Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Vacation, Part One

We hung around town for a rainy 4th of July, went to a couple of parties in the area – one of which provided a terrific view of the fireworks I posted that night – and the next morning Ava visited the doctor and was liberated from the bulky purple appendage she’d been lugging around, largely without complaint or pause, for the last five weeks. That important mission accomplished, we packed up, piled into the car and headed up to Vermont for a long weekend.

I’m genetically incapable of driving through or around New Haven, CT without stopping off for a pie at Pepe’s, a trait I have tried hard to instill in my wife and children, with some success. We hit Wooster Street at the perfect moment between lunch and dinner and found no line waiting for us under the big white Frank Pepe sign. That is not a common occurrence. For the uninitiated, this is a place that has been cranking out pizzas – and only pizzas – from the same coal-fired oven since 1925. Probably the best I’ve ever tasted, and believe me when I say I’ve extensively researched the category. A typical visit requires standing in line, sometimes for an hour or more, and after this extended wait in Pepe purgatory it is basically impossible to avoid burning off the roof of your mouth with molten cheese when the pizza finally arrives – injuries that, given its high quality and absolutely perfect crust, are of little concern.

Mouths moderately scorched and extremely well fed, we continued our drive north and arrived at our destination late Thursday afternoon – a mountain condo my parents bought 20 years ago that has remained a favorite destination across the span of my entire adult life, now prized by my children as well. When we walked in the door the girls did a little “we love Vermont” dance around the place that was at once funny and heartwarming. I’m particularly glad we’re all on the same page when it comes to the condo, because I plan on enjoying this particular form of freeloading well into my retirement years.

Friday and Saturday were a blur of trips to Bromley Mountain, which has done a great job of building a kid-friendly “Fun Zone” around the alpine slide attraction they’ve had in place for years – the girls are still young enough to be dazzled by all of it. I’m hoping we have another six or seven years of this kind of childhood wonder, before they start rolling their eyes in response to a suggested trip to the mountain and demanding to instead be dropped off in town with credit cards and iPods so they can roll through the numerous outlet stores, acting bored and hassled by the prospect of reconvening with Mom and Dad for dinner.

There’s a heated pool on the mountain with noodles and floaties for the kids and free Wi-Fi access for the adults – it’s a nice combination that works well for all involved. As I’ve written before the food in town is usually hit or miss, but I have to say this time around we discovered a new hit – a terrific little Mexican place called The Bean, (4201 Main St., Manchester, VT – 802-362-0110) which we all loved. Fresh homemade salsa, a nice array of Mexican standards (nachos, quesadillas, burritos) and, for the adults, an impressive tequila menu. We went twice over the course of our two-day visit, it was that good. (And I'm that obsessive when it comes to decent food.)

It was a great long weekend, but – as always – not long enough. Just as we were hitting our stride up there it was Sunday morning and time to head home. We are resolved to go back up in August for Summer Vacation, Part Two - my full week break. I am confident Pepe’s pizza, pools, alpine slides, outlet stores, The Bean and all manner of family fun will be involved.

Here are a few photos from our trip, more to come in August:

[Madison cheers on Gwen and Ava at the end of a run on the phenomenal Bromley Mountain alpine slide.]

[The girls storm the pool area.]

[Madison examines a recent bike injury (skinned knee) while Ava looks on. Healing nicely, thank you.]

[Ava makes up for lost time by finally joining her sister in the water and submerging, sans cast. Feels like Summer 2007 has finally begun.]


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