Tag Archives: hiking

A Road Trip to Manchester

Road trips are the best, aren’t they? All the excitement of going somewhere new without the hassle of dealing with crowds, security check points and little kids kicking the back of your seat. Plus with road trips, getting there really is half the fun because of 90’s singalongs (is that just me?) and pit stops for whatever catches your eye like farmer’s markets and scenic views. So when my friends and I were in desperate need of a break from NYC, instead of hopping on a flight to typical spring break spots like Puerto Rico or Mexico, we opted for a change of pace and rented a car heading for Manchester, Vermont.

What the heck is in Manchester?

Thank you! I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who had no idea. Manchester is an adorable town that’s pretty ideal for skiers and snowboarders in the winter and those that like to flyfish in the summer. It’s centrally located to both Stratton Mountain and Bromley Mountain, and there are even several trails in Manchester for those that prefer cross-country skiing. That being said, we weren’t heading there for the winter sports but instead to relax, do some hiking, and just enjoy the adorable town. Oh, and let’s not forget about the fantastic outlet shopping to be had! So if you find yourself staying in or nearby Manchester for a few hours or even a few days, here are some places that you should definitely check out.

Fun fact: Manchester is the home of the Orvis flyfishing chain.

Must-do: Hike the trails at Equinox Preserve

equinox pond-002

Alright, winter isn’t exactly the best time for some hardcore hiking in Manchester as many of the trails are very icy or very muddy. That being said, we managed as best we could with the trails at Equinox Preserve. Mount Equinox is one of the highlights of the town, and up until 1996 the 900+ acres around it was owned by the Equinox Resort. The resort donated this to make sure the land would always be preserved. Start your hike by picking up a map of the trails at the Equinox Resort hotel. Their concierge was very friendly and gave us some excellent suggestions of ideal routes. Regardless of what trails you choose, at some point circle back to Equinox Pond where you’ll have a stunning view of Equinox mountain over the water. The pond also has a historic waterfront property which used to be an ice house, and the building is a popular spot for wedding venues. After you have finished up with the trails, walk back on Taconic Road to pass some beautiful historic homes. If you do happen to come to Manchester in the warmer months you’ll have even more wonderful trails to choose from so take full advantage of it!

equinox trail-002


Must-see: The Hildene House


The Hildene House is the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, Abe’s eldest son and the only child to live to adulthood. This house is spectacular and is just part of over 400 acres of the property. Robert first visited Manchester with his mother and brother when he was 20 and they actually stayed at the Equinox Resort at that time. The property was built in 1905 and has spectacular views of the Battenkill Valley as well as Mount Equinox. Descendants of the family lived there until 1975, the longest out of any Lincoln residences. Today it is owned and maintained by the non-profit, Friends of the Hildene. I really enjoyed walking through this estate, especially because most of the furniture and possessions were actually owned by the Lincolns. The house has a 1,000 pipe organ which was added in 1908 as a gift from Robert to his wife. There are over 200 rolls and the guide actually plays the songs for you as you tour the house. It’s actually quite comical at how loud it is but is still a fun peek into the past.

Fun fact: The garden in the back of the house is actually in the shape of a stain-glass window, an idea designed by Robert and Mary’s daughter, Jessie. The garden was a gift from Jessie to her mother, and can be seen from the windows of Mary’s room on the second floor. Of course the flowers weren’t in bloom when we visited, but if you go in the spring or summer you will be able to see that the colors of the flowers are coordinated to match the stain-glass look.

dining room-001

Must-peruse: The books at the adorable Northshire Bookstore

If only every town had a bookstore as quaint as this one! Think 10,000 square feet of pure bookworm bliss, complete with a pretty extensive children’s section as well as a delicious cafe. The company itself was founded in 1976 but the current location was only bought and renovated in 1986 (and then renovated and extremely expanded again in 2003.)  While this bookstore is always bumping, there is so much space that we never felt crowded (I love you Strand but you raise my blood pressure.) Oh, and let’s go back to this cafe! Spiral Press cafe is connected the bookstore but is way better than your average Starbucks in Barnes & Nobles experience. The food is legit and the seating is ample – we saw lots of students studying as well but there was always open tables. Definitely worth a walk-through, although you’ll probably walk out with a handful of great reads, too.


Where to stay:

The Equinox Resort is clearly the leading hotel in terms of the four-star experience, but for those of you that are looking for a more affordable stay there are plenty of other options as well. Ask yourself if being walking distance to the city center (where many of the outlet shops and restaurants are) is important or if you are ok with driving. We chose to stay at Manchester View, a hotel that is very close to the center (about a 10 minute walk to Northshire Bookstore) but is very affordable. It was a no-frills hotel but the rooms were very spacious and the grounds had some entries to trails and even a trout pond! Surprisingly you will notice a stark difference between the part of town that has more luxurious hotels versus the more budget-friendly options (think marble sidewalk versus no sidewalk.) We drove by most of the other hotels I was looking at which all seemed charming in their own way, too.

Where to eat:

Up for Breakfast: I have to start with this place – you MUST brunch at Up for Breakfast. This is non-negotiable. Delicious meals, absurdly large portion sizes, an obsession with chicken decor, and a friendly but super efficient staff. ‘Nuff said.

Spiral Press Cafe at Northshire Bookstore: You already knew this you savvy reader, you.

Mulligans: Excellent pub fare and great atmosphere.

Ye Olde Tavern: Next door to Manchester View, the food at Ye Olde Tavern is absolutely delicious. Know that it is definitely an upscale establishment. We stumbled in here on our first night thinking that it was more of a low key restaurant and were caught off guard. The food was excellent though so it was definitely not a problem!


Currently reading:
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

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Costa Rica: Land of the Sloths!

I finally did it. After years of sitting, waiting, wishing (did you catch that Jack Johnson reference?) I finally made my way over to Costa Rica for a belated 30th birthday getaway. I already knew what a good time I was in for after hearing about the awesome trips my friends have made either for honeymoons, bro getaways, Teaching English stints, etc. And even so, amidst my pure joy after arriving I almost broke down into tears when I realized I left my Canon Rebel back in New York. Nooooo, but the SLOTHS. I must capture the beauty of the slow-moving beasts that I love so much! After whimpering for 20 minutes or so I got over myself, because I was in rainforest paradise after all, and I proceeded to have one of the most relaxing, yet active weeks of my life. Ahh, where to begin?

We decided to spend the full week in Manuel Antonio, the destination that my bestie Dory raved about from having spent a month in Costa Rica last year. I must admit that I was a little skeptical about this plan – what about the volcano in Arenal, the Caribbean vibe on the east coast, the wildlife at Tortuguero!? Won’t we just get bored sitting in one place for the entire time? This place better be frickin’ amazing. And well, it was. First of all, I absolutely loved the laid back vibe and how friendly everyone was – it reminded me of a certain Costa Rican classmate who always had a smile on his face (miss you, Fernando!) It was also very cool to meet some expats – the majority of those I met being American – and hear their stories about what brought them there. We chose to stay at Mango Moon, a boutique hotel up the hill in Manuel Antonio. The owner is an American expat who’s lived in MA for the past 6 years and she is absolutely wonderful. And what did I mean when I said the week was relaxing, yet active? Well, even though we had our fill of beach days, we also did plenty of activities. Since tourism is such a big part of Costa Rica’s economy, it was very easy to set up tours of pretty much anything we wanted to do and have the tour companies pick us up at the hotel. The only tour we set up in advance was with a well known guide that leads nature walks through Manuel Antonio National Park, but we had no problem planning the rest of the week once we got there. And even though we only arrived at our hotel around 9pm and were exhausted after a full day of travel, we were up at 7am the next day to greet our national park guide and start on the week’s adventures. The walk through the national park itself is not too far, but since there is so much to see on the trails we spent 4 hours with Johan, mesmerized by all that was there to see but would have been impossible to spot if we were on our own. Our guide parted ways with us at one of the park’s beaches and we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and beach bumming to our heart’s content. The rest of the week was similar with kayaking through the mangroves one day, rafting through the Savegre River and even taking an intense hike to get to the beautiful Nauyaca Falls. Up at 7am each morning to start our day with breakfast with a view, off and exploring by 7:30, and back and in bed by 10pm to start it all again the next day. It was my first time both rafting and kayaking and I had a blast. My favorite day trip was the trip to the falls, which I heard is the biggest and most impressive waterfall in the area. We worked up a sweat getting to the falls and as soon as we arrived we awarded ourselves with a nice long dip in the natural pool.

Nauyaca Falls

Rafting down the Savegre River

Manuel Antonio is best known for its national park, and for good reason. In addition to being able to spot all kinds of wildlife, there are several trails that lead to different beaches. As I had mentioned before, you absolutely need a guide the first time you go so they can point out all the animals, plants and insects for you, and then from then on you can always go back just to relax and swim at the beach. We actually ended up there 3x over the course of the week, taking different nature trails and hiking over to different parts of the park. And what kind of wildlife did we spot? I just so happened to keep a list throughout the walk. And yes, I did get my sloth sighting, complete with fuzzy pictures and all!

Red Crowned Woodpecker
Howler Monkey
Eyelash Pit Viper & Fer De Lance
Baby Iguana
Helmet Headed Lizard
Golden Web Spider
Green Tree Anole
Lesser White-Lined Bat
White face (Capuchin) Monkey
Walking Stick
Basilisk (Jesus Christ Lizard)
Squirrel Monkey

Manuel Antonio Beach

Gemelas Beach

Escondido Beach

Espadilla Sur Beach

Tips for Manuel Antonio Nature Park: Make sure to get a guide in advance. We found Johan Chavez through Tripadvisor and he was a very sweet, knowledgable guy. It’s obvious he loves what he does, which is so refreshing to see. We ended up running into him each time we visited the park, and once he went out of his way to show up a pit viper that was just spotted on the trail. Also, while Manuel Antonio beach is the most picturesque, if you want to have the beach to yourself take the trail that leads to Espadilla Sur. We spent hours in the water and felt like we had the place to ourselves.

As if that wasn’t enough wildlife, we had frequent visitors at the hotel every day too – the adorable Titi monkeys.

And finally, we ended the week with an awesome 20 minute flight from MA back to San Jose to catch our flight back to NY. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

So if you haven’t yet been out to this amazing country where the people are so warm and friendly, plans are made depending on the tides, and the raccoons are actually kind of cute, maybe now’s the time to get on that. And while peak season brings more days of sun, I loved going in July when the rain was welcomed by didn’t ruin plans and the sun wasn’t as harsh. Of course, now I feel the need to go back and visit the other parts of Costa Rica. See you next year? Pura vida!

Where to eat: Coming from NYC, we weren’t exactly heading to Costa Rica for the food (yes, I’ll admit that we are spoiled in New York.) That being said, we did have a couple good meals and of course indulged in the seafood. Best meal of the trip hands down was dinner at Emilio’s Cafe, which fortunately for us was just up the street from our hotel. The great food was also well complemented with a live Latin band. Splurge for the tuna trio!

Where to stay: It seems like there are a lot of great options for hotels depending on your budget. Mango Moon was perfect for us because it had fantastic views and was clean yet still super affordable. And really, the friendly owner and staff make the place as great as it is. Even the dog who couldn’t be bothered by my presence warmed up to me by the end of the week.

Black sand beach at the bottom of the trail from Mango Moon


Books read:
Orphan Train by Christina Baker
Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis

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