Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why Vermont is Cool

People have been asking me a lot about Vermont since I have moved here, and for some reason, I’ve been really bad at describing it.  If I say that it’s really quiet (which is true), that makes it sound boring.  If I say there’s a lot going on, it sounds like a more populated place than it actually is.  I focus mostly on Burlington when I tell people what it is like here, since Burlington is where I live, but in general, the whole tiny state of Vermont has a strange balance between silence and noise.

This liberal state might be the only place I have ever experienced talking to someone who would be labeled a “hick” or a “redneck” who fully and proudly supports Obama.There are bumper stickers that say “Keep Vermont Weird.” It is indeed a weird place, and I guess that is why I don’t usually find the right words to fully give someone a picture of what it’s like to live here.

Let’s take I-89, one of the main highways.  The term “rush hour” here takes on such a different meaning than any rush hour I’ve ever experienced.  Rush hour here means that there are possibly 10 more cars than usual on the road in sight.  And I’m talking about 8 in the morning and 5 in the evening on weekdays.

  The rush hour that I was talking about

Meanwhile, City Market, the co-op in Burlington, is usually packed, and it’s often difficult to find a parking spot there.  The hundreds of coffee shops and restaurants are crowded with locals and tourists, and Church Street, the town center of Burlington, is usually very alive.

The lake front (Burlington is right on Lake Champlain) is quiet but never dull; there are always people – college students, travelers, local families, and random people like me who somehow ended up in Vermont for some reason or another – walking and biking in whatever season it happens to be.  During the summer there are swimmers, paddle boarders, fishermen/women, hippies smoking joints, hipsters playing their banjos and ukuleles, and families from all over the world who faithfully return to Burlington every summer because it’s their chosen vacation spot.

Want to catch a drag queen and drag king race involving cupcakes, high heels, and glitter?  Burlington is the right place.  Looking for a tree house open to the public to hang out in?  Go to Burlington!

You can walk down Church Street and hear a mix of languages – you’re bound to hear a lot of French because of the nearby Montreal; I’ve heard Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Somali, Amharic, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, and lots of Russian.  For a city as small as Burlington, I think the demographics are pretty impressive.

Vermont has a lot of great spots outside of Burlington, too.  For example, the most beautiful drive I’ve experienced in Vermont was half an hour south from Burlington to Charlotte.  The drive was full of views of the mountains, farmland, rivers, streams, and old wooden bridges, and there were probably about four other cars that I saw during that entire drive.  We were surrounded by complete silence the whole time.


Another good spot is Stowe, which is the quintessential New England ski resort town that has the Trapp Family Lodge.  The Trapp Family Lodge (click for pictures: is managed by members of the von Trapp family, the ones that the Sound of Music tells the story of.  The family left Austria in 1938 and immigrated to Vermont.  Now, the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe is a tourist destination that attracts people from all over the world in all seasons.  You don’t have to sacrifice your entire bank account to enjoy Stowe – you can sit at the coffee shop at the lodge and see what it would be like in a parallel life to actually be staying there.

Skiing in the winter, hiking in the spring, swimming and outdoor concerts in the summer, and the famous New England colors in the fall are some of the reasons that people will travel so far for Stowe.  I have been to Stowe briefly twice, but I definitely want to go for a full day sometime and experience one of the hikes or days of skiing that I hear about so much.
Montpelier is the capital of Vermont and it is another very typical New England village/town that is a good representation of this region of the U.S.  I have never seen such a small capitol building; the town is quiet and relaxed and very quaint.  It is a town that can easily be seen in half an hour, but a person could also find a full day’s worth of stuff to do in Montpelier.


In southern Vermont, a place that I really liked was Bellows Falls, a town of about 3,200 people.  It is tiny.  You can walk through it in ten minutes.  You can meet a very warm, friendly Greek woman who owns a pizzeria (she’ll make you a vegan pizza if you ask) and ask her why she ended up in Bellows Falls.  She has nothing but good things to say.  The Greek woman isn’t the only friendly person in that town – every person we encountered was extremely kind and excited to tell us about what their town has to offer.
Again, as I mentioned above, Bellows Falls is a town with a mix of liberal, progressive thinkers in a very quiet, country setting.

Vermont has taken me a few months to really, genuinely appreciate; the more I discover here and the more people I meet, I realize the value of being here.   You can be a part of any religion, be of any nationality, any class or educational background, and any age.  No one cares “what” you are; no one even thinks about who you are or where you came from unless you choose to bring it up. Nothing will really faze a Vermonter.

Maybe I’ll eventually be able to articulate this place, but I doubt it.  I missed Burlington while I was in New York City for a weekend a couple months ago.
Anyway.  Vermont: it is just what it is, and I love it.

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