Friday, August 17, 2007
Booking in Central Vermont
Taking advantage of some maternal babysitting, Dan and I headed off for a romantic 48-hour trip to Montpelier, Vermont. Both of us had never been there before and we love country drives, book hunting and small cities, so this turned out to be a very relaxing and interesting trip. As summer vacation-weary parents, we are also counting down the days until school starts, so it was a much-needed break.
We drove small highways into Montpelier, the Vermont state capital, which has a lovely gold-domed capitol building featuring lots of Vermont granite and marble and topped with a statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. There were lots of young folks playing frisbee, reading and basking in the sun on the Capitol lawns and we joined them the next day to loll about with our books. But the first order of the day was to scout the bookstores and find some lunch. We first stopped at Bear Pond Books, (77 Main Street) an indie new book store with lots of unusual titles and a great children's section upstairs. Got a couple of great books, including a remaindered copy of Steven Almond's "Candyfreak" which I have been coveting and a hardcover of Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord" for the kids (alright, for myself). We then headed across the street to Rivendell Books (100 Main Street), a used book store with lots of new remaindered titles. Rivendell Books has the added attraction of Veruca, the resident tortoise, whom I almost stepped on while in my book trance. Dan secured a copy of a book about building with green wood which he had long been searching for.
Feeling faint from our biblio-exertions, we needed some lunch, so after a walk around the funky downtown we decided upon Rhapsody Natural Foods, which was so good we ate there the next night. The place is painted a vibrant orange with art and photographs along the walls and features a self-serve buffet of cold, hot and sushi delights.
Thus fortified, we were about to prowl around the local paperback exchange shop, where I got the delightful Modern Library reprint of "Clementine's Kitchen", by Phineas Beck (aka Samuel Chamberlain) which recounts the World War II era meals prepared for the Chamberlain family by their Burgundian cook, Clementine, in France and then in the U.S. after the war broke out. A delightful little book that I devoured later that evening, glass of Chablis in hand.
We strolled around some more in this lovely college town and checked out another great new and used bookshop, The Book Garden, (50 State Street)where we picked up a few local history titles and chatted with the lively owner about nutrition (she's a devotee of lacto-fermentation) and things bookish. Next on our list was the radical and scholarly books offered by the volunteer workers' collective Black Sheep Books, (4 Langdon Street) which was unfortunately closed on Monday. We did manage to squeeze one more book buying stop in that day as our eyes caught the sign for an indoor flea market at Beavin and Son's Custom Printing (100 Gallison Hill), (with an eBay business in the upstairs). I was pleased to scoop up a hardcover copy of Brian Jacques' "Redwall", as an upgrade to my battered paperback and some other art and history titles.
Tired but biblio-victorious, we settled into The Capitol Plaza hotel, which was a nice, clean, family-run hotel located directly across from the town's movie theatre and unfortunately also across from the City courthouse with its hourly chiming of the clocks. However, we loved the Plaza porch and settled there for a drink and people watching both evenings.
On the advice of Pat from The Book Garden, we headed out to Plainfield, Vermont, home of Goddard College, to check out The Country Bookshop, (35 Mill Street) a great labyrinth of books surrounded by beautiful gardens. Lots of funky signage, good complimentary coffee and an interesting selection of books in just about every category. Interestingly, the shop specializes in folklore and books about bells and carillons. I got some Adirondack material and an interesting book about jazz from the 1930s. Next, we headed south to Barre, an historic granite sculpting and quarrying town, where we scrounged for books in the local thrift shop, including the major score of the day, Christopher Moore's "Practical Demonkeeping", which was missing from our collection) and scooped up some Vermont-made goodies at L.A.C.E., a downtown grocery, cafe, community space started up by the late and fantastic Warren Zevon's daughter, Ariel.
Heading west back to Montpelier, we ended up stopping at the cool ReStore (186 River Street) that recycles various business leftovers for people to buy and reuse. I got some homemade paper scraps to forge into bookmarks and Dan acquired some big plastic tubs to add to his collection of big plastic tubs. Oy. Then, we had a grand lunch feast at Finkerman's Barbeque Restaurant at 188 River Street, with pulled pork, fried trout, sauteed kale and blues music on the stereo.
Another round of drinks and reading on our hotel porch ensued as we digested our fabulous lunch and then we walked around downtown Montpelier again, ending up with another great round of chow at Rhapsody Natural Foods.
All in all, a very enjoyable trip to this eclectic and picturesque college town. The people are friendly and smart, the food is fresh and good, and there are plenty of book hunting opportunities all around.