Dear reader, you would not believe the weekend I had. In fact, I’m still having a little trouble believing it myself. So many extraordinary amazing incredible things happened along the way that I’m still overwhelmed with emotion. I knew I had to write this down somewhere before it becomes a fuzzy memory I recall at dinner tables when a good story is needed. I have to record this as an reaffirmation of the immensity of humanity and the beauty of the universe. Let me try to dress the experience up in words, but know that it’s not going to do it any justice.
It’s my birthday today, so my friend Amanda and I had booked a trip up to Vermont, from the forest we stay in in Connecticut. We wanted to be with and around the world, and breathe life in. The fall foliage was universally promised to be gorgeous, and we looked forward to it.
So we arrived in Burlington at 1 am on Friday to a suite that was too good to be true. Sleeping in the bed was like drowning in a sea of comfort and the reception staff Bianca was so pleasant. (Yes, I’m raving about the hotel.)
On Friday, we decided to go to Stowe to check out the foliage, so we had a train booked. Everyone drives in and to Vermont (heck, everyone drives in the US.) And I have a car back home and stuff, but the idea of a car being essential to get from place to place is actually pretty foreign to me, since I come from a place where it’s a one-hour drive from the end of the island to another. Amanda and I very intelligently failed to rent a car, and we realised that our train station in Stowe wasn’t actually in Stowe but a small town a few miles south called Waterbury. Our options were: take a cab, hitchhike or walk. I was damn well prepared to walk, I’ll tell you.
We managed to hitch a ride from a kind old gentleman a part of the way, though he might have felt a little ambushed cos we approached him in a gas station haha. He was so kind cos he wasn’t exactly going our way, but he brought us a little bit farther up to the Ben and Jerry’s factory, where many tourists are (it was literally like wow fellow humans!!) But reader, you must know that it was not so easy to hitchhike. Barely anybody even looked our way, and those who did were suspicious, rightly so.
The B&J factory was filled with joy and ice cream, but it was in the middle of nowhere. Literally. When we finished the tour, we continued trying to hitch a ride, including talking to a fellow Asian and his friend, but they were returning to Philly. So we walked out of the factory and on the shoulder of the road for a while.
Just when crazy chickens started appearing in a random house, a car appeared from a side road. The driver rolled down her window and asked us if we were lost. We weren’t technically lost; we knew where we were going, we just weren’t capable of going there hahaha. But we must have looked at a loss, two girls on the shoulder of the road where there was nothing but trees and well, chickens. The driver of the car pulled over and talked to us. We said we were walking to the Waterbury Center a little up the way, but our destination was even further up in Stowe. The lady very generously asked us to hop in. She would drive us to Waterbury Center, though she was going the complete opposite direction.
When we got in her car, we talked and got to know one another better. Her name is Debra, and she’s a mother of two kids who are in their late teens, so around our age. We told her we actually wanted to go to Stowe to see the foliage. And she was like you know what I’ll drive you guys up to Stowe! We were so grateful by this time that we couldn’t have asked for anything better. Plus the scenery was already amazing and red and gold and orange on the green mountains surrounding us.
Better happened, though. We felt so terrible about delaying her, but she was so genuinely glad to be doing us this favour and she kept insisting it was her pleasure. While chatting, we said we wanted to walk on the Stowe recreation path, which we only realised then wasn’t in the heart of Stowe but covered a few miles upward, though the path began in Stowe. Debra said she’ll bring us to a lovelier foresty part of the path, which is even farther up. What is this woman. Who is she. Is she an angel??
When we arrived in Stowe, she purposely drove around to give us a tour of the town, showing us the dude who carved animal sculptures with a chain-saw (insane!!), the elementary school where her son learnt martial arts and the classic American houses. As we drove up to the recreation path, we continued chatting.
Suddenly, it snowed.
Snow. In October. It snowed.
There was a trail of snow on the mountains – on Mount Mansfield, if I’m not wrong. And pellets of snow were just falling and swirling and raining around us. Amanda hadn’t seen snow so she was freaking out (in a completely good way), and though I had been privileged enough to have traveled and seen snow before, I was still amazed.
Debra was so amused and just genuinely happy about our reaction. She said: “let me see if I can drive up to see the snow.” Are you kidding!! Are you kidding me right now! So in the end, she drove us up all the way to a place called Smugglers’ Notch where all the ski lodges are and where people sit the sky lift up the mountain.
We danced with the infant snow and took so many pictures, my mother would be proud.
Eventually, Debra dropped us at the north access point of the recreation path, though she continued to worry about how we were gonna get back from Stowe to the train station. She insisted that we call her if we needed a ride back, although she actually lived nearer to the train station in Waterbury than Stowe. She’s amazing, this woman. We exchanged contacts and off we were, infinitely grateful and so overwhelmed with emotion and the sheer beauty of everything around us. We couldn’t process it all.
So Amanda and I spent the next three hours trying to process just how lucky and blessed we were to have met Debra and seen snow. We literally could not stop thinking and talking about it. We walked along the path, which is amazing. My pictures do it no justice. So it’s about 2 pm that we realised we probably should eat (we couldn’t even feel hunger cos we were 100% gratitude and disbelief.)
Had lunch at the Blue Donkey. And after a while, we finally returned to normal and got over just how amazing and kind Debra was and how this day won the entire vacation and nothing could ever live up to this day and nothing would have ruined it, ever. (Got over it, but continued to be immensely grateful.)
At about 4 or 5, we completed the recreation path and returned to the heart of Stowe. (Forgot to mention that it was still snowing periodically while we were walking. We decided to take the weather personally and that it was snowing for us.) So we toured the area and got dinner to wile away our time before our train at 8 pm. We were adamant on not troubling Debra further, so we wanted to call a cab.
At around 7, Debra called us and realised we were still in Stowe and proceeded to worry about us. She said she felt bad that we had to spend money on a cab. (Omg, this person. Seriously, what is she!) But we insisted on taking a cab. So Debra said she’ll send us off at the train station with her kids.
Debra, her 19-year-old son Elan and 17-year-old daughter Aggie met us at the Waterbury station. At that time, we discovered the train was an hour late. So (guess what!) Debra invited us to her place to hang out.
Her house is amazing. The stars. Were. Insane. Cos there was hardly any light and the sky was clear, so, wow. There were so many and they were so big and bright and just wow. I’ve never seen such stars before. And I need to keep recalling that image in my mind so I never forget just how brilliantly they shone.
Their house was so quaint and lovely and homey. Very American, but very them. Aggie and Elan are incredibly interesting, interested, intelligent, well-brought-up people who are well-versed in cultures and literature and extremely easy to talk to. We bonded over Harry Potter, Narnia, Sherlock, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc. They even had a cupboard that (looked like it) led to Narnia. I swear on my memory of this awesome day. And Elan speaks Japanese and learnt Spanish and Italian and he’s into martial arts and qigong and taichi and drawing wolves and geography and history and just wow. Aggie and I bonded over our love for Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, Regina Spektor, Florence + the Machine and classic books.
I’ve run out of adjectives to describe just how extraordinary my day was.
Eventually we had to return to the train station (Debra said she would send us all the way to Burlington if we missed it.) And friends were made for life.
As I sit here, on an Amtrak train back to Hartford, I’m still marveling at just how blessed I was. But my story isn’t over.
Friday was truly life-changing, but Saturday was so lovely and wonderful and filled with love that I just have to gush.
Before we came, Amanda forbade me to research on Burlington. She planned an itinerary for the day to celebrate my birthday. We woke up early to head to Church Street Marketplace. First thing we went to was a farmers’ market, and it was the best one I’ve been to so far. The honey, toffee, maple syrup, wine and even juice were all so tasty and fresh. (I couldn’t drink alcohol though cos I turn 21 on Sunday. Lol, Vermont is strict!)
Shops opened and I went on a hunt for my tweed blazer (for my Halloween costume as the Eleventh Doctor.) We saw the original Ben & Jerry’s shop! And we had lunch at a surprisingly good Chinese restaurant. Burlington is so lovely!!! Gosh, the streets were so pretty and everyone is so friendly and the dogs are all so clean and adorable.
Then we went to the bike path to see Lake Champlain. On the way we saw the Burlington High School and there was a football match (I had a brief fangirl moment cos Friday Night Lights!!)
Lake Champlain was gorgeous. The sky was absolutely clear, the mountains still sported gold and orange, the water looked like a blanket of diamonds and nothing could have been more perfect. We sat on the swings for a while before sitting by the lake and eating The famous Lake Champlain chocolates by Lake Champlain. We even tempted the lake creature Champy (a relative to the Loch Ness monster) to some chocolates. Never appeared though.
Then, Amanda and I had such a lovely time singing Christina Perri by the lake and playing Adele. It really was the time of our lives.
We were secretly cold, so we decided it was time to walk back. We strolled along the path (which continued to be amazing) and reached the waterfront park. According to Amanda’s plans, we were supposed to catch the sunset here, but the sky wasn’t cooperating anymore. It was still gorgeous and I was still so thankful for everything!
After the sun set, we went looking for dinner. Amanda was trying to look for this particular place and I just followed, which is so refreshing. And tada! She had reserved a place at an Italian restaurant Trattoria Delia, which is supposed to be ranked top by tripadvisor peeps. It was amazing. The duck was amazing. I couldn’t have red wine to accompany it cos I wasn’t legal yet lol but gosh. Amazing. And the scallop. Wow why did I get myself to think about the scallop again? It was really the perfect end to the day. I was kinda tired by then. We were playing a game about American geography and totally failing cos we were so tired we felt drunk.
After we left the amazing restaurant, we went looking for a bus stop. Or so I thought. Suddenly we were in a movie theatre. And Amanda had booked tickets to watch Pitch Perfect starring Anna Kendrick. Like, wow! It was a coincidence but I’ve been trying to watch that movie since I was enchanted by the trailer a long long time ago. Anna Kendrick was lovely in it, as she was in Up in the Air, where I first saw her. And it wasn’t Inception or Rocky or even Love Actually, but it was the perfect end to my day. It was unconventionally funny and the songs were superbly good. Perfect end.
Or so I thought. When we returned to the hotel, I was already lying on my bed and scrolling through Facebook well wishes cos it was already my birthday in Singapore. I hadn’t even notice it was midnight. Then at 12:12, I was listening to Maroon 5 when suddenly Amanda said there’s a knock on the door. I was like: really? She insisted and I was so afraid we were making too much noise with the music and someone had come to complain (cos someone had complained the previous night about us walking too loudly!) I peeped through and Lo and behold! It was the reception staff Bianca and a cake!! And a rose!!
Wow! I was so genuinely surprised and touched and this type of thing just doesn’t happen in modern life anymore but I’m so lucky.
Turns out Amanda had ordered the cake days ago before we even got here and Bianca had gone out to get the cake from a bakery. People are just too kind!!
So Amanda sang happy birthday and gave me a card with a poem and I legit teared up (it’s the sweetest thing) and we drank wine. And just as I was reading the card, suddenly my family was on Skype!! They were part of my surprise too! I was so glad to see them, and I actually had my family with me on my birthday after all!
I spent the time relating to them about how awesome Debra was and then I skyped with my boyfriend relating the same story. Amanda made me drink a lot of wine and I was getting rather tipsy. It was about 3 am when I got to bed, and it was just about the loveliest birthday I ever had. I don’t think I deserved such kind treatment by everyone and especially Amanda.
So… My bus back to Hartford was at 7. Long story short – we missed it cos of alarm problems and being too tired. I left my scarf at the movie theatre. And we had to pay more for an Amtrak ticket to Hartford, and due to communication problems, I double booked the bus from Hartford to storrs. And ended up wasting quite a bit of rides. ):
Sunday is my birthday, but it was also the day reality came crashing down on me with all the sudden expenses just like a hangover. Oh, and I really was a little hungover.
But wow. You know what? I didn’t resent a single thing. I just couldn’t. With everything that already happened this weekend, I couldn’t ask for more. The truth is that with all the blessings that happened this weekend, nothing could have made a dent.
And here I’ll end off with a quote by my favourite Doctor that my dear friend Irene just reminded me of:
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.”