Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Days 1 & 2

After deciding not to go to Peru, Alaska, the Caribbean, the Pacific Northwest or Scandinavia, Roger and I decided to try our hand at living out the wilderness aesthetic I've cultivated since January with a camping trip around New England. I really don't know how long we'll last in the great outdoors, but I'll try to avoid comparisons to Robert Falcon Scott and write mainly on the things we've enjoyed, leaving out details of our sopping tent and mosquito bites.

Day 1: Hanover, NH
After agonizing over overpacking, we left New York around eight in the morning and made the four-hour journey to Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College and the Hood Museum of Art. Opened in 1985, the museum has a large collection of African Art, and focuses heavily on education. I enjoyed our visit a lot, though Roger says he was so focused on the presentation of the objects that he couldn't focus on the art itself. Their temporary exhibit, Susan Meiselas: In History, focuses on the photo-journalism of a Sarah Lawrence grad, and is up until June 20th. If you find yourself in the New Hampshire area, I would definitely recommend checking it out, as the museum is free, and the show is very interesting. Roger was concerned about the ethics not only of taking the pictures, but also of the way they were displayed, and I'd love to hear other thoughts. I personally rarely have qualms about the ethics of photo-journalism, but I can certainly see that perspective, and the exhibit treats the pictures very much as journalism and art, with both repetition and framing. Overall, the set up of the museum is great, and some of the art is compelling.

After, we walked around Dartmouth's campus, searching for a home. I've heard wonderful things about the Hanover Inn, and if the point of the trip wasn't to save some money, we would probably have stayed there. It looked gorgeous and it's absolutely in the center of town. Still, we had planned on camping (until we got lazy and didn't want to set up the tent for just one night), and so decided to stay at the more affordable Chieftain Inn. The fact that it shares a name with our high school's newspaper and that the motel was decorated in the school's colors had nothing to do with our choice, but it was a nice coincidence anyway. The motel price ($99, save a 10% AAA discount) included breakfast, cable, canoe rental and some remarkably nice bath products. Also, we didn't have to sleep in the rain. After a leisurely canoe ride on the Connecticut River, we headed back into town to wander and get dinner.

We were lucky enough to have arrived on a Wednesday, when Hanover has their weekly farmer's market (if you're a regular reader, you may or may not have noticed that, like historic homes, markets are one of my favorite places to visit). We picked up some strawberries from Four Corner's Farm to nibble on as we wandered around town. Perfectly ripe and incredibly sweet, I can easily say that these are the best strawberries I have ever tasted. I usually don't like strawberries very much, and I now know that's because I've never had good strawberries before. Also, I sort of love the wooden quart baskets they came in. Also had some nice lemonade from McGurran Bee Farm, and I wish I'd tried some of their creme honey.

After, we wandered around the campus, which is gorgeous and made us wish we'd gone to Dartmouth (not really; you don't see Sarah Lawrence putting up any shows by Dartmouth alums!), and also strangely filled with students even in June. The town of Hanover was also lovely, with some very cute shops, a variety of restaurants, and a surprising amount of spots to sit and people-watch. At the twitter-suggestion of the Dartmouth News (and J.J., who I'm pretty sure hasn't been to Hanover, but who is always willing to lend a hand), we ate at Molly's, which was great. The menu is pretty similar to most chain-restaurants, but the food is much better. I really enjoyed my macaroni and cheese, and Roger liked his turkey burger. Their bread and butter was fantastic, and the waitress was really great. Also, their to-go box was compostable, so they win major points in my book.

Overall, I'm not sure if you could spend more than a weekend in Hanover unless you were also planning a few day trips or going to college there, but the town is gorgeous in the same way that Philadelphia is, and there's definitely enough to enjoy for a relaxing weekend.

Day 2: Portland, M
We made the three-hour trip to Portland this morning. It was raining and much colder than yesterday, which made us want to stop in at one of the million or so motels on Route 1, but since we already had reservations at a campground and since we're trying to save money and since maybe this means we can stay at a fancy B&B on our last night, we pitched our tent in the rain and blew up some air mattresses to keep our sleeping bags dry and drove into the city to explore. A note: we'd planned to stop at Kennebunkport, but given that it was raining and I didn't really know where I was going and Roger doesn't love rich people, we decided to skip. Another time, when we have a yacht, maybe.

I really enjoy Portland, and could actually see myself living here one day. Maybe. It's a small city, which actually has the same vibe as Reykjavik: sort of rugged-trendy with a foggy breeze and some hip restaurants and galleries. After driving around fairly lost, we found the visitor's center, where a really nice woman who is also a docent gave us a map and directions to the Portland Museum of Art, which we didn't actually explore, since it was closing in an hour. Instead, we wandered and got our bearings, stopping in at Yes Books, which has some fantastic Saturday Evening Post covers and a wide collection of books. Roger picked up some art books, and we stopped by the Henry Longfellow House, which was also closing.

We passed through some shops and galleries and made a plan for tomorrow before stopping in at the Portland Lobster Company for dinner. Strangely enough, I didn't really look up where to eat in Portland, so it was more or less a crapshoot, but it turned out to be pretty good. The clam chowder was much, much too thin, but the clam cakes were tasty, and the whole lobster I ordered was very fresh and sweet. Of the lobster roll, Roger says, "it was good." We ate on the pier under a heated tent, which was quite nice, and at the picnic table, I wasn't too conscious about tearing apart the crustacean. Magically, reading the "how to eat a lobster" directions printed on my platter actually helped. The restaurant also had some nice local beers, and we saw some locals (one family with their college-age daughter and one possibly homeless woman) eating there, so that's always good.

After a brief and fruitless search for ice cream, we headed back to the tent, where we have wifi and from where I am updating. In the hopes of keeping this post upbeat, I won't discuss camping and there will be no further posts until tomorrow morning.

No comments:

Post a Comment