You could make a solid argument for New Hampshire having produced America’s greatest President. No, not Franklin Pierce (the only US President so far born in New Hampshire and incidentally consistently ranked as one of America’s worst Presidents) but Josiah Bartlett, the West Wing’s fictional Commander in Chief. Such is our love of the American political drama that is seems odd that we waited this long to visit NH, home of the traditional first Presidential primary and as steeped in politics as any other state, but here we are.
As we headed up the Atlantic coast from Boston we decided to make our stop on the coast, and there’s only a little bit of it in this dinky little state. We picked historic Portsmouth, and only partly because its the namesake of the English south coast town in which Josh was born. Suffice it to say, this version is rather nicer than ours. We dropped out bags off in the hotel and this is one that we’d really been looking forward to. The Ale House Inn isn’t cheap, but Portsmouth isn’t huge so there’s not a lot to choose from and the Ale House really stands out. Plus, and this was the clincher, you get free beer with the room.
We settled in to the simple but very comfortable room (complete with complimentary iPad) and sank our delicious IPAs from New Hampshire’s own Smuttynose Brewery. The unseasonably hot day had given way to a stormy evening but we braved the rain anyway and made the short walk to the Portsmouth Brewery – yes, more beer. That’s where we met our wonderful Stateside buddies who’d made the journey up from Connecticut to see us. After a short wait for a table Josh tried out the raspberry chocolate stout and he was glad he did, before we had a tasty meal including chowder and some classic chicken tenders (something of a staple of our road trips it must be said).
Once we’d filled our bellies yet again we didn’t want the night to be over, so we walked down a couple of blocks to the Portsmouth Book & Bar – which as the name suggests is a bookshop where you can carry on boozing. We browsed the row upon row of second hand books with yet more beer and some fresh cookies for dessert.
When we could take no more food and alcohol we walked back to the hotel for a sound night’s sleep. The next morning we walked away from town along the river to Prescott Park which has pretty views over the water and Porstmouth’s bridges. In need of some breakfast we had an appointment with the Friendly Toast. We’d had our eye on this popular breakfast spot for a while and we weren’t surprised by the long line of people waiting to chow down. Once we had a table we gorged on omelettes and pancakes and coffee and it was great.
Portsmouth is a little place that packs a punch, its got good food and good beer, and it has plenty of the charm you’d expect in a New England town. As ever, we were sad we couldn’t sample more of it but we had an appointment with New Hampshire’s neighbour to the north, Maine.
A couple of days later we passed through New Hampshire again and stopped by Concord, the State Capital. Concord is quiet and seemingly very well to-do. We parked up and had a short walk around the elegant Capitol building. Its far smaller than many of the other Capitol buildings we’ve spotted, but its golden dome hints at a certain grandeur. Talking of grandeur, we had another delicious Five Guys not far from the Capitol, yum.
We definitely didn’t do New Hampshire justice. The beautiful north of the State, including the White Mountains, remained untouched by us and its somewhere we’ll surely come back to one day. But what we did see, we liked. Its wealthy, but not as pricey as some of its New England cousins and it has bags of history, culture, food and politics. You can’t go far wrong with that.
Rate the State:
Good for: History buffs and it has a burgeoning foodie scene.
Bad for: Like much of New England, cheap it ain’t, there’s also not masses of coastline.