I spent a Saturday afternoon in Burlington with my hosts, the Breilands. It was a glorious, sunny day in the high 70’s.
We eased through the Church Street Marketplace that runs uphill, bounded on the north by Pearl Street and by Main Street on the south.
All sorts of fun is to be had at the Marketplace: music, diverse food offerings, good shops, saying hello to one’s acquaintances in a small college town. So many cities have tried and struggled with, or failed in, the downtown pedestrian mall concept. The city planners in Eugene, Oregon might want to come study this place.
We parked just around the corner on Main, in front of Nectar’s, the reliable old club where the band Phish got its start. Main Street runs steadily downhill from the highway, through the picturesque campus of University of Vermont, to the waterfront of Lake Champlain.
This summer day saw dozens of sailors and power boaters enjoying the perfect weather and water. A winter day might see skaters heading west across the lake toward the Adirondack Mountains off to the New York side.
I’ll remember the foot of Main Street as the place where I had my first cree-mee (sometimes, creemee). Out west we call this a frostee, frosty, or soft-serve. But the cree-mee is qualitatively different in that (a) it seems, at least to me, to be less sugary (which I like), (b) it is equally craved by young and old, and (c) in Vermont at least, one of the flavor options is maple.
Missing Karen, I ordered the maple, her favorite sweet. Dang, it was good! I should have had the large or at least the medium. And I should have figured a way to bring some home for her.
(Next day, at another location and having come to my senses, I did order a medium maple cree-mee. Breilands surprised me by having maple sprinkles added on. Thanks!)
At the foot of Main Street was an excursion train. North of it along the waterfront were a festival venue, a paved bike path and a yacht club. Naturally, Erik and Meredith have been invited to meetings to consider the possibly addition of coastal rowing to this facility. What a perfect venue for it.
Also along the waterfront is a facility that to me represents how unique and humane this city is.
Taking up about a half acre of prime waterfront real estate is a skate park. On this day several dozens males and females from tykes on up were swooping, jumping, turning and gliding above ground that many cities would have seen fit to divert for condos or trendy restaurants, or the like.
Burlington is definitely on my list of cities to visit again – next time with Karen. It reminded me of a miniature Portland, Oregon, with a similar casual, easy-to-meet atmosphere created by good-natured, bright, purposeful people. The people in Burlington, though, seemed less self-conscious than Portlanders. I like that.