Appreciating a restorative day trip while awaiting our second child
The famous song, “Moonlight in Vermont,” could set the stage for any couple planning a getaway in the Green Mountain State:
“As they travel each bend in the road /
People who meet in this romantic setting /
Are so hypnotized by the lovely /
Evening summer breeze”
For us, we traded that lovely evening summer breeze for a lovely autumn day. Although we certainly weren’t the only visitors during prime foliage season, still we felt far from the crowds. And with no lack of scenery along the way, our visit to Windsor County was an ideal and idyllic pick for our second babymoon. If you’d like to do the same, I’ve mapped out our perfect day:
First, choosing where to go
I was pregnant as we traveled from Helsinki, Finland through the Baltic countries to Warsaw, Poland earlier this year, and began to wonder whether that family adventure would also have to serve as an early babymoon. I’ve read that some experts suggest the right time for a babymoon is during the second trimester, when you’re often feeling good (or at least better than your first trimester!) and you’re not too close to your due date, but my second trimester came and went — with plenty of travels, but none only with Sean and none that allowed us to focus on our news.
(If you’re not yet sold on the idea of “mico-cations,” which I’d simply call a quick getaway or a short add-on, this essay in Travel + Leisure makes a strong case.)
But after choosing to settle for a while in Providence, Rhode Island, we coordinated with Sean’s parents north of Boston, knowing they would enjoy a weekend with their granddaughter. Although we thought about asking them to come down to us, we ultimately thought it would be easier if we came up to them, which then gave us a starting point for our potential getaway locations. Anybody who has spent time in New England knows how many beautiful destinations can be found across the states, and we were tempted by many of them. But we didn’t have weekday flexibility and the hotel rates were jaw-droppingly high. (Peak foliage season in New England, wow.) This pushed us toward a long day trip, rather than an overnighter, so we narrowed in on two Vermont destinations we’ve visited previously: Quechee and Woodstock.
Getting on the road
We set an alarm with an aggressively early start time, which allowed us some leeway to run late while still leaving on the early end. After a quick cuddle with Eliza and chance to say thanks again to Sean’s parents, we hit the road. An hour into the drive, Sean detoured onto back roads and we stopped for an apple-cider donut at a small shack as it was getting its morning deliveries. We then detoured slightly for a morning coffee and short walk around Concord, New Hampshire. Being in the car together was also part of the treat: having uninterrupted time to talk together about some of the topics that were on our minds, especially our baby’s name!
A delicious first destination
Another hour northwest of Concord, we pulled off Route 89 for our first intended destination: lunch at The Mill Restaurant at Simon Pearce. The restaurant sits above an active glassblowing studio and overlooks a covered bridge and one of the falls along the Ottauquechee River. The glassware shop opens at 10 a.m. daily, but the restaurant doesn’t open until 11:30 a.m. We arrived about 20 minutes early, which was thankfully just enough time to get one of the first seatings, since they don’t take reservations for lunch. And by the time we were seated, the line behind us extended out the front door.
There’s good reason: The starter soups were divine, and our shared plates of caramelized broccoli and zucchini pancakes left us without space for dessert. Still, we toasted to our future sleepless selves with mugs of piping hot mulled cider and watched as the river flowed beside us. After a delicious meal and great conversation, we browsed the shop and went downstairs to watch the glassblowing work and then crossed the street to Glenn Suokko’s gallery where we browsed a stunning array of his work on display — much of it evoking a feeling that’s peaceful and yet haunted.
After-brunch fun on a farm
We scoped out the long-standing and rather hard to find Sugarbush Farm next, also located in Quechee. We stepped out of our rental car only to be greeted with an outdoor maple-syrup tasting, being reminded of the difference between maple-syrup grades. (Here’s a primer if you don’t yet know the important distinctions and the qualities of each.) Talk about a saccharine start! (And yes, I mean that in the best of ways.)
Inside, there’s a room for cheese tasting and another room for tasting jams, salsas, and dipping sauces. An adjacent building produces maple sugar and serves as a makeshift museum to the process of maple-syrup production. Needless to say, we both sampled our bellies full while learning a few interesting tidbits. For instance, the older the cheese, the less lactose it typically has, generally speaking. Unlike many farms we’ve visited over the years that have polished themselves to be destinations in their own right, what was so refreshing about Sugarbush was how the family working there shared their own memories of growing up in the house that now held all of the tasting rooms, even reminiscing about where their furniture had been when they grew up in the living room that now has their sales counter.
We picked up a couple of micro-bottles of dark amber maple syrup for ourselves and as a gift to Sean’s parents, but I already wish we would’ve bought bigger bottles. I know Sean would have liked to have walked even more around the grounds together, but one of the special requirements of a babymoon is that there’s no need to do too much. Instead, we sat on wooden lawn chairs looking out at the changing leaves all around us (they have gorgeous views there) and felt rested.
Cozying up in Woodstock
Just a few minutes of a drive from Quechee is Woodstock, Vermont, which strikes a beautiful balance of being a destination town (for obvious reasons) and having a strong local community. We first stopped in for an unhurried coffee and hot chocolate at Mon Vert Cafe and sat upstairs on a love seat in a cozy loft area writing postcards. (Just because you’re only gone for a day doesn’t mean you can’t memorialize it with a postcard to your daughter and future child. You probably already know what big fans of sending postcards we are.)
We had all the time we needed and nowhere we needed to be, so simply enjoyed ourselves browsing the various shops and dwelling for a while at the 84-year-old Yankee Bookshop, daydreaming aloud of all the books to read and to write. We ended up at the Woodstock Inn, a charming spot in town that had absolutely no vacancy. Luckily, their fireplace and autumnal gourds were open to anybody who stepped inside. We waited only a few minutes for plush seats to open up across from the roaring fire. Sean ordered a seasonal beer and we cozied up with our books for a while and remembered what it was like to be able to read, uninterrupted and for fun, for more than a few-minute stretch.
Planning our unplanned dinner
As moonlight came to Vermont, we realized we were still quite full from our early lunch. But even if we weren’t yet hungry, we knew we needed to pick a place to go since restaurants tend to get busy during the high season and to close early (or, if not early, at least earlier than we’re used to; our years in New York City are hard to shake!).
I had read good reviews of the local Worthy Kitchen, a few miles out of town along the road leading back to the highway. And just as I mentioned this to Sean, a woman sitting near us tapped me on the shoulder and said she had eaten there the night before and thought it was great. Then, Sean overhead somebody else in the hotel entrance gathering a group to go there together, which caused us to immediately close our books and get on the way. We were lucky we went when we did, as there was a 45-minute wait when we arrived! But the line passed much faster and with a boisterousness that was entertaining in its own right, and televisions visible with college football updates to watch.
We went all in with an order of mac n’ cheese and a mushroom burger. We were eager for the french fries too, but were glad we asked if they were vegetarian because, surprisingly, they’re not: they’re cooked in beef tallow, so watch out if you’re a fellow veggie! But our order was more than sufficient in size and delicious all around, and the atmosphere was convivial and homey, and I only wished that we both could have enjoyed a couple pints before leaving.
Our full day of eating and walking and talking (and, frankly, being pregnant) left me feeling pretty sleepy so I napped most of the drive back to Sean’s parents. Luckily, it was pitch black outside so I didn’t miss any of the famous New England fall foliage, which I had watched eagerly earlier in the day. Sean even left the radio off and drove back with a serene and contemplative silence as a capstone to our day.
Keeping up the spirit of our babymoon
The tricky thing with any kind of vacation is being able to return to normal life while holding onto all of the good feelings you savored while away. We were lucky to have a bonus extension, where Sean’s parents watched Eliza again the following morning while we went out for an early breakfast date at Samuel’s at the Andover Inn. The meal was tasty and we made the most of our last chance for a little while to connect as just the two of us. We even fit in a walk through the woods at the peaceful Cochran Wildlife/Bird Sanctuary.
When we drove home to Providence early that afternoon, we tallied that we had been gone in total for no more than 48 hours, with just over half of that time dedicated to our child-free babymoon. Short, sure, but also incredibly sweet: it was just the break we needed. We didn’t have to splurge on a hotel so instead didn’t feel any guilt splurging on great meals and treats instead —exactly what I was hoping for. And did we even pick out a name for the little one who’s on the way? I think so, which alone made the weekend a raging success!
If you live in New York or New England, Quechee and Woodstock are great and easy choices for a getaway—babymoon or not. (And the pinpoint maps on the wall at Sugarbush Farm indicate that lots of visitors come from a lot further away!) Of course, if we’d had even more time we would have loved to wander through much more of Vermont, but there’s something special about squeezing so much into a single day.
If you’ve taken a babymoon or otherwise claimed time as a couple away from your little one(s), please leave us a comment with your stories and recommendations. And if you have any advice on what to do when two little ones are in the picture, we’re almost there and all ears!