Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Capital Exploration

We were getting cabin fever in the hotel this morning. One of the vans was gone to a fly-fishing excursion, and the other one took the just-arrived members to the Teddy Bear Factory. I had been Googling various local things down in the lobby, when the idea struck me to take a roadtrip to Vermont's capital, Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the nation. We had been as close as 15 minutes from it when we made the turnoff to Ben & Jerry's on several occasions, but none of us had ever been there, so it seemed like fun.

And fun it was. As we entered town off the freeway, the gold dome of the State House rose up over the horizon. I had read that the whole city center could be visited in a ten-minute walk, so we found a place to park. (Parking was also very different; instead of meters, there was a single machine in each lot which sold permits. You picked the amount of time you wanted to park--a quarter would buy 43 minutes--and fed the machine, which printed out a ticket that was placed on the dashboard.)

As we once again reveled in the architecture, taking all kinds of pictures in the process, our first stop was the State House, which has been around since 1859 (two previous houses, the second of which was on the same site, having been built in 1808 and 1838. Though guided tours are available, there was no charge to go in and look around ourselves. The state legislature just finished their session recently, so we were able to get a good look at their ornate chambers. Photos will definitely be posted here when I get back.

After our self-guided tour, we stopped for lunch at the Coffee Corner just down the street; it's another of the many charming old diners with delicious food and friendly service, where breakfast is served all day. I had a sandwich of "Montreal smoked meat" and a local Cabot cheddar cheese, along with a bowl of seafood chowder, and it was all amazingly good.

We walked around some more, checking out the architecture as we went, and then we took old U.S. Route 2 back to Burlington to catch more of the scenery. It was a great afternoon; I'm really glad we decided to go.

(Incidentally, many of the places we've visited in the past few days are profiled on this site.)

Fun Fact #1: Montpelier is the only state capital in the U.S. that does not have a McDonald's within its city limits.

Fun Fact #2: Vermont is one of only a handful of states that don't have an official "Governor's Mansion," so they use a special room at the State House for entertaining guests.

Discussion question of the day: Who originally decided, way back in the day, that all barns should be painted red?

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