Back from Manchester (but which one?)

No, not that one! Not Manchester, New Hampshire.

Not Massachusetts. (Oh, you’re right, that one is now “Manchester by the Sea.“)

Not Connecticut. Does every state around here have its own Manchester?

Not even Manchester, England. (Or do I mean “Manchester, England, England”? Nah, most of my readers are much too young to recognize that quote.)

We’re talking Manchester, Vermont, of course! Barbara and I just got back from a relaxing mini-vacation there (four days, three nights). Usually I like to do things on a vacation, since I’m not good at doing nothing, but this time it was a real vacation. If you haven’t been to Vermont, here’s what it’s like, according to the state tourism folks:

But it turns out that it’s not just farm animals. There are people there as well (and not just Bernie). We visited our old friends, Herb and Cathy, who have disproved another stereotype: the idea that it’s too cold in Vermont to grow peaches! Their peach tree has produced an abundant supply of delicious fruit.

Speaking of food, we decided to make this a luxury vacation since it was so short. So we indulged in fine dining every night. All our dinners were outstanding:

  • Bistro Henry (in Manchester), where chef-owner Henry Bronson responded to my tree-nut allergy by coming out to assure me that the duck I was eating had never been in a tree. (I pointed out, however, that ducks can fly, so you never know.)
  • The Victorian Inn (in Wallingford), owned by a Swiss and Thai couple.
  • The Silver Fork (in Manchester), a tiny place with six tables plus six seats at the bar. We were very lucky to be able to grab a reservation for two seats at the bar — only because of a last-minute cancelation.

All three, as I said, provided outstanding dinners; all three were eclectic, with food from various locations around the world where the respective chefs had lived; all three were welcoming and gracious. This was exactly what we needed for a mini-vacation!

The other factor that turned these four days into a luxury experience was the inn where we stayed: the Reluctant Panther. Let’s start with some views of the beautiful grounds:

You probably can’t tell from the small image, but the bridge on the right is painted purple! In fact, there were purple accents everywhere, including wood trim and shutters.

And now let’s head inside.

We stayed in the appropriately named “Pond View Suite,” which indeed had a view of the pond and was even (sort of) a suite. I say “sort of” because it consisted of a gigantic room split by a five-foot-high divider into a bedroom area and a living-room area.

Here you can see the divider and both areas. You notice that there is a working fireplace in the middle of the divider — not that we needed it in August! — open to both the bedroom and the living room.

Like everything in this inn, the bedroom area of the suite was beautiful, including a high four-poster king-size bed. Getting into bed was a trick and half for us short people, although the inn provided “doggie stairs” that were very helpful. Needless to say, the bedding, pillows, etc., were all first-rate.

Unfortunately there was no vantage point that allowed for a shot of the entire living room area, but here you can see most of it: comfortable chairs, a sofa, a coffee table, and windows high enough so that nobody could see in. (The windows on the other side were floor-to-ceiling, overviewing the eponymous pond view; heavy curtains provided privacy when needed.) The part you can’t see also included a large round table with a couple of chairs, and a small coffee area with a Keurig machine. There was no fridge in the room! (That wouldn’t be classy enough, I guess.)

After all that, you would expect a more-than-ordinary bathroom, and you wouldn’t be disappointed, as it included a Jacuzzi — and another working fireplace!

To top off this experience, a full American breakfast was included in the inn’s lovely dining room, with ten excellent choices including eggs Benedict and a different omelet each day. One day I had the bacon, caramelized onion, and Vermont cheddar omelet that was on offer. (Apparently it’s de rigueur to specify “Vermont” cheddar, not that we would have expected anything else.)

OK, enough of all this extravagance. Although our room for three nights, plus our three dinners, ended up costing as much as we would normally spend on six of each, we rationalized it by realizing that it was our only real vacation this summer — and the total cost wouldn’t be any more than we would usually spend on a six-day vacation.

A few more observations:

  • We had a great time at the Bennington Museum, which taught us that our understanding of Grandma Moses was all wrong, as we had bought into the popular myth about her. (Check it out for yourself!) We also saw an amazing 1924 automobile in perfect condition, a Martin Wasp:
    This photo of Bennington Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor
  • We tried to drive to the top of Mt. Equinox on the Scenic Drive, but we were foiled by a car race that had closed off the drive both times we tried!
  • We highly recommend the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, the largest independent book store in New England. You don’t have to get your books from Amazon.
  • When I wrote above about our dinners, I totally ignored our lunches, because they were generally uneventful. But I highly recommend Zoey’s Deli, which appears to be an ordinary lunch spot but turned out to be much better than that.
  • We tried to see Buyer and Cellar at the Weston Playhouse, but it was sold out, at least for the Saturday matinee. The moral is…


Categories: Food & Restaurants, Travel