With the three-plus years of pandemic isolation behind us, that deep yearning for travel gnaws away at the heart as much as the psyche. We long to share conversation with people, draw in the scent of summer’s earthy outdoor bounty and take in the revised view of well-loved places that have lingered in memory for far too long. No more waiting — suddenly we are off — unless your passport has expired. A trip to the Médoc region of France may not be in the plans this year as I await the six-month lag to renew my passport but travels closer to home are just as satisfying.
The hometown journey starts in Northern Vermont. My travel begins at South End Burlington’s Soda Plant, a former soda manufactory, reinvented a century later as an arts and entertainment complex in the city’s funky arts district. A lot has changed here: new galleries, cafes, bars, design studios — a basecamp for creatives. There’s something for everyone, under one roof. At Soapbox Arts, Mary Lacy will be showing new work. Many of us know her for the outsize hummingbird that she has painted on the brick wall of the American Flatbread building on St. Paul Street. In these pages a few years back, we covered her conceptual work with shattered porcelain mosaics. In the adjacent gallery, landscape painter Katharine Montstream and her daughter Charlotte Dworshak, also a landscape painter, were hanging a show at the time of this writing. But you needn’t be in the galleries to enjoy work by local artists. The walls of the expansive space are covered throughout. Thus, a walk from Brio Coffee (coffee roastery and cafe) to Tom Girl (fresh squeezed, pulped or frappé’d beverages), across the hallway may take you a while as you stop in your tracks to check out the artwork on the walls.
An artful pairing for me at the Soda Plant is the Venetian Soda Lounge. The Lounge takes its name from the establishment that occupied much of the original building when this part of town was a gritty industrial hub. The Venetian seltzer and its bottles were made here, using reduction of ginger and other flavor enhancers. Lest you are too young to remember seltzer bottles that required CO2 cartridges to fizz up your soda. The establishment has a beautiful collection in the vitrines at the entrance. The Venetian Soda Lounge has a dual personality — a soda stop by day and a jazzy speakeasy by night. There’s a baby grand in the corner, a small, elevated platform for performers, gel stage lights, oriental rugs and tufted cozy sofas with bistro tables throughout.