We planned to leave Burlington slightly earlier yesterday so that we could give ourselves enough time to find a nicer place for accommodation for the next 2 nights. We were concerned that given today is 4 July (Independence Day) we may struggle to find accommodation. We headed to NE Vermont which is described as the ‘Northeast Kingdom’ (named by Governor George Aiken in 1940s because he just loved the area and its people and he was a politician and I am sure it helped get their votes too!). Our plan was to go to Lake Willoughby and a town called Westmore as there seemed to be plenty of accommodation options on the lake.
On route we passed the original Ben & Jerry’s factory (at Waterbury) and so we had to stop. It was tea time and so we felt ice cream at tea time was appropriate. They do a factory tour but we noticed that while the tour was operating, the factory itself wasn’t producing yesterday so we decided to give it a skip and rather just eat the ice cream. They have a flavour graveyard where all the ‘retired’ flavours have gravestones and a little poem explaining why they are no longer in existence. It was a fun little interlude on our journey north.
When we arrived (around midday), we drove through the town once before deciding on our order of preference to check accommodation. S then went in and asked about availability. He did that for 4 or 5 places but unfortunately none of them had availability. C had found online a motel in a town called Island Pond called Lakefront Inn & Motel and so we decided to call them and check availability. While H was doing that, K spotted a black bear in the forest area and it had 2 cubs with it as well. We discovered later that it is not common to see bears and so we really were happy to have seen them (unfortunately no photos though as they were too far in the wooded area and were quite shy). H did get us accommodation though and that is how we ended up in Island Pond.
H described the town as a ‘frontier’ town and it really does look like that. The motel is on the lake (Island Pond though it really isn’t a pond!) and it has it’s own jetty. C was first into the water (though it is pretty cold in my view). They (SMC) bought tubes from the Dollar store and they all just floated around the lake for a good part of the afternoon. The rest of us sat on the shore sunbathing (or least the 3 other ladies did that).
There is only one restaurant in the town so we headed there for dinner but when we went in there was already a line of people waiting. So we decided to go to Westmore where we had seen another restaurant at one of the places we wanted to stay called Gil’s Bar and Grill. We decided to call to see if they had space (as it is about 20 minutes drive partly on gravel roads) and fortunately they did. It was so good a dinner that we asked midway through dinner whether we could book again for tonight. Our waitress was from the area and she told us where we should go today (and we are planning to do that). It was also from her that we discovered that bear sightings are not that common and moose sightings even less so. We even ended up engaging with the chef on moose sightings in the end. The food was also very good (I had scallops and they might have been the best I have ever had).
It really has struck us (again) that Americans are very service orientated. They really do make an effort and come across as friendly and helpful. For example, even when we couldn’t get accommodation at some of the places they were quick to offer some other suggestions for us to try. Even the deli (where I went to buy coffee this AM) has this service mentality. The guy making the bagels this morning noticed I was waiting at cashier to pay and he just stopped doing what he was doing to ensure I didn’t have to wait for the cashier to return. In SA you would have just had to wait
The weather is pretty mild at the moment. The evening and early morning (I have already been out for coffee this AM) are cool (currently 16 C) but during the day it gets up to high 20s (and today it is meant to get to 30 C). It is a lot cooler and less humid than NY and a lot more pleasant.
P, H (for phoning for accommodation and dinner), S (for going in so many times to ask including a walk down and up a steep slope for one of them), K (because she should have been higher yesterday and I forgot about it and for spotting the black bears – she can come to a game park with us for her spotting skills), C (for finding the accommodation online), M (for navigating) and O. (There was a lot of argument in the car yesterday about the order for today because everyone … except one … felt they had done something noteworthy!)