Monday, September 17, 2007

A Trip to the Seacoast

For the second time in two weeks, Sandra and I ventured to the NH seacoast on Saturday, despite that fact that the forecast was for rain all day. We took exit 1 off I-95 in New Hampshire, preferring to take the back roads. We drove through Hampton Beach (now in its official "post season" look and feel after last week's shindig). As expected, a lot of the places are now closed, and driving through the dreary drizzle going north on 1-A, we didn't see anything worth stopping for.

Interestingly enough, by the time we reached North Hampton about 1:30pm, the drizzle had more or less stopped. We saw a number of surfboards at North Hampton Beach State Park, so we pulled into a parking space and took a look at about a couple score people (guys and girls) in dark wet suits trying to catch a wave. The waves weren't very high; the storm wasn't really that intense, but you had to give them credit for trying!

Driving further north, we made it to Portsmouth. There were signs for Sunday's Portsmouth Criterium bicycle race, which seems to be an annual event on Market Square, and parking was difficult to find in the city... we had a few places that Sandra and I agreed would be nice for lunch--Muddy River Smokehouse, Molly Malone's, and Rusty Hammer. After a five minute trek to find a parking spot, we found one on Market Street right across from the Hammer, so that's where we had lunch.

The Rusty Hammer has a rather unassuming menu, focusing on sandwiches and burgers (named "Wimpy's," after the old Popeye character that would pay you on Tuesday for a burger today). I had a bacon-cheddar burger, and Sandra had a turkey club. The food was good, as usual. One minor flaw was that I've always remembered the Hammer as having Bass Ale on tap, but when I ordered it, I got a bottle instead--apparently, it's no longer on draft. The waitress apologized for not warning me about the change in advance; I think she thought that the two of us were regulars and knew about it already.

After a very nice meal, Sandra and I proceeded to Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth's outdoor historical museum dedicated to the renovation and restoration of the historic buildings from one of America's oldest colonial settlements. I became a member of Strawbery Banke about ten years ago, and my membership allows me to visit the museum for free.

This past weekend, Strawbery Bank was having its Garden Harvest Festival Weekend--I received a notice about it in the mail on Friday, and it was one of the reasons that Sandra and I decided on the Seacoast again this weekend. It was a nice, relaxing visit (as always!), and we watched a presentation by Kathleen Wall, Foodways Historian from Plimouth Plantation (sigh; do you know how difficult it is to get spelling checkers to ignore quaint colonial spelling?) in Plymouth, MA. Her presentation was in character (first person narrative) regarding Colonial Harvest, specifically what a person coming from England would need to know about planting a vegetable garden in this newfangled place called New England in the mid-1600's.

Sandra and I noticed that the sun had finally come out around 3pm, so we walked around the different places at Strawbery Banke. We visited the Cotton Tenant House Potters—a family favorite location—listening to the potter explain about the life of a teenager in the 1800s and early 1900s to a seventeen-year-old, who apparently got a slightly better appreciation of enduring school! After that, Sandra had a chocolate chip cookie from Pitt's Tavern.

There was a Harvest Supper planned for 6pm, but Sandra and I didn't really want to stay that long. Instead, the two of us got back in the car and continued north up US-1 into Maine until we got to Cape Neddick. From there, we took route 1-A to another family favorite restaurant, Cape Neddick Lobster Pound.

The Lobster Pound was now in Autumn schedule (closed Tuesdays), and they had lobster specials (pound and pound and a quarter lobsters, available singly or by twin). Sandra chose a single pound and a quarter lobster with a small cup of clam chowder. Since I don't care much for lobster, I opted for their Friday and Saturday special of prime rib, with Buffalo wings as my appetizer.

As usual, Sandra's chowder was excellent--thick and creamy. My wings were very tasty (albeit messy with a huge amount of Buffalo sauce) as well. Our main courses arrived and we truly enjoyed our meals. The service was excellent, and our table was at a window with a nice view of the inland marshes next to the Pound.

There was still some daylight left at 6pm, so we continued to head north to Ogunquit (also in Maine). I could tell from the glimpses of shoreline on the way that we were at or near low tide, which is the best way to experience the beach at Ogunquit at dusk... the amount of beach you can walk on goes from a tiny strip at high tide to a rather large expanse at low tide. Sandra and I walked along the beach for about a half hour, and then we ended up sitting at the bar at Splash, which is located right on the beach with wonderful views of the beach and the ocean. Sandra had a Diet Coke, and I had a Sebago Red beer as we watched the Boston Red Sox doing well against the Yankees. When Sandra and I left Splash, the Sox were ahead 10-1.

We drove straight home from Ogunquit, and we learned that the Sox indeed beat the Yankees that day, ending their five game losing streak to the Bronx Bombers.

All in all, it was an enjoyable way to spend a day. Although the weather didn't look promising at the start, it actually turned out to be a nice day. We really hadn't anticipated the bonus of a romantic walk on the beach... isn't it great how things just work out sometimes?

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