“Three forms the soul to a positive sum
Dance to this fix and flex every muscle
Space can be filled if you rise like my lumber
Advance to the tune but don’t do the hustle
Shake, rattle, roll to my Magic Number
Now you may try to subtract it
But it just won’t go away
Three times one?
(What is it? – One, two, three!)
And that’s a Magic Number”
“The Magic Number” – De La Soul
Unlike the western part of this country, New England is filled with compact states. In fact, the New England region (New York is considered Mid-Atlantic generally speaking) were a single state, it would be nestled between Washington and South Dakota in terms of total area.
This compact nature has its advantages and disadvantages – it’s quite easy to reach each state from just about anywhere you station yourself in New England. But then again, it’s easy enough to drive through any state as well – I remember driving into Massachusetts several years back and remembering that Connecticut appeared and disappeared in relatively quick fashion. The latter “problem” was not an issue, however – we were determined to sample every New England state to some degree this trip out.
The No-Plan Pollyanna: We figured we’d be winging this trip a bit with COVID in the forefront, but the day we wandered into Littleton, NH was essentially a pure day of improvisation, and it turned out to be one of our most fun days of the trip.
For those who don’t know (we didn’t ourselves), Littleton is the birthplace of Eleanor H. Porter, author of the “Pollyanna” series of children’s books in the early 20th century. The books proved so popular that the character Pollyanna became part of the American lexicon, often referring to a person with an almost unfailingly positive attitude and outlook.
Like any town, Littleton plays up its claim to fame and being the “Glad Town” (the Pollyanna stories were referred to as the “Glad” series of books) with a Pollyanna statue and crosswalks that encourage folks to wave as they cross.)
We found that this town of 6,000 people is far more than a simple book character, however. The Ammonoosuc River cuts a picturesque, rocky pathway through the downtown area, and pieces of art and an interactive play area lined the main parking lot on the way to a covered bridge. Over this river across that bridge, we were led to this town’s farmers market; we were more than happy to look around and indulge in some local vendors’ goods like pickled fiddleheads and fresh-roasted coffee.
Finally, we wandered back over and grabbed some lunch at the town’s local brewery, which is also perched alongside the Ammonoosuc. Founded by three Michigan natives in 2013, Schilling Beer focuses on the classic German beer styles and does a pretty good job of it. Being close to the Canadian border as we were, it didn’t seem right to not have one batch of poutine on this trip (there’s actually another poutine-specific eatery in town named A Vulgar Display of Poutine, a riff on a Pantera album) and Schilling’s version (from their food truck; a brewpub menu is also available) and a burger really hit the spot on this day.
Funereal Flights of Fancy: Maybe the trip to Houston’s National Funeral Museum back in 2016 was a harbinger of things, but we’ve integrated cemeteries into our trip itineraries more and more. We regularly pay homage to our own dead relatives, and seeing the final resting place for both famous and infamous people reinforces that bit of history related to those folks.
Neither of us think we have any relatives in Connecticut proper, but Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground is a bit of anomaly – an actual cemetery that has been preserved in a metropolitan downtown area despite the forces of progress.
While the Burying Ground is a lot smaller in size than it was while it was when still active, the cemetery was a rarity in that it did not discriminate who could be buried there. In its 160 years of operation (the oldest gravestone dates back to 1648,) anyone who died in town, regardless of class, race, gender, ethnicity, or religious faith, could be interred here. Over 6,000 people were buried at the Ancient Burying Ground, though over 90% of them did not have a marking gravestone, as they were prohibitively expensive for most.
Later in New Haven, we came full circle on a visit we made a few years back to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. As the legend goes, a curse had befallen the Winchester family, and the only survivor and the heir to the famed rifle-maker’s fortune, Sarah, became convinced that the only way to overcome the curse was to continue construction on her mansion. Winchester died in San Jose, but the remains of her and her sister were returned to New Haven to be laid to rest in the Winchester family plot. A brief journey through Evergreen Cemetery again led us to ponder the life of this truly unique figure.
Hartford Ancient Burying Ground | 60 Gold St, Hartford, CT 06103 | Tel: (860) 337-1640
Blogpost: The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA (originally posted January 2019)
It’s Neither A Road Nor An Island: We didn’t know until our trip that the capital of the country’s smallest state, Rhode Island, was a relative stone’s throw from Boston (Providence is about 50 miles away give or take.)
However, this most compact of the New England states has a number of picturesque lighthouses, and they ended up right behind Maine’s as our favorites this trip. Point Judith, Beavertail, and Rose Island (from the visually striking Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge gave us a solid taste of the state’s 21 working lighthouses.
We drove through Newport, home to several America’s Cup Sailing Championships, and it gave us the impression of a rather upscale version of the touristy beach town, something like Carmel/Monterey area of California but distinctly East Coast in feel.
Visit Rhode Island – Lighthouse Guide
Upgrading Your Java: Breakfast has been a bit more of a challenge since we learned of various food allergies; however, a couple Manchester, NH area eateries made us feel right at home.
Housed in downtown Manchester at The Flats, the Restoration Cafe states dietary flexibility should be the rule, not the exception. Indeed, it wasn’t hard to find items on the menu that didn’t require special requests to delete an item or ask about potential allergens. Their Buddha Bowl and Messy Eggs & Homefries, combined with coffee drinks made for pleasant al fresco morning dining.
Meanwhile, nearby Gofftown found us at a place that would remind local Columbus, OH residents of a mix of two Clintonville staples – the former Flowers & Bread and Wildcat Gift and Party.
By its name alone, Apotheca Flower & Tea might strike an average person as a place to pick up a bouquet of flowers and a sachet of fancy tea, but this venture, housed in the historic Gofftown Train Depot, proved to be a lot more.
The space is a lot larger than you might think, and a lot more arch and fanciful than you might expect for a small New England town. The front is fairly straightforwardly geared to the cafe, but a hallway to the back leads you to things like greeting cards, plants and flowers, chalk paint, and a whole lot more.
The cafe menu is pretty simple, but it’s very tasty – the avocado toast was one of the better breakfasts we had on this trip and the coffee drinks well made. The cafe sources locally as much as possible, with bread from a local baker and coffee beans from Milford, NH roaster Union Coffee.
The Restoration Cafe | 235 Hanover St, Manchester, NH 03104 | Tel: (603) 518-7260
Apotheca Flower & Tea | 24 Main St, Goffstown, NH 03045 | Tel: (603) 497-4940
Working for the Clam-down: Our exposure to New Haven-style Apizza has been through Cincinnati- and Columbus-located Taft’s Brewery, which has made this pie a staple of their taproom menus. With this teaser firmly in place, we figured we needed to sample the original article with a trip into New Haven.
As it turns out, many of New Haven’s places can be found along Wooster Street, just a touch southeast of the Yale University campus. With outdoor dining a focus, we found that Sally’s Apizza had the formula we needed to partake in this classic.
One of the oldest pizza places in New Javen, Sally’s was established by Salvatore “Sally” Consiglio in 1938. As the nephew of Frank Pepe, who opened up the original Pepe’s in the 1920s down the block, this created a bit of a rivalry between the two establishments. (Modern Apizza, also established in the 1930s, gives the city a potent O.G. apizza trifecta.
The pies at Pepe’s and Sally’s get their charred taste from coal – as noted in this Eater article on New Haven pizza, “In the twenties and thirties coal was abundant and cheap. It is also still responsible for the blistered, sooty, and smoke-imbued flavor of the pies at Pepe’s and Sally’s.”
We also decided my seafood aversion would be put aside for a chance at one of Sally’s White Clam Pies. In reality, this wasn’t that much of a sacrifice – my family regularly went clamming in the Delta region of California on a regular basis, and I didn’t mind clams so much as a younger lad.
Nodding to COVID, Sally’s now sports a big tent outside which is basically a first come/first served seating setup. Pick your pizza from the menu, pay at the outdoor kiosk (beverages can be also ordered there as well), and your pie will arrive in shortly thereafter.
Suffice it to say, this pie rated as one of the highlights of our journey into New England, and a lot has to do with that crust that is pretty much impossible to duplicate with conventional ovens. This pie matched up perfectly with beer, which includes Sally’s sports their own special in-house lager and select craft brews from around the area.
We’re hoping next time in the area to try out one of the other original Apizza places, but we know we’d be happy with Sally’s if that’s the way the coal chars.
Sally’s Apizza | 237 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511 | Tel: (203) 624-5271
Mountain Man: New Hampshire’s state highway signs sport the silhouette of a granite-chinned man; this iconic image can be traced to five granite ledges on Cannon Mountain, which people thought looked like a giant old man’s face when seen at the right angle.
While the ledges collapsed in 2003, people can still get an idea of what the formation looked like by dropping by the Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza just off I-93. Along with historical information and a series of devices to mimic what the formation looked like, the plaza sports scenic views of the surrounding White Mountains as well as a lake from which you can fish.
The Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza & Historic Site: Exit 34B from I-93 (Aerial Tramway Exit)
Random Notes: The effects of COVID were perhaps the most plainly evident during our days in New Hampshire and Connecticut. Our initial attempt for breakfast before we got to Goffstown was the White Birch Eatery, which promised seasonal ingredients and vegan options. Alas, they were temporarily closed on the of our visit (next time, as they say.) Another time was our takeout dinner (a fine rendition of Fattoush Salads and Falafels) from Al Basha Mediterranean. As it turned out, only one person was in-house to handle orders and cook food. One customer didn’t look too pleased when the wrong sodas were in his order, but we’ve adopted the attitude that times are tough for many restaurant, and patience is the best practice during these times.
COVID’s effects were also felt in Connecticut – two destinations we had targeted (The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, suggested by the folks at the Cincinnati version that we visited back in August) and the neighboring Mark Twain House) had reduced operations and were closed on the day of our visit. Once again, next time – we snapped some pictures and moved on to touring the Yale campus. We resisted causing a scene by shouting “Go Harvard!” at random students roaming around Yale’s beautiful grounds before we got on the road to Rhode Island.
Weather (and a little bit of playing it smart) played a factor in another no-go decision. You’ll see many cars around the state sporting the “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker – Mount Washington just happens the highest peak in the Northeast U.S. and home to some of the nastiest weather in the world (a peak wind gust of 231 mph, a record, was noted in 1934, and 2004 saw a three-day stretch where the wind chill never got above -50 F.
The weather on the day of our planned ascent was iffy at best. Coupled with both the nature of the road (narrow and often without guard rails) and the advisement that you should be healthy enough to get yourself down the mountain if your car breaks down or an emergency situation strikes), we decided that this was not a journey we’d be making this trip out.
New Hampshire also seems to have a plethora of Thai Restaurants – our sampling of their scene (Lemon Thai and Sushi, in Manchester) didn’t produce anything eye-popping in nature, but their wares fed us fine for the night. We figure with the sheer numbers, there’s probably a few gems out there to be had.
Also, New Hampshire isn’t a place you necessarily think of for beachfront property, but for 13 miles (the shortest coastline in the United States), the Granite State does offer that for both residents and visitors alike. We stopped by North Hampton Beach State Park for our first (and as it turned out, our only) dip of our feet into the Atlantic this trip.
Finally, a little talk about the coffee/bagel ratio. It’s great when you can get both under the same roof, but you usually get the choice of above-average to great bagel and serviceable coffee or vice versa. Big Easy Bagel, close to the Manchester’s airport, falls definitely in the former category, with a pretty good bagel and decent coffee.