Sometimes all it takes is a little experience to douse old beliefs and perceptions.

For instance, I recently returned home from a three-day organized bus trip — my first — to Vermont.

What piqued my interest in signing up for the trip was a Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education flier I received in the mail advertising a Green Mountain getaway that would include a two-night stay at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.

Owned and operated by the von Trapp family, whose story is recounted in the movie “The Sound of Music,” the lodge is on 2,500 acres of farmland and cross country skiing and hiking trails with spectacular views of the mountains.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music,” which I have watched many times over the years. The idea of visiting the place where the von Trapps settled after fleeing Austria in 1938 and moving to Pennsylvania and then Vermont seemed compelling.

And with a price of $449 a person to include the bus ride, lodging, some meals and stops at museums, a cider mill, maple sugar farm, culinary institute, glass blowing shops, chocolate store and quaint little villages in the mountains seemed like a pretty good deal.

We registered through Gardiner-based School Administrative District 11 Adult Education, which organized the trip and advertised not only in the Waterville area adult education flier, but also in the Fairfield-based SAD 49 adult ed literature.

The Custom Coach bus picked up me and my husband, two friends, and eight other people at Elm Plaza in Waterville at 6:15 a.m. Friday and dropped us off in the same place at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

After boarding, we cruised down Interstate 95 to Gardiner, where we stopped and collected 26 more passengers, including our tour organizer, Diann Bailey, director of SAD 11 adult ed.

Our first stop was Vermont’s Quechee Gorge Village, where we shopped and strolled through an unending maze of rooms filled with antiques, visited the Simon Pearce glass-blowing facility and store, lunched in scenic Woodstock and arrived at the Trapp Lodge in Stowe around 5:30 p.m.

The music of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart greeted us in the lobby, where lodge staff were dressed in authentic Austrian garb.

We had a late dinner in the main dining room. I felt compelled to order the wiener schnitzel and Sacher Torte to see how they compared to the fare we’d had in Vienna several years ago (pretty darned close). In the nearby lounge, a pianist performed as guests sipped cocktails before a blazing fireplace. It was all very warm and welcoming.

After a fabulous breakfast in the morning that included almond encrusted French toast made of brioche and topped with maple syrup, we listened to an historical presentation about the von Trapp family and learned some facts not included in the movie. The family, for instance, fled Austria in 1938, not by hiking the mountains on foot, as portrayed in the movie, but by traveling via train to Italy. We also watched a short film featuring Maria von Trapp telling her story.

Sam von Trapp, son of Maria and Georg von Trapp’s youngest son, Johannes, also spoke to our group about the forest and large mountain farm on the property, which houses Scotch Highland cattle, chickens, pigs and other animals that supply healthful, organic food for the lodge. Johannes is president of the business; Sam is executive vice president.

The family also operates von Trapp Brewing, which produces Austrian-inspired lagers. Many of our bus passengers purchased the popular variety 12-pack to bring back home. In addition to the 96-room lodge, the resort has villas and guest houses, a sugar house, indoor swimming pool, deli and bakery, a greenhouse, chapel, gift shop and fitness center.

Maria, Georg and other von Trapp family members are buried in a modest fenced-in cemetery a short walk from the lodge.

Our three days were packed with fun that included visiting the Shelburne Museum, which includes not only fine art and folk art galleries, and an opportunity to tour the Ticonderoga, a restored 220-foot-long side-wheel steamboat and national historic landmark. The property, near Lake Champlain, includes dozens of buildings and exhibits. We visited Montpelier, the smallest capital city in the U.S., dined at the New England Culinary Institute, where students prepared us a delicious repast, and spent an evening in the city of Burlington, where we patronized a fabulous Italian restaurant.

As we cruised along the rural roads on the return trip, we saw beautiful towns with stately old homes, hills, rivers, falls and farms.

One of the best parts was we didn’t have to drive. We just kicked back and enjoyed the scenery — through large windows and from a height that allowed us to see much more than we would have if we’d traveled by car. It was a safe, relaxing way to travel. Our only obligation was to be back on the bus at designated times when we took forays on our own to shop and dine.

Bailey, the trip organizer, was mild-mannered and moderate and available for anything we needed. Our bus driver, Bill, who has driven buses 30 years, was a pro.

Before the trip, I had preconceived notions about bus tours, which I viewed as a venue for old, retired people who pack the seats and spend their time commiserating about infirmities and buying do-dads in drug stores. Boy, was I mistaken. Our fellow passengers from all walks of life were interesting, inquisitive and friendly.

Armed with that new perspective, I’ll never again make a judgment when I see tourists spilling out of buses on downtown street corners — eager, curious and anxious to spend their hard-earned dollars.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 27 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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