Manchester Center, Vermont

Vermont! What’s the big deal about this place? Nina and I heard all the hoopla, so one day we drove up to find out for ourselves. We landed in Brattleboro. There were no beautiful landscapes. The town had no charm. It reminded me of Hazleton, an economically challenged coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, it's the town I grew up in. It was not a pretty sight.

But having heard so much about Vermont, we had to give it a chance. Since it was late in the day, we decided to have dinner and afterwards we’d at least try to see moonlight in Vermont. We went to an unmemorable dinner, had an unremarkable meal, and then we walked out of the restaurant – eyes turned toward the heavens to see the moon. It barely showed through the overcast sky, hanging there against its will, like a tired old clock in an abandoned store – face barely lit, hands stock-still.

We drove home.
Whatever it was that people found so interesting about Vermont – we didn’t see it.

A few years later, we took a trip to Canada. We didn’t enjoy that trip either, but we came back through Vermont, this time entering from the North. We drove all the way down Route 7. It was quite scenic, very different from our Brattleboro experience, especially when we arrived in Manchester Center.

Smack dab in the center of town Nina said, “Stop the car!" I did as she said, and then asked, "What's the matter?" "This is it!" she said, "This is small town USA. I want to live here.”

All right, I admit we weren’t in a horse drawn carriage, but this picture conveys the feeling.

Turns out, we had stopped directly in front of the Tourist’s Center. The lady in attendance told us all about the town and all there was to see. Seems like Manchester Center was undergoing big changes. Big money was being invested in the surrounding ski areas and it was rumored that the Equinox Hotel was going to open again. (Check out the history of the Equinox by clicking here.) We were entranced. We wandered through town and made note to come back for a longer stay.

P.S. We've also discovered the charm of Brattleboro. We must have just landed in its one odd spot on our first trip.
We returned to Manchester Center every summer thereafter, scheduling our trips based on the plays that were showing at Dorset Theatre and the Weston Playhouse.

Dorset Theatre ... season schedule

Weston Playhouse ... season schedule
Other points of interest
Here are some other points of interest.

=== in Bennington
The Shops at Camelot Village

=== in Brandon
The Lilac Inn

=== in Manchester
Dellwood Cemetery
Frog Hollow
Hildene the Lincoln family home
Northshire Book Store
Vacation Overview 2015

=== in Weston
Vermont Country Store
There are beautiful views wherever you drive and great shops to wander through and wonderful restaurants. Our favorites include the following.

=== in Manchester Center
ZOEY'S Double Hex - world's best hamburger (menu)
Sirloin Saloon - steaks and sundries and fabulous salad bar - CLOSED
PANDA GARDEN - Chinese food - CLOSED
Mother Myricks - for ice cream

=== in Weston
Bryant House - a must for lunch (menu)

=== Middlebury
Mister Up's (menu)

== Burlington
Bove's Cafe - best spaghetti restaurant in town - CLOSED

Zoey’s Double Hex in Manchester Center
For the best cheeseburger ever, you must go to Zoey’s Double Hex. This was originally Big John’s Double Hex. Believe it or not Big John was a grand nephew of Winston Churchill. And Big John took his burgers seriously. Though the place has changed hands, the flavor remains. And if you like rib steak, plan on coming here for dinner.

You must have lunch at the Bryant House in Weston
Don’t miss this. They’re only open for lunch, but this is a must. Just order soup and salad and leave yourself an appetite for dinner. But why am I making such a fuss, if you’re only having soup and salad? Try it and you’ll understand. Then, after lunch, wander through the Village Country Store – it’s just next door. But be prepared to spend at least an hour enjoying all they have to offer. You’ll ooh and aah with reminders of days gone by. And if you wander through the store with your loved one by your side, sharing your memories of things long past, you’ll have captured a piece of heaven.

Bove's in Burlington on Pearl Street - best spaghetti anywhere!
What's this restaurant doing on my Manchester page? Burlington is two hours north of Manchester Center. But Burlington has so much to offer; you'll just have to extend your vacation (coming soon "Our first trip to Burlington"). On our first trip to Burlington, some "locals" we got to know pretty well recommended Bove's. It's not much to look at, but we were told it's a local's favorite. And they were right. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

Several years later, we visited Burlington again. I specifically wanted to go back to this restaurant, but I hadn't a clue what it's name was or where it was located. "Not to worry," I said to Nina, "we'll just ask somebody." Nina, being much more sensible than me, said, "You've got to be kidding. How do you expect to ask someone when you don't know the name of the restaurant?" Confidently, I replied, "All we have to do is ask one of the locals. That place is so good, I'm sure everyone in town knows about it." At that moment an elderly woman walked by our car. I stopped her and asked. "There's a really great spaghetti restaurant around here. We ate there a few years ago. It just a simple place, but it's got the best spaghetti and meatballs ever."

"Bove's Cafe on Pearl street," she simply pointed northward and kept on walking. A few steps later she shrugged as if saying to herself, "How many times a day do I have to answer that same question?"

2017 UPDATE: What a shame - the restaurant is now CLOSED.

Where to Stay
You'll have many choices for lodgings, they vary from rustic to elegant. Here are three examples.

The Casablanca Motel – rustic, clean, and reasonably priced

The Village Country Inn – nostalgic and nice - CLOSED

The Manchester Inn – a full-fledged Bed and Breakfast

As for the views
Here are just a few examples. But my advice is, do not bring a camera. You can find all the photos you'd ever want to see on Internet. But they don't come close to the wonder of being there. So, drink in all of it while you're there. Let it seep into your pores, into your memory, into your very being. Just discover it for yourselves and share the experience with your partner. It'll last a lifetime.

Nina and I lived in Vermont for six months

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Copyright © Yale Schwartz, 2009