September 22, 2018 wasn’t just the beginning of a new season - it was the start of my favorite season, one I’ve recently coined the “falliday” season. It’s not the cookie-cutter definition of a quarter of the year, and you won’t find it written on a calendar (except, maybe mine). See, it starts on the first day of fall, and continues on through January 1, encompassing all of my favorite holidays, foliage, flavors, and foliage.
Over the past few years or so, it was almost like adulthood put up a wall that separated me from all the feel-good emotions that came with each season. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and ever since graduation, I’ve been trying to channel that same warm and fuzzy back-to-school energy. Mark and I have given it a fair shot - apple picking one year, pumpkin picking the next, dressing up for Halloween, attending festivals.
The problem is, New Jersey doesn’t exactly get a fall - at least, not for more than two or three weeks. So, in an attempt to chase autumn, so to speak, Mark and I decided to really go all in, and escape to a beyond ideal fall foliage wonderland: Vermont. But first, we had some autumnal festivities to attend here.
Saturday, September 22
On Saturday, we welcomed fall with a trip to Brook Hollow Winery in Columbia, New Jersey as an early birthday celebration for my mother-in-law. A sampling cost only $10, and that included about a shot glass worth of each of their six white wines, plus six red wines, plus three wine slushies, and, to top it all off, a chocolate wine milkshake. Needless to say, I was feeling a little tipsy by the time we made it to the slushies.
For only 10 bucks and all that wine, it was well worth the hike deep into the western part of the state. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable about the spirits they were serving, and the view of the vineyard was gorgeous. We’re already brainstorming excuses to go back.
Sunday, September 23
Sunday was a birthday celebration, too! This time, we were celebrating part one of six 60th birthday activities for my Daddy. Because the man loves his apples, my sisters and I thought what better excursion was there than to take Daddy apple picking to kick start his festivities?
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating around the area we originally planned to go to. Luckily I live in northern New Jersey, and even though the skies were a hazy grey in the morning, by mid-afternoon the sun was shining. So I invited anyone who wanted to make the trip to my neck of the woods.
We ended up going to a place called Demarest Farm - aka the busiest farm in Bergen county. Oops! But the long line to get on the hay ride was worth it in the end. My niece and nephews had a ball, and my dad filled his bag with a ton of apples. I wouldn’t be surprised if his surpassed the 10 lb. limit. I guess we can overlook that though, since it was for his birthday and all.
Monday, September 24
Despite Mark developing an irritating cold the night before (my poor babe), on Monday we set out on the five hour journey to Burlington, Vermont. We ended up leaving the apartment around noon, and arriving in Burlington around five o’clock. Because Mark and I both have sensitive stomachs, we’re generally pretty nit-picky about the snacks we eat in transit. In other words, by the time we checked into the hotel, we were starving, let alone exhausted.
Mark googled the best sandwich places in Burlington, picked up a veggie spinach wrap for me, a turkey sub for him with a side of fries to share, and set up a picnic on our hotel bed. Mark was in desperate need of a rest, and I wasn’t about to complain about lying in bed all night. The next day we’d officially begin our exploration.
Tuesday, September 25
On Tuesday, Mark designed a tour of Burlington fit for any junk foodie such as myself. We woke up around 10 and ate breakfast at a spot called the Pennycluse, and to start my vacation on a literal sweet note, I ordered the special: Apple bread french toast served with authentic Vermont maple syrup. It tasted as heavenly as it sounds. Mark ordered a scrambled egg platter that came with two thick biscuits, the entire plate drizzled with an equally as thick herb gravy. I didn’t ask for a bite this time around.
We then took a trip to Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory, where we sat through a presentation on how each chocolate treat was made, sampled all kinds of different chocolate, and, of course, bought some sweets for home.
Next on our list was Ben and Jerry’s, but in order to cleanse our palettes, Mark suggested we make a pit stop at the Green Mountain Coffee visitors cafe. We both ordered two large English breakfast teas, found a cozy spot at a corner table and settled in. One of my favorite ways to pass the time with Mark is when the two of us can just sip on a hot beverage and talk about life. This usually leads to deep conversations about work, our passions, getting rid of student loan debt, and the list goes on. It’s quite lovely to do life with this guy.
The tour of Ben and Jerry’s was really cool. I felt like I was walking through Willy Wonka’s factory except instead of being surrounded by chocolate, there were massive tanks full of ice cream everywhere. Though, I’ll admit, the best part was definitely the free sample of the brand’s Milk and Cookies flavor. I considered going for seconds, but I told myself it was probably smarter to save that room for dinner.
Leunig’s Bistro and Cafe off Church Street in Burlington was such high-quality food, it pained me not to have room in my stomach to fit more than half my meal. Mark and I are calamari connoisseurs, so naturally we had to order theirs as an appetizer. The squid was lightly breaded, and boasted the exact right amount of grease and spice. I sampled a few pieces, which were all delicious, but the real star of this show was my main course: Beyond Meat & Kohlrabi Alfredo. Hands down the best vegan dish I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
The remainder of the night was spent exploring Church street in the shadows, heading back to our hotel room, and falling fast asleep.
Wednesday, September 26
Wednesday was our last full day in Burlington, and to do it big, Mark drove me to a massive museum where visitors could roam the grounds freely, stopping at different landmarks as they went. We saw artwork inspired by cowboys, walked around a ship, climbed a restored lighthouse, roamed the halls of the historic mansion that once housed the founders of the museum, and so much more. We also came across an exhibit where old fashioned toys were on displayed. Including multiple, dimly lit rooms of just dolls. It was my worst nightmare and my husband laughed. Tsk, tsk. He held my hand through it all, though.
In total, we roamed the museum for a good two to three hours. By the time we made our way back up the hill to the gift shop where we bought our tickets of entry, we were pretty pooped. To unwind a bit before heading back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner, we ended up at Zero Gravity, a casual bar with patio and indoor seating. Mark ordered a beer, I ordered a can of apple cider, and we sat outside until the rain came.
Dinner that night was epic. We’d finally have the chance to bite into an Impossible Burger. The restaurant we ate at was called the ArtRiot, and inside there was mood lighting, paintings and blown up record covers lined the walls. It was quick trip, mostly because we were starving and the kitchen was fast. The Impossible Burger was basically everything we’d hoped it would be. Now if only New Jersey would take a hint and start serving this delicacy around our area.
To end off the night, we settled back into our room and watched not only the season premier of Survivor, but, more importantly, the series finale of Big Brother. I’m a die-hard fan of the game, and thought this was one of the best played season. I was rooting for Tyler most of the summer, but in the end was glad KC took home the half million.
Thursday, September 27
On Thursday we woke up in Burlington, packed our bags, and were almost ready to make the hour trek up into the mountain towards Stowe. Beforehand, though (because there was a lot of time between checkout at The Best Western and check-in at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, we stopped for breakfast at a quirky place called The Friendly Toast. I had a loaded avocado toast, and Mark had oat bread french toast. The meals were hearty, and so, so delicious.
We walked along the dock of Lake Champlain, did a sweet of Church Street, and sat in a cute little park for a little while before settling into the car. The ride up the mountain was absolutely beautiful, full of changing leaves and boulders. It took less time than we’d expected to arrive, but thankfully our room was ready when we were.
Now, when I say The Stowe Mountain Lodge is fancy, I’m not exaggerating. Our suite was decked out with a kitchen stocked with appliances, coffee, and tea, the bathroom was the size of our living room with a walk in shower and luxurious bath, and the bedroom was furnished with queen-sized bed, sofa, and fireplace. The entire room was amazing, but my favorite part was the balcony overlooking the mountains.
We opted to take a relaxed approach to the rest of the day, watching television until dinner. We dined at the restaurant in the hotel, and though it was pretty expensive, it was well worth the dollars. I ate the best damn salmon I’d ever tasted that night.
Friday, September 28
On Friday we set our sights on a hiking adventure, but first I convinced Mark to take a gondola ride up the mountain with me. It took some convincing, but once we were in the air, my husband’s face lit up at the sight of our hotel growing smaller and smaller against an autumnal mountain backdrop. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I’m so glad we got to experience it together.
Our hike lasted about two hours, and boy was that an experience. I love to hike, but I definitely anticipated more people being on the trails. Which, now that I think about it, was probably silly, considering we ventured out in the middle of the day on a Friday. It’s no wonder the woods were empty.
There’s really nothing like the kinds of deep conversations you get into in the thick of nature. I loved the physical aspect of the hike, the challenge it was to exert all my energy into literally climbing up a mountain and dodging streams and slippery patches. But the best part was holding Mark’s hand through the whole thing, and getting lost in one subject after another.
Unfortunately, though, by the time we got back to our hotel room I was starting to catch Mark’s cold. I took a long shower, bundled in my pjs and the room’s complimentary robe, and we ordered room service. The remainder of the night was spent reading under the covers with my love, and I honestly couldn’t have asked for more.
Saturday, September 29
Saturday was bittersweet because I knew come morning we’d have to head home and back to reality. To make the most out of the time we had, we ate breakfast at the hotel, and set off on a mini road trip to a haunted bridge where, legend has it, a woman hanged herself years ago. When we arrived to the site though, there was a busload of senior citizens also taking a trip to the bridge, so it kind of lost its spooky effect.
Between our bridge escapade and dinner, I grabbed my book, a blanket, and read on the balcony. This kind of setup is forever on my fall bucket list — to read either a classic or thriller novel out on a deck, wrapped in a blanket with something hot to drink. Two out of three ain’t shabby.
We passed a lot of cute restaurants on our way into town, but decided to dine at the hotel restaurant on more time before we left because, honestly, the food was that good. Mark and I split four appetizers, even though we probably could have gotten along fine on just two. The plates were so interesting and exotic that we took it upon ourselves to play Chopped judges, and rank the chef on taste and presentation. We laughed the whole meal through.