“Why So Cerros?” Verde National Park

“Why So Cerros?” Verde National Park

 

Sunsets and volcanoes: I’m a sucker for any variation of the combination.

Today we began with a lazy morning taking turns obtaining negative test results for COVID-19 so we could return home. In lieu of visiting local clinics, I packed 7 BinaxNOW home test kits I had ordered ahead on emed.com for everyone on the trip.

 

 

All you need is 20 minutes on a laptop with a webcam. After an online proctor verifies you performed and interpreted your test correctly, you’re good to go!

 

 

Brandon had a near miss obtaining an inconclusive test result, but a spare test kit I had luckily packed got him through on a second attempt. 

Beginning our day at 11am and after picking up some local Salvadorean coffee, we drove up to the top of Los Cerros National Park, aka Volcanoes National Park.

 

 

We paid the $3 admission fee and with a quick bathroom break we immediately befriended a group of Salvadorean locals curious to our presence. Our group of 7 then became 15.

 

 

Assisted by our driver Loretta, we found a trailhead to begin a half an hour hike with our last minute assigned guide Enrique. Our favorite were the views over Lake Coatepeque:

 

 

…and the trees of love:

 

 

After nearly 2 hours here, we then drove back down to the side of the volcano of Santa Ana where we devoured the numerous street stalls served on the side of the road:

 

 

It’s a vibe here too:

 

 

We then drove back to Lake Coatepeque proper for a quick dive and swim while watching the sunset:

 

 

Hard to beat these vanilla skies:

 

 

Returning back to the city at night, we dropped off Nina to see an old childhood friend from San Salvador while we dined at a local Salvadorean restaurant for our last dance with fresh pupusas, tamales, empanadas, elotes, …the works.

 

 

Then it was back to our rooftop batcave before our hotel closed at 10pm. 

Back to dissecting each other’s personal legends and most hidden of secrets.

 

 

- At time of posting in Los Cerros National Park, it was 16 °C - Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Santa Ana Over To Tazumal

Santa Ana Over To Tazumal

 

After an early breakfast at 8am and disappointigly finding out that Joya de Ceren — the Pompeii of El Salvador — was temporarily closed for renovations, we instead set off for San Andres: a pre-Columbian site in El Salvador beginning in 900 BC and abandoned by 250 AD after the volcanic eruption of Lago Ilopango.

 

 

This site was occupied again in the 5th Century, along with many others in the valley of Zapotitán. Then between 600 and 900 AD, San Andrés became the capital of a Mayan district with control over the other regions of Valle de Zapotitán.

After paying the $5 USD admission fee and washing our hands with a quick vaccine card and temperature check, we were treated to a 45 minute guided tour of the site (Spanish speaking only).

 

 

From San Andres we then drove onto Lake Coatepeque for lunch. Created from a volcano, the lake is located 20 minutes south of the city of Santa Ana with an altitude of 745 meters above sea level and a depth of 115 meters. 20,000 people live around the lake.

 

 

A splendid scenery for an alfresco lunch by the water.

 

 

The lunch was so filling that everyone fell asleep. On my birthday of all days. Hmph!

 

 

Driving on for another 30 minutes we managed to reach Tazumal an hour before closing at 4pm. Like San Andres, Tazumal is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site excavated in the 1940s. 

 

 

But unlike San Andres, there is no guided tour; once you pay the $5 admission fee, wander and climb up to your heart’s content here.

 

 

The best part was when we sat on the grass and watched the world go by.

 

 

Leaving at 4pm right at closing, we drove back east 20 minutes to Santa Ana, the second largest city in El Salvador.

Everyone comes to Santa Ana not only for a more authentic Salvadorian experience, but also for the Cathedral. Are we in Milan?

 

 

Right by the cathedral in the public square is the gloriously built Santa Ana Theater:

 

 

Don’t miss the other architecture in this area unique to Santa Ana; you can’t find this in San Salvador as readily.

 

 

Golden hour is the best hour:

 

 

After a light dinner and drinks at Simmer Down we then headed back to San Salvador while making a pit stop grabbing wine, beer, spirits, and snacks at a local gas station.

Returning to our hotel hour later at 7:30pm, we kicked it on our balcony rooftop back and went in deep the usual monsoon way when we’re in good company.

Happy birthday to me.

 

I Have So Much San Salvador-ation Right Now

I Have So Much San Salvador-ation Right Now

 

El Salvador: a country long elusive from my grasp. Despite multiple layovers here on my voyages to and from South America, I never really ventured far beyond the airport and THAT DOES NOT COUNT as a visit. Now I’m setting things right again and making it a proper trip.

Sadly, it had to be when we would find out that another coup would befall Sudan only 3 weeks ago, I figured it would be best to postpone a visit there and give a chance to El Salvador. Deciding 2 weeks ago thanks to the suggestion of longtime monsooner Mihaela and 7 signing up within 7 days, we made another impossible trip happen.

With the 4:40pm direct 4 hour Avianca flight for $220 roundtrip, this was the best flight price I’ve seen for El Salvador since 6 years of monitoring; the second lowest I’ve seen was $591 roundtrip. Although I had my negative COVID-19 test on a PCR that was performed within 72 hours of arrival, nobody ended up asking for a copy of my result at check in once they found out I was triply vaccinated for COVID-19.

Oh well, at least I know everyone else on my trip is with me is not only fully vaccinated but also negative for COVID-19.

Tony and I landed promptly at 8:35pm where we rendezvous’ed with Brandon and Kimmy after they had landed an hour earlier from Miami and were finishing up a power hour of drinks at the VIP lounge by Gate 5. We then headed to immigrations, paid the $12 tourist card at the counter in the left right corner, and then got stamped at the passports counter immediately to the right.

 

 

After a quick customs check we were picked up by a cab company our hotel arranged and taken to the serene accommodations of Hotel Oasis.

 

 

Taking it easy on the first day vibes, we got drinks outside my balcony terrace with these views of the mountains behind us:

 

 

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at our hotel garden:

 

 

While waiting for Rajani to fly in later in the afternoon, we joined Chyne at a hotel down the street and took 2 Ubers into the city historical center.

Still recovering from the plenty of earthquakes and the civil war since the 1980s, the center is lined with abandoned office buildings and thousands of vendors and stalls that call these congested streets home.

 

 

We started at the National Palace:

 

 

Then we walked up to the Civic Square Captain General Gerardo Barrios:

 

 

Then up to the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador, replacing the previous cathedral that was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1800s.

 

 

A steady stream of local and international tourists visit daily to see the downstairs tomb of Oscar Romero, the fourth archbishop of San Salvador.

 

 

Morazán Plaza is right in the center of it all.

 

 

Don’t miss the various Chivo kiosks scattered here, the new evidence of El Salvador adding Bitcoin as one of its official currencies (with Chivo as its mobile wallet):

 

 

Finally, by Plaza Libertad

 

 

…we walked to Iglesia Rosario. Built by sculptor Ruben Martinez in the 1970’s, this church is arguably one of the most unique and “radically beautiful” buildings in Central America.

 

 

To enter, you need to access a small side entrance around the corner:

 

 

It may appear as an airplane hangar from the outside . . .

 

 

. . . but inside a rainbow of colors dance across the floor and across the altar; natural night bounces off the metal and rock as the sun changes its course throughout the day. Although no photos are allowed inside, the guards kinda looked the other way after doing their job and saying it to us. We did our best to cover it up so nobody got in trouble.

 

 

Come here when the sun is setting during golden hour so you can maximize the different colors you can witness dancing along the walls of the church.

 

 

After half an hour at the historic center we turned around up and took an Uber for lunch at a local Pupuseria “La Oloculitense”.

FYI a pupusa: a thick tortilla dough based corn or rice stuffed with cheese, pork, squash, refried beans, or loroco (the Salvadorean national flower).

 

 

We had 3 “loca” pupusas (one with everything), 12 pupusas of 4 different varieties, 8 beers and 6 large bottles of water all for $32 USD:

 

 

It’s right next to the Monument to the Divine Savior of the World. The Saviour is San Salvador’s Patron Saint and is celebrated with massive festivities during the first full week of August every year

 

 

At night time it lights up pretty:

 

 

Finally we returned for an afternoon nap back at our hotels while waiting for Rajani to arrive.

After repeating the morning’s itinerary with her with our driver Loreta, we then stopped for a stroll under the rain along Plaza Futura: an open plan plaza at the base of a modern business tower and a popular expat hangout full of restaurants, cafes and bars.

 

 

The plaza offers some great views of the city, as well as where we dined at Senor Gaucho with a local San Salvadorian Adriana, who had reached out to me last night on Instagram about meeting up after seeing my stories.

 

 

Afterwards Adriana invited her sister Rose to join us for drinks and shisha at Vanilla Lounge:

 

 

The night is still going strong, so check back for more photos; especially with our new friends Adriana and Rose!

 

 

- At time of posting in San Salvador, it was 21 °C - Humidity: 81% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: rain showers

 

Lis-“bon” There…But Haven’t Done That!

Lis-“bon” There…But Haven’t Done That!

 

Yes I’ve been to Lisbon before! But that was back in 2011 after my first ever group monsoon and spent only 12 hours wandering. Didn’t even make it to Belem Tower then. So this is a return for a proper visit.

 

 

After our successful trip last month to Cyprus, I wanted to balance out the high with some solo travel: When I saw roundtrip flights between NYC and Portugal drop down to $340 USD all inclusive (for both flights!), I jumped right in, timing it to the reopening of the EU after the pandemic and before flight prices would rise. And what better way than with additional island hopping to Madeira and Azores via the mainland of Portugal for less than $90 USD per leg between each destination?

 

 

If there was a time to travel fully vaccinated and with a good deal, this is the time to do it.

After obtaining negative PCR tests the day before and boarding a 9pm Iberia flight from JFK to Madrid, I spent a 5 hour layover catching up on sleep at the Plaza Mayor lounge in Terminal 4 of MAD airport.

 

 

Then I boarded the 3:40pm Iberia flight onwards to Lisbon, landing at 4:05pm local time.

But before leaving, I made sure I picked up a pre-purchased 48 hour Lisbon Card for 34€ to save some money for the rest of my time here. It activates only when you first use it and is valid for a year since purchase, it’s hour to hour (so if I first used the card at 8am Monday, it would last until 8am Wednesday), and covers numerous admission fees at the top sites and most public transportation. If you missed getting a card at the airpot, you can also snag one at the Lisboa Welcome Center or Foz Palace.

Then catching an Uber at arrivals, we finally reached our lodgings at Porta do Mar in central Lisbon, a few paces away from Praca do Comércio:

 

 

And not even within an hour of landing in Lisbon, we ran into friends back home: Jinny and her friend Maggie, both of whom who had actually cancelled their trip to Portugal a few days ago, only to rebook it the next day on a whim and find us here. It was meant to be. We reunited with dinner at da Prato 52:

 

 

After a spirited conversation and 2 hours there, we headed up to the photogenic 19th century Santa Justa Elevador

 

 

… making it up the stairs and just in time for drinks at Topo Chiado before their 11pm curfew:

 

 

I struggled with not being able to sleep for more than 4 hours my first night before heading out again to meet with Jinny and Maggie for brunch. Thankfully I didn’t have to walk very far as I recuperated from jetlag:

 

 

After bidding them farewell as they headed off for Porto, we began our day at the Lisboa Story Center, located in Praca do Comércio. The admission fee is included in the card and expect to spend at least 45 minutes here learning about Lisbon’s history. It can be a decent a family-friendly (or cheesy, depending on the perspective) primer before you explore the rest of the city.

 

 

From here, I made a 4 minute walk uphill to the 18th century Saint Anthony’s Church (believed to be the birthplace of Saint Anthony):

 

 

…and across from the church stands the 12th century Lisbon Cathedral, which has been rebuilt numerous times in different styles due to earthquakes. The admission fee is not included in the Lisboa Card.

 

 

Another 10 minute walk up to the very top led me back to the 11th century Moorish built Castelo de Sao Jorge. Its admission fee is also not included on the card.

 

 

Then I headed back down to sea level by Praca do Comércio and took Bus 728 for a 25 minute ride to Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon:

 

 

With the admission fee included in the Lisboa Card, it took about half an hour to explore the monastery in its entirety:

 

 

Next to the monastery is its accompanying church, which you can visit free of charge:

 

 

Across from the monastery at the Tagus riverfront, start your boardwalk at the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument, built to celebrate the Portuguese “Age of Discovery/Exploration” in the 15th to 16th centuries:

 

 

From there walk along the river past the unexpectedly diminutive Belem Lighthouse:

 

 

…and you’ll eventually reach the landmark medieval defensive tower and de facto symbol of Lisbon, Belém Tower:

 

 

If you’re looking for a cafe in the area, look no further than the original Pasteis de Belem:

 

 

If you ask me though, its mortal enemy and competitor Manteigaria has a better crust experience at the expense of the creaminess of the custard you’d get with Pasteis’:

 

 

And in the spirit of gastronomy, later that evening we snagged reservations at José Avillez’s Belcanto, with 2 Michelin stars and ranked the 42nd best restaurant in the world:

 

 

I went all out for its Evolution Tasting Menu, beginning with Elderini with lemon foam and zest, and paprika salt, Brioche with cod liver and trout roe:

 

 

Oyster and tuna belly tartare with borage

 

 

Golden sphere with foie gras and Port, Minced squid with roasted chicken skin, egg yolk purée and huacatay, Marinated and brasied sardine, bell pepper and eggplant (bottom 3):

 

 

Carrot and olive in different textures with pine nut milk and lupin bean “caviar” (bottom plate):

 

 

European lobster “Casear salad” with avocado, tomato water and, yuzu and truffle emulsion:

 

 

Springtime scarlet shrimp with shrimp head curry, green apple, green asparagus and coriander:

 

 

Creamy egg yolk with spring flavors and, chicken and mint consommé:

 

 

Hake in fig leaf with its ‘tongues’, Barbela wheat crunch toast with fig leaves, dried fig butter and cured ham:

 

 

Crispy suckling pig ‘sandwich’ with sarapatel paté, peppercorn sauce, orange purée, watercress emulsion and puffed potatoes:

 

 

“Bacon-from-heaven” and earth:

 

 

Strawberry-tomato textures (yes with real tomato!):

 

 

Petits fours:

 

The Vegetarian version of the Belcanto Tasting Menu

 

Explosive Olive, Brioche bun filled with eggplant caviar:

 

 

Golden sphere with hummus, Jerusalem artichoke with avocado and corn, Charcoal toast with eggplant, and bell pepper (top 3):

 

 

Carrot in different textures with cashew milk, olive and tangerine bonbons (top plate):

 

 

White asparagus with avocado, tomato water, yuzu and truffle emulsion:

 

 

Artichoke with spring flavors and mushrooms consommé (top plate):

 

 

Vegetable curry, green apple, peas and coriander (top plate):

 

 

Vegetarian “cabidela”:

 

 

Sweet egg cream and lemon:

 


Sintra

The next morning to save us time, we arranged a bag pickup by Luggit from our lodgings; this way we could sleep in and leave later for Sintra, spend more time there (instead of returning to Lisbon for our bags), and then head directly to the airport afterwards where our bags would be waiting for us.

After getting our bags quickly picked up by Luggit without any drama (other than I slept through my alarm and made my keeper wait 20 minutes outside…sorry!), we took the hourly Linha de Sintra railway west from Rossio to Sintra, a 40 minute train ride away and also included in your Lisbon Card perks:

 

 

If you had to choose one castle out of the countless ones to explore in Sintra, choose the National Palace of Pena:

 

 

As my friend Sharon remarked, it’s “Disney World without Mickey Mouse.”

 

 

Each castle can either take an hour to explore (reading every exhibit and taking a ton of photos), or as little as 15 minutes if you’re not a big museum person. After enough spelunking they might start to blend in together, so unless you’re an expert in this field of Portuguese history and since most come to Sintra on a day trip, pick one or two at most to fully take in instead of trying to knock them all down in one day.

 

 

In the area I also recommend taking bus 403 (or an Uber) for a 40 minute drive away to the viewpoint and lighthouse at Cabo da Roca, the westernmost part of the main European landmass:

 

 

Afterwards given the convenient luggage service of Luggit that couriered our bags from our lodgings to the airport this morning before we left for Sintra, we saved ourselves a trip back to Lisbon and instead headed from Sintra directly to the airport. This trip took an hour from Sintra by means of public transportation, all of which included in the Lisboa Card.

 

 

After nearly 3 days in Lisbon, we are now about to board the evening 7:05pm Azores Airlines flight to Ponta Delgada in Azores.

 

 

- At time of posting in Lisbon, it was 24 °C - Humidity: 42% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny

 

Gotta Get Away Before I “Croix” Myself To Sleep

Gotta Get Away Before I “Croix” Myself To Sleep

 

During the heydey of the pandemic, I was nominated to be one of the 100,000 Healthcare Workers to receive a pair of of roundtrip flight certificates offered by JetBlue. I almost forgot about the expiration dates, if it weren’t for a reminder in the middle of a random ER shift one day that I had less than 2 months to use them before they’d be gone for good.

 

 

Scrambling to find worthy and safe locations to travel to with my weekend off in May, I concluded that the single-digit, low % rate of COVID-19 infections in the US Virgin Islands the past month was even safer than the rapidly decreasing rates in my own hometown of a very vaccinated Manhattan (which I feel has been the safest place to be in the entire country since last April).

I feel that even if I were to stay on the mainland, there are more than plenty maskless states down south that would be better off for a post-pandemic visit instead. And if I were to travel solo and spend most of my time in COVID-19 approved properties and outdoors, I should remain safe especially as a fully vaccinated individual. Can I recharge by travel still if I do it as responsibly as possible?

 

 

So here were my first steps in re-emerging into travel in 2021:

1. Ensure that the local infection rates of both the place of origin and destination are similarly low. It’s important that wherever you’re flying from is low in terms of infection rates (aka no outbreaks or single digit prevalence), that you’ve ideally stayed there for at least 10-14 days without symptoms and tested negative for COVID-19 right before departure so you know that you haven’t carried over an infection from somewhere else. Make sure you then choose to depart into areas with low infection rates, just as is the case regarding NYC and USVI, so you maintain that “travel bubble.”

 

 

2. Clear with any local laws regarding screening. Namely, USVI has a COVID-19 specific travel portal where you have to legally (and ethically!) clear your arrival before your trip.

 

 

3. Choose a flight that would be most likely be as empty as possible — how about a flight at a nearly civilized departure time of 6:40am in the morning?

 

 

4. Minimize the layovers. The danger is less on the plane, which cycles and filters out air more often than most land-based offices, trains, and subways. Instead, there is more of a danger in older and crowded airports, which variables you can control for much less than on a plane (for as long as it flies, it filters). We landed at STT after a 3 hour direct flight at 10:00am.

 

 

Before entering arrivals, they check if you have the pre-approval QR code that lets you bypass all the health checks. If you happen to forget, you go through another line requiring testing, temperature checks and questionnaires.

 

 

Welcome to the USVI!

 

 

5. Stay outdoors: Promptly headed out into downtown for a 10 minute, $8 per person taxi ride ($2 per bag in the trunk) right outside arrivals. Private taxis to downtown cost $55.

 

 

6. After a 10 minute drive into downtown, checked in our bags and picked up ferry tickets for the QE IV Ferry at Blyden Terminal for $60 USD per person one way to Saint Croix.

 

 

Then spent the next 4 hours exploring Charlotte Amalie (about a 10-15 minute walk from the ferry terminal) and nachos at open-air The Green House Bar & Restaurant.

 

 

Make sure wherever you go, return no later than 2:45pm as the boat promptly sets out at 3:00pm. They’re strict with enforcing the mask policy here.

 

 

Enjoy the bumpy 2 hour and 20 minute ride across the sea! They provide vomit bags for every row, and even advise you that “it’s normal to vomit” on the intercom and plead that you go outside if it happens.

 

 

We docked at Gallows Bay at 5:10pm EST.

 

 

Then walking over across town towards our lodgings at Sugar Apple Bed and Breakfast, we checked ourselves in for the night without having to encounter anyone (all our check-in details were provided by text).

 

 

So far I haven’t had any suspicion of coming into contact with a superspreader event.

 

 

I also highly recommend dinner at the intimate vegan-friendly plant based Ital Paradise:

 

 

It’s also where I would have my first time drinking juice made from a cashew apple!

 

 

The next morning we set off to explore Saint Croix, the largest island of the USVI complex. Starting in the capital city of Christiansted itself . . .

 

 

. . . we then walked around the Christiansted National Historic Site, a waterfront park featuring the landmark 18th-century Fort Christiansvaern and a warehouse where Alexander Hamilton worked as an orphan before moving to New York.

 

 

We then picked up a rental car at Centerline, contemplating a drive west to Carambola Beach Resort St. Croix where a 2 hour hike begins out to the Annally Tide Pools.

If you’re less inclined for a strenuous hike, consider laying out on Rainbow Beach instead:

 

 

Nearby the beach about a 3 minute drive south lies Fort Frederik located in the “second town” of Frederiksted.

 

 

Frederiksted is also somewhat of a ghost town when we visited:

 

 

After a lunch at Polly’s at the Pier here (while casually watching a 20 something year old spend a nearly an entire hour asking someone out on a date), we returned east driving by the also currently shuttered Estate Whim Sugar Mill:

 

 

Finally driving all the way east towards Goat Hill you can reach the easternmost point of the United States of America: Point Udall.

 

 

It’s designed so that at noon, wherever this sundial of a structure points with its shadow, it’s the truth north:

 

 

Don’t miss the curiously named Very Long Baseline Array Telescope either on the way there or back.

 

 

We finally finished our long day around the island back at Christiansted with dinner at Too. Chez:

 

 

…and is that a Blockbusters?!

 

 

The next morning we took out breakfast arepas at Toast Diner by the Christiansted boardwalk.

 

 

Then during breakfast, Kelly and her son Dylan stopped by to say hi! Both residents of Saint Croix, they hollered when they noticed on my IG stories that I was in the area. Nice to meet you both and thanks again for the dolphin poop Dylan!

 

 

After chatting and having them walk me over to the seaplane terminal at the end of the boardwalk, I boarded the 10:40am Seaborne Airlines seaplane to the main capital city island of Saint Thomas for $140 USD one way per person.

 

 

- At time of posting in Saint Croix, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 65% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Big & Burli-ngton!

Big & Burli-ngton!

 

After a day and a half in Acadia that included a hike at Jordan Pool Pond this morning, we then departed to grab a quick cheesecake at Momo’s Cheesecake in the town of Ellsworth.

 

 

The remarkable thing is not only that this amazing piece of work is $5.50 a slice, but that you can pay on the honor code — there isn’t a single employee here to take your order; you simply pay by dropping off your cash in a box and take whatever you paid for!

 

 

Furthermore at a nearby farm, we found this “honor system” to be the continually running theme in this part of Maine.

 

 

We then headed onwards for a quick fast food lunch in empty Augusta, Maine.

 

 

Then along the long 6 hour drive to Vermont, I finally drove for the first time in 11 years! At the time of writing, we’re still alive!

Once we arrived at Burlington at 8pm, we made a beeline to #1 stop on everyone’s list here: a stroll through Church Street Marketplace.

 

 

A perfect balance of historic buildings, public performances, and modern trappings can keep a visitor here busy all day!

 

 

Although the original Ben & Jerry’s location is only a block away on College Street and Saint Paul’s (now currently an empty lot with a plaque commemorating the original location), this is the closest you’ll get to the OG:

 

 

There’s also a Ben & Jerry’s factory about an hour east from Burlington (complete with a Flavor Graveyard!) but sadly it was closed for the weekend for this trip.

And if you’re willing to venture a bit farther from Church Street Marketplace, check out the waterfront to Lake Champlain a few minutes away.

 

 

As we checked into our lodgings at the Hilton DoubleTree in Burlington, we noticed another casualty of COVID-19: their famous chocolate chip cookies were no longer offerred. They also made us sign another certificate of compliance related to the concerns of the virus spreading everywhere else around the country.

The next morning we got some coffee and stopped by for a second at the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet.

 

 

Then we drove south and picked some strawberries for $3 a pint at Fat Belly Farm:

 

 

I also got bit by a bee for the first time (no allergic reaction, don’t worry) here:

 

 

Then with another hour’s drive south, we enjoyed a thorough free cheese and maple syrup tasting at Sugarbush Farms, also part of the Vermont Cheese Trail.

 

 

Here you can visit their sugar house where they evaporate the maple water into syrup, all from the 9000 trees that they tap on their farmlands.

 

 

They’ll helpfully warn you to steer clear of imitations!

 

 

There’s also a pleasant “maple hill” walk that takes around 10 minutes so you can see all the maple trees from where they tap. Find the hidden chapel in the woods where people can book for weddings.

 

 

Finally on our final stretch home, we stopped once at Flayvors of Cook Farm in Amherst, MA (on the last minute recommendation of one of my friends and monsooners Victoria Lu from the Antigua & Barbuda trip!):

 

 

Remarkably the mask culture completely shifted when we entered Massachusetts; it went from “masks appreciated” in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, to “masks required” that we also saw in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.

 

 

The great thing about Flayvors of Cook Farm is that you can eat ice cream staring at the very source where they came from:

 

 

Driving onwards home, by 8:30pm we returned full circle back to Frank Pepe’s in New Haven. We noticed that the indoor dining we had seen 6 days ago when we began this trip now have been rolled back and they were back to doing pickups only. Thanks to my friend and monsooner, Alfred Yeung (of numerous trip/monsoons), he helpfully was able to order ahead a classic tomato pie + mozzarella for us!

After a quick catch up with him (he had done the exact same trip that we did for the weekend up to Providence, RI), we returned to NYC, dropping off out car at 11pm in what seemed to look like a scene from an apocalyptic movie: Countless cars with their hazard lights on stretching around both corners of the street.

I figure this was from all the pent-up demand of July 4th weekenders dropping off their vehicles at the only 24/7 open Avis in this part of the city!

 

 

But we did it — 1 week of responsible travel in the era of COVID-19!

 

 

- At time of posting in Burlington, VT, it was 20 °C - Humidity: 71% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly sunny