I’ve often gone on day trips to spend time in other cities and towns, but I haven’t taken too much time to really stop and explore my current home city of Manchester, NH. I moved here in December, and the downtown has certainly perked up from the way I remember it prior to moving to Massachusetts several years ago.
This morning, I decided to visit Café la Reine, which is where I began writing this post. As Manchester is known as the “Queen City”, and has deeply French roots, the name Café la Reine (Basically, The Queen Café) makes perfect sense. The coffee house had been originally recommended to me by a coworker/friend at a previous job as a great place to stop and get a caffeine fix before the start of the workday. I had kept it in the back of my mind since hearing about it, but couldn’t help noticing the cute sign every time I drove or walked down Elm Street. Today I finally decided to wake up early enough before work and go see what it was all about.
I have to admit, when I try a new coffee spot I usually play it safe on the first round, always ordering my number one go-to drink – iced caramel latte. The caramel latte happens to be delightfully decadent (I like alliteration) from Café la Reine. I also ordered a blueberry bagel with cream cheese, which was yummy as well. The menu features a variety of beverages sure to please any coffee enthusiast (and anyone who likes smoothies!), as well as breakfast items like bagels, pastries and breakfast sandwiches. There are numerous sandwiches and salads (named after kings and queens in history) for the lunch and dinner crowd.
The café is decorated in a rustic, shabby chic fashion, which I am a big fan of. The main splash of color within the café, as well as within its branding, is aqua, somewhat like the shade you might find in a classic 1950s diner but played up in a much more elegant way. The walls feature light wood boards and exposed brick, and there are tables for customers inside and outside, as well as a corner area of leather seats with a utilitarian style coffee table, which is where I sat. There are various books perched along boards next to the walls for customers to read, as well as copies of the major New Hampshire paper, The Union Leader. The music certainly lends itself to the ambiance of the café, a soft blend of modern indie songs mixed with 1960s folksy songs (think Crosby Stills & Nash).
There seemed to be a camaraderie among the other patrons of the café. I noticed multiple customers (who did not come in together) chatting with each other knowingly. It seemed that this is certainly a morning hotspot for Manchester residents or workers, whether they be artists, business people, running enthusiasts, or writers like myself (all of which I saw there this morning). I’m always willing to connect with new people in the area, and maybe I can do that here if I come to Café la Reine often enough! I will surely be making it a point to get up earlier and stop in.
Another Manchester spot I was able to pay a visit to this past week was the Farm & Flower Market on Webster Street. My best friends Amanda and Nicole, who live down the street, had often talked about the positives of shopping at the market. Having come from a farm town originally, we had grown up on the fresh produce offered up by nature, planted and picked by the dedicated generations of farmers. I missed this direct connection to the land and knowing where my food came from, and am so glad I was able to find a market in Manchester.
We were surrounded by a colorful bounty of fruits and vegetables, most native to NH. Although I spent more than I would have at the grocery store, it felt good to know I was buying fresh, and supporting local farms that support my most basic need of food.
This was a busy week for me, and I know there’s certainly more to be discovered and uncovered in Manchester. I hope to find a new hotspot in town every week, so if you live or work in the area and have recommendations, send them my way!