Escape P’burgh’s small-town feel, experience unique Burlington
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 21:09
As Terri Conti winds up her accordion, her black and white pinstripe fedora topped head begins to sway slowly.
The accordion whines out renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and the theme from “James Bond” as the masses walk by, some dropping a dollar into the small black suitcase Conti has in front of her.
Conti is just one of the characters who can be found at the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, a spot that offers a slice of a different culture.
“There are lots of places around the world where street entertainers are a way of life, but not so much in the U.S.,” she said. “Church Street is a place where you can see that.”
For those who make the hour and 10 minute trip across the lake and south to Burlington, Church Street, located in the heart of the Queen City’s downtown area, street performers aren’t the only thing to see.
The main pedestrian-only thoroughfare offers four blocks of red-brick plaza between Pearl and Main streets. The walk is dotted with statues and people of all sorts, from didgeridoo players to magicians, all surrounding the big fountain in the center of the farmers market.
“It reminds me of the pedestrian area piazzas in Europe, where people just stroll,” Conti said.
The only automobile traffic comes at the intersecting streets, where visitors lazily walk across anyway, making motorists leap at the first break in the pedestrian traffic.
On Saturdays, the area swells to accommodate tourists, residents and college students from the nearby University of Vermont. While taking the ferry across Lake Champlain is enough to dent students’ wallets, visiting Church Street itself can cost only what it takes to park on the street or in one of the nearby garages, generally at rates much cheaper than those in the downtown areas of cities like Montreal.
Just observing the scenery and characters along the walk is satisfying, but the marketplace offers everything from a mall, with brand names like Gap and Abercrombie, to small mom and pop shops to Burlington staples, such as Ben and Jerry’s and the Burlington City Arts Center.
Zinnia is the perfect jewelry store. Any girl can find something on the countless tables and displays that will appeal to them. With a wide-range of jewelry, there’s something for every customer, whether it’s a plain silver chain or choosing from a selection of the most popular, in-style charms. What’s even better than the irresistible jewelry is the cheap prices.
The store is among those that make Church Street and the downtown Burlington feel like a college town — an improved Plattsburgh.
Down a few shops is Ten Thousand Villages, where soft Latin music drifts in and out of native pieces of art, decorations, utensils and dishes. While not as wallet-friendly as Zinnia, this store offers unique pieces like baskets decorated with potato chip bags from Latin America, worth at least a look.
At the intersection of College and Church streets is the Burlington Farmers Market, which offers typical fresh fruits and vegetables but also grilled organic meats, homemade cheeses, unique salsas and spreads and even hand-crafted pieces.
The smells that waft from the various stands and free samples that passersby are invited to test are enough to send visitors back to Church Street for a stop at one of the local restaurants.
Three Tomatoes, a quaint Italian restaurant at the corner of Bank and Church streets, offers perfectly portioned cold Italian sandwiches, plates of pasta and thin-crust pizzas to share, with prices in the $10 to $15 range. Open air seating during the warmer months allows for the perfect place to people watch and listen to performers, like Conti, while eating.
After two and a half hours and a quick stop at Ben and Jerry’s, the trip to the Church Street section of Burlington is complete, making it a quick venture outside Plattsburgh that feels like, as Conti described it, a continent away.
Kaitlyn Affuso contributed to this article.