Monday, June 7, 2010

Vermont scenery

Saturday, June 5 - Just as we had hoped, we saw some fantastic scenery as we drove through Vermont. Here are some highlights:

Pancakes and ice cream

Saturday, June 5 - The goal of our last Saturday of the trip was to see a lot of Vermont, and to get some tasty ice cream from Ben & Jerry's. However, we kicked it off with an added bonus: breakfast at a Burlington highlight, The Skinny Pancake. Not only do they make all kinds of sweet and savory crepes, but they were also the venue that night for our new favorite band, Holy Ghost Tent Revival. Too bad we couldn't stay a second night.

We took a quick walk through town before heading to the second most important destination for Sandy on this trip (after L.L. Bean in Freeport): Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, VT. Sandy knows how to pick 'em. L.L. Bean is the most visited tourist destination in Maine, and Ben & Jerry's is the most visited destination in Vermont.

The first thing that you do on the tour at B&J's is to watch the MOO-vie of the history of the company. That's after you take the Vanilla-vator up to the second floor, if you don't want to take the stairs. After you see the factory, you then get a nice-sized sample. Today's flavor: Oatmeal Cookie Crunch.

After the tour, our last stop was the Flavor Graveyard behind the factory, where there's a tombstone for every flavor that has gone to meet its maker. Every flavor has it's own poem, such as:

Wild Maine Blueberry (1990-1992):
Wild Maine Blueberry
From the land of the puffin
Now when we crave you
We turn to the muffin.


Peanuts! Popcorn! (2000-2000)
Peanuts! Popcorn!
Mix 'em in a pot!
Plop 'em in your ice cream!
Well, maybe not.

Pimp Mobile

We almost forgot to tell you about the rental car. When we picked up the car at Alamo in Stamford, CT, they told us they were giving us a free upgrade. And we sure got an upgrade. I tell ya, those pimps in Maine were sure jealous of our wheels. Not only was it a new car, we also had the new, orange, New York license plates on it. And we even got comments on the plates. We were at a gas station in Vermont right before the Canadian border on our way to Montreal, and the guy from the car in front of me said, "Whatdaya think about those new New York plates?"

We thought this shot in Acadia National Park was particularly appropriate for the road trip, since we were parked right in front of one of those Cruise America rental RVs (aka 1-800-RV4RENT), which we saw everywhere on our previous two road trips in the national parks in the west. Ah, the memories.

Road Trip 2010 conclusion update:
Final road stats:
68.57 gallons of gas. 1800 miles. Gas price range: $2.69 (Holden, ME) to 3.09 (Darien, CT). 26.25 mpg. Not too bad for that big ride.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jazz Fest in Burlington

Friday, June 4 - We couldn't have timed our arrival in Burlington more perfectly. We were pleasantly surprised to find the town rockin' as we drove into downtown -- it was the first night of the 10-day Burlington Jazz Festival! One of the main streets through town, Church Street, is now a
pedestrian mall, and that's where all the action was happening. The first band we saw was Jesse Dee, right in front of City Hall.

After we grabbed a drink and somthing to eat at one of the outdoor cafes, we bumped into another performance going on by a band that literally had the crowd jumping. These guys were mesmerizing to watch. The band is called Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and they have a jazzy, bluesy, bluegrassy, New Orleans-y feel, and they had more energy and excitement than you can imagine.

A picture cannot do these guys justice, so take a look at the video below. It's hard to see in the video, but these guys had so much energy that the stage and tent were shaking. It wouldn't have been shocking if the stage had collapsed. Take a look. The sound isn't that great, but if you watch it all the way through, you can see how they had the crowd in the palm of their hands.

Back to Vermont

Friday, June 4 - On our way back to Vermont, we passed a wind farm in rural northern New York. We've had a fondness for the wind turbines since we first encountered them on Road Trip '08.

We crossed over from Vermont to New York via a small bridge in rural Rouses Point, NY which is less than a mile from the Canadian border. Despite the great time we had in Montreal, we turned right. So many more new things to see in Vermont!

There were some beautiful views as we drove south through the islands in the northern part of Lake Champlain. It was a race to get to Burlington before sunset!

Mom's hometown

Friday, June 4 - We had a great visit to my mom's hometown, right on the St. Lawrence River, and were really glad to to spend some time at my aunt's house and have a nice home-cooked lunch. Thanks, Sandy and Don!

Afterward, on our way to Vermont, we drove through the village where my grandfather grew up, and stopped at the road where his family farms were. Great to have a bit of a family history tour on the road trip!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back to the USA

Friday, June 5 - Leaving Montreal, we headed to Cornwall, Ontario, in order to make a quick visit to my (Ken's) mom's hometown, Massena, New York on the St. Lawrence River and have lunch with my aunt.

This route gave us an unplanned visit to Ontario (sorry for the blurry freeway pic), adding another State/Province to our list. Had an easy trip through customs to arrive back home in the USA.


Friday, June 4 - Did a little bit of shopping in Old Montreal at the Bonsecours Market (domed building) before heading out of town. It's an old government building which has been converted to a space with artist galleries, shops and cafes.

And despite several recommendations, the one thing that we failed to do was sample Montreal's famed poutine. For the uninitiated, poutine is French fries with gravy and cheese curds. We hear that it is delicious, but somehow it didn't get to the top of our list of things to do, see and taste in Montreal.... Maybe next time...?

"Dexter" knife holder?

Thursday, June 3 - This was in a window of a shop in Montreal. Licensing opportunity?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Exploring Montreal

Thursday, June 3 - Today's been more of a low-key day, which is probably not a bad thing. We started off with breakfast at Eggspectation, one of the places my sister's colleague Anny recommended. Sandy got the "Eggcitement", which was supposed to be strawberry French Toast FLAMBE, but unfortunately, while tasty, it lacked the flambe, which made it a little less eggciting than hoped. I had the "Egg-chilada", which did live up to it's billing. All in all, an eggcellent breakfast.

Walking around Old Montreal was great. And we give our hotel, Le Petit Hotel, high marks. It's a small, boutique hotel that opened less than a year ago. The small staff is super friendly, and will do whatever it takes to help you out. I even accidentally left my camera cable in the lobby/cafe, and they had it for me when we got home after dinner.

We jumped on the Metro and headed up to the Mont Royal area to see the view of the city and river. When walking around up there, we bumped into a stop for the public bicycle system BIXI, where you just swipe your credit card, and you can use a bike. Short term only, though -- after 30 minutes, the price starts to jack up. Not ideal for sightseeing, but great concept, for running errands around town. We also stopped at the St-Viateur Bagel shop, also highly recommended by Anny. We had heard that Montreal bagels are different - and better - than New York bagels. And I have to say, it was really good. Less doughy, more dense. Two thumbs up.

The view of Montreal and the St. Lawrence River is great from up on Mont Royal. Unfortunately, the predicted sunshine didn't break through. However, we did discover that the park at Mont Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park. Olmstead was a busy guy, because he also designed the Arnold Arboretum and the Emerald Necklace, which we also saw in Boston.
We then headed down the Mont, and went to the Miles Davis exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine arts. Really great and relaxing...

We finished up the day at Restaurant L'Orignal, a new restaurant in Vieux-Montreal that was recommended by the staff at our hotel. As you can see from the moose in the logo for the restaurant, it features local cuisine. However, despite the game on the menu, it is far from backwoods or gamey. It had a great vibe, everyone was super friendly, and Sandy's bison steak was great! I had the halibut, which was also very good.

There's obviously still so much more to see in the city, but we definitely got a great taste today.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hello Vermont, Boujour Canada

Wednesday, June 2 - After such a great day on the canopy tour and relaxing lunch on the porch of the Mount Washington Hotel looking at the mountains, it was really hard get into the car for a 3 hour drive. But, this is a road trip, not a stay in one place trip. You never know what fun is around the corner.

Once on the highway, we entered our 3rd new state for the trip: Vermont. Only passing through today though, en route to Montreal. We'll explore Vermont in a couple of days. And speaking of surprises around the corner, we made a last stop in the USA to get gas before crossing the border in Orleans, VT, and what was right next to the gas station? The home of Ethan Allen furniture.

We got to the border and immediately turned off our data roaming on our iPhones. No Words with Friends or Foursquare checkins for Sandy in Canada. Oh my! (FYI to anyone who's interested: if you want to play Words with Friends with someone, Sandy's always up for a new game. Screenname: sandyg128.)
We broke in our new passports, and when the agent gave them back without stamping them, Sandy asked if she would stamp them for us. "Ok, since there isn't a big line." Guess that's not a big request on the US-Canadian border...

It's funny how it immediately feels different when you leave the US. Neither of us has been out of the country for a while, and it's been even longer since visiting Canada. We made it to Montreal without incident, although there was a flash rainstorm for a few minutes.

We went straight to our hotel in Old Montreal, Le Petit Hotel, and went to a restaurant/wine bar down the street called Modavie, where they have live jazz. Live music + glass of wine + windows open onto the street = very relaxing evening. Feels like Europe!

Zip line canopy tour

Wednesday, June 2 - This was the view from the starting point of our zip line tour. Mount Washington is the tallest peak on the right, and you can see the resort in the valley below. Our trusty guides, Jamie and Bobby, took us through every step of the way, including a ground school - aka "bunny" zip line - to teach us the zipping skills that we would need. Relax, steer to keep going straight, just a little hand pressure to break - think of it as your own personal hammock. Then the fun began.

We were on the tour with our new friends Sedna, Marvin, Jim and Bonnie. You become friends quickly when you are jumping off 100-foot high platforms together... Bobby took my camera to take a movie as he was the first one cross the valley in the longest zip: over 800 feet.

Sandy quickly got the reputation of group cheerleader and screamer. Every one of her zips had a different theme - whoops, "yee-ha!", tarzan... Here are a few action shots:

And there was even repelling:

All in all, it was an amazing experience. A perfect way to experience the White Mountains. Thanks to Jamie, Bobby and our new friends!