Verdant Vermont

One might say too verdant. Surely the first weekend in October would mean guaranteed fall colours in New England?? Perhaps, and there were some, but apparently I was a couple of weeks early for peak season. No matter, even without full autumnal spectrum, the colours of Vermont are pretty spectacular.

Fall glimpses in B'boro

Fall glimpses in B'boro

I almost didn’t go to Vermont on this trip. (I know, ridiculous!) At one stage in the planning process, I’d wanted to tack NYC onto the end of a week in Dallas (y’know, because of SUN, HEAT and well, friends…). Mentioning my proposed presence in NYC to Ian, a dear friend unseen in over 5 years, and Vermont resident for a similar length of time, he recommended a train trip up to New England – which was very tempting. Texas and Vermont couldn’t both be done, but an occasionally wise friend pointed out a few things to me: 1. I like long train journeys. 2. I love New England. 3. I love autumn. 4. I’ll always be able to go to Texas another time. And 5. I really needed a proper refreshing break, which a week in TX wasn’t necessarily going to be.

Mass view

And thus, after over 5 hours travelling on a spacious, comfy, virtually deserted Amtrak train, I alighted at Brattleboro. A town in the southern most tip of Vermont – in fact, I could see New Hampshire from the train station, just over the Connecticut River. [Can we take a moment to praise the wonder of Amtrak? Yes, it’s slow. Yes, driving is cheaper. Yes there’s only 1 train between NYC & VT a day. But the views! The wide seats! The space! The tracking app friends can use to monitor your progress! The free wifi! We will say slightly less about their rail replacement bus service on my return – except to say that despite leaving an hour later, it got to its destination 20 minutes early. That’s a win.]

Brattleboro

Got to be said, I didn’t know much about Vermont before I got there. From conversations with Ian, I knew bits and pieces – I knew quite a bit about Bernie Sanders; I knew Chick-Fil-A was banned;I knew my friends Ian and Adam had been able to marry there in 2010; and I knew that it’s one of the most liberal states in the US. [Can you guess what kinds of things Ian posts on Facebook??]

How would I describe VT now, having spent all of 72 hours there? Well, it’s got to be said, there are a lot of positives – even leaving aside the gorgeous countryside and incredibly clean air. Did you know that billboard roadside advertising has been banned in the state since 1968? Why? So that people can see the trees and mountains, obviously!! There is the distinct impression that everyone cares – about the environment, the local economy, ethical farming, civil rights and kale. There are a lot of feelings about kale…

EatMoreKale

The ‘Eat More Kale’ guy is a legend – he took on Chick-Fil-A and won. Plus, he now makes Bernie Sanders merchandise…

Brattleboro has no chain stores downtown (except a Subway that somehow snuck in). There’s a food co-op instead of a grocery chain, cute gallery/knick knack shops aplenty, a shop dedicated to the state of Vermont, and plenty of independent cafes. Oh, and there are four bookstores, including one that specialises in social justice books (and bumper stickers) and a gorgeous second-hand maze. There are local dairies making local cheeses, plus the whole industry around maple syrup – from the liquid gold, to candies, and to booze. God bless maple syrup combined with distilleries! It’s basically Stars Hollow – especially once you get to the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market by the river…

Oh, and did you know that Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle Book in Brattleboro?? (In buildings that are now part of the campus on which my friend Ian now works.) Yep, a classic tale of South Asian jungle was written in a room looking out onto a New England forest. Obviously…

I returned to the Big Apple full of enthusiasm for the state, practically signing up to move there asap. Then I got on a subway, went out for cocktails, visited a public transit museum and shopped at Target – and in the process, the dream of Vermont life faded into memory.

Ian, Adam & a covered bridgeThanks to Ian, Adam and the covered bridges of Vermont!