Grand hotel: Wentworth-by-the Sea

 

The greatest charm of that now-near-vintage Christopher Reeve movie, Somewhere in Time, was the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, where it was shot. As Reeve’s character explored the hotel, he magically found love in another century, to the tune of stirring romantic strain of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Pagannini.

But my near-obsession with grand hotels goes much farther back. I will never forget my first glimpse of what is now the Omni Mount Washington in New Hampshire,  in 1969. Oh, it was breathtaking!. We haven’t been lucky enough to stay there—not yet—but it remains on our list.

Last week, however, my daughter and I were lucky enough, however, to stay in another of New England’s gracious old hotels, of which, at one point, there were reportedly about 400.  Wentworth-by-the-Sea near Portsmouth, NH. Check the link to read its history, which, of course, is part of the charm with these grande dames. Over decades, centuries even, important people walked their halls; and important things, sometimes not so nice ones, happened there.

We had a lovely two-night stay in this serene location overlooking the water. The weather was picture-perfect, and the shops, restaurants, and landmarks in nearby Portsmouth were, as always, a joy to explore.

Decor-wise, the hotel had an ultra-modern look that, against the backdrop of the 19th Century architectural deals didn’t quite work for me. Eclectic is fine when well done, and I have no objection to updating; but the modern furnishings seemed a bit odd and out-of-place, and the feeling of stepping back in time was completely lost in the execution.

The view and gardens are magnificent. Enjoy the photos!

 

 

IMG_3443

hashtagretired.com

 

 

Village views

We haven’t been north in nearly two years, which is atypical for us and much too long between trips. As I’m fond of saying, real life sometimes gets in the way. Hopefully, we’ll be back on track with a northward journey in the next few months. In the interim, the dry spell, I’ve gotten by with photos from past trips and that delightful Weekends with Yankee series I mentioned in a recent post.

Today, I’m sharing a visit to that quintessential New England village, Woodstock, Vermont. While the town has a green, multiple inns, and the expected charming shops, I prefer the “less traveled” views. Naturally, I am ever mindful of the need to preserve privacy and respect private property; the photos below were all taken from a public street or walkway.

IMG_4257

Note the book sale sign; we patronized it, and I brought home two fun cookbooks. A library book sale will stop me in my tracks any time!

IMG_4253

The flowers up north always look more vibrant to me.

Who doesn’t love a carriage house?

IMG_4249

Or any of these magnificent houses, for that matter?
Note: I’m a bit behind on my posts—it’s been a busy time. Hoping to catch up with some fun future musings, from grand hotels to a “biscuit test”. Thank you for following… I hope you’ll stay tuned and also share posts that you enjoy with your friends.

Growing up with Yankee

I fell in love with New England—technically, my native New England—not on those tedious trips north from Pennsylvania when I was a tiny child, but month by month, on the pages of Yankee magazine.

I’ve mentioned before that my father, a first generation Italian-American, grew up in a papermill town in Western Maine. Think Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, or Monica Wood’s stunning memoir, When We Were the Kennedys. As a kid visiting family on summer vacation, I had trouble connecting with those visits—everything just felt too different and far away. (I got over that as I grew older, of course.)

My parents loved magazines, and I absorbed their addiction, lapping up every Life, Look, Good Housekeeping, Saturday Evening Post, Mademoiselle, or whatever the minute it arrived. But one magazine was extra special, for on its covers and in its pages the idea of New England began to take shape in my imagination.

Back then, Yankee was half the size it is today, which in and of itself set the magazine apart. I still miss the old book-size format, with its distinctive original cover art. Sometimes fanciful, sometimes near photographic, the covers invited you into village life or mountainscape, stormy seas or apple orchard, lighthouse or schoolhouse. Beatrix Sagendorph, wife of Yankee founder Robb Sagendorph, was responsible for many of those inimitable illustrations, starting a tradition that other talented artists would follow in the years to come.

Between those covers, black-and-white newsprint pages bore stories of “Old Salts” and boiled dinners and folk remedies, general stores, and regional history, of famous Yankees important to history and literature. There were poems and recipes and little jokes here and there, and pages of classifieds that this school kid read from beginning to end. If you could read the tiny type, you could find anything from farm equipment to a fishing camp on a lake, a sure-fire mosquito remedy, or a priceless heirloom recipe you could call your own for just a dollar and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Come to think of it, the pages of Yankee were probably the first virtual general store.

With the changing times, Yankee has changed as well… first adding inside color, then giving up the compact, book-size format, then developing online content. Nonetheless, there is still much to love: enough “zip” to attract younger readers and sufficient  old-fashioned sensibility to keep long-time readers like me happily engaged. Subscribers these days have access to a website that offers free downloads of tourist information, recipes, and other good stuff.

The most recent innovation has been the addition of the WGBH-produced TV series, Weekends with Yankee. The show, just now beginning its second season, airs on public stations; you will need to check your local outlet for day and time. The content has been delightfully varied thus far. If you love New England, or, if somehow, you’ve never been there, watch this show. Writer-explorer Richard Wiese and Amy Traverso, Yankee’s senior food editor, are enthusiastic yet relaxed hosts with the savvy to let the stories unfold naturally. It’s a great half hour. And if, like me, you still like something you can hold in your hand, try subscribing, and you can enjoy the varied pleasures of New England year round.

 

Cover photo: Rumford Falls, Oxford County, Maine.

Mystic-ism

I’d wanted to visit Mystic Seaport in Connecticut for years by the time we finally got there on a misty (sorry—I couldn’t resist) day a few summers ago. Mystic is a delightful trip back in time if you appreciate the American Colonial period, and a great history lesson for kids. It’s easier to enjoy in spring or fall, when the tourist volume is lower. Earlier today, I was going through my photos and thought you might enjoy these.

Mystic schooner

 

 

I miss the mountains

This time of year, I get a very specific wanderlust that  always involves going north, to the mountains. I was never lucky enough to live in New England, but my father was born and raised in western Maine, just 30 miles from the Canadian border. I’ve had one Yankee foot since I was old enough to understand that I was born in Boston, not Pennsylvania.

Throughout most of my life, being “down the shore” was always my favorite summer treat. I still love the ocean—don’t get me wrong—but some time in the mid-90s, the mountains of New England stole my heart. Every year since, when summer comes, I begin to yearn—there is no other word for it—for the mountains up north, and the sweeping crystalline lakes, as blue as a June sky, that punctuate them.

Just about wherever you go in New England, the mountains are with you. At the “Height of the Land” on the way to the Rangeley Lakes region in Maine, you can see Canada on one side, New Hampshire on the other, and Mooselookmeguntic Lake beneath. It’s hard to imagine a more breathtaking landscape—that’s one view in the photo above. Click the links to learn more, including the real truth about the lake’s interesting name, which the natives simply call “Mooselook.” And if you want to have your cake and eat it, too, drive up the coast to Bar Harbor and take in the view at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, where the mountains meet the sea.

By the way, I’m so grateful to our relatives up north, who always welcome us warmly and share their favorite places with us.

Photo: Mooselook, in the Rangeley Lake Region.

Note: “I Miss the Mountains” is an absolutely gorgeous song from the Broadway musical, Next to Normal. I borrowed the title for this post but, unfortunately, the song has nothing to do with mountains. Still, it’s worth a listen.

 

 

Gallery

In the footsteps of the stonecutters…

We make frequent trips to New England, partly because we love it so, partly because we have both roots and family there. Our visits often begin and end at my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s home in Vermont. On one such visit, we took a fascinating field trip to, of all places, a cemetery.

But not just any cemetery.  I had a specific reason for wanting to see Hope Cemetery in Barre, VT,  where the Italian immigrant stonecutters crafted magnificent monuments for themselves, their loved ones, their co-workers, with staggering Old World skill. Vermont, it turns out, isn’t just about the magnificent Green Mountains, but also about what lies beneath. Vermont calls itself the “granite capital of the world,” and Danby Quarry in Vermont is billed as “the largest marble quarry in the world.”

Apart from seeing the legendary sculptures that mark Hope Cemetery’s graves,  I knew that at least one of my great or great-great uncles, immigrants from the village of Centrache in Calabria, had worked in a marble or granite quarry in Vermont. I wondered if perhaps he’d been buried in Hope Cemetery.

I plodded through one website after another, trying to find a family name among the available records of  quarry workers  and cemetery maps. Although the on-line search came up dry, and I never found a headstone with a familiar name, I still felt  a satisfying sense of lineage walking through the cemetery.