Chris unexpectedly had off from work last weekend, so with him way up north and me still down in New Jersey we decided our best bet for a weekend together was to meet somewhere in the middle. The middle (or close to it, anyway) was Manchester, VT, so even though we had spent some time in Vermont over Labor Day weekend, we ended up returning to the beautiful state much sooner than we had expected- a very pleasant surprise!
We spent our whole first day wandering around the adorable downtown area of Manchester. First stop was a restaurant called Up for Breakfast, where the waffles, sourdough pancakes, and pumpkin spice coffee were more than worth the 20 minute wait for a table. Then we browsed from store to store, marveling at the selection of outdoorsy gear. We each purchased a few items, making the morning a success. A light lunch was enjoyed at the Spiral Press Café which is connected to the amazing Northshire Bookstore. We perused the shelves there for nearly an hour before coming away with a new travel journal to record our honeymoon!
In the early evening, we made new friends at the hot tub of our hotel. A young couple from Sydney told us all about the things we shouldn’t miss on our honeymoon in addition to giving us a pronunciation guide for Australian cities. It will come in very handy, even though I’m sure I’ll still sound like a Yankee. We were having such a pleasant conversation that the evening got away from us, and by the time that we got out for dinner three different restaurants that we tried were too full to seat us. We ended up back at the hotel’s restaurant, which was decent but not excellent.
The following day started with an outdoor meal at the Little Rooster Café. A crisp breeze, a warm sun, and delicious food made this the second day in a row with an awesome breakfast. We then drove out to Arlington to visit the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Sugar Shack, a little store along the side of a scenic road that offers homemade maple syrups and other Vermont gifts in addition to an art education.
As an Eagle Scout, Chris has always been interested in Norman Rockwell’s work. Rockwell is best known for his Saturday Evening Post covers depicting random moments in regular lives, but before his Post days he was brought on as art director for Boy’s Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America. His scouting pieces remain some of his most treasured works, especially for people like Chris with ties to the organization.
The scouting pieces were well done to be sure, but my eyes were drawn to a four part series depicting young love in four seasons. The same boy, girl and dog steal adorable moments in all four pieces: Downhill Daring (winter), Beguiling Buttercup (spring), Flying High (summer), A Scholarly Pace (fall).
Some of the most interesting parts of the exhibit are the stories shared by the regular, ordinary, everyday townspeople of Arlington who served as models for Rockwell’s art. It was something of an honor to be chosen and people were eager to lend themselves to the projects.
The coolest thing, in my opinion, about the art he created was the scenes that he chose to recreate. These are not grand vistas or important occasions, things that would be seen as extraordinary. These are just regular moments plucked out of ordinary days. A group of kids gathered around a game of marbles, a teacher standing in front of a classroom, a child getting a haircut, an elderly couple playing checkers…
Norman Rockwell himself had a pretty storied life. He was born in New York City, moved to New Rochelle, NY with his family as a young adult, and he and his second wife (with whom he had three sons) found their way into New England. When he was only a teenager he became a paid artist thanks to a small line of Christmas cards, but he knew he wanted more. Soon after that he moved on to Boy’s Life, Saturday Evening Post (undoubtedly the most well-known portion of his career), and eventually Look Magazine.
There are a few different places where you can see Rockwell’s work and learn about his career, and this little exhibit at the Sugar Shack is just one of them. They also present a 20 minute selection from a film about Rockwell which we really enjoyed viewing. It was the perfect way to end a lovely weekend in Vermont.