Mom Blogging, Continued from Our Christmas Vacation Parts One and Two:
**DISCLAIMER: The pictures in this blog post are a mix of ones from Jason’s camera and from our point and shoot.
When Jason and I first started planning a winter family vacation we knew we needed to see snow. We love the cold weather and snow! We had been to New Hampshire a few years ago but only Jason had been to Vermont. He had photographed a wedding there and he loved the whole area. We decided to go see Vermont and we pulled up a map of the state on the internet. We weren’t all that concerned with finding the towns with the best tourist attractions. We just wanted to play in some snow! We started calling hotels in various towns in Vermont asking if they usually had enough snow on the ground to make a snowman the week before Christmas. If the place told us that there was no way to know, or that they did some years but not others, we would call a hotel in a place further north. Finally we called a hotel in Burlington, Vermont and the guy who answered said that though it was of course up to God they almost always had enough snow to play in around Christmas time. That was just the answer we were looking for and we decided on Burlington as the last stop in our trip.
We were flying from Vermont back to Florida so the car ride from NYC to Burlington was the last long one of the trip. We spent most of it singing Christmas carols and A Charlie Brown Christmas on the portable DVD player. We drove through beautiful snowy scenery and it made the trip go by quickly.
Sunset in Burlington is just before 4:30pm but it seems like it starts getting dark around an hour before that. It is like the evening starts at at quarter til 4 in the afternoon! We arrived at the hotel after dark and there was definitely snow on the ground! We didn’t want to drive around exploring on the dark snowy roads so we picked up some dinner to eat at the hotel and spent more time together as a family. My sister said everything was perfect and she loved Vermont but the one thing she had hoped for was to see snow actually falling and not just on the ground. When we woke up the next morning it was snowing hard and it kept snowing the rest of our time there. It was beautiful. I could watch snow falling for hours! We got all bundled up and headed out to play in the snow.
Jason had recently photographed Emily and Ted’s wedding and they live in Vermont. When they heard we were going there Emily was nice enough to send us a ton of ideas for things to do and see in and around Burlington. It was so helpful and we used it our whole trip! She had recommended Battery Park as the best place to romp around in the snow and enjoy a pretty view of the lake and mountains. It was perfect! There was a play ground and a covered stage and benches overlooking the lake and best of all a ton of snow! Playing there with my family was my favorite part of the entire vacation. I think it was a favorite for all of us! It was exactly what we wanted out of our vacation.
Jason tried to convince my sister to put her tongue on the pole. Even after watching A Christmas Story just a few days early she was still about to do it until I told her not to!
Let the snowball fighting begin! Kids or parents, cold or not, our motto was Snow No Mercy! It was a Snownihilation!
Our oldest kept trying to walk far away but after a few tries I had some distance to my throws!
Just because they are down doesn’t mean they are done! Snow No Mercy!
Little brother running up to help out and rescue his big brother:
It was my sister who got too cold first. She took our daughter into the car to warm up and soon after we all headed back to the hotel to change into dry clothes and eat. It had snowed so hard that there was almost a foot of snow in the hotel courtyard so after lunch we went outside there to play in the snow even more! Well, most of us did. We tried building a snowman but we couldn’t get past the base layer. Not only because we don’t have great snowman building skills but also because it was just too tempting for our preschooler to kick and knock over! Jason didn’t have his camera this time so the snow ball fight between him and I soon became a fierce snow battle complete with tackles and throw downs! I won of course, and despite what Jason would say it has nothing to do with the fact that he didn’t have any gloves on. Covered in snow head to foot, we headed inside.
It was still snowing that night and once it got dark it was really cold! But we headed out to see Church Street, another recommendation from Emily and from all the online travel guides for Burlington. It is a downtown walking area with lots of shops and restaurants. The “streets” (though it is a pedestrian area closed to traffic) had garland and wreaths hanging in the air and there were lined with trees covered in tons of white lights. At the end of the street there was a big Christmas tree. It was definitely a Christmas scene! We had forgotten our point and shoot at the hotel so we could only get pictures with the cell phone which of course does not come out well in the dark, so here is a picture from the Church Street Marketplace website, www.churchstmarketplace.com:
We walked the whole street and checked out some of the shops before we went to dinner. Emily said that the “ultimate, right here right now, this is what Vermont is all about, family dining experience” was at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill. We are so glad she recommended it to us! The building used to be a McDonalds but was renovated by local designers and craftsmen into what they called a gastropub. They pride themselves on supporting local farms and using locally provided foods and almost everything on their menu was free range and grass fed. Their menu changes depending on what is in season and they list the farms where they get their food right on the wall in the restaurant. We ordered root beer and even that was brewed at the restaurant! Even the cheese on the kids’ grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese dishes came from local Vermont farms! My sister had the corn cakes with mushrooms, wilted greens, and a buttermilk herb vinaigrette. I don’t know how they made something as simple as corn cakes taste so good but it was incredibly yummy! I tried to talk Jason into the rabbit just for some adventure but he settled on a venison burger. I am at all adventurous with food so I had a local grass fed beef burger. On the menu they even tell you which local farm your beef and cheese are coming from! I love that. The food was great, the atmosphere was great, and we got to experience some of Vermont food culture.
Our flight the next day did not leave until that evening so we got an early start and set off to visit a few places just outside of Burlington. It was still snowing and we enjoyed the beautiful views as we drove.
Our first stop of the day was the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. Ben and Jerry’s started in Burlington, Vermont in 1978 and is now international. But 70% of all of their production is still done in their two factories in Vermont. Supporting local Vermont family farms and using natural ingredients are important to their company. They use only cage-free eggs, the cows are not treated with growth hormones, they are fair trade certified, and they work to responsibly and sustainably source their ingredients and promote environmentally conscious business practices. We took a tour of the factory where their company really began and learned about their mission statement and how they put that into action. We didn’t find out until after we had already paid for the tour that the production room was closed for the holidays but we still got to see it. And most importantly the tour ended in the Flavoroom where we got to sample one of the new flavors, Peppermint Schtick! It is a limited batch available only in scoop shops and only until they run out because they are not making more. They told us that it was peppermint ice cream with fudge covered peppermint candy pieces and a peppermint swirl. I don’t like peppermint and there are only a couple flavors of ice cream in general that I actually like so it did not sound good to me. I almost didn’t even try it but I did and I loved it! It was the perfect ice cream for winter.
After the tour was finished we walked through the hall of the Top Ten Flavors and found our favorites. Then we stopped at the Scoop Shop to enjoy more ice cream!
After we left the Ben and Jerry’s factory we headed for another of Emily’s recommendations, a scenic drive to a covered bridge. Emily had warned us that the bridges were tucked away and the roads could be adventurous but we decided to give it a try and luckily the drive wasn’t bad at all! Holmes Creek Bridge is right on Lake Champlain and we stopped by the lake to take in the amazing view of the snow on the shore of this massive lake with freezing cold waves and the Adirondack mountains in the background. Wow. The historic covered bridge, the snow, the mountains, the peacefulness…THAT is Vermont.
The boys fell asleep during our drive to the bridge and when we left it was time to head to the airport. We drove right past the Vermont Teddy Bear Company Factory and Jason decided to run inside to see if there was anything there we could do that wouldn’t take much time. The next tour didn’t leave for a half an hour and they said it lasted around a half an hour as well. Other than the tour Jason said there wasn’t much to do there that you couldn’t do at any Build a Bear so we posed for a few pictures and left to catch our flight.
We had planned enough time to drop off the mini van, check our bags in, go through security, and have time to get some dinner before we boarded our flight. But when we went to check in we found out that our flight was delayed by hours and there was no way we’d make our connection. The only way to get us home for Christmas Eve was for us to catch an earlier flight which we barely had time to make and then connect in another city to a second flight with barely any time in between. We also had to quickly rearrange our luggage because one of our bags was one or two pounds over weight and after already having to pay for every single checked bag we refused to pay an additional fee for one or two extra pounds! Taking off kids’ coats and shoes and getting 6 people through security with camera equipment, portable DVD players, a stroller, a stocked diaper bag, and multiple carry ons is already stressful and now we were in a time crunch! But we made it in time to board the plane and we even got to sit near each other.
We were all starving by the time that flight landed but we had to run to catch a connecting flight. There was no time for food and though Jason didn’t want to stop at the bathroom I was not going to risk having one of the kids need to go when the flight was taking off and we couldn’t get out of our seats. That was our only stop yet by the time we got to the gate they had been holding the flight for us. They rushed us into the plane letting us know that the plane was full and there were no seats for us or any room for our carry-ons. I was so proud of the kids for how terrific they were on that flight! I was tired and hungry and grumpy so I expected all of that from them too! Worse, Jason wasn’t sitting with me so I thought I’d be dealing with all of that and not have any help. Though they gate checked most of our carry ons our oldest had been holding his aunt’s DS so he played that for the entire flight. I had a portable DVD player in the diaper bag and that kept our middle son busy while I played with our daughter. We got back to Florida without incident and soon we were back home.
It was wonderful to have time together as a family without the distractions of everyday life. That time and the memories you build is what a vacation is all about! We hope everyone else had a Christmas season filled with moments that will be your own terrific new memories as well.
And we already miss the snow!