Birthday Staycation 2020

Every year we take a weekend trip away for the July 4th/my birthday weekend. We’ve gone to places like New York City, Boston, Portsmouth. This year, we had planned a trip to Warren, RI. We hadn’t yet visited that state, and my requirement was to be near the beach.

By mid-June though the viral outbreaks still were not contained in New England. It seemed like leaving Vermont was too risky, so we canceled that reservation and looked closer to home. We chose Quechee, which was far enough away to feel like a trip and also touristy enough for us to go exploring.

Self portrait of a birthday girl during the pandemic

AirBnB

We stayed at this cute renovated library in the center of town. There’s a mini fridge and microwave but no stove. A fireplace inside and a fire pit outside. It was surprisingly light and airy, with lights and mirrors strategically placed to make it seem big. The windows though have light blocking curtains if you, like Dan, need an afternoon nap.

We  used the fireplace !

Swimming

It’s a short walk to the falls, where we saw many people sunning and swimming—one family actually diving from the rocks into the roiling water, which was too nerve-wracking to watch for long.

While most folks enjoyed the falls, it was too crowded for our taste. We discovered more private swimming upstream. If you walk the town green past the community garden, you’ll see some mown paths that lead to the river’s edge. We snuck into one of those and climbed the muddy bank down to the water, which was warm, still, and shallow. Perfect for me!

Community garden at the front of the town green

We could hear muffled voices of people on the other shore playing golf, but they were screened from us by shrubbery. It was relatively private and calm there. So while it’s not technically a beach, it gave me the sunny water access I craved.

The green itself is a wonderfully peaceful place, well maintained and spacious. There’s a gazebo and also a small playground nearby. We saw folks walking their dogs, jogging, and relaxing with a book there. We went down at night to watch the fireflies once and then on the 4th we drunkenly watched a bunch of folks light off fireworks there.

Meals

We brought a cooler and a dry bag with drinks and food, since we weren’t sure what would be available. We ate out of the cooler for breakfast and snacks, mainly. Here are three restaurants we ate from and recommend. I am especially glad that we could find delicious local food that had vegetarian options.

  • Angkor Wat – we ordered take out our first night from this Cambodian/Thai place in nearby Woodstock. Dan asked them to make my meal very spicy, and 🥵🥵🥵 they did not disappoint! There was enough to breakfast on leftovers.
  • Mon Vert Café – we ate in the upstairs, which was deserted (while outdoor dining was packed) at this farm to table café. There was a lobster roll on the specials board, which I couldn’t resist and don’t regret. The menu is lengthy and there’s something for everyone.
  • Simon Pearce – fancy birthday dinner was amazing, with delicious locally-sourced food, great service, a long wine list, and atmosphere galore. Low lit candles bouncing off copious amounts of glass and windows that opened out to the roaring falls.

Woodstock

The head of the parade as it entered downtown

Woodstock’s downtown is a cute, compact and very walkable retail space. The merchants had sidewalk sales and the streets were crowded with visitors, some wearing masks, some not. We got to watch a very brief parade as well. There were some really great shops, so if retail therapy is your thing, this is a good day trip. We went into so many that I don’t recall all the names. But here are two that we liked:

  • Yankee Bookshop – very well stocked with the latest titles, and interesting catalog and bookish sidelines.
  • Who is Sylvia – a vintage clothing shop that Dan’s friend Jess runs. She was there and we got to visit a bit too.

Raptors and forest walk

Neither of us had been to VINS before, so decided to check it out. It is a nature center with trails, a raptor rehabilitation center and a canopy walk, all of which incorporates sculptural art pieces and informative signage. I learned a bunch.

I have mixed feelings about zoos because I don’t believe that animals should be kept in cages for our enjoyment, but I do also appreciate being able to learn about the natural world this way. 🤷🏻‍♀️ For this reason, I approached the raptor enclosure with some trepidation.

There, I got to see birds up close that I would never have seen in the wild (I’m not much of a birder) and learn about each species. There were owls, falcons, turkey vultures, and eagles. Each bird had a story that told why it was housed there. All of them were too injured to release into the wild, and most had injuries that were caused by human interference: car accident or shotgun.

As cliche as it sounds, the bald eagles were stunning up close. I left with a greater appreciation of the raptor enclosure because of the wildlife rehabilitation.

What we really came to experience though was the forest canopy walk. This is an elevated series of wooden paths about 50 feet above the forest floor. It felt safe, even for someone with some height anxiety like me.

I appreciate how much art is incorporated into the entire nature center experience, which is carried through into this area as well, with a couple giant metal bird sculptures. We skipped climbing the treehouse because they were limiting the number of people at a time and there was a long line of mostly kids waiting to enter. There will be a next time. after descending, we walked along some trails.

✨✨✨

We did other things too, of course: played games, read, walked the town center, went to the antiques mall, and looked out over the gorge. There was, quite surprisingly, lots of ways to fill the time.

There was a full moon that weekend. We were on holiday, and we needed this kind of slowdown where we could be away from the news and be in nature together. It was not a bad way to turn 45.

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