To continue my vacation report, on Thursday, 26 June 2008, Janice and I went into Burlington, the largest city in Vermont. Despite the rain and wind, we walked along the waterfront, saw the kid-friendly Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center, and visited the Lake Champlain Chocolates factory showroom, where we of course tasted its wares.
After taking a bus back downtown, we had a good lunch at the Vermont Pub & Brewery, and the clouds parted as we enjoyed the Church Street Pedestrian Mall. Among other shops, we patronized the well-organized Earth Prime Comics and Quarterstaff Games and the Peace & Justice Store. I bought stuff at each of these. We're such bibliophiles that we actually shipped a box of books back home to Virginia during our honeymoon in Boston over a decade ago.
A note about culture: Since I'm politically liberal, I was comfortable in the progressive setting of Vermont, which one amusing bumper sticker called "the West Coast of New England." That's accurate, since like California, the state faces water, many of its inhabitants are laid-back, and it is known for tolerance and independent-mindedness (although the museums in Montpelier showed that forging consensus has been as elusive as in the rest of the U.S.). Many people might object to equating the current controversy over homosexual marriage to the civil rights struggles of African Americans or women's suffrage, but I think the majority should always be mindful of the freedoms that minorities of any kind are entitled to.
On Friday, June 27, we drove back to Montpelier and Barre (pronounced "Barry," not "bar" as I had assumed). The Vermont Historical Society Museum had modern displays and discussed the issues I just mentioned. We had a tasty lunch at La Brioche, one of several local restaurants affiliated with the New England Culinary Institute.
After that, we toured the Rock of Ages granite quarry, where the viewing platform was 600 feet above the workers cutting stone! We stopped in Waterbury to pick up some souvenirs, and at the Bolton Valley Ski Resort rec center, we played a round of pool. I also found a log-sling bridge over a creek my family had visited years earlier.
On Saturday, June 28, we reluctantly left the Black Bear Inn. On the way back to Massachusetts, we saw the Quechee Gorge and a nearby bridge and dam, the aviary at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, and the King Arthur Flour Bakery & Store. The rest of the weekend was spent catching up on yard work, reading, and e-mail. Coming soon: Independence Day, gaming, and comic books!