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Trip Report Notes on a week spent on the East Coast

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We went to NYC and Vermont at the end of October for family business in NYC and adding a long weekend in Vermont. Our usual free accommodations were not available at the beginning of the trip and we had to stay in a hotel for our one night there.

After much searching, we chose the Carlton Arms Hotel on 25th St. and Third Ave. The price was right, but their web site warns that it is a very funky place. If I remember its history correctly, it was a flop house that became a crack house which was cleaned up and turned into a cheap hotel frequented by Europeans. We would have preferred a room with bath, but one month before our departure the only rooms available were with the bathroom down the hall. We took it for one night. To get an idea of what rooms look like, look at the hotel listing on Fodors, specify the listing by price and the Carlton Arms will be the first one listed. We had a room that was decorated in a kindergarten style. It had a standard double bed, a desk with a kindergarten chair, a blackboard (and chalk for comments), and children's art work on one wall, like in a classroom. No chest of drawers or armoire, some pegs on the wall and door, so that one has to live out of the suitcase. The only problem is that there is an AC unit in the window, which means that it is not completely sealed and there is considerable noise from Third Ave. traffic. I suspect that the room is more comfortable in that respect in the summer when the AC provides some blocking of the traffic noise. The floors may tilt in one direction or another, but the place was spotless. The price quoted via e-mail is the total price (European style), with no surprises about hotel taxes and sales taxes and whatever other fees can be added to the bill. We paid $89. It is well located. The Lexington Ave. line is a few blocks away on 28th St. and Madison Ave. Starting at 28th St. and Lexington Ave. there is one Indian restaurant after another. If I did not have free housing in NYC, as I do under normal circumstances, I would stay there, but in a room with bath, and I would try to have a room that does not face Third Ave.

We had reserved a car for our travels to Vermont. The cheapest rate we found was with Thrifty. Expedia and the other brokers simply could not match the price, nor could the rental companies themselves. We asked for a sub-compact and got a Chrysler Stratus. The tank was empty and they gave us credit on the extra gas when we returned the car. We paid for a weekly rental even though we would have the car for 4 or 5 days. We marked down on a form the scratches and bumps we found, signed it, kept a copy, and we were on our way. Up the West Side highway to the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Saw Mill River Parkway to the Taconic. We got off at Hillsdale where we had an absolutely forgettable lunch.

From Hillsdale we went to Bennington. Stopped there to find a store with Bennington pottery. We found it but did not like the present styles. We then went to the Bennington museum which has a nice collection of old Vermont furniture, a collection and the history of pottery in the Bennington area, an extensive glass collection and a Grandma Moses wing which we did not visit. We took Rte. 7 to Manchester, not realizing that in the last 30 years the road system was upgraded and that we should have taken 7a to go through the small towns. But the road is nonetheless quite scenic, with nice views of the mountains sprinkled with snow. From Manchester we went to Chester where we had free housing in a friend's country house, which is why I will not talk about accommodations for this weekend.

I needed some solid shoes to use in snow country and on camping trips. I left my good pair in some hotel in Hungary. We also wanted to go to the Dansk outlet because the one in Berkeley is closed. On our way to Manchester we stopped in Weston. The town green looks nice, but would look better if the maples still had their leaves. We were about 2 weeks late for the high color season. The famous country store is now predominantly a tourist attraption. It used to be a country store with some local tourist items, now it is a tourist items outlet with some country store counters. There were no cars in the street of the town, and we discovered that the store has a large parking lot in the back for all the cars and tour buses. Manchester has outlets along the road between Manchester Center and Manchester Village. No luck for the shoes, and the Dansk outlet was gone. Found shoes at the "sale" price in SF a couple of weeks later. But we did have a worthwhile visit to Todd Lincoln's homestead, Hildene (p. 221, Fodor's).

The next day we toured the area defined by Fodor's as Southern Vermont, going to the small picturesque towns such as Grafton, Townshend, Newfane, and also to Brattleboro. We meandered around. The first stop was Grafton where we purchased some 6 year old cheddar (highly recommended, although expensive). We walked around the town which has been restored thanks to the Windham Foundation. We really liked the town green in Townshend even though it was not photographically appealing when we were there: the maples had lost all their leaves and rolls of toilet papers had been tossed in the trees as garlands for Halloween. We went over to Jamaica to visit a house where we had stayed for a month 35 years ago. It turns out that the owner still lived there, so we had a nice visit, but it slowed down our touring. Then we went to Brattleboro and walked around the town. Finally we had dinner at the Four Column Inn in Newfane. This town also has a very nice green, although more formal than most.

For our final full day we went to Central Vermont, more specifically the area around Woodstock. The town is more substantial than Weston, Chester et al., and much more interesting. It has a wonderful public library that was recently rebuilt. The main room had been a single room going up to the rafters, and in the rebuilding they added two mezzanines in such a way that it does not detract from the interior architecture. It has a wonderful children's room in what used to be a dank basement, and the reading room has a fireplace, couches, a coffee machine; it could substitute for one's own living room. It is worth a visit to see how what was an originally impressive building can be improved. Strolling through the town, going in and out of the galleries and stores carrying local furniture, will easily use up the good part of an afternoon. We picnicked on the Green, but the sandwiches were forgettable, even though the store itself looked as though it should have good sandwiches. We also drove to Quechee to visit the Simon Pearce outlet, and then drove out the other direction of Woodstock to visit a furniture outlet. We took 100A back down towards Ludlow. It was dusk, but I noticed that we passed by some ponds that must have magnificent colors when the maples still have their fall colors; we were too late for that.

The next morning we left for NYC, going down Interstate 91 and eventually the Merritt Parkway.

Food: I mentioned the cheese company in Grafton, although its cheese is available in many tourist emporiums selling Vermont food products (cheese, jams, maple syrup, etc.) In Manchester we were directed to Al Ducci's for lunch. It's an Italian delicatessen where one can buy prepared foods and sandwiches, the latter made on good homemade bread. They have an eating area. The sandwiches are very good. We followed the Fodor's recommendation and ate at the Four Columns Inn in Newfane and do not regret it. The food was excellent. Reservations are a must when going there at the height of the colors which is their busiest season. In Chester there is an excellent bakery/café on the west side of town worthy of a visit for its food and architecture, and the hotel on the green (the biggest building) has decent food in a pleasant atmosphere. We had a pleasant lunch in the Swiss Hotel in Jamaica.

For those going to Vermont up Interstate 91 and intending to stay in a place where they can do their own cooking, I strongly recommend stopping in Brattleboro's Food Co-op on the way up. It's far better in quality than the standard supermarket we used in Manchester, even if its meat selection is more restricted. But it is pricier.

For photos of the trip, go to:

http://www.photoworks.com/share/shareLanding.jsp?shareCode=AF24762BF2F&cb=PW

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