Vermont. For me, it always sounded like a sort of idyllic farm place: people on bikes, bearded men abundant, maple syrup, plaid shirts, granola–that kinda stuff. But during fall break in early October, I discovered there’s a lot more to northern Vermont; there’s a special kind of heartiness both in the land and in the local character.

Farm in Vermont
A countryside farm near Lake Champlain

I stayed with a friend in Leicester, a small town twenty or so minutes from Middlebury College. This is a nine hour Greyhound drive from the city, and for pretty much the same price, a one hour Jetblue plane flight. Turns out paradise isn’t that far after all. Having grown up in southern California, I realized once I arrived in New York that I had no prior notion of what seasons were supposed to be like. However, I thought that after three years in the city I understood what autumn was like from my trips to Central Park. No, no, this was quite naïve, I soon realized.

I was in complete awe of the red and gold hues of the hills hugging Lake Champlain (although granted, I visited on one of the undoubtedly most beautiful autumnal weekends on the east coast). The landscape and breadth of colors in autumnal New England really is mind blowing in comparison to anything accessible in Manhattan. Seeing the fluffs of yellow and orange that cling to the maples and oaks alongside fields and farmland was awe-inducing. The landscape and beautiful old red barns and farms nestled between forests were remarkable and a needed change from Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

Vermonters pride themselves in their local and organic produce, as they should. Most of the families I met in the surrounding Middlebury and Burlington area had their own farm, or at least a dozen chickens, vegetable patch, and access within walking distance to fresh milk, cheese, and maple syrup. This fall break I tried for the first time fresh maple syrup, cider donuts, pumpkin butter, and blackberry beer. What better place to feast on these delicacies then on a picnic with dragonflies hovering below and turkey vultures above. And eating honey crisp apples you picked yourself, surrounded by hills glowing – I’m sorry, but the Central Park pumpkin patch does not match this. Alas, not even Prospect Park can compete.

Produce in Vermont
Fresh produce from local farms in Vermont

Maybe I’d been spending too much time getting caught up in New York City traffic, rooftop parties, and overall pretension to realize how much I was in desperate need to spend time with down-to-earth artistic folk. Both those I met in Burlington–which has a surprisingly lively indie music, literature, and bar scene- and those I got to know who lived a quarter mile from the next house, were generous and proud of their liberal and environmentally conscious ways. Sculptors with their own studio barn, folk Americana musicians playing at local bakeries, college students who spend their weekend nights drinking and stargazing on a trampoline by a fire pit; all was so refreshing. I know as an NYUer, you may be skeptical that Vermont is like the boonies, brimming with bearded lumberjacks and dead cell phone zones, but dear reader, I insist, it’s magical up there.

Story and Photos by Olaya Barr


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