This post is to help you “get in the spirit” – it did for me. Without having a December theatrical production to worry about, for the first time in nine years I have been able to review and decide on Christmas events throughout New England that I would like to experience. I created a list (PDF available, just ask), and the research is what I enjoy prior to execution. I stumbled on 300 Years of Thanksgiving – 90 minute weekend guided tours at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth. What a great way to start my holiday excursions – a plan was hatched, even though usually “I do not do weekends away.” But then this is New Hampshire off season.

I bought my ticket on-line for 1PM Sunday the 19th, booked a room, and headed across Antique Alley to the coast – Route 4 for those of you “not in the know.” Bought 11 books at the third stop on the way. On the way home found 12 more books at two locations. Profit once sold pays for this trip and another – darn, I am good at what I do.

The tour covered three centuries, starting at the Pitt Tavern with Thanksgiving in 1777. There were five in my group, that is not counting the 6 week babe in arms. There have been harvest celebrations for eons, this day in 1777 folks were also celebrating the recent victory at Saratoga. The interpreter greeted us in the keeping room.

and then took is into a front tavern room to make a “harvest craft” – a corn husk doll. The dolls would be played with throughout the winter (mine did not come out well), and then buried in gardens for good growing luck.

by now you should know me and shadows and reflections.

Next stop was 1870 at the Goodwin Mansion. This former governor’s home was moved a short distance to Strawbery Banke (make sure you learn the history of this early living history museum that is in situ). Before President Lincoln established a date for Thanksgiving Day in 1863 it was celebrated at different times in different states. If I recall correctly Governor Ichabod Goodwin, prior to Lincoln, unified the day of Thanksgiving between Maine (a stone’s throw away) and New Hampshire. Here is the Goodwin’s Thanksgiving table set.

The buildings at Strawbery Banke are interpreted to a certain time and resident. We next visited the Shapiro House in 1919. Mrs. Shapiro, recently arriving in the US from the Ukraine, wonderfully related her life and attempts to understand American traditions (she was great).

and the 1919 table set in the Shapiro House

Finally our guide took us into the Abbot-Store House during World War II in 1943. Actually this is one of the original homes from about 1720, but much changed. You know I enjoy old country stores, even the 1940s stores are fascinating, so here are some views.

I first enjoyed Strawbery Banke in 2009 and do have to get back. This tour is run to garner some additional revenue for the museum during its closed season. The tour was nice, but I was a tad disappointed not seeing more festive decorations. BUT, in my research I learned of Festival of Trees at The Urban Forestry Center, a fundraiser for the Portsmouth Garden Club. After I checked into my hotel, off I went.

There were outdoor and indoor displays with trees, miniature trees, wreaths and the like. Here is the path up the hill to the buildings.

and some exhibits in the historic Cape house, built about 1840. (remember to click an image for a larger gallery view)

Now, here is an idea for your yard. Some birch logs, knit caps, and various noses.

A closeup to help you get started

I entered the next building with larger displays. So much festive eye candy, here is just some of what I saw.

A table display

the display below was to the side of the above table. You see these mirrored window frames in repurposed stores, but here it has been decorated to look frosty. Really nice.

And, it was a “Blue Christmas” complete with music

In the center of the next room were many large decorated trees. Joanie — take note of your next challenge below. (remember, clicking on an image in my galleries opens to larger images)

And walking out the door I was greeted with this garden.

These are PLATE BLOOMERS made specially in Red and Green for the Festival. I found these amazing and fascinating.

I really like Portsmouth, and have visited many times and not seen it all. In fact, this is the third November in a row I have stayed there – and the problem is that the history sites close by the end of October. I also have to get back to Star Island. Now on the list – stay two nights in Portsmouth early June 2018, and book another adventure on Star.

To celebrate our anniversary in 2003, Cathy and I headed to the newly renovated and reopened Wentworth by the Sea.  When booking, the hotel misunderstood Cathy saying we were coming for our anniversary. On arrival we were told, “we upgraded you to a tower suite for your honeymoon.” We said, “thank you.” Our suite is in the center tower, fourth floor below.

and, a few memory views for me – the lobby, and where we had dinner (give me white tablecloths anytime).


I wanted to walk to dinner, and reviewing options from my digs at Hotel Portsmouth, it was obvious (as a bookseller, in case you forgot) that I eat at The Library Restaurant.  A fascinating history to the building (do read about it), great ambience, good food, but overpriced. Only need to go once. (note white tablecloths – anytime, please, I am well trained to finer things)



I then walked back to Hotel Portsmouth. When I checked in earlier they said, “we have upgraded your room.” “Is the upgrade in the original mansion,” I asked. “No, but it is a bigger room and bed.” I asked for the original room in the original mansion I selected. I cannot say more about this new boutique chain – Lark Hotels – I was very pleased. My room – second floor in the left corner.

Monday morning I was at Discover Portsmouth when it opened at 9:30 – a 3 minute walk away. I always start with the movies/videos at a museum venue, and enjoyed 300 years of Portsmouth history in 12 minutes. I looked at the exhibits, shop, gathered travel brochures, and headed to Maine. I wanted to do some trouser shopping in Kittery – UGH – not a favorite thing.

Been down the route before (usually opposite direction). The small town of Kittery is interesting, and then I took the shore road to Kittery Point. I pulled out on the dock and looked out at the ocean. Martha, is that Star with the hotel in the center?

My plan was to take NH 101 home and stop at some possible book discovery spots, but a few signs caught my curiosity. There was Newington, only know of it in books in my inventory, and the next Historical Newington. Off I went. If you look at a map you will see that the Portsmouth area is confusing with bays and inlets and lots of water around isolated areas. I was really in nowhere, but lovely, and I arrived.

The road (look at the map) came to a dead end at the limits of the Pease airfield. Here is the answer to your winning Jeopardy question.

Through the centuries the income from timber cuts here financed and supplied materials for the 1872 Town Hall, the schoolhouse and other community projects.

Here is the 1872 Town Hall

and across the street the Parsonage from about 1710 to 1725.

next to it the 1920 fascinating stone facade abandoned schoolhouse

There is absolutely no reason in the world for you to go here, and it is not on the way to anywhere — but take the opportunity to swing in off Spalding Turnpike.

I said I was going to amend my West Point trip on this post, but decided not to. Maybe someday. In brief, AVOID The Thayer Hotel, and make sure to visit the New York State Museum in Albany.

More holiday posts to come – HAPPY THANKSGIVING, and Happy Holidays, As always, yours, RAY

and, finally, for some reason I have a penchant for old miniature Christmas trees. I got some of my collection out today to illustrate the December issue of my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION. You can click this image to open up a large panorama – enjoy.


This entry was posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips, Thanksgiving and Christmas and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. William Moses says:

    Thank you for another fine trip. The Red Ryder rifle picture brought back memories of many years ago. Really like your articles. Make me feel like I am there. Bill

  2. Pingback: An “OLD-FASHIONED THANKSGIVING” – 26 November 2020 | Shunpiking with Ray

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