Recently my family came to visit me in Vermont, an occasion made even more special by the arrival of my beloved sister-in-law Kate, who had just completed a grueling year of surgery and treatment following a diagnosis of breast cancer. Her remarkable spirit and wicked sense of humor are stronger than ever. She just participated in a Race for the Cure and is anticipating a half marathon in a few weeks. She is my inspiration, and words cannot describe what I’ve learned about life this past year.
Back to Vermont! With joy I picked up my family at the Burlington airport. Our weeklong plan was to celebrate each other and enjoy the diversity, beauty and fun available in Vermont. We ambitiously mapped out an extensive tour of places we wanted to visit. I wasn’t certain that we’d get to it all but we did, and then some! It was a true testament to a family that takes playing and sightseeing seriously.
Our first stop was Burlington and Lake Champlain, which celebrated its 400th birthday this summer. From the time people first inhabited Vermont, the interconnected waterways have placed a decisive role in the political, social and economic fortunes of nations. Samuel de Champlain was a gifted mariner, mapmaker, naturalist, journalist and business man who spent 5 years exploring and mapping the Atlantic coast. In 1608 he established the settlement of Quebec, and barely survived his first winter. He joined his Native allies for a journey to “…a large lake filled with beautiful islands…” From the shores of Lake Champlain and the bustling university town of Burlington, one can see both the stunning Green Mountains of Vermont and the rolling Adirondacks in New York. The verdant mountains captured the French imagination, and resulted in the name of our lovely state.
We next visited the Shelburne Museum, which is located in the Lake Champlain Valley. It houses ones of the nation’s most diverse and unconventional collections of art, design and Americana. More than 150,000 works are exhibited in a remarkable setting of 39 buildings on 45 bucolic acres. The kids (5 and 7 years old) loved the carousel, the extravagantly carved wooden circus figures and the kind-hearted blacksmith who created their initials from hot steel. The adults were drawn to the Impressionists’ masterpieces and the re-creation of the posh Park Avenue home of the Vanderbilt and Webb families.
We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day when we explored Woodstock and Billings Farm. Laurance S. Rockefeller's legacy is reflected in the picturesque environs. Here, he applied his belief in conservation, sustainable land use, and heritage as values that are essential to humanity.
Just down the road is breathtaking Quechee Gorge, created during the Ice Age, which is a stunning 165’ deep and over a mile in length. We were dizzy as we peered over the bridge into “Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon”!
Next on the agenda was VINS, the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. The children adored the birds of prey, nature trails and the hands-on demonstrations. By this time the adults were getting thirsty and craving a bit more culture, which led us to our next stop.
Whenever possible, my guests insist on a visit to the exquisite Simon Pearce experience (and I am always more than happy to accommodate!) This specialty store and restaurant are situated over the Ottoquechee River and they are bastions of fine taste and hand-crafted goods. The kids were fascinated by watching the team blowing glass and throwing pottery. My personal favorite perch is at a window table floating above the water, with handcrafted china, glass and silverware, featuring gourmet morsels and amazing wine…truly, there is something for every generation.
As our whirlwind trip started to wind down we decided to stick close to home and go horseback riding at the Mountain Top Inn, just down the road (our own personal resort). Throughout the seasons we are so lucky to enjoy hiking, cross country skiing trails, romantic sleigh rides and gourmet food. They also have a lovely outdoor dining area with an unbelievable vista of the valley and reservoir.
There never seems to be enough time to spend with friends and family, does there? I love picking my guests up, I despise dropping them off. However, I take comfort in knowing that fun was had by all and in the reassurance that Kate is winning her battle with ever-increasing energy and cheerful humor. And that’s what lingers.
Lake Champlain Lighthouse
Mountain Top Lodge
Simon Pierce Covered Bridge
Simon Pierce Mill
|Vail opened its ski resort on December 15, 1962 with ticket prices of five dollars; one gondola, two chair lifts and nine skin runs. Now it is the largest ski resort in Northern America, but don’t visit Vail just in the winter; it is absolutely amazing during the summer with more choices of outdoors activities then during the winter
Follow the “Golden River” to the top of the world, highlights include exploring
Beijing – the mysterious Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Feel imperial on the Great Wall, embark on a desert camel safari. Discover the Silk Road secrets of Xi'an, Encounter Giant Pandas at Chengdu, wander the flower and bird market in Kunming, or learn about the most precious Tibetan herbals used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.