Montpelier is by far one of the smallest and least populous capital cities in the United States. Its official population is 7,855. During the day an additional 3,000-ish people filter into town just to work.
I have to keep reminding myself that it was the French who settled Vermont. There are currently 9,543 French-speaking people in the state with 3-French speaking communities along the border.
Why do I bring this up? Because many of the original French place names still exist. Montpelier is an example of this… it was settled in the 1780s and named after Montpellier in France. We really struggled with how exactly to say this city’s name and every time I heard a local say it, I was confused.
How the name is pronounced varies (even with locals): during this trip we heard mount-peeler, mon-pee-lee-er, mont-peal-yer, mont-pill-yer, and we personally couldn’t shake our own French pronunciation: mon-pell-e-ay. We even heard a reference to Montpeculiar, which validated our choice to visit Vermont for our “find bizarre things in small town America” themed road trip. Locals pronounce it: mont-pill-yer.
Regardless, Montpelier is a city with an unexpected amount of eye candy and character.
Vermont State House
Montpelier’s crowning glory, which stands out amidst the sea of character Victorian houses, is Vermont’s State Capitol building. It’s a tiny, granite stoned, gold-domed Greek Revival building with a statue of Ceres on top (the goddess of agriculture). The structure sits atop a rocky hilltop and can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city.
We popped by the building for a quick walkthrough. The opulent interior houses statues of Ethan Allen, Abe Lincoln, and paintings that depict some of Vermont’s memorable historic moments and people.
And… the Food in Montpelier?
Montpelier was our planned lunch destination for the day. We picked out two potential places to eat: the Down Home Cafe and The Skinny Pancake. They are across the street from each other on the main strip… and both were packed at lunchtime. Luckily, we were able to get a seat at the Down Home Cafe.
The chef was also the person who sat us… so we were able to get a quick run-through of dish ingredients. It’s a very Southern “fried green tomatoes” type of American cafe.
Vermonters are proud of their greenness and quality of their food so it’s rare to find chain stores in the state.
Montpelier is the only U.S. state capital without a McDonalds; and, the state has no Whole Foods… because you can go directly to the markets and farmers for organic food. We visited plenty of small, locally owned, locally supplied grocery stores (for road trip food).