• Portsmouth’s “rare royal,” Strawbery Banke, and beyond
A much bigger town, but as thick with Colonial and Federal-style houses, Portsmouth has been named one of the country’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations by The National Trust. Formerly one of New England’s busiest ports, it now thrives on tides of regional visitors, especially in summer. Many come to check out the city’s Strawbery Banke Museum (454 Court St., 603-433-1100), a collection of restored homes from Colonial times which, through exhibits, working artisans, and interpreters, brings some of the town’s history and traditions to life.
Portsmouth is one of those rare small cities with a downtown that bustles, not just from nine to five, but well into the evening. Downtown blocks have a Beacon Hill air with brick facades and painted trim, and give over ground floors to locally-owned shops like Hoyt’s Office Products on Market Street with its window full of buffed-up typewriters for sale. “1934 RARE ROYAL PORTABLE,” boasts a hand-lettered sign. “HAND-RUBBED TO A BRILLIANT FINISH!”
I am tempted, but when I pull out my billfold I realize I am weary enough to be dreaming on foot. Not enough for a Royal, or even a Smith Corona that’s on sale. Across the water, I can just catch sight of the end of my walk. The Piscataqua River, Seavey Island with its Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and a foggy harbor are all that stands between me and Maine.
Looking over at Kittery, I see a ray of hazy sun lighting up what looks like a beach. Or maybe it’s a gravel road, or path. I have a sudden thought. I fish inside my pack and unfold my map. Let’s see. The total length of the coast of Maine: roughly 3,478 miles. Sounds like a project. Sounds like a plan.
But for another hiker, not me. I like cozy coastlines, I’ve decided. And I’ve already made up my mind.
I’m doing Delaware next year.
Peter Mandel writes books for children including the new “Zoo Ah-Choooo” (Holiday House). He lives in Providence, R.I.