New Hampshire in Mid-Winter

It’s been an icy, icy world out there lately. December and January seemed especially brutal with days on end of sub-zero temperatures, wind, and a couple of ice storms. On New Years Day, with just 2 degrees on the thermometer, Ethan and I set out for a northern adventure. We just had to get out of the house! And we wanted to see the snowy mountains. We bundled up and hit the road, temperature plummeting the more Northward we drove. fullsizeoutput_2cfa

fullsizeoutput_2cfcWe meandered through small towns, such as Grafton and Warren. We tried to take smaller, back roads as we went. Route 118 from Warren to North Woodstock was particularly scenic. From there, we jumped on highway 93 North so we could go through the Notch. The Notch was socked in with fog it was so cold, but the glimpses we got of the mountains were beautiful.fullsizeoutput_2cf6After a quick stop at the Garnet Hill Outlet in Franconia, we made our way to Sugar Hill for a late lunch at Polly’s Pancake Parlor. Situated on a hill overlooking a gorgeous mountain view, Polly’s has quite the spot. If only the food lived up to the location. I hate doling out bad reviews, but the food just wasn’t that great. But the options were many, so perhaps we just made some bad choices (I had the quiche of the day and Ethan had a reuben as per usual). Their peppermint cappuccino on the other hand- yum, yum.

fullsizeoutput_2cfdAfter our lunch, we went over to Sunset Hill in Sugar Hill to take in the view above. Still a  little foggy, but lovely none the less. We were starting to lose light, so we meandered towards home from there, though we were far from it. We went through some little New Hampshire towns that I had never seen before. Most interestingly, we stumbled upon The Brick Store in Bath which is on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest general store in the country- how cool! It had loads of old character, we had to go in and have a look around. Thankfully, we caught them just before they closed for the day. My favorite thing was the wide front porch with all the rocking chairs. Too bad it was below zero out, it would be fun to sit there and enjoy a treat from the store. fullsizeoutput_2d66

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Other towns of note were Haverhill and Etna. Both new to me, and both very colonial and charming. The moon was rising when we were in Haverhill, so by the time we drove through Etna, it was too dark for photos. Haverhill is along Route 10 in New Hampshire, and Etna is situated atop a hill off a side road- you’ll have to use your GPS to find it, but it’s worth finding- well, hopefully, I did only see it in the dark. fullsizeoutput_2d67fullsizeoutput_2d65Well that was our little mid-winter, sub-zero, just-have-to-get-out-of-the-house adventure! Hopefully we can repeat it in warmer temperatures. There’s a certain rocking chair in Bath calling out to me…

Strawberry Banke

If you love colonial New England history and architecture, there are few places better to visit than Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, NH. Strawberry Banke is living history as it’s finest; a colonial village of historic homes that guests can stroll through at their leisure. Each home is decorated in a different historic American style, and docents at each home explain who lived there and what happened at the homes. There are also people dressed in period clothing who are sprinkled throughout doing various colonial jobs and tasks such as basket weaving, cobbling leather shoes, and tending the beautiful gardens.img_4028img_3971img_4035We made a special trip to Strawberry Banke for their annual Harvest Festival, which is held every October. If you look at the photo above, you can see the white tent set up. The tent was filled with local craftsmen and artisans selling their wares and works. There were also demonstrations going on, such as sheep herding and more animals on display than usual. The festival gave a lively and bustling atmosphere to an already wonderful place. We were a little worried about crowds, but it didn’t feel overly crowded because most people stayed around the main lawn where the tents were set up.img_4021My favorite thing about the place were the gardens (surprise, surprise). The big one behind the main ticket office is very formal and beautiful, with a fountain in the center. Most of the houses have a small section of garden near them, which are all beautiful in their own way. There are also many whimsical touches scattered around: a wooden tower made from weathered saplings decorated with strands of seashells and gourds, a little china tea set laid out on a log table, a dwelling made of branches kids can crawl into, and various arbors and trellises climbing with vines. We also enjoyed seeing the old greenhouse, filled with interesting plants, garden tools, and pretty vignettes.img_3965img_4009img_4002
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Most of the houses were open for self-guided touring, so we poked into many of them. The colonial decor varied in each house for different time periods, which kept it really interesting. I really liked the weaving house, and a nice woman there taught me the very basics of how to weave on a loom and let me give it a try.

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I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Strawberry Banke. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting there during autumn and the Harvest Festival, but I’m sure it’s beautiful at any time of year. Also, check with your local library to see if they offer passes to the museum. We used our library’s passes, and were able to save $19 each on admission (the full cost). That made it an even better time at such a lovely place. img_4076

An Afternoon at the Harris Center

Nestled deep in beautiful Hancock, New Hampshire, the Harris Center for Conservation Education is the perfect place to take a walk. The grounds are open to the public and they welcome leashed dogs as well. I happened to be there a couple of weeks ago for an appreciation luncheon that the Hancock Town Library was putting on for it’s staff and volunteers. After a delicious meal and an educational and amusing lecture by one of the Center’s senior Naturalists, the guests funneled out to the parking lot but I just wasn’t ready to leave. The sun was finally out after a cloudy morning and the beautiful grounds of the Harris Center were calling to me… Processed with Snapseed.

I don’t know very much about the history of the house itself other than that it was a grand country summer estate in times past. The historical details on the property abound, from the built in stone benches tucked away under massive wisteria and grape vines to the diagonally latticed windows which make me feel like I’ve stepped into the English countryside. The stone work has just settled into the landscape as if it has always been there. And though I went there towards the end of September, the flower gardens were still filled with colorful blooms, especially the pollinators garden, which was mindfully planted with the appetite of native species of bees and butterflies in mind. The pollinators garden was humming with life as I carefully wound along the globe thistle, butterfly bushes, and coneflower. The garden was planted in the property’s former swimming pool- what a good repurposing idea! Planting flowers is always a good choice.

Processed with Snapseed.Because I was alone, I stuck to the grounds and did not venture out into the surrounding woods. They do have a vast trail system however, and one day I would like to explore all of them. Check out their list of trails here, on their website. But I was more than happy to stick to the grounds and spent well over an hour meandering about. They’ve kept most of the surrounding grassy areas as natural meadow except for pleasant mown paths which lead around the entire property in a large circle. On the far edge near the road, I found a patch of giant sunflowers, just about gone by. I will have to remember it’s there next year and visit just a couple weeks earlier so I can see them in their glory. Processed with Snapseed.

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So if you’re ever looking for a quiet, beautiful place to spend a bit of time look no further than the Harris Center in Hancock, NH. I could have sat on the old stone bench eating grapes from the vines over my head for hours (if the bench wasn’t covered in squashed grapes that is haha) I did sneak a few grapes 🙂 Processed with Snapseed.