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I love all of New England. I would happily spend the rest of my life in Connecticut. I wish we could live in Madison!

OK... now for the good stuff:

After not seeing my husband for 4 months, I had a surprise for him. I told him to get in the Jeep and that I would drive us to an undisclosed location... 5 hours north. His only responsibility was to keep good music on the radio. We arrived at the mystery place at around 3 PM:

We had to be somewhere at 4:30 PM. All he knew was that we would be driving up a steep mountain on snowy roads. YIKES! But... our Jeep handled in well. Where... you may wonder... were we destined to be at 4: 30 PM??

Surprise!!! We went to Trapp Family Lodge. Do you recall the vonTrapp family of "The Sound of Music" fame? They left Austria and settled in Stowe, Vermont because the mountains resembled their beloved Edelweiss. Well, that was our mystery destination.

What would two people (who do not ski) be doing at Trapp Family Lodge... one of the top 5 ski resorts in the world... at the height of ski season??

Going for a horse drawn sleigh ride.... of course!!

Even though it was 14 degrees... with a wind chill making it feel like it was 5 below... we went for a ride in an open sleigh! We were dressed in layers, with scarves wrapped around our faces and two down blankets covering our legs. Not exactly toasty, but it took the frostbite potential down a couple notches.

My husband was very happy about my surprise and was impressed with how I managed to keep him in suspense until we walked up to the sign in the first picture. He thought I wanted us to cross-country ski. Maybe next time...

After the sleigh ride, we went into the Lodge and had mulled cider. I loved how each mug of cider came with a cinnamon stick and slice of orange. My husband was a bit worn out from the frigid half hour ride, but he survived!

The next day, we drove to Hardwick, Vermont to visit one of my favorite independent bookstores: The Galaxy Bookshop. I have written about it in a previous post.

I discovered this bookstore in 1993 when I was riding along the back roads in the Northeast Kingdom section of Vermont. As I mentioned in a previous post, the bookstore is in a former bank, so it has an interesting interior.

The Children's section is inside the vault! I brought my twin boys here when they were small. They would sit in there and look at books for 30-45 minutes at a time, while I browsed. When I took this picture, I could remember so clearly how they would hang out in there. Now they are 16...

I love the window design and the granite floors.

The next day, I took my husband to Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, VT. Next door to the cider mill is a winery that sells supplies. My husband makes his own hard cider, so he was thrilled to get some white wine yeast. It is hard to find that stuff!

His favorite section seemed to be wherever coffee was brewing. I don't drink coffee, but he need regular doses throughout the day in order to function! Case in point:

On the way back to the highway for the ride back to Connecticut, we stopped by Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream headquarters.

Neither of us are ice cream eaters, but how could we resist?

The most interesting things I learned while there was that Ben and Jerry decided to take a $5.00 correspondence course to learn how to make ice cream. Then, they bought a $25.00 ice cream machine and opened up their business in Burlington, VT in a tiny retail space. To drum up business, they bought a bus (pictured above) and would drive around giving out free samples. Their little business grew. Now, that is impressive!! They've since moved on...

My husband dubbed our overnight excursion our "second honeymoon." I agree.

You have reached the end of part one...

I prefer to own books, although I download audio books from my library's website when there is a book I really want to "hear." When I buy a book, there is nothing like going to an independent bookstore. When I lived in Connecticut, I frequented my favorite bookstore,  R.J. Julia Booksellers. It is so much more than a place to buy books. The tall wooden bookshelves are lined with handwritten reviews on cardstock, tucked underneath many of the books.

There are two front entrances to the bookstore. One leads into the main part of the store, with a Café straight ahead. To the left of the entrance is a wooden staircase, which is lined with books. The other entrance brings one into the magazine, cookbook, animal-related and blank journal section, with an assortment of gifts displayed. This description does nothing to describe how cozy and beautiful the bookstore is inside.

This is an exterior shot of R.J. Julia Booksellers:

rj-julia-booksellers

The bookstore is in Madison, Connecticut which is on the shoreline of the Long Island Sound. Madison is my favorite Connecticut town! Often, when I go to Madison, I will drive past R.J Julia's. Not too far from the bookstore is Hammonassett Beach State Park. I spend time there, laptop computer in tow, where I sit on huge rocks and write while watching the waves crashing against the rocks.

Here is a picture that I took while sitting on one of those large rocks. After a while, I could taste salt on my lips!

Hammonnasset rocks

After spending time there, I drive to R.J. Julia Booksellers. When I am there, I choose the book I want to read, buy it, then head into the Café.

I always order the same thing: Cranberry-Walnut salad, which includes organic spring greens topped with goat cheese, cranberries, mandarin oranges and candied walnuts. With that, I drink a carbonated lemonade. I bring my meal onto the back patio, which is made of uneven bricks, surrounded by wrought iron tables and chairs. There is plenty of shade from large trees that envelop the patio. It is a beautiful setting. When I lived in Connecticut, I treated myself to this experience once a week, on Fridays. Yea, the ritual became expensive... so sometimes I bought a magazine, instead of a book.

Although R.J. Julia happens to be my FAVORITE bookstore in the United States, there is a close second. It is in the town of Hardwick, which is nestled within Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom."

The Galaxy Bookshop, an independent bookstore, is in an old bank building. The children's section of the bookstore is in the bank vault!

Galaxy Bookshop vault

The bookstore, like R.J. Julia's, is very cozy inside. The woodwork inside the store is unpainted and the windows remind me of those found in a Craftsman home. The hardwood floors throughout the store also contribute towards the cozy "at home" ambiance.

To find an independent bookstore near you, click here.