Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Search for Snow, and an Ominous Arrival

The Vermonter runs from Washington D.C. to St. Albans, Vermont, through New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. My nomad companion and I have dreamt of visiting the snowy northern village of Burlington for years, and a mutual acquaintance invited us to join her in her cabin there. We were on the next train north.

The wintry scenes flashing by seemed familiar because they corresponded perfectly to all of my ideas of New England in December. Pale skeleton trees clung to the edges of steely lakes and dark streams, sheets of ice collecting and breaking free. Colonial towns appeared between hills, beautiful stone and brick buildings rising above sturdy wooden homes and church steeples piercing the low gray sky.

But still no snow.

I got really excited as we passed through Hartford, Connecticut because of their stunning Gothic Revival Capitol building, topped with a gold dome and towering above the city around it. I liked the look of the town so much that I wanted to know what other treasures it could possess, and this is what I found:

Hartford Has:
1. The oldest public art museum in the country
2. The oldest public park as well
3. The homes of both Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain, now museums
4. Some amazing architecture, much of it being Victorian mansions and medieval-looking castles and towers.
5. The longest stone arch bridge in the U.S.
6. Plans to build a commuter rail line for the region!

On the twelve hour ride we also passed through Montpelier, Vermont, which by population is the smallest US Capitol city. It was founded in 1781 and named Montpelier as a tribute to the French city, because just after the American Revolution we were apparently very smitten with all things French and wanted to pay them a bit of homage for their help in the war. But alas, there is nothing else of any interest to say about that city, and it is questionable as to if what I have already said qualifies as "interesting" to begin with*.

I am used to long train journeys where passengers are allowed to hop off and explore a bit at longer station stops. They are referred to by train staff as smoking and/or fresh air stops, which seem rather contradictory but to each their own. We attempted to do so at one point in the afternoon, but were thwarted by a terrifying banshee of a woman** who ordered us directly back to our seats and ridiculed our apparent idiocy in venturing to exit the train for a brief period. Then, once the train was moving again, she got on the intercom to publicly shame us and tell the entire train that we daren't move a muscle without her express permission, and if we endeavored to escape her train again we would be left behind on purpose. We proceeded to glare angrily at her for the duration.

We arrived on time in Essex Junction***, which was covered in snow, thank heavens. We had been told to expect our friend in an automobile to collect us, but she called and said "something had come up" and advised us to take a taxi, which she would pay for.

I knew immediately that something was very, very wrong.


*I lie awake struggling with this issue nightly.
**Who had also celebrated each upcoming station stop with a shrill, singing announcement of the stop name as she whisked eerily down the aisles, leaving a cold draft in her wake as she passed.
***A central location amongst a few towns, and about ten miles from downtown Burlington.

1 comment:

  1. As a Connecticut native, I'd rather spend a few hours in Montpelier than Hartford (though the Mark Twain musuem is cool!)

    Now if you were going to stop in New Haven, now that would be different!