I Like You Upper Valley: A Tale in Many Parts
Well hello there, WRJ.
Wide eyed looking for something
There's bound to be something
To let you down
Wide eyed are you sleep deprived
Well if you want to be something
You're looking alive
My recents trips to Marfa, Texas and Buena Vista, Colorado have sparked a latent interest in what my new Upper Valley pal Matt calls “Place Making”– a sometimes thoughtful and often forward-leaning rehabilitation/revitalization of rural American towns. I’ve swung down through these parts here in Vermont a billion times en route to destinations south but am just now discovering the new depths of her WW nature, much of it the result of a fresh wave of a few dedicated creators, artists and entrepreneurs… come see with me…
Path Of Life Sculpture Garden, Windsor
How have I missed this place!?
The Path of Life Garden is a landscape shaped by a revelation of the human spirit and inspired by our relationship with the natural world. Visitors travel through 18 works of art illustrating elements that constitute human life. In doing so, spectator is transformed into participant, engaging the 14 acres of sculptures and the surrounding expanse.
While this all may sound a little bit tutti frutti, I found the whole experience heady, wondrous, and inspiring. Dudebro Terry McDonnell crafted a minimal life-is-a-journey narrative that physically leads you through a meandering garden with 18 inflection points including “Wisdom,” “Hope,” “Sorrow,” and “Ambition.” These kinds of medium-handed spiritual walks often miss but on this perfect late summer Vermont day I got it. Message received, Terry.
Hartland Diner, Hartland
“Get anything with the hollandaise.” - Matt
A postage stamp diner straight out of a John Waters film, here’s your Upper Valley weirdo food oasis. Cheeky menu, cheeky decor, cheeky service. The prices are slightly higher because they pay a living wage, ditto the higher quality, locally sourced ingredients. Everyone knows everyone in here and if I could I would have coffee here M-F and high five all the ladies with the beehive hairdos. Vibes galore and the hollandaise indeed crushes.
Phnom Penh Sandwich Station, White River Junction
I’ve always had a soft spot this building in the dead center of White River Junction. Built in 1925 (!) the Polka Dot Diner was parked here until a few years ago where it remained vacant and unloved. Boo. But there’s life in this old gal yet and thank quintuple Jesus it’s not another take on cuisine du USA.
What do we want? Food with exotic flavor profiles!
When do we want it? NOW!
Enter Phnom Penh Sandwich Station. I could hug you extraneous H’s. H. H. h.
The place was bumping, the bread housemade, the dumplings cheap and the sandwich A+. New fav.
Little Istanbul, White River Junction
Well someone got the memo because now there’s also a Turkish spice village downtown. A sister joint to the stellar Tuckerbox restaurant next door, Little Istanbul slings rugs and ceramics but I got most excited about these tubs of crushed foreign flavor pods. Now I can finally get busy with some of the homies in my “Jerusalem” cookbook… I see you Pan-Fried Sea Bream with Harissa and Rose. 👀
American Precision Museum, Windsor
I loooove small museums. That said, while well executed and generously staffed I couldn’t quite get into the spirit at the APM. I’ll give this another go when my attention span is a little less, uh, frenzied? I did love the history of building- a factory which utilized a water power generator and ran belted tools on multiple floors. Super duper fascinating but I got a little lost in all the little things. Next time though!
Here’s the first ever milling machine. Neat.
There’s waaaay more stuff going on in WRJ which I’ll dive into soon like the $11 Smoothie, JAG Productions (Vermont’s only Black theater company!), the local meat pie shop Piecemeal Pies, the extraordinary Center for Cartoon Studies, and tiny Kishka Art Gallery (check cool flyguy down below). Buuuuuut the place I’m most excited for is The Main Street Museum which presents as the major aperture for all things WW in town. I’m in contact with the proper authorities and on the case I assure you. Standby, friends…
Thank you for reading, love you, hope to see you soon