Take 12 Trips 2015 May: Last Stop Before Piscataqua

I’m closing in now on the halfway point of my Take 12 Trips adventure. So far, I’d say the challenge has forced me to get out and explore near home more than once. Spring break meant an incredible trip out to the PNW to visit Bailey and even “armpit” New Jersey has become a place that I’m now plotting to revisit ASAP. Overall, I’d say I’ve done pretty well.

IMG_0234Now for May. May is always a funky month because it means final exams, unwinding after returning from school, and then gearing up for summer plans. This past weekend, though, I hiked back up to Maine for Bowdoin’s graduation to see some old friends off. I used the drive as an opportunity to experiment with an audiobook, allowing Tina Fey to narrate her memoir Bossypants as I drove north. Passing through Westborough, I stopped for a coffee at Red Barn, still one of my favorites, and then head up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Portsmouth frequently gets high marks for being a quintessential coastal New England town, occupying a spot on New Hampshire’s few miles of coastline. I’ve always driven by on my way to and from Bowdoin as it’s the last stop before crossing over the Piscataqua Bridge into Maine, but every time I’m going to Bowdoin I want to get there without dilly-dallying and don’t linger to make the stop. With Take 12 Trips May still waiting to be completed, I had my chance.

Getting off the highway, I was greeted by signs for “authentic Maine lobster” and Adult XXX Videos and Toys and More. This gave me a laugh, but wasn’t much of a bad sign given that that’s the case with so many places in New England. Nevertheless, I drove into town, managed to find parking, which one doesn’t come by easily there, and made my first stop at Portsmouth Book & Bar. This place seamlessly combines two of my favorite things: coffee and books! I had a cheap lunch at the bar, ordering a bagel, which was good but strangely sweet, and my first ever flat white, which I’ve been hearing so much about these past few months. After eating, I browsed around the bookstore and was pleased by the number of books they carried by Bolognese author Umberto Eco.

IMG_0243As my parking ticket only lasted for an hour, I walked around Market Square, popped into a store or two, and meandered back to the car. Had I had more time, I would’ve brought a book and sat outside with a coffee at Breaking New Grounds: this coffee shop sits right on Portsmouth’s main square and would be quite the vantage point from which to enjoy some people-watching.

Overall, I enjoyed visiting Portsmouth but felt that it was lacking something from the little that I saw, and I admit that I didn’t really get to know the town at all. It seemed to combine the characteristics of so many New England towns but, consequently, didn’t give me any distinctly “Portsmouth” vibes. In my opinion, the Old Port in Portland is much more eclectic and there are many more unique shops and great eating to check out in a larger area than Portsmouth’s small downtown. While I would revisit Portsmouth for a causal afternoon of people-watching or shopping (everyone who knows me well knows how sincerely I say this. Absolutely no sarcasm here), I’d prefer to check out more of the Old Port first.

4 thoughts on “Take 12 Trips 2015 May: Last Stop Before Piscataqua

  1. I missed seeing Portsmouth when I did my New England roadtrip a couple years ago, but it looks like I didn’t miss much! To be honest, I wasn’t much impressed with New Hampshire in general after staying in a hotel that was like something out of The Shining and having a horrible experience on the cog railway up Mount Washington.


    1. Hi Jessica, I feel bad bashing Portsmouth because it’s a perfectly nice town but that seems like all it was. In my opinion, there are much more interesting places to check out in Maine, Mass, and Rhode Island.

      Liked by 1 person

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