Actually there was no need to document today, but one thing leads to another. The weather is finally in a spring like mode, and yesterday I cleaned out the stable and all the ladies got some exercise. Today had to be a road trip.  But earlier in the week Rob posted on Facebook that he was going to be at the Flavors of the Valley 2015 –  I clicked that I would attend.  Tara emailed me, “can I go with you?” An adventure was formulated – but going to a food festival does not justify a post.

Now, Tara as you may know is my partner with A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  And we have done some road trips (she has given permission for this mention and publicity). What is great about her is that as we are cruising down a road she will say, “did you see that sign?”  I hit the brakes, we do a u-turn, and stumble into adventures.  That is why you are getting today’s post.

I picked her up at 11AM, and her husband ran out to get pictures – of course, I arrived in BLUE BELLE.  “Move up a little,” Eric said, “so you are not in the shade.”  I complied, and then off we sped. The plan was to head north on US5 in Vermont to the fair at Hartford High School in White River Junction (next to a school she had attended), and return on Route 12 on the New Hampshire side of the river.

As we were leaving Hartland, Vermont, she yelled out, “did you see that sign? Sumner Mansion it reads.” Brakes, U-Turn, dirt drive, and WOW.


BLUE BELLE wants to move – sorry, not happening. But the door was open, and before I could get my seat belt unbuckled, Tara was inside.


To the left of the entranceway was the reception/dining area for events, but then she (not me) opened a door, and we explored the first floor. We “chickened out” and did not go upstairs – no one was there.

Continuing up US5, I sidetracked to show Tara a double covered bridge side route that you can see from I-91, but have to search out while shunpiking.


We then got to the Food Fair and paid our $10 admission.  Essentially, in return you get to eat and eat. But also to learn of new restaurants, farming techniques, etc. I have a couple ideas to pitch to my “Wednesday at 44” friends.

Tara is a NH State Representative, and very influential on the Environment and Agricultural Committee (one time we were out together and chatted with the governor of NH). The food fair was right up her alley so to speak, and she was learning from Vermont exhibitors, and sharing with them, and New Hampshire residents.  Here she is detailing to NH farmers and restaurant owners of Ariana’s Restaurant in Orford, NH, the bill she sponsored, and was passed, allowing local farmers to process and sell their poultry and rabbits directly to restaurants. They were thrilled to hear of the passage.


This exhibitor, a caterer, has a fantastic five course meal coming up in May at The Shaker Inn in Enfield, NH (very strong hint to my local friends). Their scallops were amazing.


And, at this event Rob served over 1,000 people a sample of WALPOLE CREAMERY ice cream.  The favorites today were UDDER JOY and STRAWBERRY  LEMON. He scooped constantly for four hours. Glad I saw him bending and serving – now I know to say no when he asks for help.


But it was after 2PM and we were stuffed. Time to head home. So, backroad to cut back over the Connecticut River to New Hampshire and down Route 12.  We passed all the strip malls in West Leb and started cruising south.

Tara yelled out, “did you see that sign – Meriden, New Hampshire – have you been there? “and another one saying Kimball Union Academy.”  “Never heard of either,” I replied.  Brakes, U-turn, and off we went, and went. We had to have gotten there (was only supposed to be three miles), but still in the wilderness there was a covered bridge, farm and sugar house.  “I know them,” says Tara. “Just tell me who you do not know,” I replied.

We stopped and chatted (forgot to take a picture), and  found out that the town of FF-10Meriden was just up the hill, and from there we could take Route 120 south to Claremont. Ends up that Meriden is part of Plainfield, and a hill town (elevation 928 feet) with commanding views, including a unique view back to Mt. Ascutney.  And, all that is there is the Kimball Union Academy, founded in 1813 and the 22nd oldest boarding school in the country (tuition currently just under $48,000 a year – for college prep!).






Tara and I both were overwhelmed with the beauty and architecture, and solitude. Note she is wearing a sweater color coordinated with BLUE BELLE.


And, I trust you have noted how wonderful the skies were today.


We then headed down the hill to pick up Route 120, but never, never make a turn without first crossing an intersection to see what is on the other side.  So, we got to see the few houses there, and off to the left an old school which is now the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum. Closed until 25 April, but intriguing.

Back then to head south on Route 120 to Claremont. Again, no reason for you to ever be on this road, but we both recommend that next time you are at Saint-Gaudens that you jog over to this route to head south instead of the parallel and to the west Route 12A. And you have to see the Academy’s campus.

FF-13Entering Claremont Tara suggested we find The Common Man restaurant and have a glass of wine. What a lovely surprise, and I will have to get back.

Great restoration and use of the old mill buildings along the river, and when the weather is nice, the manager told us they open hatches in the floor so you can see the water sluice under the building. The sound of falling water on the patio is worth the trip back.

The Common Man in Claremont, New Hampshire

The Common Man in Claremont, New Hampshire

The sluiceway going under the dining room

The sluiceway going under the dining room

Great surrounds for dinner.

Great surrounds for dinner.

So, for a day I was not planning to write a post, RAY RECOMMENDS:

1) Plan to attend next year’s FLAVORS OF THE VALLEY
2) Visit Meriden, New Hampshire
3) Plan on dinner with friends at Ariana’s Restaurant in Orford, NH
4) Experience The Common Man in Claremont, NH
5) Shunpike with Tara – she knows what is is all about !!!


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  1. Andrea Goins says:

    Sounds like so much fun! Wonderful recommendations,too. So ready to do a little local touring!
    Thanks, Tara and Ray!

  2. Jim says:

    Kimball Union Academy and I are old friends, Ray — since the school is/was often a stop on the
    OperaNorth schools performances tour(s). It’s a beautiful location. Thanks for this ‘spring fling’

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