Weekend Sabbatical: Lowell, Massachusetts for the Afternoon

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Historical Mill District from the river

Last weekend, last minute, we decided to attend the Stout Festival at the Armsby Abbey in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Although we have enjoyed New England and the Boston area for four years now, we never actually spent any time in Worcester. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out both a city we haven’t enjoyed yet and one of the top rated beer bars in the world. And, yes, I did say world.

From Vermont, we usually take 89 south most of the way through Vermont and Massachusetts until we hit 93 south through Boston. This brings us through Lowell, MA which we hadn’t stopped at for a few years. Lowell is an old manufacturing center, mostly within the business of textiles. It is now, surprisingly, the four largest city in the state. The town is no longer centered on textile mills when it comes to the market, but the mills are still a major part of the town’s geography. In fact, much of the mill district has been restored, even becoming part of the Lowell National Historical Park.  Lowell is also the birthplace and burial place of Jack Kerouac, a well known novelist and poet of the beat generation.

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Upclose: Lowell Mill Equipment

We stopped for just a few hours, long enough to walk up and down the city streets, take in the old mill district, have some amazing lunch, and stop by Kerouac’s grave for the second time.

Highlights:

-History: You can learn a lot and get a better feel for the city if you take a moment to read the historical signs and outposts set up along the river, streets, and historical mill area. Having the mill as a backdrop to the city really allows you to envision it as it was in the 1800 and 1900’s.

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Jack’s Grave During Another Visit (Fall)

Jack Kerouac sites: Lowell is home to many important places in Jack’s early and later life. If you do some research before coming, you could stop by his childhood home, bars he frequented, parks he wrote in, and of course, where he is laid to rest.

-Culture and town life: When I hear of Lowell, I think of the average size Massachusetts town. However, Lowell is a city. Lowell is also a cultural hub, calling its home to many different ethnicities and cultures, evident by the different types of stores, churches, and clubs that call it home.

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Life Alive Wrap and Music

Before we left Lowell, we stopped by for music and lunch at Life Alive, located on Middle Street. This café calls a few different towns in Massachusetts home including Cambridge and Salem also.  There food is vegan and vegetarian, yet well known and delicious to all types of foodies. They infuse so much taste into every wrap, salad, and rice bowl, that it is hard to miss the meat. I heard this over and over from each meat eating foodie that stopped by. The atmosphere is also a lot of fun.

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Hopping the Pond: Post Travel Memories

Boy have I been busy with work and school since our last vacation! I can’t believe it has been four months already. I would like to get some of my trip written down here before those memories begin to fade. So begins the “Hopping the Pond” series.

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Kayaking, Belgium, December

 

Springing into Mud Season

Vermont Mudding

Vermont Mudding

There are a few signs Spring is beginning in Vermont:1. The rest of the Northeast has already acknowledged Spring has begun (usually 3 weeks prior).2. Back roads are completely under mud. If you have never driven a Vermont mud road in the Spring, it is hard to explain, but I will try. Roads that are dry and flat in the summer, and a nice, flat sheet of snow in the winter, turn to total crap the other 2 months of the year. You get three main types of mud: 1. the thick, car trails, as seen above, 2. the giant, deep potholes, and 3. wash board divets. All try their best to ruin you car and make you drive 5 mph. When you are given advice to purchase a four wheel drive vehicle when living in Vermont, it isn’t for the snow, it’s for the 4 inch mud car trails that grab on to either side of your wheels and take you wherever they decide you will go.3. Smoke billows out of maple huts off every major Vermont road. Yes, Spring is equal to maple season in Vermont. It begins in southern Vermont and then heads to central and northern Vermont a few weeks later. During this time, you can’t drive down a Vermont road without noticing maple syrup in production. These are all very apparent right now. On my drive home from work yesterday, I first noticed three different maple farms in production. Then, once I was only four miles from home, I hit the great mud road from Wolcott to Elmore. I was successful in my journey home, although I hit potholes so hard that my CD skipped, turned my four wheel drive on during a jaunt up a hill covered in 4 inch car trails, and got a slight headache due to the endless wash board pivots. Unfortunately, this back road will stay covered in mud for at least another month, so I guess I should just get used to it now.

*The Great Indoors: Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom

The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is often overlooked when it comes to indoor fun. It’s not a bad thing, people just usually head to this picturesque part of the Green Mountain state to enjoy everything outdoors. But, what about those who enjoy being inside? Well, it is time to set the record straight: if you want some of the best alcohol, food, and indoor fun in the state, head northeast! The following afternoon tour will give you a chance to taste, drink, and enjoy the best of the “NEK”.

Caledonia Spirit's Tanks and Ryan, one of the distillers

Caledonia Spirit’s Tanks and Ryan, one of the distillers

Caledonia Spirits & Winery, Hardwick, VT

Hardwick, Vermont is the home of award winning vodka, gin, and wine all made from honey and other Vermont ingredients. Head down to their giant distillery to learn about how they make all of their products from pure honey and also take a tour of their facility. End your visit with a free tasting of all three spirits (Elderberry Cordial, Barr Hill Vodka, and Barr Hill Gin) and their four delicious wines.

Hill Farmstead, Greensboro, VT

Outside of the Hill Farmstead Brewery

Outside of the Hill Farmstead Brewery

Have you ever wanted to enjoy the best beer in the country in the confines of a huge, wooden barn? Then, take a trip out to Hill Farmstead to find the Kingdom’s most popular beer. Some of Hill Farmstead’s beers have even earned a 100 on ratebeer.com. Greensboro, VT is a short but beautiful drive north of Hardwick. Beer is poured into samples, glasses, or growlers, fresh from the brewery that is also housed in the same barn.

The Parker Pie Co., West Glover, VT

End your tour with dinner, drinks, and entertainment at the Parker Pie Co. in West Glover, VT. What started out as a small pizza shop in the back of one of Vermont’s many country stores has turned into one of the best foodie, beer, and entertainment destinations in Vermont. The Parker Pie Co. uses fresh, Vermont products on their pizzas and has a constantly revolving beer menu. They also have the best indoor events in town including trivia night, live bands, and weekly ping pong tournaments. You may originally come for the pizza and beer, but you will most likely return for the atmosphere and entertainment.

Inside Parker Pie

Inside Parker Pie

The Northeast Kingdom is located off of interstate 91, about a three hour drive north from Boston.

*As published in Tavern Players, Spring Issue.

Recent Update

As every blogger seems to say at least a couple times a year, “my blog has suffered lately”. That’s because my work-life has been so busy. Let me explain: I work as a clinical analyst at a small, rural hospital in Northeast Vermont. Because it is so small, and in a rural setting, my job responsibilities span quite a range of departments and work. I support the pharmacy, the laboratory, the radiology department, transcription, and the inpatient physicians. On any given day, I could be very busy splitting my time between these areas. Right now, however, we are in the midst of a year long, hospital wide system implementation. In other words, I am juggling the implementation of a new electronic health record system within all of these areas. I am the project manager and lead (only) analyst on all of the applications for the above areas. We are at the tail end of the implementation, with only 2 1/2 months to go. So, I have been running around trying to get my projects in a stable place before I go off on my three week vacation.

In addition, I finished up my last class of this semester last week. I am officially down to one year left until I get my master’s degree in Health Informatics. We will be leaving for our three week vacation on Friday, December 21. As I previously mentioned, we were going to be heading to Norway for a little over a week and then the Brittany area of France for about 5 days. However, we were having some difficulty finding a whole lot open in Norway during this time of year or any couch surfing hosts available. We did a quick last minute search on other areas to visit from our Dublin hub, and came up with Brussels/Netherlands for a few days and devoting more time to France. We really like our new itinerary which includes: a day in Chicago en route to Dublin, Ireland. 3 full days not including travel days in Belgium/Netherlands. 9 fulls days not including travel in France. A day/night in Dublin. We will be focusing on the Atlantic coast of France including the Bordeaux, Brittany, and Normandy areas.

Vermont Livin’ November 21, 2012

Anth, Pup, and I

I’ve noticed I haven’t put a post up yet about my everyday life. I didn’t create this blog to necessarily talk about myself, but I still want to make sure I document what’s going on every once in a while.

Just to bring you up to speed, Anthony and I moved up to Vermont in April of 2011, so about a year and seven months ago. We had been living in southern New England for a bout two years, first in the Hartford, CT area and then in Western Massachusetts. We liked those areas, but had been enthralled with Vermont for a while so when Anthony found success in pursuing a sales manager position at a farmer’s cooperative, I began my own search. We had offer letters within days of each other and before we knew it we were heading north. It was exciting to know we were heading exactly where we wanted to be along with jobs that we actually wanted to be doing.

Me Above Copenhagen, Denmark

If you fast forward to November 2012, you can find us in Elmore, a town that had 849 residents in 2000. We live in a 500 square foot space in the woods. I carpool to work every day which is about a 45 minute drive through two other towns which are slightly bigger than Elmore.

My daily routine begins at a hospital in was is considered the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. I usually get into work at 6:30 am which means I am out the door by 5:30. The stars at that hour are absolutely breath taking and so is the cold in the winter. After work I head into Hardwick. Hardwick is three times the size of Elmore with a population of 3,100 and has just about everything you need. In other words, I can go to the gym, buy my groceries at the coop, and rent nightly DVD’s all on one little Main Street. What more could I need?

Pup and I in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

Before I lived in Vermont, I didn’t shop at a coop. My groceries came from major chains where I was lucky to find fruits and vegetables from the same coast. If I was really lucky, I lived near a Whole Foods that sold semi-local produce. All corners of Vermont have cooperatives, however, which are member owned stores that sell as much local food as possible. Which means that most of the store is local since Vermont creates a lot more than just vegetables. Just a couple of examples of local Vermont products: ice cream, peanut butter, pasta, pretzels, bread, honey, yogurt, any type of meat product you could think of, salsa, a lot of cheeses, a lot of maple, and a lot of wines, ciders, and beer. You get the jist of it!

Anyways, Anthony and I are currently gearing up for our sixth trip to Europe together. We will be heading home for the Christmas holiday at the end of December before embarking on our 2 week journey between France and Norway with pit stops in Chicago and Dublin. I say pit stops because they are more than layovers this time around as we will be spending an entire day in downtown Chicago and a day and a half in Dublin.

Until then, I have begun writing. I’m not exactly sure why I began writing other than that I enjoy doing it when it pertains to places, people, and things that I love. So, in addition to this blog, I have begun writing for a drinking magazine and a Vermont tourism magazine. I had an article published last month and will have 2-3 articles published next month. Also, I began spending my Friday nights mentoring an 8 year old boy. We spend most of our time outside playing at the park with stints of making cookies and doing crafts. We’ve had a lot of fun so far. I’ve also been spending time learning Norwegian. I’ve made a lot of progress doing self study, but I don’t know how much I will know before I go to Norway. I am confident I will know enough to be able to read signs and menus. Conversation is most likely out of the question as they speak very fast. Lastly, I am still on track for getting my Master’s degree in Health Informatics by this time next year. I am about a year into and take two courses every semester through the University of Illinois at Chicago’s online program.

So, my weekdays are spent working, enjoying the above past times as I please, hitting the gym when I can, and cooking up dinner for Anth. We usually end our days with a movie and food on the couch now that the days are ending so early in terms of sunlight. On the weekends, we still get up and travel all over New England. So, that’s where the rest of this blog comes into play!

Pup and I During a 5k in front of Vermont’s Capitol, Montpelier

New England Photo of the Day: Lake Champlain Sunset

Sunset at Lake Champlain from the Burlington Waterfront

Vermont is the only landlocked state in New England. Oh boo hoo! Right? I mean, it is kind of hard to complain about this when we have the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain still offers ferry rides, lighthouses, and islands to explore.