An Austen Saturday

I write this Sunday morning, gentle reader, because “dinner” never broken up until Midnight! A good time was had by all, don’t you think??


Saturday in Hyde Park (Vermont) dawned fairly grey. The rain that had plagued Washington and New York City ceremonies yesterday has wended its way northward – but only enough to dampen, never enough to wet events for our Austen participants.

Suzanne’s Breakfast begins with a tasty honeydew slice, followed — if you would like — by oatmeal (a warm crunchy nut concoction today!), and finishes with stuffed French toast – served with real maple syrup, of course!

The dining room windows open out to a lovely view of green lawn, with hazy mountains closing in on the trees which are still green — but in a month’s time will display an explosion of color. On this grey day, a bit more cloud-cover hides the scenery from sight.

Let me introduce you to some of the Austenites here: There is Marilyn and Lenice, fast friends since high school, who hail from Texas (Marilyn had come to last January’s Persuasion weekend). Stacy, from Upstate New York (Ithaca way), has come with her sister Cheryl and their mother Cathy and family friend Marie. Maria, an avid hiker heading to Killington for a few days after this weekend, traveled up from Florida. There are a couple people much more local: our avid Austen-fan Mkay is here (yeah!) and later in the day will see the arrival of Diane and her husband, all coming down from my old home-area of Essex.

As breakfast ends, it is decided that Kelly will join Marie and Ann, a UMASS grad student, on a horse-and-buggie ride down in Stowe. The large party has been divided into groups of 3-4-3 and given half-hour segments. Our appointment with the horses is for 11:30 a.m.

Maria has gone on ahead, so Ann and I zoom through the narrow backroads of Hyde Park and Morristown (passing a nice used bookstore, which I haven’t visited in a few years but would recommend: The Red Brick Bookshop) and come off onto Route 100 just as the town of Stowe, with its shops and tourists, opens out into ‘downtown’. Our goal is Gentle Giants, up on the Mountain Road. The rain that sprinkled a tiny bit while I had popped down into Johnson to mail a bill (booooo!!!!) and then back up Route 15 to grab a little cash and some candies at the local BigLots!, now comes a bit more steadily. The distant sound of tinkling sleigh bells heralds the arrival of the foursome occupying the carriage in the ride ahead of ours.

carriageRed-haired Rochelle, the owner-operator, greets us, saying “I thank God every day for working with these animals, and in this beautiful place.” Given the uncertain weather, we all were taken out in the buggy with a retractable roof. Brave Maria decids to sit on the box with the driver — although, she confesses sotto voce, that she is afraid of heights! She later confirms that she did indeed have a quite good view. That leaves Ann and I in the back, under the hood. Our carriage seems to be the one IDed as the ‘vis-a-vis’, for four. Our horses were the greys, Jack and Mack

We travel at quite the leisurely pace (undoubtedly necessitated by the country lane, as well as the length of the horse-trail — which, if taken at break-neck speed, would shorten the half-hour drive), but what surprises is the time the horses take for doing horsey-kinds-of-things. When they have to ‘go’, they have to go – and they halt in mid-stride. According to Rochelle, when one relieves, the other one will follow suit. So you sit and wait. That’s something you never see in the movies!

When I first joined the Austen weekends, back at the end of January, the threesome staying the entire weekend went on a SLEIGH ride; how wonderful that must be! This time of year, with the seasons just about to change from summer to fall here in New England, it is a quiet ride through lush greenery, sometimes crossing the Stowe Recreational Path and sometimes plotted beside a clear, babbling stream. The turn-around is an expansive field, which offers beautiful views of a cloud-enshrouded Mount Mansfield.

As we exchange our carriage for our cars (and a drive down into Stowe for a brief look-around), I close this diary briefly.