A relaxing retreat to Essex, Vermont

Dressed in a blanket of snow, I had always thought of Vermont as a winter destination. It wasn’t until one long spring weekend did I discover the sanctuary that Vermont is. My boyfriend and I along with another couple ventured to The Essex: Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa, the area’s only AAA Four Diamond Hotel nestled on 18 acres between the vistas of the Green Mountains and the splendor of Lake Champlain. There are activities galore to do here, so if that is your thing, then there’s plenty to keep you busy. Although you won’t be laying on the beach with margaritas delivered to your lounge chair, it does provide for some well deserved R&R.

Unlike the usual 10am start that we usually indulge ourselves with on our vacations, we got up at the crack of dawn to go… wait for it… fly fishing. Personally, it wasn’t on the top of my to-do list, but everyone else was excited about it, so I was a good sport. To my credit, it wasn’t very fun; at least not until I caught my first fish the size of my arm. Then I got excited! It may sound like animal cruelty watching the colorful trouts dance in the water waiting for their eventual capture, but we did release all our caught fishes after a quick picture with the beauty (it is a catch and release stream). The tour guides who took us were from Green Mountain Troutfitters and were extremely professional and knowledgeable about the sport – they were also super friendly and nice and made getting up early all that more enjoyable. In addition to fly fishing, they also give Float & Wade tours, River Drift Boat tours, and an array of other guided services. Prices roughly range between $80-100/person depending on activity.

Back at the resort, we went for a short bike ride, enjoyed a soothing couple’s massage at the spa and took a culinary class at the resort’s culinary school. Our rarely exercised hearts prohibited us from a longer ride around Lake Champlain; I imagine it would’ve been beautiful! The massage was very good, much better than the ones I found in NYC, but it still paled in comparison to other massages I had at resorts in Hawaii and other more exotic beach getaways. The culinary class we took was on barbecuing, but what we enjoyed most about the class was that unlike a lot of other schools where each person/couple has their own work station, this class worked collaboratively to make one meal. Some may argue that you don’t get to do all the different things, but this way, you get to meet your classmates and it’s more relaxing (allows you to have a glass or two of wine while cooking) and you actually get more interaction with the chef who was delightful.

We also spent an afternoon doing a ropes course next door to the resort at a place called Northern Lights Rock and Ice. The high course includes cargo nets, a Burma bridge, and dual 450-foot zip wires. I didn’t know I had impeccable balance until I was 40+ feet above the ground walking across a 6 inch wide wooden plank. The course is especially fun if you go with friends and make a friendly competition out of it. The staff at the activity center were fun, and gave us challenges to foster teamwork and problem-solving thinking. This is a must do at the resort.

While I think relaxing vacations only comes in the form of white sandy beaches and bartenders bringing me pina coladas, this place was definitely relaxing in another form.

Other activities include: tennis, canoeing, hot air ballooning, hiking, ropes course, fly fishing and much more.


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