New Hampshire - a road trip to remember: Part 1
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‘Why New Hampshire?’ was the question everyone
asked me when I told them our plans. “For so many reasons”, I replied, not
least because New Hampshire is a relatively compact state, with a great network
of roads, that can take you to all their beautiful scenic places with ease.
Known somewhat austerely as The Granite
State and with a thought provoking motto ‘Live Free - or Die’, New Hampshire
came across as a friendly and welcoming holiday destination with lots to offer.
We all know about New England in the fall,
the wonderful colours as the leaves turn, but this spectacle also brings with
it lots of tourists and we prefer to travel at a quieter time. We embarked on
our trip in late August, the American schools had gone back, the leaves were
still green and the attractions were quiet without queues or crowds.
Flying into Boston makes for an easy start
and within an hour or so you are in the heart of New Hampshire. Despite being
one of the smallest states it offers a great diversity of natural beauty and
plenty of history.
First stop was Hanover, an immaculate and
very beautiful University town that sits beside the Connecticut River. It is a
wealthy town where life centres around the College Green in front of the Baker
Tower of Dartmouth College. Very central to the town is the recently renovated Hanover
Inn, The place to stay in Hanover and bustling with visiting intellectuals and wealthy
families of the college undergraduates. If you have read Bill Bryson’s book ‘A Walk
in the Woods’ you will recognise Hanover as being on the Appalachian Trail and
where Bill lived for a while.
We carried on down the western flank of the
state, along open roads under wide blue skies, and came across a string of quintessential
New England towns - New London, Peterborough, Keane and finally Bedford. You
soon find that so many place names match our own and also that names are
duplicated across the New England region, which can cause confusion. These pretty
but sleepy towns are all worth a look and usually you will find a selection of interesting
independent shops and a local restaurant or diner, serving home cooked food for
a lazy lunch.
Nearby attractions included the wonderful St Gauden’s Gardens. We spent a
restful morning admiring the work of the celebrated sculptor, Augustus Saint.
Gaudens, and visiting his family home ‘Aspet’. The US National Park Service
runs the house and gardens and they hold seasonal exhibitions and events.
For an insight into the days when America
was ruled by Britain, a visit to Fort No. 4
in Charlestown is fascinating. It was the northern most British settlement
along the Connecticut River and today the buildings have been restored and it
is now a living history museum. It was interesting to talk to the volunteers,
dressed in period costumes and demonstrating local crafts such as weaving,
spinning and a blacksmith toiling away in the forge. Times were hard for these
early pioneers and the fort often housed the British military to help protect
the families from Indian raids.
To appreciate the other side of early
American history a ‘must see’ is the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, just outside
the town of Warner, where you can learn about Native American culture and gain
an insight into the customs and lifestyle of the different tribes that sadly
were driven from their lands by the early settlers.
Cathedral of the Pines is definitely worth a short detour; it is an open-air
garden of Remembrance in the Mt Monadnock region and a very moving and
spiritual place. Completely non denominational, it honours the people of
America who died serving their country, as well as being a lasting memorial for
the son of the landowners, Sibyl and Douglas Sloane III, who lost their son
Sandy in WW2.
Working our way onto the city of Manchester
we called into the Currier Museum of Art
and spent an enjoyable afternoon admiring the exhibits and in particular the
iconic Zimmerman House. Designed in 1950 by the acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd
Wright, the home is a lasting legacy of 50’s lifestyle. Set within a quiet
neighbourhood, the house can only be visited as part of a tour run by the
Currier Museum so you need to pre book tickets. It is a fascinating journey
back in time and well worth visiting.
Food and drink featured strongly on this
road trip – mainly because New Hampshire is home to some amazing microbreweries,
and despite the harsh winter climate, a few great wineries are springing up.
We enjoyed lunch and wine tasting at the
very successful La
Belle Winery in Amherst. This attractive purpose built winery includes a
Bistro, art gallery, culinary shopping opportunities and of course, plenty of
Any beer lover would enjoy a visit to the award
winning Stark Brewery in
Manchester. Alongside the brewery is Milly’s Tavern where you can enjoy tasty pub
food as well as a great choice of fresh beers.
New Hampshire has a wide range of
accommodation to suit all budgets and we sampled a good cross section. Our
accommodation for this part of our trip ranged from quaint historical roadside
Inns such as the New London Inn,
which has a great restaurant, and the Jack
Daniels Inn in Peterborough, through to the spanking new and very Grand
Hotel at the Bedford Village Inn.
Our tour continues in Part 2 with our adventures
around Lakes, Mountains and Coast.
New Hampshire - a road trip to remember: Part 2
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