I know it seems a bit early but it’s only because I want you to get out there and enjoy some Christmas events! You know if you don’t plan ahead it won’t happen.
I’m a bit of a history geek and my favorite of the living history museums is Mystic Seaport. For the 35th year they are presenting their Lantern Light Tours, a progressive play set on Christmas Eve 1876. Leave some time for lunch or dinner at S&P Oyster Company in downtown Mystic.
Old Sturbridge Village offers up Christmas By Candlelight, with a full slate of traditional activities such as caroling, roasting chestnuts and the like. The on-site Oliver Wight Tavern offers special dinners to coincide with their Christmas events, as well as Brunch with Santa.
Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth NH is unique in that it encompasses over 300 years of American history, up to 1954 when the site was saved from urban renewal. Sticking with the historical theme of ….candles….their seasonal event is the Candlelight Stroll. Weekends in December bring sleigh rides, live music and seasonal entertainment along walkways lighted with wood and glass candle boxes. This would make a fantastic weekend away, as Portsmouth is a great small city, full of shopping and dining options.
People tend to forget about Newport once summer’s over but it’s really got a lot to offer in all seasons. December brings Christmas At The Newport Mansions, probably the best time to see these amazing Gilded Age mansions decked out in their holiday finery. You can’t go wrong with dinner at The White Horse Tavern; in their own words “from farm to table since 1673″. Yes, really: 1673.
I’d like to end with a reminder that this Saturday, November 29th is Small Business Saturday. Shop local! Shop small!!
No? Well, you will be soon.
This post is All Connecticut All The Time. I didn’t intend it to be, it just happened. One of my favorite places in CT is Sharpe Hill Winery in Pomfret. Classic New England:
This area of northeastern CT is known as The Quiet Corner, and also The Last Green Valley. If you were to fly over New England at night, this area is the only place from DC to Maine that is in darkness, it’s truly rural.
Right around the corner is The Golden Lamb Buttery, a highly regarded restaurant that has been in the same family for generations. I pulled over to take a couple of pictures and realized a wedding was going on. You couldn’t ask for a nicer setting, the only incongruous note was hearing that horrid song “Happy” blaring out of the barn. This beautiful guy coming over to say hello made up for it.
This fall the abandoned village of Johnsonville CT has been getting a lot of press after it was announced it would be auctioned off in October. Oh if only I could get my hands on $3M!! I wasn’t able to buy it but I was able to visit and take pictures.
I’ve always heard of Gillette Castle but never got around to going. Wow, I was really missing something! The castle is cool although it was closed for the season and we didn’t get to go inside. But the real star of the show are the grounds which have become a state park, with amazing views of the Connecticut River.
Driving home I saw this cool old barn:
Now for a couple of Rhode Island pictures. As I got closer to home the light was really cool and I saw a lot of nice foliage in Acotes Hill Cemetery in Chepachet, so I had to pull in. I love a good cemetery.
Hard to believe the holidays are almost upon us. In my next post I’ll list some holiday events in case you’re looking for things to do. Stay tuned!
I’m going to run for City Council. I’m going to run the concession stand at the high school football games. I’m going to start a Neighborhood Watch. I’m going to be all-in with this town. Seriously Portland, you had me at hello.
I expected to like Portland before I got there. On the drive up we got off the highway to cruise through Old Orchard Beach. I hadn’t been there since I was 12 years old but as soon as I drove into town I remembered the street where my mother bought a Ginsu knife from a street vendor. They meant it when they said those things were guaranteed for life…I still have that knife and use it daily. Not kidding.
From there we headed up Route 1 to the Portland Head Light, called the most photographed lighthouse in the world. Let that soak in. THE WORLD. How can they tell? I don’t know but I believe Them. It was pretty and I liked taking pictures of it.
A bit further north on Route 1 we drove into downtown Portland, which reminds me either of a larger Salem MA, or a smaller Boston. They seem to love pretty signage as much as I do.
I’ve always been pretty smug about Providence’s status as a foodie city but man, Portland has them beat. These people are obsessed (in a good way) with eating local. We had a fab dinner at Caiola’s in the West End, awesome brunch at East Ender (fried-chicken-and-waffles-with-maple-sour-cream-awesome!) and visited two breweries, Shipyard and Rising Tide. They had a wonderful farmer’s market but I didn’t get anything since I didn’t have a fridge and a kitchen.
The only downer was the heat & humidity – after a temperate summer, we had a couple of days of brutal heat & humidity that coincided with my visit. I still loved it, but I’d like to get back here in boots & sweater weather.
That’s the tagline for Rhode Island’s own Narragansett Beer. While the concept – a shandy made with Del’s Lemonade – and the can (PRETTY!) are both really cool…..true RI street cred in a beer goes to the Coffee Milk Stout from Ravenous Brewing in Woonsocket. But a picture of this can taken on Block Island is a really cool bit of Rhode Islandia.
I’ve found an app called Aviary….it’s a photo-editing app, similar to Instagram. I love what it does to pictures….kinda fake, kinda old fashioned looking. When I put it like that it doesn’t really sound so good. August in Rhode Island was not typical this year. We tend to get one week that feels like September, mid-70s, dry…..this year almost all of August was like that. One day recently I went out for a drive and found two beautiful red barns, about 5 minutes apart from one another And I filtered them thusly (the first one looks like it should be in an old-timey oatmeal ad). All these pictures were taken with my iPhone…just a coincidence that they were all taken that way.
This next picture was taken from Napatree Point looking back towards Watch Hill, which is a village of Westerly, RI. Napatree Point is a long skinny spit of land sticking out into the ocean, right on the Connecticut line. Up until 1938 it was lined with beautiful homes, about 40 of them I believe, grand shingled New England cottages. Unfortunately they were all wiped out in the Hurricane of ’38. The land was never built on again. The first picture is the original shot, the second was with the filter applied:
Two shots of a place dear to my heart, East Sandwich Beach, Sandwich MA:
Is it just me, or does the sky in the second picture look a bit like Parrish Blue?
And I guess by now you expect this. I’ll leave you with two shots of Block Island, pre-filter and filtered:
Hopefully my filter phase has now come and gone.
Does it get any better than that? Not in my world. As daytrips go, the Connecticut River Valley is a bit of a sleeper, it reminds me of SouthCoast MA in that regard. Rural, pretty, with a bit of sophistication. Once again, see my Jauntful guide for the area for specific recommendations of things to see and do.
So many pretty spots I don’t know where to begin. We had a great lunch at The Blue Oar, a BYOB on the river. Hard to beat this view. I had a medium rare burger, with some Salmon River Red from Priam Vineyards up in Colchester.
The village of East Haddam is home to the Goodspeed Opera House, and the beautiful Gelston House restaurant next door. No, I didn’t see Fiddler, but after seeing this cool place I wish I had. Had a glass of champagne on the Gelston House patio overlooking the river. (did I tell you I turned 50 on the day I was there?). It’s a hard place to leave!
Okay, on to Chester. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming village than this. A handful of shops, and three – count ‘em – THREE really good restaurants in this teeny place. The River Tavern, Restaurant L&E and Otto. A shopkeeper told us they have a farmer’s market on Sundays, all the shops open early and they close the town to car traffic. A highlight was the studio and gallery of Leif Nilsson, an Impressionist painter. Just gorgeous.
We wrapped up this beautiful day in the amazing village of Essex. Its claim to fame is it’s one of the few American towns ever to be attacked by a foreign power. It happened during the War of 1812, when the British destroyed 28 vessels with an estimated worth of $200,000. That’s in 1814 dollars! You can’t go to Essex without a stop at The Griswold Inn, affectionately known as The Gris. An old colonial hotel/restaurant/tavern. Go. You don’t be disappointed. None of my pictures of Essex came out good ….hard to imagine since it’s such a gorgeous place.
I’ll leave you with yet another of my favorite places…Block Island! You saw that coming, didn’t you?
A discovery I made recently is the website Jauntful. It’s an easy way to create your own travel guides and a perfect fit for this blog. I’m hopeful they will soon create a widget for WordPress like the Yelp one to the right of this post. In the meantime, I’ll embed links to individual guides as they relate to what I’m posting about. I will try to put aside my resentment at not having invented this website myself.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the village of Padanaram in Dartmouth MA; I had forgotten how beautiful this corner of Massachusetts is. Recently there’s been a push to expand tourism in the region, complete with snappy nicknames (SouthCoast! FarmCoast!) and some polished social media: Discover Farmcoast and their blog. This might be the perfect daytrip, and there is more than enough to make a long weekend out of it. I would suggest starting in Padanaram (Faunce Corner Road exit off 195, just before New Bedford), if it’s lunchtime try the Black Bass Grille. Head west along the coastal roads to take in Horseneck Beach, and stops at Buzzards Bay Brewing and Westport Rivers Winery. If you can time it right, you won’t regret dinner at The Back Eddy. Fresh, local seafood with a Portuguese slant.
A doorway in Padanaram -
The deck at the Back Eddy -
From The Back Eddy follow Adamsville Road into Rhode Island, and the towns of Little Compton & Tiverton. Tiverton Four Corners is an historic crossroads with a few pretty shops, a couple of art galleries, some of RI’s best ice cream at Gray’s, and a fantastic cheese shop. In between you’ll find rolling fields, stone walls & farm stands.
A place I’m lucky to be able to spend a lot of time in is Sandwich, MA, one of the prettiest towns on the Cape. These pics were taken from the boardwalk….I’ve decided I need to swim here at some point this summer:
A rosé tasting on the deck – Les Dauphins won hands down, although I freely admit I bought them based on how pretty the labels were.
A late spring tradition is the Fields of Lupine Festival in Sugar Hill, NH (home of Polly’s Pancake Parlor!). Spring was late this year so the flowers weren’t as abundant as in years past, but it was still pretty.
I’ll leave you with a picture of Bristol (RI) Harbor, sunset on the longest day of the year.
I was beginning to think winter would never end. Not that you’d know it from these pictures but we are well and truly into spring now. My most recent pics aren’t very springlike because I lost the download cord to my camera, keep forgetting to order a new one, and have had to resort to my phone. The first two are from Providence. You know how I feel about this city. They don’t call it the Paris of New England for nothing.
They actually don’t. I just made that up. But look at these scenes of Westminster Street and tell me I’m really that far off the mark. Lots of small local businesses have sprung up, clothing, housewares, and a pair of little restaurant/bars. Flan y Ajo and Bodega Malasana are owned by a husband/wife team. Flan is an honest-to-goodness tapas bar that can accommodate about 14 people (that includes standing at the bar) and Bodega is an equally teeny wine bar, with both house wines and a small but interesting selection of tapas going for $5. Yup, you read that right.
An interesting trend is the rise of nano breweries (like a microbrewery but smaller). I guess they’ve always been around, what’s different now if they actually distribute to local bars and restaurants, and they do weekend tastings like wineries. In the past month or so I’ve been able to try brews from three different Rhode Island nanobreweries, and visit two of them. Coffee Milk Stout is a riff on coffee milk (a kid’s beverage made from coffee syrup). Most Rhode Islanders grow up on this stuff, a gateway drug to Dunkin Donuts coffee in adulthood. Coffee Milk Stout bubbles up from an industrial park in Woonsocket, courtesy of Ravenous Brewing. I’ve yet to visit them, I usually get my fill of their product at Ciro’s Tavern, right off Main Street in Woonsocket. This is an English-style pub w/great food, cool brews, trivia nights, live music….it’s basically the Cheer’s of northern RI.
Bucket Brewery is my new favorite place. Located in an old mill in Pawtucket, on the Providence line, its name comes from the disparaging nickname for Pawtucket, “the bucket”. I love when someone takes a supposed negative, owns it and runs with it. I think we tried six different beers the night we were there? And – no kidding – each was better than the last. Here is a snap of me playing barmaid. Besides the great beers, the guys who own this place couldn’t be nicer….so far this has been one of my favorite nights of 2014 (the entire group concurred).
I wanted to bring some fresh tap beer to a friend’s one evening, so I swung by Bucket Brewery. Je suis désolée! A hand-lettered sign on the door informed me they were closed to attend a beer fest. I immediately got on my Yelp app as I recalled there was yet another nanobrewery nearby, also open on weekends. Foolproof Brewing to the rescue! I fell hard for their Raincloud Porter and got a growler home safely.
Something tells me only girls will get that reference, I don’t think many boys read the first book in the Little House (on the Prairie) series. I don’t know if those books are why I love log cabins, but I do. I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in one in northern NH. It was just like the olden days….woodstove, oil lamps, board games….and wifi and iPhones. I loved every minute of it. Head north of Route 302 on Twin Mountain and you’ll pass a sign that says “Welcome To The Great North Woods”. It’s mostly pretty, piney and rural, with the exception of the touristy splotches of Santa’s Village and Six Gun City, and a handful of down-at-the-heels tenements in the few small towns up that way….Whitefield, Littleton and Lancaster. Right around the corner from the cabin is the Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield. The hotel dates from the late 1800s, closed in 1986 and reopened in 2002 after a $20 million renovation.
On Saturday we went down towards Bretton Woods to meet some friends for a drink at the Mount Washington Hotel. The view as you approach on Rt 302 is breathtaking, and never gets old. Check out the dog-sledders in the foreground.
While we were there the light changed….it turned rosy pink and flooded the valley. You could even see the buildings on the top of Mount Washington, which I zoomed in on in the second picture. It lasted about 5-7 minutes ….I’ve never seen anything like it.
I know I said in my last post that I was hoping for signs of spring…..nothing yet, but it was a mild weekend, the first 50 degree days we’ve seen in I don’t know how long. That’ll have to do for now!
That quote is from the movie “Funny Farm”, an 80s classic in which Chevy Chase tires of city life and moves to the country for peace & quiet, and finds anything but. The friend who commented this weekend that it looked like we were in Redbud (the fictional town in the movie) wasn’t far off the mark; a bit of googling turned up the factoid that the house in the movie is just 30 miles from Manchester, where these pictures were taken. See? I told you I try to enjoy all seasons and not simply survive until spring! I will say my patience is beginning to wear thin, and I’m looking forward to a 50 degree day at the end of the week.
This was my first visit to the Manchester area and I’d like to go back in spring or summer and spend more time exploring outside. I really like the VT vibe….a bit more sophisticated than NH, with an emphasis on all things locally grown or made.
This is all looking a little too Christmasy to me. Hopefully my next post will include some early signs of spring. Is a damn crocus too much to ask for?