The destination today was the Simon Pearce Glass Co. in Quechee, Vermont. We’d been told it was a nice day trip, and the bonus was its great restaurant that overlooked a river and a covered bridge. Setting out this morning on quiet Route 4 we drove through small towns with fall foliage that had by now faded to brown and gold.
Simon Pearce opened his first glassblowing shop in 1971 in Kilkenny, Ireland. In 1981 he moved it to Quechee, where he restored an old woolen mill and used the Ottauquechee River as a source for hydroelectric power for the glass furnaces. This old mill was where we spent several hours today, and had lunch next to windows that looked out onto the river.
The first thing we noticed was the view … no covered bridge. In fact, no bridge at all. Our server explained that during Hurricane Irene last year the bridge was so damaged it had to be removed; it will be replaced with a new one, and construction was underway. She told us the story of that day.
“It was horrible,” she said. “Every ten minutes the water was rising. It didn’t take out the bridge but it took out both sides of the bridge. The water was over Main Street – all the way over to the other bank.” The employees were told to leave by noon. When we asked about the lower level of the building we were in, she replied, “Everything under your feet was gone.” She said afterwards she helped shovel mud out of the building for three weeks.
Fascinating recent history aside, our lunch was delicious and the service was great. The food was excellent, but not cheap, but this was our fall fling and we had the vanilla bean crème brûlée for dessert. Life is short.
Next we browsed the shop, which is full of gorgeous glassware arranged under lights that made it sparkle like diamonds. There was a table full of stunning glass trees, votive candle holders that looked like glowing balls of ice, and stemware with intricate woven patterns. The real surprise, though, was the glassblowing workshop on the lower level. Here you could actually watch them MAKE all this stuff … by hand! After watching the process and seeing the skill and patience involved in each piece, I can completely understand why the prices are so high. These are works of art.
From here we continued along Route 4 to Quechee Gorge, Vermont’s deepest gorge, formed by glacial activity approximately 13,000 years ago. We looked down at the Ottauquechee River flowing 165 feet below. A few miles further is the beautiful town of Woodstock, where we stopped and did some window shopping.
With Hurricane Sandy almost on our doorstep I will be thinking of Quechee this coming week and hoping the river doesn’t rise like it did a year ago August. If you want to see just how bad it was, take a look at this YouTube video:
or this one:
Today was the perfect New England day trip … enlightening, educating, entertaining, and one seriously awesome crème brûlée.