POD PLANET IV: Things can only get Better

Trip Start Sep 25, 2006
Trip End Nov 01, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Vermont
Friday, October 13, 2006

Our next stop is described by lonely planet as the "Switzerland of North America" and was the "cheese state" of Vermont. With the beautiful Green mountains, foliage, rivers and lakes it is really very pretty and could well be America's Switzerland. Our first stop was Vermont's biggest city, Burlington. Boasting a population of 40000 it was more like a small town and is probably as close to small town America we will get this trip. The city is nestled on the shores of Lake Champlain (a North America legend who founded French Canada), America's 6th largest lake. With the Adirondacks (in New York State) the background to this stunning lake when standing on the shore you really feel like you could be on the shores of Lake Geneva. The city was voted America's most livable in 1999, and has a pedestrian only mall in the city centre (one of the few in the USA). Vermont has somewhat of a relaxed feel to it and according to our taxi driver, this is why Australians like coming here. He asked us if we bought tins of Vegemite to get through the journey with us and we said we were going cold turkey. He then asked us if we know when everyone in America first heard of Vegemite and I answered, "Men at work - Down Under", 1982. Of course I was right but it helped I was living here at the time!

The entire point of coming to Vermont for me was to check out a little known Trivia fact. Montpelier, the capital city, is the smallest provincial US state capital, boasting of population of only 9000. It is also the only US state capital city that doesn't have a McDonald's. Intrigued by this, and used by myself as a true/false question at trivia nights, it was imperative that I come here and verify for myself that this town did not have a McDonald's. I signed Allan and myself up for some day tours of the area and Montpelier was the first place we visited. After being told a whole pile of useless trivia on the town we were then proudly told that this town did not have a McDonald's and was the only provincial capital to do so. A drive through the town proved that this was in fact correct and that it also did not have a KFC, Burger King and many other American chains. Though it did have a Subway and Quinos Sub. I can now leave here content and anyone foolish enough to challenge this fact at a trivia night will look mightily stupid.

The highlight of our tour, that was lacking many such things, was a trip to a Maple Syrup Farm. Here we saw first hand how Maple Syrup was made and how Americans have taken Maple Syrup to levels that most Australians could never come up with. We tasted Maple Ice Cream, Maple chocolate, Maple Cookies and Maple flavoured popcorn. There is also Maple Salami, Maple cheese and anything else you can think of with Maple flavouring. We then got given something called "Sugar on Ice". You receive a plate of ice and a cup of hot maple syrup  and the plan is to gently lay the syrup over the ice. You massage the syrup along the ice and it eventually becomes a ball and you eat it. Effectively its solidified sugar and its really sweet and yummy. Allan (the dentist) thinks he needs a checkup after eating it. Along with this we got free coffee and donuts. Our tour driver advised that another delicacy is to dip the donut into the maple syrup. This was much nicer then the "sugar on ice" and took donut eating to the next level. He then tells me about these "apple cider donuts" that you can get that are heavenly when dipped into maple syrup. Becoming jealous, because I'd never had apple cider donuts (as if everyone else in the world eats them every day), he inquires as to the donut situation in Australia. I tell him how sad the scene is down under in donut challenged Australia and that the donuts here are stacks better then anything we get there. He felt sorry for us. Of course he is probably 50 kilos overweight but I'm sure he enjoyed getting to that point.

Known as the Green Mountain state, Vermont's name evolved from the French, Vert meaning green and Mont meaning mountain. It's biggest movie exports are "Me, Myself and Irene", a dreadful movie starring Jim Carey that not even the lovely Renee Zwelleger could save. It was also the setting for "What Lie's Beneath" a movie Harrison Ford couldn't bring back from the dead. It's most important TV export is the "Bob Newhart show", a show set in a Vermont Inn. The show ran from 1972-1978 and was "quirky funny" insofar as American humour goes. I was quite a big fan of the show so you can imagine my excitement at being taken to the Inn that was used for the outdoor shots. The show won an award for best TV show set in a Vermont Inn but sadly since the show finished we heard the last of Bob Newhart.

The problem with Vermont is that there really isn't much to see other then all things green but the locals think its the best state in America. Tree's can only keep you entertained for 10 mins at the most and the best the tours could manage were trips to a quarry, a maritime museum, a cemetery, some glorified lunches and alot of talk about the war of 1812 that really isn't all that xciting. The locals speak as if they're either half asleep or half dead. Allan thinks they're half dead because it takes them 5 minutes to complete a sentence. People have been surprised we're Australian and many people have asked us what bought us here. Its difficult for them to comprehend we're only passing through as they all think we came especially to visit Vermont. This guy in the service station told us how much he loved Australians and where we could buy meat pies and Vegemite. Our tour driver had a case of excessive verbal diarrhoea (no doubt what some of you think of my emails), and couldn't go 30 seconds without saying something about Vermont. He either went on about how great that restaurant was that we just went past, bridges, moose, bison, his son, his late wife, scuba diving, asked questions on Australia or it was his 1 hour explanation on the effect of "Zebra Muscles" on the American eco system.

A potential highlight of the trip was seeing a live ice hockey game between 2 University teams. We made our way to the ring and ran into this local couple who showed us the way. They asked if we were from the northeast (I thought we were in the northeast!) and when I said we were Australian the wife said, "Oh my god - are you lost?!". We said we just wanted to see the game but this of course was sold out. We waited around hoping to buy a ticket off someone but had no luck. This was particularly disappointing cos Allan thought he might meet a girl at the hockey. Depressed we then headed to Vermont's biggest mall. This was also disappointing as there were no supermarkets or cinemas and we browsed our Sat night away in bookshops. We didn't even make it to the state's #1 tourist attraction, Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Everyone eats it here and are so surprised when we tell them we've never heard of it. I'm not a great fan of ice cream so I didn't bother tasting it.
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