When reserving vacation time at my work last spring, I decided to take a week off in late September. The plan was to finish up my garden work and other things around the yard before it became too chilly, but I was also thinking of taking a day or two to go to Portland, Maine and see what fun and unique dairy-free foods I could find and stock up for the winter. (See, the two are related – it is still winter preparation!) Over the summer I did some research and planning of where I wanted to go, and I ended up adding a quick visit to the White Mountains of New Hampshire since it was so close and I had not been there before.
I left early on a Tuesday morning so I could make the most of my time there. Maine is not terribly far from the Maritimes, (fun fact: 90% of the Canadian population is located within 100 miles of the border) and so a few short hours later I was nearing my first destination. As soon as I left the interstate and was driving through small New England towns, I could start to feel the stress I didn’t realize was there begin to melt away. I was passing by 100-200 year old houses, lovely little white churches with their steeples stretching up above the multi-coloured trees, road-side farmer stands, small town diners, and old grave yards. I focused in on enjoying the journey and didn’t worry about what speed the car ahead of me was travelling or how many red lights held me up. As the mountains came into view, my weary soul soaked in the spectacular scene. I wasn’t expecting the trees to be showing much colour this early in the season, but there were fluorescent-hued branches shining in the sun and overhanging the tree-lined streets. It was a balm to my heart.
In my planning I had come across a place called Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH. It was a large country estate built in the early 1900’s on a mountain with all the modern conveniences, for Tom Plant and his bride to retire to. A winding mountain road leads to the beautiful home with amazing views overlooking the mountains and lake region. Besides touring the home (which in itself is well-worth the $18 admission price), you can stroll through the lovely gardens, enjoy the vista, horse-back ride from their stables, eat at the carriage house restaurant, and hike for miles on the trails – one of which has 7 waterfalls along the way. I enjoyed the waterfall hike on the Brook Trail – it was a little difficult to find at first, but once I found the beginning of the trail, it was easy enough to follow, wasn’t terribly long (1.5 – 2 hrs to go through and return and take photos), and not too difficult (some rocky spots and tree roots). This place ended up being my favourite part of the trip and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area!
From there, my GPS led me to The Valley Vegan bakery in North Conway just before closing. I chose a raspberry-filled pastry and a herb-flavoured pretzel to try and was not disappointed. Just down the road was also The Local Grocer/Table + Tonic restaurant. I was hoping to try out the restaurant as their menu showed many interesting choices, but unfortunately they were not open the evenings I was in the area. (I was staying in the North Conway area as I thought it most central to the places I planned on visiting.) I had supper instead at Thai Nakonping where I had their Shrimp Lad-Nah with crispy egg noodles. Wow! It was delicious, they had very little in their restaurant that contained dairy (so there wasn’t much chance of cross-contamination for my allergy), and the service was fast.
I had an early supper, because I thought this holiday would be a great opportunity to watch Downton Abbey that was playing at the theatre. North Conway’s cinema is small, but it created a cozy family atmosphere. It made for an enjoyable evening entertainment when the days end early and cool in autumn. A wonderful end to my first day in the White Mountains.