We have now officially entered that time of the year when New England turns into a frozen tundra. Last month was pretty mild, but I knew the freezing cold days would be upon us sooner rather than later…and here we are! I used to let the cold affect me greatly, rarely setting foot outdoors for longer than was absolutely necessary. Nowadays, I’m trying not to be one of those people who complains about the cold every second, and rather than let it make me miserable, bundle up and enjoy all the weather that Mother Nature throws at us!
I embarked on my journey of embracing the cold last week when my friend Shiloh and I paid a visit to the beautiful seaside city of Portsmouth, NH. As we walked through the streets, bundled up from head to toe with the coastal wind blowing every which way, I didn’t even mind! It was like that scene in the movie Home Alone where Kevin runs outside and screams, “Do ya hear me?? I’m not afraid anymore!!” (even though he still is). Freezing weather, you can’t keep me down! Our arrival in Portsmouth had coincided with lunchtime, so we decided to find something to eat. This was Shiloh’s first time in Portsmouth, so I listed off the various restaurants I’d tried and liked, but we continued to look for a place that was new to the both of us. We came across The Works Bakery Café on Congress Street, and after glancing at the affordable and tasty-sounding menu on the door, decided this would be it.
The Works was a warm, cozy respite from the bitter cold. Avocado lover that I am (thanks, Amanda, for making me realize that you shouldn’t judge a food by its appearance!), I ordered the Turkey Guacamole sandwich, which also came with red peppers on artisan bread. Shiloh ordered the Farmers Veggie and Cheese sandwich with a cup of Cream of Broccoli soup. We took a seat by the window to enjoy our meals, which were so fresh-tasting and the perfect portion size to fill us up.
After lunch, it was time to gift hunt for my mom’s upcoming birthday. We passed by the Portsmouth Candle Company, with a window display of pretty, unique items. My mom loves candles (I don’t know many mothers that don’t), so we went inside and perused the store. It was filled with not only candles, but home decor, lots of soaps and various trinkets. I remembered that I had gotten my mom quite a few candles for Christmas, so I got her a delicious Coconut scented soap in vibrant packaging. Shiloh’s younger sister’s birthday was that week as well, so Shiloh purchased a necklace filled with “fairy dust” for her.
After our stop at the Portsmouth Candle Company, we headed over to Attrezzi, a store that my mom loves and where I knew I could find something else for her. Attrezzi sells a variety of items ranging from kitchen tools to wines, gourmet sauces and dips to home decor, and even jewelry, fashion goods, lotions and more. I’m pretty positive you could find a gift for almost any woman (or man who likes to cook) here!
We browsed around the first floor, then headed up to the second where there were what seemed like endless flavors of sauces and dips to sample. Between the two of us, we tried them all! My favorite, and the one I decided to purchase for my mom, was an amazing sweet yet savory pumpkin honey mustard dip. Pumpkin is a year-round flavor in my eyes. On our way back downstairs, we were offered cheese samples which we happily accepted. There were a variety of cheeses and I would have sampled many more had I not been so full already. I once held disdain for any cheese that isn’t melted, but after my pleasantly surprising experience at Calef’s Country Store in Barrington, NH, I will never again say no to taste-testing it!
Once we left Attrezzi, I was feeling in the mood for a drink. I suggested Rí Rá, an Irish pub that I went to on St. Patrick’s Day (I have had a weird obsession with all things Irish/Ireland lately). A fun fact about Rí Rá that I learned from their website is that it was “built entirely from authentic pub salvage sourced and meticulously restored in Ireland before being shipped to its new home in Portsmouth”. Imagine that – authentic is right! Even our bartender hailed from the Emerald Isle, accent and all. Shiloh and I both ordered a “Cinnamon, Spice &…”. This drink was made from Bailey’s, Goldschlager and Stolicnaya Oranj, topped with cream and powdered cinnamon. It certainly tasted like a winter drink to me, and was strong and sweet. The bartender informed us that this was one of their newer drinks, as a few drinks had been recently added to the menu. It was a good one!
It was dark by the time we left Rí Rá, but I wanted to try to walk to the water even though it was colder now that the darkness had set in. We didn’t quite make it there, but we did happen upon another very interesting shop that I couldn’t resist – Pickwick’s Mercantile. Looking in the windows, the store seemed to beckon me inside, especially with its sign illuminated and reflected onto the sidewalk by a spinning spotlight. Opening the doors, it was like we had gone through a time machine into the 1800s – the shop held so many unique wares, displayed in a fashion similar to what I imagine stores of old featured. Upbeat fiddle music was playing on the speakers. I loved it all! I am a history fanatic, and Portsmouth is so rich with history that a shop which brings that old-timey feel back is a perfect idea.
I could have spent hours perusing the imported perfumes, chocolates, children’s toys, books, toiletries for men and women, letter-writing materials…too many things to list. Even the employees were dressed in a vintage manner. I purchased a few lotions with a retro-looking apothecary label on them, but would have bought more if I had longer to look! I wish I had taken more elaborate photos, but I was too busy admiring everything. I told one of these employees how awesome I thought the store was, and he told me that there is a Lady Pickwick’s store further down the street. I will definitely be marking that as a must-see on my next trip to Portsmouth.
Once we left Pickwick’s it was too cold to continue on with the night, and we had to get going. Despite the cold, I thought this was a very happy and successful trip to Portsmouth, and I was glad that Shiloh enjoyed her first time to this historic city. I have the feeling I’ll be back very soon, as I plan on ice skating at least once this winter on the brand new Puddle Duck Pond rink! For now, it’s been fun, Portsmouth!
Featured Places (in order of mention):
The Works Bakery Café – 9 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801, 603.431.4434
Portsmouth Candle Company – 62 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801, 603.430.0353
Attrezzi – 78 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801, 603.427.1667
Rí Rá Portsmouth – 22 Market Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801, 603.319.1680
Pickwick’s Mercantile – 64 State Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801, 603.427.8671