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Destination: Vermont

By Arts & Culture Editor Joan Kirschner

Our quick two-day road trip to Middlebury, Vermont to view the April 8th total solar eclipse was something that for many of us over 60 may have been a once-in-a-lifetime occasion – the next one won’t arrive until 2044.

But maybe more importantly, it was not just an opportunity to take in a stunning astronomical sight, but also a glimpse, however brief, of how strangers can come together peacefully and joyfully to enjoy a common experience. At our hotel (a modest but entirely adequate Comfort Inn in Brattleboro), and at meals, all talk was an excited, but low-key, exchange about the eclipse.

Wary of potentially cold early April weather and the infamous Vermont mud season, we came armed with a carful of coats, boots, and blankets, along with folding chairs, but the weather gods were on our side, and we found a sun-warmed stone wall in a small Middlebury park where we could picnic while awaiting the big event.

Our co-watchers sat on the park’s benches, joined us on “our” wall, or brought chairs. There was a low hum of conversation, and a general air of expectation, like waiting for the bride to walk down the aisle at a wedding. A town policeman did rounds, but everyone was there to enjoy. When the moon fully covered the sun, and the sun’s corona appeared, there was a round of clapping and cheers, and then everyone gathered their gear and returned to their homes or cars. 

Middlebury turned out to be an ideal viewing site. Its scenic location well off the interstates made it congenial not crowded, and as an upscale college town (home to Middlebury College and its renowned Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences), there were attractive shops, galleries, and eating places, the majority of which closed during the event so their staff could have an eclipse experience.

Middlebury lies in western central Vermont, not far from the lower end of Lake Champlain. US Rt. 7 runs through it; driving north takes you to the much larger Burlington, and from there it’s roughly 100 miles to Montreal, but Middlebury could be the culmination of an extended weekend or week on the road through the towns of this beautiful mountain-fringed area.

Coming from the Boston area west along MA Route 2, you can enjoy the scenic pleasures of The Mohawk Trail, with potential stops around Deerfield, in North Adams, home of MASS MoCA, and at Williamstown, the top of the Berkshires at the junction of Routes 2 and 7, visit the Clark art museum and Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Continue north on Rt. 7 to Bennington, VT to view the works of Grandmom Moses and more at the Bennington Museum. For breakfast or lunch, check out the Blue Benn Diner.

Drive on to Manchester, a mostly upscale ski country destination, and tour Hildene, once the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s only child to reach adulthood. For a high-end experience, stay at the Equinox.

Rutland is a commercial hub – if you need anything from a chain or big box stores, they’re all clustered along Rt. 7, with more eclectic offerings in the historic downtown (watch for signs). Killington ski area is about 10 miles east.

Brandon village is roughly halfway between Rutland and Middlebury, with an artsy vibe and several dining options.

Once in Middlebury, there are art venues and cultural events to explore. Middlebury has several traditional inns and more contemporary accommodations. Once you’re ready to head home, retrace your route, or from Rutland, head east on Rt. 4 and then connect with I-91 or I-89 and onward towards Boston.

Joan Kirschner is a Boston area writer/blogger who reviews books, museum exhibitions, theater, film, music, and travel experiences. Her commentary previously appeared on SonsiWoman.com, UllaPopken.com, WomenofGloucesterCounty.com, Trazzler.com, and IndieReader.com. She attributes a lifelong love of reading and cultural events to parents who encouraged her interests early on. Joan began as a retail and mail order catalog copywriter when typewriters, carbon paper, X-Acto knives, and hot glue were found in advertising offices everywhere. She advanced through the ranks and changes in technology, eventually taking on corporate communications, social media, and digital advertising and promotion. She managed and mentored younger writers, acquired skills in art direction, and had responsibility for print and digital communications reaching millions of customers. Surrounded by the babble of languages in Manhattan and Brooklyn and sympathizing with the challenges of non-English speakers, she earned a certificate in the Teaching of English as Second Language (TESOL) and began teaching and tutoring adults and college students. Joan now works part-time in grants administration, freelances occasionally, and covers books and the arts at No Shortage of Words.

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Susan Pombrio
Susan Pombrio
28 days ago

I love exploring the covered bridges in Vermont.

deborah a cushman
deborah a cushman
28 days ago

Makes me want to jump in the car!

Trish Garnett
Trish Garnett
28 days ago

What a wonderful experience you described! I have little experience wandering in Vermont so I thank you for all the suggestions.

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