Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Cold Day in Portsmouth, NH

Mark March 23, 2013 on your calendars because on that historic date, a miracle occurred (and prepare yourself for this one - you might want to sit down):  The Family Elliot had 24 hours without a single sporting event.  

I know!  It was crazy.

We knew that if we stayed at home, Gordy would spend those 24 hours running errands and puttering around the house, while the kids complained there was nothing to do.  Since none of us thought that was the best use of our first free day as a family in months, we decided a day trip was in order.  Instead of the puttering and whining, we packed up our warmest coats, hats and mittens and headed north to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Once we arrived in Portsmouth, we started off our visit with a walk along the waterfront and an inspection of a new bridge being built across the river (or is this a harbor?) 

It was incredibly cold and the wind was pretty biting, but it was nice to be in the sun and by the ocean.

My sister, Elizabeth, used to live very close to Portsmouth, NH and the two of us (plus baby Henry) used to go there frequently for meals, haircuts and a good shop.

Elizabeth was always such a generous Auntie - she would frequently take care of our pug, Nancy, when we went on holiday and she always happy to babysit for Henry, while Gordy and I went out to dinner.  We'd drive up from Boston, drop off the dog and the baby, and head over to Portsmouth for a good dinner alone.  Gordy and I were both so very thankful for the time off and I wish that we still lived close to Elizabeth & Sean now so we could repay the favor and babysit Owen for them.

One of my favorite Portsmouth memories involves the local toy store.  Twelve years ago, we left Henry's lovey (a soft, boy baby doll appropriately named Baby Doll) on a plane after a red-eye home from California.  After weeks of listening to Henry cry himself to sleep without his cuddle toy and hours spent on the internet trying to locate this impossible-to-find doll, I had given up the search for a replacement.  Cut to a few days later, Elizabeth, Henry and I were in Portsmouth having lunch at the famous Friendly Toast, when we stopped by the toy store to waste a little time.  

While Henry played at the train track, I wandered into the back of the store to look at baby toys - I was pregnant with Georgia and interested in what was new.  There, sitting in a basket with other soft toys, was Baby Doll.  I couldn't have been more relieved!  I bought (the new) Baby Doll plus the only other model they had, this time a pink version, to give to the new baby.  

Henry was so surprised when I handed him Baby Doll.  I remember saying "Henry!  Look!  Baby  Doll must have spent his month in New Hampshire on vacation!"  Henry was only 18 months old or so at the time, so he bought the story with no agrument.  He hugged Baby Doll tightly and didn't let go ... until his king-sized pancakes arrived.  Henry is sentimental but not when there is food to be consumed.

After our trip to the waterfront, we went shopping along the main drag of Portsmouth.  We went into that famous Baby Doll toy store, but we didn't see any of Baby Dolls' other family members.  We are now the proud owner of THREE of those wonderful dolls.  There's Baby Doll, Rosemary (Georgia's doll) and Agnes (the doll that Gordy's mother found in a toy store in California when I was pregnant with Josie).  No other soft doll has ever been more loved.  Georgia still sleeps with Rosemary and Josie brings Agnes with her whenever we travel.  Henry barely remembers his model, which I recently found in our doll bin in the basement.

Perhaps he would love Baby Doll more if it was attached to his beloved cell phone.

We had a mellow day.  We mostly walked around and visited the various knick-knack and clothing stores.  We did stop at a coffee shop and have a little snack by the visitor kiosk.

And we took a photo by the Friendly Toast to show Elizabeth.

(Elizabeth!   Look!  The Friendly Toast!)

Elizabeth left New Hampshire over ten years ago, and since then, my family has only been back a few times.  Portsmouth has lovely shops and excellent restaurants and while I never remember it being particularly crowded when Elizabeth lived down the road, it is incredibly bustling and busy now.

The tourists were definitely out in full force this past Saturday.  I'm sure the Portsmouth merchants were thrilled.

This has been a long, long winter and I'm sure New Englanders are sick of being inside, watching the snow fall from our windows.  We are all ready to stop hibernating and get back to living.  If only the weather would cooperate!

We went to "dinner" at 4:30 and the restaurant was so crowded that we had to wait 30 minutes to get a table.

I'm not complaining.  The waiting area was warm and the beer was cold.  

We had a lovely day off... but now we are back to normal.  Georgia had an outdoor soccer tournament the very next day and Henry had two hockey games.  This weekend, we will balance another soccer tournament, more hockey, Josie's swimming and the start of two lacrosse seasons.  I'm glad we got a day of rest first.

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