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Chapter 2 in my 50 state series drops me in New Hampshire, the Granite State or as residents enjoy proclaiming the state motto, “Live Free or Die”. I never really thought about New Hampshire as a travel destination. Living just south of the border in Massachusetts for so many years, New Hampshire just felt like an extended part of my neighborhood. I could pop up any time I’d like and I certainly did.

I’ve spent a lot of time visiting in New Hampshire. Heck, Mario and I used to drive 45 minutes to Nashua just to get a meal and drive home – more on that later. My first visit was in high school with my friend Vicki. Her sister had moved to Epping, a tiny little town in the southeast corner of the state. At maybe 17, this was the farthest I’ve ever driven from home. We spent the weekend exploring nature. We drove up… yes drove not hiked up… Mt. Washington the tallest mountain in the northeast of the USA at 6,288 feet. It was summer at the bottom and late fall at the top. That ascent up to the peak was the first time I’d been up that high. Up to that point, I hadn’t even been on an airplane. It was really exciting but my poor friend Vicki was negatively affected by her fear of heights and had to recline her seat all the way back and lay down as not to look out the window.

It wasn’t until years later as a grown adult living in Massachusetts that I’d return. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been to New Hampshire but most of my time in the state has been in the lower half. I’ve yet to explore the northerly areas. What I really enjoy about my visits is the beauty of nature. There are so many wonderful areas to hike and explore. Many mountains to climb, many trails to hike, many small towns to amble through. In case it wasn’t clear before, let me state for the record that I really like hiking. Being out in nature rejuvenates me.

Gorgeous lake with a tiny little island as seen during one of my hikes

Cascading waterfall in the mountains of New Hampshire

It was on the day I hiked by the waterfall that on the drive out of the area I came upon a hitchhiker with a huge backpack. I stopped and the young woman asked if I could drive her the few miles down the road to the nearest town. I was happy to help but once she got in the car, I wasn’t so sure I made the right choice. You see, she had been hiking the Appalachian trail for months and let’s just say bathing must not have been a high priority or easy to do because the malodorous stench that filled my car caused my eyes to water. It took a bit of driving with the windows open after she departed to get rid of the smell!

When hiking wasn’t on the menu, Mexican food was! Mario, being from Texas, missed the good Tex-Mex and other Mexican specialities he’d get right inside his own mother’s kitchen. It was fortuitous then that he discovered La Carreta in Nashua. I do not have the same critical eye on Mexican food as I do on pasta and pizza but I can assert that the food here is good AND plentiful. We’d wake up on a lazy Saturday afternoon and after a morning of chores and random tasks we’d drive up and treat ourselves to a feast. Most of the time I’d gluttonously order the “Special Dinner” which includes: a burrito, an enchilada, a chile relleno, a tostada, a taco, and rice and beans. Now, they claim it is for two people but come on who are we kidding.

PART of The Special Dinner (for one!) at La Carreta

Wash it all down with a small sangria

Another spot that I enjoy visiting is Portsmouth. It’s an easy drive up from Boston and also on the way to Maine which made it a convenient stop. I think Portsmouth is incredibly charming and reminds me of a small European fishing town. I love the mom and pop shops, the cobblestone, the old English tavern feel. I’ve considered moving to Portsmouth in the past simply because it is idyllic. A few years ago my sister and brother-in-law came to stay with me for a few weeks. During their visit we made a couple trips up to Portsmouth to of course eat and drink.

Welcome to Portsmouth!

Our lunch spot at an English style pub

Cozying up to the fire at a local bar

Enjoying the holiday décor and festivities

Of course if there are distilleries nearby I am going to find them! I had done a quick search and discovered that New Hampshire, for a small state, has quite a few. My first visit was to Smoky Quartz Distillery in Seabrook owned and operated by a veteran. Serving the country runs deep in his family. Five members of his family, including himself, served. In honor of that sacrifice, he named his bourbon V5. It is a corn forward sweet pour that I truly enjoyed. My next visit took me to Flag Hill Distillery & Winery in Lee. What a stunning property complete with a vineyard, farm, distillery, brunch and more.

The offerings at Smoky Quartz Distillery

The bucolic vineyard at Flag Hill Distillery & Winery

One random day I decided to drive up to Laconia and explore a bit. I stumbled upon Tavern 27, a charming tucked away spot with a fantastic whiskey selection and great food. Set in the beautiful expansive hills this establishment is worth the drive. I had a taste of my first Auchentoshan single malt to accompany a delicious lunch.

Outside bar and music at Tavern 27

A piano table at Tavern 27. I REALLY want to reserve this!

Like Minnesota, even though I’ve spent a lot of time in New Hampshire there is so much more to see. Except you won’t see the man in the mountain anymore. For just about ever in human terms a geological formation on the side of a mountain created the appearance of the face of an old man. This image was used in all sorts of marketing and road signs and was a strong part of the New Hampshire ethos. Until a few years ago a rock slide wiped the old man’s face away. So long old man!

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