*Photo taken from Main Street bridge in Peterborough, NH.
Last Saturday I took the opportunity to head out to Peterborough for a writer’s group meeting, which I then turned into a little adventure for the day. It was a relief to get out of the house for some fun, since I haven’t felt well enough for much of anything all month. The sun came out for a visit with a few clouds scudding overhead, and even if it was brisk, it was a good fall weather day. Before I get into the fun to be found in the utterly quaint and very New England Peterborough, New Hampshire, I want to regale you with a small story about my vehicles. A couple of weeks ago, I got into my car on Monday morning, and started it to go to work. The day before, my car was fine. I had driven to the Nature Preserve (see my post on Horatio Colony Nature Preserve if you are interested) with my dogs, no issues. And yet, on Monday morning when I started my car, it smelled strongly of gas from underneath the hood. Probably I shouldn’t have driven it, but I had to get to work. As I drove out onto the highway, however, the gas gauge dropped at such an alarming rate, I chose to drive it to the shop. The mechanic said I was lucky the darn thing didn’t explode, or at least burst into flames, because the fuel line had been broken and was gushing gas, and then he also mentioned that when he looked at it the hose looked as though it had been chewed. Hmmm.
Flash forward to yesterday, a few weeks later. I now have a new vehicle (though it’s used), which I have been driving to work for about a week and a half or so. After work I ran around to a bunch of stores, and as I am loading a giant bag of dog food into my trunk I see a hole in the cover for the spare tire compartment. Grrr. When I inspect this hole, I realize to my horror that it has been chewed by a mouse (the evidence is everywhere, now that I finally see it—mouse poop all over the trunk and back seats). Seriously?! WTF? After having my last car junked because some little blighter chewed through my gas line (that was actually the last straw because the car was on its last legs), now I have another invader in my new car. Already I am not a fan of mice, but this is especially maddening. I cannot have another vehicle destroyed by rodents. Declaring war, I sprayed the car down with peppermint-scented cleanser (which they apparently hate), and I planned to go out for mouse traps today. Work sucked the life out of me this afternoon, so I didn’t make it to the store, but I’m glad I didn’t bother. After speaking to several people from the area, I found out that a) area stores are out of mouse-killing supplies, and b) mice are overrunning the region, because a lot of people are having trouble with mice getting into everything. Ugh. Where is the Pied Piper when you need him? What’s worse is I saw a rat in the dumpster a few days ago, so that seals it: no more taking out the trash for me. I absolutely hate rodents of any kind. Mice, rats, and bats are my least favorite, but I also really don’t like squirrels, chipmunks, or any other animal that chews. They make terrible messes, and usually carry tons of scary diseases. Ick. Okay, diatribe ended. If I manage to get rid of the rodent, I’ll let you know.
Shoving aside the strange rodent issues of the North, New England has a number of rather quaint little towns tucked into the hills of New Hampshire. When I drove to Peterborough on Saturday, after my writer group meeting I chose to wander the streets for a while, drifting in and out of shops. If you live near Peterborough or plan to pass through the area, this small town is worth the stop for either food or shopping. I love the historic appeal of the downtown, and the many surprises tucked into alleys or behind buildings. You can enjoy a weekend’s worth of exploring here if you really want to give it, or just an afternoon if you like. One of the best places to shop, just for the fun of it, is a shopping center off Main Street, which you access by turning onto Depot Street. Within this small shopping center is a row of shops backed up to a brook which runs behind them. One shop in particular is called Bowerbird and Friends, a shop where antiques, vintage pieces, art, and old found things are scattered in the most appealing way. It’s a store where you could get lost for hours, and at the back of the shop you can look through the windows to the brook. You have to trust me—it’s a treat. Right next to this shop is also a lovely public park with a walkway along the water, carefully manicured shrubs, and flowerbeds in warmer weather. Several places to sit along the trail are used often by the locals, including a small covered pavilion. If you visit, I recommend buying a coffee and pastry and having a moment in this park. You will not be disappointed.
Aside from the addictive antique shop, you can find a rug shop with fine hand-woven carpets, several clothing boutiques with incredibly friendly shop keepers, several cafes and restaurants, and the Toadstool Bookstore. After wandering the shopping center, I had to eat at the bookstore café, called Aesop’s Tables, where one can either be very healthy or very indulgent. I had coffee and a scrumptious salad with maple vinaigrette. Yum. If you are a book lover, beware. Toadstool is a place where book worms may easily be sucked into a black hole of fiction and facts, especially since they have a sizeable room dedicated to used books. This bookstore is one of my favorite things, and I am so glad we have a Toadstool in Keene, which is much closer to where I live. Really, such things make me giddy. Peterborough also has Harlow’s Pub, which has a stage for music (I once played an open mic there, and they were very welcoming), and good soup. If you enjoy art, Peterborough has several galleries on the two main streets of the downtown. You may also enjoy the Mariposa Museum, a “hands-on museum of artifacts from around the world,” as it states on their website. I did go in, and it’s a cute little museum friendly for children, centered around world culture education. On another occasion when we visited, we enjoyed the hat shop, where we had a lot of fun trying on the many colorful hats available.
Peterborough has a wide variety of interesting and fun places to discover, and all of them utterly unique to the town. Everywhere you turn, you can find a reason to take a photo, and then step into a fantasy-like experience as you shop and stroll. Truly, if you have yet to visit, go. I will also highly recommend the town library, which I discovered is the very first free public library established in all of the United States in 1833. Other libraries at the time were subscription only, but Peterborough chose to open a free library for public access. The library systems we have in the States today all began with the one in Peterborough. I find that amazing, and I will once again sing the praises of all public libraries everywhere. Because libraries exist, I experienced the worlds of Oz, Narnia, Middle Earth, and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. I relished in reading at the local libraries of my youth, and everywhere I have ever lived I always frequented the library so I could feed my steady diet of reading. Books have been my escape, my educators, my assistants, and my lullaby before bed. If you love to read and you haunt your library regularly, please thank your librarians. They serve the community in a most meaningful way, by being providers of knowledge and programs to enrich our intelligence, to entertain us, and to help. Librarians protected our right to privacy when the Bush administration wanted access to our borrowing lists after 9/11. The librarians said no, and they stuck to their guns. Thanks to our librarians, the government didn’t get their hands on what should remain private: the books you borrow.
Anyway, after tootling around the magical town of Peterborough, on my way home I stopped in Harrisville, which is another picturesque small town of New Hampshire. Both Harrisville and Peterborough have their roots as mill towns, as both are on waterways which were used to run several different types of mills. Harrisville, according to Wikipedia, used to produce bricks, which is evident when you see the many brick buildings along the water’s edge. The lake on which the town sits was gloriously calm that day, and I was able to snap several lovely photos of the surrounding faded glory of fall reflected in the water. Honestly, the trip filled me with a restorative energy I deeply needed—it had been far too long since I’ve had time for such fun. Wherever you are this weekend, or on any day you have free, I hope you make time to enjoy the last of the autumn color, weather, and festivities. Go on a hayride, enjoy a spooky haunted house, find a costume party, carve a pumpkin, make hot cider, or find out what fun is on the town calendar near you. We only live once, so we might as well make the most of the time we have. I know some people are mystified by the pumpkin spice phenomenon, but I think it’s really about the cozy feeling of warm sweaters, blankets bundling, and yummy baked foods of fall. Even if you’re a pumpkin spice grinch, go eat a slice of pie anyway. It will make you happy, I’m sure. Go be a kid for a day. Eat candy. Frolic. Enjoy the magic of the season, and relish the time if you plan a trip to New England. It’s beautiful here.