Thursday, August 7, 2008

Northern Vermont Pt.3

Our second day in Vermont was more promising, the rain has subsided and the sun was out. We stuffed ourselves with the buffet breakfast at the hotel so as to save us sometime on the road and we made sure to see everything that we have set out for the day.

Our first stop for the day was Ben & Jerry Ice cream factory at Waterbury, a mere 35 mins drive to the east of Burlington. I was a bit surprised on the size of the plant itself as I was expecting something vast like those ice cream factories all over America. Turns out, it is more ike a country side farm factory but equipped with sophisticated machineries and appliances that makes the ice cream process looks like a breeze. The whole atmosphere was very child and kid friendly, with interior walls all decorated with wacky colors and designs and also all its best selling flavors pint cups. I was a bit disappointed though as there was no full spread of all its ice cream at its vending store for picture opt but I was intrigued looking at all the ice cream names that they thought of! The sampling was alright and truly, freshly made and served at the same place is more smooth and creamy than those that you get at the groceries. Sadly, the manufacturing part of the factory is closed for the day.

We headed a bit south to Montpelier, the capital of Vermont. Driving east, we reached the Bragg Farm, which produces maple syrup. The lady at the store was friendly enough to let us watch a demonstration video on how maple sap is extracted from the maple trees during the months of February to April, when winter is nearing its end where freezing nights and warm days are required to induce the flow of the maple sap. Quite similar to the method engaged by rubber tree tappers where slits are made on the barks of the maple trees and a small tube is inserted at a particular point of the bark to let the sap drip into a tin bucket. Really hard work, especially in the winter conditions of Vermont. And to make 1 litre of maple syrup will require a collection of 40 litre of maple sap and continuous cooking till the sap turns thick and brown, hence the higher price to pay for a bottle of maple syrup than honey! But indeed, maple syrup is really tasty on pancakes and its sweetness is really pure and fragrant and I just had to get a bottle to try out on our next homemade waffles. The little shop in Bragg Farm is also a very neat place to find all the different grades of Maple syrup, maple candy and other specialty products made in Vermont itself.

Our last stop for this trip was the city of Montpelier. It is very different from Burlington in the sense that it is more laid back and its buildings architecture is more dated with their own characteristics of red bricks and cobblestones, similar to the late 19th and early 20th centuries European designs. Old churches were on every main street and the city is pretty hip too with its art decor using recycled old bicycle and scrap metal parts, which is found at every open space. Montpelier is a good place to stroll around and there are lots of fun shops to look out for.

We managed to get into the State House and I was surprised that it is still open to the public, after the incident of 9/11, as the one in Boston was closed thereon. The offices of different departments were located everywhere and we had fun checking out the rooms where legislators, past and present congregate and discuss the issues of the goverment of Vermont. I cannot help but feel learned and privileged to see the senate rooms where the best minds in politics argue and agree on laws. The plaques on the walls contained the sayings of noble figures and I am always intrigued on how politicians play with their words unless they talk nonsense that even a 4 year old like my Missy E will not want to believe. There was only one figure that I know from the numerous portraits that hanged around in the State House. It was Howard Dean, the previous governor of Vermont and who was famous for his uncanny shriek of "Yeah" when he was defeated in one of the many caucuses election by his rival Democratic nominee, John Kerry in the presidential bid in 2004. After the visit to this state house, I now know that Ethan Allen was a hero of Vermont and not just any names created by a furniture chain store!

I am very happy with this trip and definitely will return again to complete my Vermont experience. In all, I accumulated some info and knowledge on farming, history and geography. As for food, I like the fact that Vermont offers so many types of its own specialty products, made originally at its own state and to see independent farms striving and still going strong in their efforts to maintain things small and efficient despite the competition from commercialized and bigger companies makes me think that Vermonters are very hard working and determined people who preserves their ways of life well into several generations which is rarely seen in today's world.


Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed reading thru your posts on Vermont. Looking forward to more of your travel blogs.

Ling said...

Hey, wait for me for your next trip to Vermont - especially the Ben & Jerry's factory!