|Bread Loaf at Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont|
I've never gone on a writer's retreat. A tiny home office and solitude is all I need. Since my last child left home in September, I now have a surfeit of quiet time. I'm enjoying my productive space, but I miss the sound of kids coming home, telling me about their days, and our protracted family dinners. My husband and I had been counting the days until Middlebury Family Weekend.
By luck of the family housing lottery, I was granted the writer's fantasy of staying at Bread Loaf, the most prestigious/oldest of American literary conferences (but not open to children's authors.) The campus was closed last year for remodeling, and although the floorboards shined under LED lights, Bread Loaf has not lost its Victorian charm. I sipped local cider while reading (Lauren Groff's Fates & Furies) by the fire.
After seeing our room, I could understand why authors and poets compete for time at Bread Loaf. There were two comfortable twin beds and a pair of desks with ergonomic chairs. The twenty rooms on our floor shared two single-sex bathrooms, but I never had to wait for one of the three showers. It felt like being back in college, making new friends (Ada and David) while brushing teeth and chatting in the cafeteria over a hot buffet breakfast. The biggest difference was that everyone was quiet and considerate, except for one woman yakking on her cell phone (who knew that "rustic" could be a swear word?)
This was the view through my screened window. Bread Loaf is located in the Green Mountains National Forest with acres of hiking/ski trails, which we explored on our last morning. All the buildings were painted a butternut squash yellow to fit the autumnal landscape under golden light. Our Brunswick friends, Maria and Conrad, stayed in one of the annex buildings. Our kids went to elementary school together too.
While my husband sat in on Middlebury classes, my son and I hiked up Rattlesnake Cliffs.
The daunting trail name didn't fit the moderately steep four-mile loop past a waterfall (1K feet of elevation.) Rattlesnakes are rare in Vermont, although another hiker warned us of a black bear on the trail.
We didn't see the bear, but we saw plenty of woodpeckers and Silver Lake. The cliff top was an excellent spot for our Noonie's picnic. Colin is planning to return with friends for peak foliage.
Views were spectacular in all directions. Middlebury is in the Champlain valley, ringed by the Great Lake and several mountain ranges. We hiked for 3 1/2 hours, including a leisurely lunch and photo/wildlife stops.
The next day our son took us to Burlington, the biggest city in Vermont (population 40K). We had a delicious lunch at Skinny Pancake, that would be American for sweet and savory crepes. It was worth the half hour long line for the Josh Panda and Nutella & Strawberry crepes. Yum!
After lunch, we strolled along the shore of Lake Champlain, enjoying the 60 degree sunny weather.
From the pier, we watched a sailboat race before a lighthouse and mountains.
The arbored walkways and outdoor cafes reminded me of Quebec. Being Vermont, the busiest store was The Outdoor Gear Exchange. My son had planned a perfect weekend for us. It was hard to leave but easier knowing that our kids are going to a terrific school in a gorgeous location. I'll return in February when our daughter starts Middlebury College after her gap term. Now back to revising my young adult novel...