operating inns in America. The Inn opened its doors in 1801 and quickly became a favorite for local social events and meetings and popular among literary types (Kipling was a guest in 1892) and primarily a commercial hotel patronized by business travelers who knew it as a “good place to stop.” The Inn has a few notable and famous visitors as well: Webster, Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes and politicians Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Ulysses S. Grant during election campaigning. Comfortable historic main rooms with beamed ceilings and charm-filled guest rooms welcome the weary traveler to the main tavern building while those seeking a more private stay can consider booking one of the restored historic buildings across from the Main Tavern. A candle-lit dinner at the Old Tavern Restaurant of the main inn will inspire as well as Chef Cal Hingston‘s locally sourced, farm to table fare. In the summer, enjoy lunch on their sunny Phelps Barn Pub patio. While at the Inn, wander further afield, (a mere one and a half kilometer pleasant stroll down the road) and enjoy Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center. In winter, the site offers skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, and sleigh rides or visit in the summer as we did for a hike and stroll or enjoy mountain biking, swimming, and canoeing.
…down the highway And travel each bend in the road.’
Quintessential Vermont at its very best, Weston offers a historic downtown with country inn charm and unique shopping. Replete with a tinsmith, a working mill wheel, unique galleries and Vermont’s oldest professional theater company, Weston Playhouse Theatre Company offers traditional summer stock favourites on two stages with opera, art shows, special events and concerts rounding out the remainder of the year. But what draws most to this charming southern Vermont town is the famous Vermont Country Store where you can spend a good hour perusing the aisles of pant stretchers, novelties, bedding, lumberjack paraphernalia, cheese, dry goods, penny candy and of course Vermont Maple Syrup. Grab a late lunch at the store’s next-door sister The Bryant House and sample some mighty fine local fare washed down with a locally brewed craft beer.
“Pennies in a stream Falling leaves a sycamore Moonlight in Vermont’
Our final stop of the day is a hike and tromp on the popular Jamaica State Park trail, just down the hill from Windham Hill Inn and located on a bend of the West River about one kilometer from the center of Jamaica proper. Four recommendations of this hike and park were given today on our mini road trip, and we arrive and quickly see why: bucolic backcountry Vermont at its finest and a lovely way to end our day of exploring. We amble the approximately two kilometers up Cobb Brook to Hamilton Falls, which enters the West River upstream from the park and simply sit and breathe in the lovely pine-scented views.
Indulging in some downtime around the pool upon our return to Windham Hill Inn is a must before heading over to dinner in the main house; the chirping chorus from Frog Pond serenading us over a lovely bottle of wine with dinner. A final stroll around the twilight dew-covered lawns, then comfortably plopped into our Muskoka chairs, the last glass of wine in hand and we are completely ‘……hypnotized by the lovely Evening summer breeze. Warbling of a meadowlark. Moonlight in Vermont’.
Travel well in rural Vermont, my friends.
Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center. In winter, the site offers skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, and sleigh rides or visit in the summer as we did for a hike and stroll or enjoy mountain biking, swimming, and canoeing.