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Olympic Dreams – part 2 of 2

18 Jul

Our Olympic adventures continued with a visit to the Whiteface Mountain Gondola.  For $17 each, we got a 15-minute ride up to the base of Little Whiteface Mountain (and down, of course!).

No idea why I look like I’m going to puke here.   I was  really having a good time at this point. The ride up scared me silly, but it was fine once we got to the top.

There are trails where you can hike around on top of the mountain. It’s just gorgeous! Unfortunately, it was pretty hazy that day and the visibility was limited.

The Swedish Hill Winery in the Finger Lakes region has an outpost just outside of Lake Placid. We stopped for a $2 tasting and each chose 8 wines to taste. They were all pretty sweet! We bought several bottles including a bottle of Doobie’s Jackass Red which I’m holding here.

After our little wine adventure, we headed to the Bobsled facility.

And I, of course, pretended that I won a gold medal!

We passed on the $75 bobsled ride, but checked out the ground and watched the bobsledders.

We also took a tour and learned all about luge, bobsled, and skeleton. The tour was a ride to the top of the track and we had the option to walk down the track. This was so darn cool!

While the Olympics were way back in 1980, Lake Placid is still a thriving winter athletic training community and it’s absolutely worth a weekend trip!


Olympic Dreams – part 1 of 2

13 Jul

A quick 2 hours from Albany is an Olympic wonderland known as Lake Placid. During my research I learned that Lake Placid has hosted the Olympics  in both 1932 and 1980. Neat!

I also learned that Lake Placid is both a lake and the name of the little village that sits alongside Mirror Lake.

I did quite a bit of hotel research because the hotels in Lake Placid are on the higher end (even for 2-star chains). We agreed on the Crown Plaza because it’s just a few steps away from the village. It has classic Adirondack decor in common areas and a  bar and restaurant area with a wonderful view of the mountains and Mirror Lake. It’s absolutely worth grabbing a drink here!

The hotel has a decent indoor pool and a huge party area in the high-ceiling pool area. There is also a very, very large outdoor patio just off the pool. Both of these areas would be perfect for a group gathering.

We also took advantage of the hotel’s private beach just minutes away from the hotel itself (they have a free shuttle or you can drive yourself). It’s a wonderful beach and there are row boats and paddle boats to use for free. There are also lots of lounge chairs for relaxing on the sand.

The only thing we didn’t like about the hotel staff was that the staff was more-than-rude several times. We just ignored those grumpy pants! The reviewers on Trip Advisor seemed to have the same experiences as us.

At the recommendation of a local (hubs talks to everyone!), we went to The Cottage for a cocktail and a snack. Loved it!

The cottage is right on Mirror Lake and we sat on the very nice patio. The server was a sweetheart and took great care of us.

We had some yummy nachos and I feel in deep lust with this maple martini. MAPLE MARTINI! Plus look at the chic way that it’s served in a stemless glass with an accompanying ice-filled holder and a little glass vial for refills. Deep, deep lust.

People on Yelp like The Cottage, too.

The Lake Placid village is a very quaint little town with lots of shops and restaurants. It’s unfortunate, however, that there are some outlet stores mixed in.

Just across the street from the classic downtown movie theater is a big town park on Mirror Lake. I grabbed coffee and sat down here for a while. I’d love to be down there when there’s a concert on this stage.

This guy came up to see if I had any snacks to share. Unfortunately, I didn’t and he quickly waddled away.

This adorable canine was waiting for his owner outside of Starbucks…no leash. Wow!

In a post coming up very soon, I’ll share our Olympic adventures with you!

Don’t Tread on Vermont – part 2 of 2

21 Jun

After our stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory (read all about it here), we continued the Vermont adventure.

A quick stop at the Ziemke Glassblowing Studio in Waterbury was next. There is a store stocked full of your standard blown glass. We bought a cobalt blue glass globe that’s now hanging above the kitchen sink.

There’s also an area where you can watch the glassblowers work which was really neat. This fun chalkboard drawing explains how it’s all done.

A sign for wine tasting lured us into the Cold Hollow Cider Mill also in Waterbury. There is a cider pressing observation area where you can watch an old-fashioned hydraulic apple press from the 1920’s do it’s thing (or you could take a nap…it’s about the same excitement level).

I quite enjoyed sampling the cider right out of the barrel though. We tried the cider donuts (don’t save up calories to splurge here) and bought some apple butter and habanero jelly (both made in Vermont, of course).

Yes, we did the wine tasting. It seemed like a bargain at $1 per person until we tasted the wines. I ended up with a bottle of Montgomery Cherry wine anyway.

One final stop in the Waterbury area was at the Cabot cheese store. The sampling area was insane and we did our best to politely shove our way to the delightful dairy treats. We picked up with a nice organic baguette from a local bakery and a chunk of spicy cheese and headed to our hotel.

We stayed in a typical B&B. Nothing worthwhile to note about that.

The highlight of the trip for me was going to Burlington for dinner. I had no idea that this was such a great little town! We followed the advice of all the travel reviewers and went to American Flatbread for dinner.

They have a funky little alley with outside seating and a back patio area where a local band was playing. All sorts of little earthy kids and their hippie parents were dancing. Simply charming!

Oh and the food was good! The tamari ginger salad dressing was probably the highlight. Yum!

When walking around downtown after dinner, we stumbled upon a four-block stretch of Church Street that is fantastic. Only pedestrian traffic is allowed and the street is lined with restaurants, outdoor cafes, and shops. There happened to be a the annual Jazz Festival going on at the time so stages and music were sprinkled throughout.

I want to go back to Burlington for a whole weekend!

Ok so on day two of our adventure we drove through the capital of Montpelier. It was a good thing that neither of us blinked because we would have missed it. Despite it’s tiny stature, it’s neat and funky. Plus did you know that Montpelier is the only state capital to not have a McDonalds?  You go, Vermonters!

We ran across a flea market at the Quechee Gorge Village in Quechee. I scored some jewelry…yes!

There were also vintage amusements including this carousel, pig, and horse. I HAD to try ’em!

The Quechee Gorge is a stunning natural phenomenon that just can’t be justly captured by a photo. It plunges 165 feet into the Ottauquechee River. Odd thing is that it’s best observed right off the main Highway 4 on a narrow bridge. Watch out for speeding traffic!

If you’re in the market for an $800 glass lamp or just want to check out how that lamp was made, stop by Simon Pearce in Quechee. You can talk with the glassblowers doing their thing and then check out this waterfall that provides hydropower to the building. Pretty cool! Next time we go back I’d like to eat at the Simon Pearce restaurant. It looked wonderful and the dining room overlooks the waterfall.

My conclusion on a Vermont is that it is a fun weekend trip for taking in all kinds of small little finds along the way. It’s perfect for meandering!

Don’t expect to get your socks blown off with any major tourist attractions in the summer (remember that the most popular site is the Ben & Jerry’s factory). However, the winter scene is quite vibrant with the skiing options, so perhaps I’ll go back in a few months to check that out. Killington or bust!

Don’t Tread on Vermont – part 1 of 2

20 Jun

As I understand, a lament of long-time Upstaters is that the area is hailed as “close to many great sights.” I don’t think that adage is necessarily taking away from the great places in Upstate, but it’s rather another benefit to the area.

I experienced that myself when hubs and I did a whirlwind tour of Vermont. We left on a Saturday morning and returned on Sunday afternoon. It was a quick little jaunt, yet it felt like just the right amount of time for an introductory course.

The library is a fantastic place to do pre-trip research. I checked out a book on Vermont and started to loosely plot our course. I learned that the #1 tourist attraction in Vermont is the Ben & Jerry’s Factory, so that was the first stop on our adventure.

Located in Waterbury, VT, it took us approximately 3 hours from Albany to get to the B&J Factory.

The entire factory area that we saw was very much “in brand” with the recognizable colors, images, font, and general whimsey everywhere.

We paid the $3 fee each and took a tour of the working factory. We saw a 10 minute video on the history of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and hubs wondered why only that single photo of Ben and Jerry themselves is used. It is odd. Anyway, we were then brought onto a tall observation deck and saw the ice cream production area. It was spotless and looked like a standard food factory.

I wasn’t allowed to take any photos during the tour, but hubs snapped one when I was enjoying the sample at the end of the 30 minute adventure. The sample was Boston Cream pie which I wasn’t crazy about. So we bought a cone at the on-site Scoop Shop, too.

The factory grounds are very cute. We tried to get into this bus er…cowmobile, but it was locked.

There is a nice playground for kids (y’know, to work off the energy from all that sugar!) and just beyond the playground is the “Flavor Graveyard.” This little park area is set up with tombstones for the flavors that have been retired. Each tombstone has a quirky little phrase on it that’s quite clever. My favorite is below.

I recommend a stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory, but think you could get the bulk of the experience by skipping the tour and just getting some ice cream and walking around yourself. The gift shop is also amusing and has all the standard fare including t-shirts, ice cream scoops, pencils, etc.  Interestingly, the gift shop sold bags of the fudge fish from Phish Food…I was tempted, but resisted!

Click here for the second post about our Vermont adventure!