The tale of an epic Fall Foliage road trip of Saadia with her dad, a father-daughter adventure.
Dawn. Chilly October morning. Half asleep but excited, we got in our car and began our road trip north towards the beautiful state of Vermont, a new state for us!Driving past the Adirondacks, crossing through just a little bit of the Berkshires in Massachusetts, we entered the untouched by billboards, route 100 in Vermont. Sun shinning, cool airy breeze, sound of leaves rustling in the wind, and smell of fresh pumpkin spice were tending to all our senses. We stopped at the first country store after crossing the border and picked up a state map, essential for all road trips! We were going to do this old school.
Morning. First stop, hike! Pulled up to a hiking trail in Mount Molly, not too far from the Massachusetts border. We were the only ones on the trail on our way up, but once at the summit, we were greeted by other fellow visitors. The summit was nothing to write home about, but it was nice way to start the morning, bonding with nature.
Feeling accomplished with a morning hike, we set off further north towards Stratton Mountain Resort, where we were going to spend the night at one of the most horrific rooms in all our travel years (more on that later). But before we had to deal with our less than acceptable room, we headed to the mountain to enjoy the festivities. We ate at an Irish pub; as expected the food was ok and not at all worth the price we paid for it. Unfortunately for us, not after ten minutes of leaving the restaurant did we stumble upon a food festival with all sorts of food for loads cheaper! Only if we had made a right out of the parking lot instead of a left!
Disappointed we decided to explore the premises and found the $10 gondola rides. The gondola/cable cars in the states really are quite disappointing to those in Europe, however, we enjoyed our time going up the slope.
It was uber cold at the top and after taking some pictures, and strolling the fields, we made our way back down. It served our purpose, which to be honest was just to ensure that we did something beyond throwing our money away into the resort (both the food and the accommodations were a waste).
Late Afternoon. Having done our foliage route research prior to the start of the trip, we had jotted down tons of routes that were ideal prospects for this weekend’s leaf peeping. If there is one thing you should know about foliage drives, it’s that they can be quite unpredictable. While you do get a general idea of when the colors are expected to be great (thanks to the official foliage reports), you can never guess which day/weekend will be THE BEST for colors. To be honest, the chase is part of the enjoyment. Just another reminder that you are not in control, it’s all up to Mother Nature.
One of our favorite parts about road trips include stopping at local stores and Vermont had plenty of country stores worth stopping at. Picked up coffee, postcards and some candy from this one.
And since Vermont is famous for its cheese, we stocked up on some of those here.
Evening. As the sun was setting and the night sky was becoming visible, we decided it was our cue to head back to our hotel. Pulling into the parking lot under the clear night sky was super amazing. That amazement ended the minute we stepped into a run down looking building situated between two taller and prettier looking ones; this was our Stratton Mountain “resort”. Having booked at the very last minute on Expedia for $75/night, we weren’t expecting much from our hotel, but even the low expectations were in for a shock.
The main door to the building was ajar (wouldn’t close), which didn’t exactly give us a warm and fuzzy feeling. The hallways and carpets looked like it had been abandoned for years. The room was down a tiny, dark hallway. Appearing like a crime scene set from a Criminal Minds episode, it left a very uncomfortable feeling in both of us. It didn’t sound like any of the rooms on the floor were occupied as you could nothing but the creaks of the woods, presumably little rats scarring around the foundation. Somehow, thanks to being totally exhausted, we managed to fall asleep and were out the door at the crack of dawn.
Early Morning. As we continued to head north on Route 100 towards our next destination, Montreal, we made a bunch of scenic stops. The first was at a beautiful lake as the sun was slowly rising and the prominence of an Autumn morning was apparent.
We then altered our route so that we could cut across the Green Mountain National Forest, which was seeping with trees that had either turned bright yellow or were already transitioning into the golden orange color. We frequently pulled over to admire the colors and of course to snap some shots. My favorite part was encountering a moose, though I was not camera ready for it, and I’m sure it wasn’t camera ready for me either.
Mid Morning. It was my favorite time of the day: Sunday brunch! Lucky for us, we stumbled upon a local bistro in a small town – just the kind of place I wanted to eat in while visiting Vermont. Had myself a hearty egg omelet and breakfast potatoes, while dad struggled to pick a coffee flavor from the plethora of choices.
Next Stop: Ben & Jerry’s Factory; plenty of scenic driving to lead the way.
Afternoon. Not wanting to fall behind schedule, we weren’t able to do the tour at Ben & Jerry, so we got ourselves some ice cream (Chunky Monkey for the win), did some browsing at the gift shop (proud to say no impulsive/unnecessary purchases were made), watched pizza making in an outdoor pizza oven and as a result ate a slice too. At $3/slice, it was super delicious!
That being the last pit stop, it was time to say goodbye to Vermont (and the cows).
Goodbye Vermont, USA and Bonjour Montreal, Canada! After a hours of driving from the Vermont border, we arrived at the Residence Inn Montreal Downtown, a fabulous stay (suite) for less than $100! Though I had been to Montreal before and was not particularly impressed by it, this was dad’s first time so I was happy to oblige with all the touristy stuff. He wanted to visit the Olympic Tower, which I knew would be a disappointment. And at $30 for the two of us, it was a total waste. The view is just not worth the trip up.
Early Evening. Seeing that the sun was on its way to sleep mode soon, we wanted to visit Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal) right away, now that’s the more enjoyable part of the city. Cobblestones, church(es), small alleyways, paintings on the streets, little cafes and St Lawrence river as the backdrop, it was much more inviting and still had some old world charm left. With a hot chocolate in hand, we set off to galavant!
Late Evening. The sun had set, and we had had a long day, so after walking around downtown for a bit, we grabbed shwarma at the same place I had previously eaten (sadly the only reason I remembered it’s location was because it was on top of a strip club — Montreal is known for that it seems) and headed back to our hotel.
The highlight of Monteal for me was earlier in the day when an elderly local stopped his car next to mine (while we were on the road driving), signaled to roll down my window so he could ask me (in French nonetheless) how I liked Ariel (my Nissan Cube). Ecstatic about being asked about my car and being spoken to in French, I told him (in my broken French) that it wonderful a car. He seemed pleased with my response, and I was pleased that he was pleased. And that moment had made my trip to Montreal worthwhile. Hah!
Morning. Woke up later than the past two days, and having seen that dad was no more impressed with Montreal than I was, I suggested we do the extra 3 hour drive this morning and go visit Quebec City. It was a place I always wanted to go and we were so close; luckily I didn’t have to much convincing because dad easily agreed! This is why I love traveling with my dad, he loves impromptu visits as much as I do! And that was it. Within minutes we had decided to postpone heading back home and extended our fall foliage trip to QC!
The three hour drive to QC felt like a drive through midwest America. Plain as plain can be. It was hard not to doze off at times as the landscape was really sparse. Once at our destination however, Quebec City was my everything I imagined it to be!
Perched up on top of a hill, this walled city had the gorgeous St. Lawrence River surrounding it and the foliage was reaching its peak! Though not Paris, it was the next best thing on this side of the Atlantic.
Here’s a glimpse of this picturesque city.
Though we didn’t get to visit the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac or Notre Dame, nor eat at any of the many of the amazing culinary delights, nor shop at any of the boutique stores, this preview trip to Quebec City was totally worth it!
Late Afternoon. Thoroughly tired, we embarked on our long and not very exciting drive through the prairie lands of Canada and mountains of Adirondacks back down to New Jersey. Some 9+ hours later, we were home with a lifetime of memories of our father-daughter trip.
For a trip that was approximately 36 years, we didn’t do so badly!
- Do visit Vermont in Autumn.
- Don’t stay at Stratton Mountains unless you know you’re going to be staying at the newer facilities.
- Do drive through Green Mountain National Park.
- Don’t linger too long in Montreal.
- Do visit Quebec City, with some time on hand (stay for the weekend if you can).
- Don’t go up the Olympic Tower in Montreal.
- Do take your time when on an Autumn foliage trip.
- Don’t rely on a phone camera to do justice to your foliage pictures. Take a great camera with you if you can, otherwise, you may regret not being able to capture nature’s beauty at its purest.
If you’ve never been on a Foliage trip, we strongly encourage it. It’s refreshing both physically, emotionally and mentally. A season that represents change, it is spiritually liberating to watch the leaves transition from the greens to bright hues of yellows, oranges, reds and eventually brown.
Hope you’ll embark on a Foliage road trip of your own next Autumn, and when you do, please share with us!
As always Happy and Safe Travels! And welcome to Winter!