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?
This winter is kinda kicking my butt. I find myself wondering how people in Canada or Siberia survive. But I guess it’s all relative….there are probably people in Trinidad wondering how people in Rhode Island manage to get by. My last post made me remember how nice it is to spend a few hours breathing in fresh plant air at the Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park in Providence. There’s an old saying about the city: “If you don’t like Providence it’s only because you’ve never been to Providence”. OK, that isn’t really an old saying, I just made it up. But I stand by that statement. PVD rocks. The first two snaps below were taken at Roger Williams Park….it’s been a brutal winter but an undeniably pretty one. The last two pics are inside the botanical center. It’s like walking into paradise, the warm humid air hits you in the face and its instantly summer. Take a book and hang out on a bench for an hour or two. The last pic looks pretty bare because they’re exhibiting at the flower show and had moved some stuff out to the convention center.
My paperwhites bloomed! Seeing flowers grow is such a boost at this time of year. When the weather really gets me down, there are a few places I’ll visit to get a spring-like feeling. One is the botanical center at Roger Williams Park in Providence. Admission is only a couple of bucks, there are benches if you feel like bringing a book and spending an hour or two, and they have a whole section of venus flytraps. YES. Inside the greenhouse you’ll find balmy temps and gurgling fountains. Instant stress relief.
Worth a day trip is Logee’s Greenhouse in Danielson CT. They specialize in tropical plants, and you could easily spend an hour or two wandering their interconnected greenhouses full of flowering plants like Bird of Paradise and full size citrus trees. If you’re hungry grab a quick bite around the corner at Heirloom Food Company (sandwich/coffee shop with lots of vegetarian choices) or head into Putnam and dinner at 85 Main. Logee’s
Have you ever been to a butterfly greenhouse? Massachusetts is home to two, and they are wonderfully surreal. Gorgeous exotic butterflies flitting everywhere, sometimes even landing on you. Magic Wings Butterfly Place
There’s something special about summer resort towns in the off-season. One of my favorite ways to get through winter is to take advantage of a warmish day (mid-40s counts in New England) and visit a locale I associate with summer. I spent a few hours in Mystic, CT today, shopping the main drag and scarfing down nachos and beer in a yachtie bar. I’m looking forward to going back in spring and spending some time at Mystic Seaport, the town’s living history museum. Think Sturbridge Village, Plimoth Plantation, etc. For the history nerds among you Mystic Seaport blows those others out of the water. Check out the giant counterweights on the drawbridge….it’s a bit freaky walking underneath them. We wanted to have a bite at the upstairs bar at S&P Oyster Company but they were closed for a private party. We wandered into Ancient Mariner and were pretty happy. Standard bar food but the nachos rocked.
OK, I guess it has been for a while now. We had such a beautiful autumn in New England, it seems all of September and October were sunny and in the 70s. I started this post back in October, I’m completing it in mid-November, so the title is kind of ….off. Christmas music is now playing full time on several radio stations. I am decidedly NOT a winter person, but I really hate wishing my life away so I work hard at enjoying all seasons. That being said, I’m not above looking ahead to spring. Here’s how I do it. The holidays will fly by, January and February are tough to get through but since we will have had the longest day of the year back on December 21st, the days will now be lengthening. Did I mention that February magazines come out mid-January, and February magazines have new spring clothes in them? See how easy that was?
The snaps below were all taken in Massachusetts….Woods Hole, Concord and Sandwich. Oh – except for the one of Knight Farm, that’s in Greenville RI (and is a mighty nice breakfast destination if you’re nearby).