trip report: stowe, vt
Oh, how things change in a year. For Memorial Day 2015, we took our talents to Charleston (which you can read about here). Three days before we left, I had a positive pregnancy test, so, as you can imagine, almost all of our conversations that weekend revolved around what craziness was about to hit us. We actually came up with her in-utero name, Fritter, over brunch at Poogan's Porch.
In one sense it's very strange that those first, few heady days were over a year ago. It certainly doesn't feel like 12 months since I first found out I was pregnant. But, in other ways, considering how much has HAPPENED since then, it is a lifetime ago. Such is the duality of parenthood. And life!
For Memorial Day this year, we decided to embark on our first, real road trip. Our trips to DC and the Hudson Valley had gone well, so we thought Aveline was old enough to handle more than two hours in the car. I had heard wonderful reviews of Edson Hill in Stowe, Vermont and, after calling to make sure they were baby-friendly, we snapped up a room before they sold out.
Since we don't have a car, we are avid users of Zipcar. I find that the process with them is much quicker than renting from other places and there are a million garages that stock them near our apartment, so it's never more than a few blocks' walk. In order to get out the door as quickly as possible, we packed up everything Thursday night (including Avvie's 453 bags) so that as soon as Mike got off work, we could load the trunk and jet.
The biggest hassle of road tripping with a baby is obviously working around feeding times. We made it out of Manhattan and just over the border into Westchester before needing to stop. But, considering it was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I call it a great success that we made it off the island in time for her bottle. We stopped again at a random McDonald's, and then finally in Waterbury at Prohibition Pig for dinner, so by the time we arrived at the hotel, it was a little after 10 PM and about 10 hours after we left New York. Surprisingly though, the trip didn't feel that long and Avvie was more or less behaved the entire time. She sleeps extremely well in her carseat and when she's moving, so we had both of those in our favor.
The hotel provided a pack and play, so we were able to basically pop her in to bed as soon as we got in the door. We stayed in the Carpe Diem room, which had a king-size bed AND a daybed, the latter of which we converted into Avvie's changing station. We opted for a Guest House room as opposed to in the Manor House, just in case we had any late night scream fests.
I couldn't write enough encomiums about this hotel. The staff is so kind and thoughtful, the rooms are huge, and I especially adored the interior design. If I had a dream country house, it would look exactly like this. Other than not having blackout shades (babies LOVE the sun ... sigh), we could have moved in.
Breakfast was free every morning and delicious. Like many other restaurants in Vermont, the kitchen here was all about sourcing local ingredients. The crispy bacon was some of the best I have ever tasted and, as anyone with a baby will attest, I appreciated how fast our food came out.
Speaking of food, the majority of this trip -- shocker -- revolved around it. Specifically: all things dairy and fermented. Our first order of business on Saturday morning was ... THE BEN AND JERRY'S FACTORY!
I was so excited for this tour that I didn't even let myself get excited beforehand. I was convinced that something (cough baby cough) might get in the way of me swimming in giant vats of ice cream, so when we actually pulled up to the parking lot, I was near tears of joy. I went to the flavor graveyard, we sampled a factory-only flavor (strawberries and white chocolate on the day we went), and then, for good measure, we had another bowl at the scoop shop. They even had ice-cream flavored lip balm!
Avvie enjoyed herself too:
After the tour, we headed back towards Waterbury, where a fellow Trinity grad runs the beer program at Prohibition Pig. After Mike sampled ... every beer, we stopped for a quick lunch at The Reservoir and then drove home for a family nap.
Edson Hill has a full-service restaurant at dinner, which made it easy to stroll (with our stroller) from our room to the main building. I have to admit, eating at 6PM has always been a favorite of mine. Now that we have an infant, I can blame early dinners on her, but, no-so-secretly, it's totally my jam.
Our food agenda for the next day even impressed me. We got an early breakfast at local spot McCarthy's and then wandered around the fantastic Stowe Farmers' Market, where they had everything from savory veggie croissants to live music. In the town of Stowe, Mike stocked up on local beer at Black Cap Coffee and I went hog-wild at Stowe Mercantile, buying scone mix from King Arthur Flour (based in Vermont, who knew?), local granola and Christmas tree ornaments. Lunch was at Bench, for wood-fired pizzas and salad.
But we weren't done yet! Onward to the Cabot Cheese Annex store, where I bought everything from powdered Cheddar (better for snorting), smoked maple Cheddar, and, of course, Cabot Clothbound, which is one of Mike's and my favorite cheeses. All cheese heads should make a pilgrimage to this store if only to witness the sample table. Almost every variety of cheese they make is piled high into little bowls and people walk around the table nibbling at them like show ponies in a ring. It's hilarious.
Located conveniently next door is Smuggler's Notch Distillery, a local operation with superb gin, vodka and other spirits. While Mike sampled the booze, Avvie and I dashed across the parking lot to Lake Champlain Chocolates to pick up chocolate-covered toffee and any variety of sweets infused with maple syrup.
Our last stop before nap time was Cold Hollow Cider Mill, which, contrary to the name, sells virtually every food product produced in Vermont. The cider is fantastic, but even better are the fresh cider mini-doughnuts; hot, sweet, and crispy from the fryer. They also have a huge selection of local jams, apple butters, salsas, jerkys and any other comestible you could imagine. I could have stayed there for five hours.
After a quick rest, we drove back towards Waterbury for dinner at Hen of the Wood, which many locals had recommended as the go-to foodie spot. It's housed inside an old mill and is one of the more romantic restaurants I've seen. While a few patrons gave us a side-eye when we rolled in with a baby in her car seat, I'm proud to say Avvie was well-behaved for all of dinner. For other new moms, I LOVE these links; she can play with them for hours. The food was just as good as everyone said; I especially loved the soft-shell crab appetizer. And that's coming from a Maryland girl.
In order to beat the traffic, we left as soon as Avvie finished her breakfast the next morning. The hotel was nice enough to pack up some fresh berry and yogurt parfaits for the adults (that's me, I think), and while we took a few pit stops, we were back in the apartment by late afternoon. For other New Yorkers: the Taconic may be a little longer of a route than 95, but on a holiday weekend, it's so worth it. Plus, you get to drive by Taste NY!
One lesson I learned on this trip is that when you travel with a baby, it's not the crying or the short naps that you'll remember years later. Did she wake up about two hours earlier than normal because the sun was shining in the room? Sure, but we just moved her to our bed and enjoyed squeezing her thighs and staring at her cheeks. There will always be hiccups with an infant (literal and figural), but it's so important not to get hung up on those and lose sight of why you took a trip in the first place.
Instead, I come away from this weekend with memories of Mike being so excited to find a certain craft beer, or how cute Avvie was at night as she babbled next to us, or how thrilled I was to eat this mac and cheese. In short: how fun it is for us to be a (brand-new) family.
So, yeah, this Memorial Day trip was certainly quite the departure from those before it. And I wouldn't change a second of it.