ARLINGTON, Vt. — Historic fact and fiction are often at odds, never more so than in the character portrayal of Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys.
They rescued Vermont from annex-minded New York sheriffs and later captured Ft. Ticonderoga from the British a month after Lexington and Concord.
Allen, an Arlington resident who was far from a clean-cut hero, was a dedicated and profane roisterer given to drinking until the taverns closed, anything to keep from going home to his shrewish wife, Mary.
Once, as he returned home late one night after such an outing, pranksters rose in sheets from the Arlington cemetery to moan that they were advocates of the devil. Allen shouted back defiantly: "Come on home with me. My wife is the devil's sister!"
Still, Allen was the undisputed voice of Vermont's sturdy and freedom-loving Green Mountain folks, characteristics that seem to flow from the lovely countryside and convey much of the history and dedication of Colonial America.
Towns and villages are small but close together, most harboring buildings, artifacts and headstones that attest to the Green Mountains' role in our country's early life.
Here to there: Fly USAir, Northwest, American or United to Albany, N.Y., then take one of Vermont Transport's marvelous buses on to Arlington, an enchanting trip.
How long/how much? At least three days to explore towns of the area, preferably by car. You'll find lodging costs moderate, dining the same.
Getting settled in: The hills are alive with storybook inns, including four marvelous ones.
The Arlington Inn (historic Vermont 7A; $50-$125 double with continental breakfasts), built in 1848 in striking Greek Revival style, Victorian within, is one of those places you dream of. Large bedrooms brimming with antiques, roaring fires in the parlor for a winter evening, tennis court and a dining room built for romantic candlelight meals.
The Inn at Sunderland (Vermont 7A, Sunderland; $85 double with bath and fireplace, $75 bath only, $65 shared bath, all with full country breakfasts) is an 1840 Victorian farmhouse with the essence of Vermont in every board, homey-comfy bedrooms with vine wreaths on doors, petit point chairs and books everywhere.
The pond out back is perfect for practicing your fly casting, a cadre of ducks waddle out as a welcoming committee. Belgian draft horses for wagon or sleigh rides, even a friendly goat, Old Willi, for petting.
Hill Farm Inn (RR 2, Arlington; $84 double with full country breakfasts and dinners, $76 with shared bath. B&B double with same arrangements, $60-$52) is one of Vermont's original farmsteads, dating to 1775, with 50 acres of land on Battenkill River. Gigantic living room with fireplace, piano and cozy chairs. Bedrooms have a dish of apples, jars of homemade jam. Breakfast a feast of pancakes with maple syrup, dinners all country cooking and the likes of stuffed pork chops and corn pudding.
West Mountain Inn (Vermont 313, Arlington; $120-$126 double, full breakfasts, hors d'oeuvres and five- or six-course dinners) is probably the most noted of the lot, a handsome white home of seven gables, waves of day lilies and other flowers surrounding, a hilltop setting that affords spectacular views of mountains, meadows, woods and valleys. Some rooms with fireplaces, all with homemade quilted spreads and many antiques. Non-guests may have meals in the exceptional dining room.
Regional food and drink: Solid home cooking prevails: pork, lamb, turkey and marvelous Vermont veal being staples. Springtime fiddlehead fern makes great salads, apples for the sauce, maple syrup and Vermont cheddar figure into many recipes.
Farmers have great hopes for the emerging "beefalo" market, a cross between beef and buffalo meat.
Moderate-cost dining: Any meal is venturesome, colorful and delicious at The Arlington Inn. Try scallion pasta with oysters poached in Riesling with fresh herbs and \o7 Enoki \f7 mushrooms, Maine crab cakes in a creamed pepper sauce or snails with wild mushrooms and leeks for starters. Then move on to scallops with pea pods, tomato, \o7 capicola \f7 in a white wine sauce served on red-pepper pasta.
West Mountain Inn's six-course dinner is a bargain at $18.50, a choice of beef, pork tenderloin, duck or fish. Hundreds of wines, 13 beers, Samuel Adams lager from Boston being a favorite.
For an amusing change of pace, try Phyllis' Food and Et-Cet-Era (East Arlington). Phyllis has decorated her 250-year-old farmhouse in an "individual" way, which is to say no dishes or glasses match, her not-so-antique collectibles displayed in wild profusion, klunky kerosene lamps on each table.
Church supper-type food such as chicken and biscuits, French silk pie, Vermont cheddar and ham sandwiches and, today's special, a liverwurst and onion sandwich. Open May through October, and then Phyllis is off to collect more stuff.