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19 Aug 2010
Slate: "The Only Luggage You'll Ever Need"

Starting a positive review with a criticism is probably the wrong way to go about it, but I'll do it anyway because I won't be able to continue writing unless I get it off my chest.

A recent Slate magazine headline, "The Only Luggage You'll Ever Need" is wrong. The article is about the Patagonia Maximum Legal Carry-on (MLC), which looks like a great travel product and has many positive user reviews on Patagonia's website. It's sized to fit in airline overhead bins or under the seat in front of you.

How that qualifies as the only luggage you will ever need, I don't know. There may be times when you need to travel with a suit or dress for instance. They won't fit in this bag and even if you managed to fold them up enough to get in, they wouldn't look too good at the other end of your journey.

I will admit this bag would probably be my go-to bag most of the time. I'm a big fan of Patagonia products and have owned a few including a great fly-fishing rain jacket I'm still using after more than a decade of use. I don't own this travel bag but if I still flew on business I most likely would. These days, I only fly once or twice a year (thankfully) and I'm in no rush. If I have to wait a few minutes at a baggage carousel, I don't mind.

I look back and chuckle about years of hustling through airports, choosing the best seat assignments, closest car rental lots, etc. But I was in the consulting bidness so we were always conscious of our hours. Either we were billing the time or we were losing revenue. There was no neutral time. If that's the way you fly, and you prefer carry-on luggage, this is probably what you want. It looks like it would be a good one for car trips as well.

I remember looking for a bag like this years ago. I tried several somewhat like it over the years but nothing ever really served well. This one looks like it would have been a home run. It also converts into a back pack and is made of water proof 1200 denier polyester - as tough as polyester gets.

I'm a big fan of Slate too so if they like it, I'm sure it's top notch.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
Advice , Shopping
posted by  grunhaus at  21:59 | permalink

31 Jul 2010
Hardwick VT Featured in Yankee Magazine

Once the site of a thriving granite mine, Hardwick VT became a pleasant but hardscrabble looking town after the mine closed. Then it got hit by a major fire five years ago which destroyed several important old buildings in the middle of town. But it has made an admirable comeback in recent years. Most of that is due to the local food movement. Several articles have appeared with headlines along the lines of : "The Town That Food Saved."

The current issue of Yankee Magazine now describes Hardwick as "The Center for an Agricultural Economy." It was written by Bill McKibben, a Vermont resident famous for his work on global warming. Mr. McKibben writes about some of the key people involved with the local food movement including the local investor funded restaurant, Claire's, and organic seed producer, High Mowing Seeds. It's an interesting read and provides insight into many of the related types of activities going on in Vermont today.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus, located about half an hour from Hardwick
Advice , Food , VT Products
posted by  grunhaus at  13:30 | permalink

25 Jul 2010
VT Lodging Featured in Huffinton Post

I've been a Vermont inn owner for ten years and I still come across a few new inns each month that I've not heard of before. If memory serves, I think I read years ago that there are 1800 some lodging facilities in little ole Vermont but I just read an article about a place that may top them all.

I had never heard of Twin Farms in Barnard VT until I came across an article about it in the Huffington Post. In summary: WOW!

I'm familiar with top shelf places like Rabbit Hill Inn and the Pitcher Inn but Twin Farms is something else.

There are 20 accommodations including suites each with fireplace, full bath; plus cottages of different designs and each in its own secluded environment, set throughout the property's 300 acres. Take a look at Twin Farms website's photos - these cottages would make fine primary residences for most people. I love the rustic Vermont theme incorporated in many of them.

Naturally, we always want to know the rate. Sit down and hang on. Rates at the Twin Farm start at $1400 and go up to $3100. That's per night with a two night minimum weekends and holidays. For two people. Plus 27% service fee and tax. If there is just one person, they reduce the rate $100! I can't imagine anyone would go there alone but it must happen from time to time I suppose.

The website does not say how much an extra person is if you have a group larger than two people but you can rent the entire facility for $41,000 per night. That's what I want to do and I want to invite you and everyone I know. When I win the Powerball Lottery. However, in the interest of full disclosure, my chances of winning are even lower than all those who play because I never buy a ticket. So don't hold out any hope I'll be able to fulfill my generous offer.

Those rates include breakfast, dinner, drinks, and full use of all the facilities including a spa. So while the rates are very high, I would bet Twin Farm's expenses are very high so the rates should be reasonable for the value delivered. Taxes alone must be staggering for a place like this. Having to pay VT tax on my little property, I can only imagine how large a train load of money that Twin Farm must send to Montpelier every year.

Even if you never go to a place like this, it's fun to read about. But I hope you do get to go someday. If so, write and let me know how it was. Add photos too.

Jeff Connor, Way out of Twin Farms league but still a nice place to relax, Grunberg Haus
posted by  grunhaus at  19:01 | permalink

21 Jul 2010
Moose Watch

Photo credit: www.central-vt.com/moose "Montpelier, Vermont, the nation's smallest capital city had an unexpected visitor Monday, July 19th as a moose wandered leisurely during the lunch hour. This picture was taken by an administrative assistant at Vermont State Housing Authority on 1 Prospect in the city. A co-worker, Lindsay White, remarked that she loves the ruralness of Vermont, and this was the exclamation point of the day! "

I think the most frequent question we get from guests is "Where's a good place for dinner?" A close second is "Where can we go to see moose?"

Answering the first question is easy because we have dozens of good restaurants in the immediate area.

Answering the second question is tougher because we don't have dozens of moose hanging around nearby. We have one (perhaps more) around the inn that must come through about once a week judging by the fresh tracks we see that often. In fact a guest and his family last week pulled into our driveway one evening to find a moose standing right in front of them just a few yards off Route 100.

Moose are most frequently in remote, rural areas but they are located all over the state and, as seen in the photo above, they can even wander into a city This one was spotted in downtown Montpelier, the state capital. Once in a while deer are seen feeding on the state capitol lawn in the evenings but moose are a very rare sight in the city.

We have more moose road signs I think than actual moose. The last time I saw a statistic, the VT Fish & Wildlife Division estimated our herd between 4,000 and 5,000. In fact, the last two moose hunting seasons, F&W increased the number of permits to help reduce the size of the herd. This year, they reduced the number of permits back to 700 something. About 200 moose are killed by automobiles each year in Vermont. Moose have little or no fear and they will usually not hesitate to step in front of a car.

When I'm asked about where to see a moose, I tell people that you need a lot of luck to see one. For instance, the photo at the top of this blog was taken by a guest a few years ago through the windshield of his car. By the time he got the car pulled over and stopped to get out and take a better quality photo, the moose had already walked across the road (Route 100 between Warren and Granville) and was headed up into the woods. The point is that if he had left from our inn a minute earlier or a minute later, he would have missed the moose entirely.

But having explained that, we suggest the area around Island Pond, VT for good moose watching. Island Pond is a good central location for exploring the most remote part of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom (NEK).

The Appalachian Mountain Club website has a little primer on moose watching you might like to read. Note especially the warnings about getting close to these animals. They're not known for being aggressive but they are wild animals and you can never be sure whether they will attack. A mother moose (cow) will almost certainly be aggressive if she is with a calf.

An even better article is on the Island Pond, VT town website .

Route 105 is Vermont's "Moose Alley" but other roads such as 114, 111, 5 and 16 are worth driving as well. The back roads are also worth exploring but make sure you have enough gas in the tank before heading into backcountry.

But I would not go to the NEK just to see moose. I'd go to see the countryside with the idea that seeing a moose would be a special bonus.

Here is an enjoyable double (!) moose sighting video shot in the NEK by jenawesome

Good luck on your moose hunt! And drive carefully, especially at night.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
Advice , General , Nature , Unusual
posted by  grunhaus at  16:02 | permalink

19 Jun 2010
Draft Horse Days at Billings Farm

Copyright 2010 Billings Farm & Museum

As mentioned below, if you are visiting the Quechee Balloon Festival today or tomorrow, I recommend a trip over to nearby Woodstock. It's one of my favorite towns in Vermont. And one of my favorite places in Woodstock is the Billings Farm and Museum, a beautiful facility.

This weekend, Billings Farm is holding Draft Horse Days from 10:00 to 5:00 both days. There will be demonstrations and activities showcasing Billings Farm's draft horses, including traditional fieldwork, horse shoeing, horse-drawn wagon rides. Draft horses teams will demonstrate plowing, planting, cultivating, and mowing in the farm fields during narrated programs at 11:00 a.m., 1:00, and 3:00 p.m. each day.

Each morning will begin with braiding the horse's mane and tails. There will also be shoeing demonstrations on the farm's Percheron, making horseshoes, and rope making. Children can learn how to make clothespin horses, take part in hobby horse races, and play Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Horse.

Billings Farm is well worth the visit not only for the Draft Horse Days but also for their everyday displays plus work that goes on the farm such as cow milking. It's a great place for children and for adults who would like to witness and learn about farm life.

Admission: adults: $12.00; 62 and over: $11.00; children 5-15: $6.00; 3-4: $3.00; under 3: free.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
posted by  grunhaus at  12:09 | permalink

19 Jun 2010
Quechee Balloon Festival June 18 - 20

One of central Vermont's most popular events is taking place this weekend. The 31st annual Quechee Balloon Festival features about 20 hot air balloons which launch twice a day at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. In some cases, they can accommodate passengers and there will also be tethered balloon flights. About 60 craft vendors are there and there is music, food, and children's activities.

The deepest gorge in Vermont is located in Quechee and the town is known for its antique stores and shopping opportunities.

While you are in the area, I recommend a visit to Woodstock VT, one of the most picturesque villages in New England. Woodstock is located a short drive west on Route 4 from Quechee.

Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus
posted by  grunhaus at  07:51 | permalink

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