Reprinted from The New York Times
North Bennington, Vt.
By LAURA RASKIN
Published: April 14, 2006
NORTH Bennington, in the southwestern corner of the state, epitomizes preserved, picturesque Vermont. But behind the frozen-in-time beauty, the village subtly offers up big-city perks, accessible nature and bottomless history. The mills that sprouted along Paran Creek in the late 1700's are today the spare, loftlike structures that lend the village its modernity. Nearby Bennington, site of a Revolutionary War battle, is the home of one of the country's top private colleges. And then, of course, there are the woods, a living evocation of Robert Frost's most famous poems.
7 p.m. 1) Snake Charmer
Before arriving in North Bennington, have dinner at the Rattlesnake Cafˇ (230 North Street, Bennington; 802-447-7018), just beyond the center of Bennington known as the Four Corners, the confluence of Routes 7 and 9. Don't let the Buddha at the entrance fool you — this place is completely south of the border. Try the Aztec shrimp in a spicy, chunky tomato sauce ($17.95), and dare your dining companion to finish the foot-long Macho Burrito ($15.95). Long lines form, and Rattlesnake doesn't take reservations, so come before you're famished.
9 p.m. 2) Moonlight in Vermont
Your sleep at a North Bennington bed-and-breakfast will be blissfully undisturbed by the sounds of traffic, but first get a nightcap at the awkwardly named Kevin's at Mike's Place, III (27 Main Street, North Bennington; 802-442-0122). This very local dive is packed with a mix of villagers and a Bennington College crowd. You will probably catch Linda Allard and Tim "Terrific" singing earnest Fleetwood Mac and Don McLean covers. Just go with it. Everybody else does.
9 a.m. 3) Powers Breakfast
The 173-year-old Powers Market (9 Main Street, North Bennington; 802-442-6821) is the imposing but warm-hearted grandfather of the village. It began as a company store for the Thatcher and Welling Paper Mill and is now the place for coffee and all the gossip of a typical town meeting. A Portuguese muffin with egg, cheese and smoked salmon ($3) should fuel you for the morning ahead.
10 a.m. 4) Kill Time on the Kill
Instead of a hike during Vermont's mud season, float past the muck on the Batten Kill, a river that empties into the Hudson. Both beginning and advanced paddlers can watch the Equinox mountains idle into view from a rented canoe or kayak from BattenKill Canoe (6328 Route 7A, Arlington; 802-362-2800; www.battenkill.com; opens on Thursday). Start at the shop and be picked up at the end of your trip. Rentals are $30 to $60.
1 p.m. 5) Pictures at an Exhibition
Bennington College, which claims Jonathan Lethem and Sally Mann among its alumni, offers lectures and performing arts events, often free and open to the public (1 College Drive, Bennington; 802-442-5401; www.bennington.edu). On view at the Usdan Gallery (usdan.bennington.edu) through May 8 are photographs from the college's collection by masters of the street scene — Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Robert Doisneau, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. The Bennington Museum — not affiliated with the college — is famous for its collection of Grandma Moses art and memorabilia, the largest in the country. The museum (75 Main Street, Bennington; 802-447-1571; www.benningtonmuseum.org) also mounts shows like the Smithsonian's exhibition on the Mohawk iron workers who helped build New York's skyscrapers (opening May 20) and a rare exhibition of Rembrandt etchings (opening June 1).
3:30 p.m. 6) Village of the Arts
Back in North Bennington, the village is worth exploring on foot. The textile artist Leigh Orcutt, 25, is the owner of Bread (25 Main Street, North Bennington; no phone; www.breadandbirds.com), her storefront and studio where Ms. Orcutt, above, sews while customers browse her deconstructed graphic T-shirts ($22) and knit wool-felt purses ($50). She also sells the work of 13 other artists. Then cut across the bridge to the Vermont Arts Exchange (28 Sage Street, North Bennington; 802-442-5549), housed in the Sage Street Mill. The husband-and-wife team of Matthew Perry and Patricia Pedreira dedicate the former cotton mill to art classes, community outreach programs and a gallery, which through June 9 is showing hooked rugs with unexpected themes (God banishing Adam and Eve from Eden, someone's funny-faced Chihuahua). One room at the exchange becomes a bar-lounge home to the Basement Music Series, which attracts acts like the Howard Fishman Quartet, Tessa Souter and Alash, throat singers of Tuva — kind of like a Park Slope bistro in the Green Mountains.
7 p.m. 7) A City Meal in the Country
An oasis more than a supercontinent, the North Bennington restaurant Pangaea (1 & 3 Prospect Street, 802-442-7171) is a fine-dining salve for those used to the flawless choices in Manhattan. The atmosphere and the food are warm without any country tack. Appetizers ($12 to $18) like seared diver scallops with pommes Maxim and truffle cream are a precursor to entrees ($33 to $38) like a pan-seared venison tenderloin with a St. Andrˇ potato croquette or a root vegetable Wellington. If you've saved room for dessert, walk directly next door to Pangaea's red-walled and livelier lounge for an after-dinner drink and a sweet. The lounge has its own menu.
10 a.m. 8) Big House, Big Horse
The Park-McCullough House (1 Park Street, North Bennington; 802-442-5441; www.parkmccullough.org) is really a Victorian mansion built in 1865 with spoils from the California gold rush. It opens for tours again in mid-May, but it's the Mile-Around Woods behind the property and the deer that frolic in them that shouldn't be missed. Take a before-breakfast walk on the groomed trails — the entrance is on broad, tree-lined Park Street, marked by a break in the low stone wall. On your way to the entrance of the woods you'll probably pass David and Nancy Lively's American Creams, below, in the pastures, the only draft horse breed to originate in the United States. If you want more of an encounter than an indifferent nod, call the Livelys for a carriage ride around North Bennington and through a couple of the area's covered bridges. You might be hitched up with Allison, a pink-skinned, amber-eyed beauty that knows the route by heart. (Lively's Livery, 802-447-7612; www.livelyslivery.com)
Noon 9) Miles to Go Before I Sleep
In 1920, Robert Frost moved to a house in Shaftsbury, just north of North Bennington. Today it's the Robert Frost Stone House Museum (121 Route 7A, Shaftsbury; 802-447-6200; www.frostfriends.org; opens May 2), and you can stand in the dining room where, one hot June morning after a sleepless night, Frost wrote "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Frost said of the Stone House that he meant "to plant a new Garden of Eden with a thousand apple trees of some unforbidden variety" there, and — though the orchard is now overgrown — he did achieve his goal. His grave is a few miles down the road in the churchyard behind the Old First Congregational Church in Old Bennington (Monument Avenue and Route 9, 802-447-1223).
2 p.m. 10) Yogurt for the Road
Get one last look at the Green Mountains after climbing the long hill out of Vermont to the Berle Farm (319 Beechwood Road, Hoosick, N.Y.; 518-686-3249). The bleat of Saanen goats repeats in your ears and the smell of lanolin coats your nostrils in the almost pitch-black farm store, where payment is on the honor system: leave your cash in the tin cup. Choose from certified organic products like cow's milk yogurt ($4), stone-ground cornmeal ($2.50 a bag) and various goat cheeses ($10 a pound) to take with you. Pet the unflappable, heavy-lidded farm cats on your way out, and you're homeward bound.
A car is the best way to let southern Vermont's mountains and farms project a moving picture. North Bennington is about 190 miles from Manhattan and 40 miles from Albany International Airport.
The Henry House Inn (1338 Murphy Road, North Bennington; 888-442-7045; www.henryhouseinn.com), built in 1769, overlooks a covered bridge and the Walloomsac River. There are six rooms at $85 to $135; breakfast is included.
The Eddington House Inn (21 Main Street, North Bennington; 800-941-1857; www.eddingtonhouseinn.com), an 1857 house in the heart of the village, has three uncluttered rooms starting at $89. Breakfast and an afternoon snack are included. The inn is offering several spa and dining packages this spring.
The new Hampton Inn (51 Hannaford Square, Bennington; 802-440-9862; www.hamptoninnbennington.com) has a view of a Home Depot but is equidistant from North Bennington and Bennington. There are 80 rooms, an indoor pool and an exercise center. A standard room is $99; suites are $109 to $149. Breakfast is included.