Warm Cookies at Turn-Down: A New York Fashionista Discovers Luxury in the Granite State
Hello, my name is Sarah Hartshorne, and I used to be prejudiced. Against New Hampshire. I’m not sure why, since I was born there, have close friends from there and had lovely times there as a kid. But somehow I got this notion of New Hampshire being full of strip malls, littered campsites and the occasional scenic vista.
I think it was around the time I started wearing heels all the time and saying things like, “Well, is there any cell reception?” There’s nothing like living in New York City to make a girl prejudiced against the rest of the world, especially New Hampshire.
So when my dad asked me to come along on a trip to the Lakes Region, I was reluctant. And when I saw that the forecast called for rain all weekend I gave up any hope of a good time. Surely the only fun to be had in NH was outside, right?
My hopes were further dashed when we arrived in Holderness, one of five towns that border the lake, late on a dark and stormy night. As we pulled up the long, arching driveway of The Manor on Golden Pond it felt like I was driving into a horror film. Thunder cracked as we dashed with our bags up the steps of the grand, old building on the hill looking out over a stormy lake. I half expected a Sweet Transvestite to answer the door.
But instead it was a friendly face telling us they’d kept the kitchen open for us and would we mind making our way to what turned out to be a warm, cozy dining room for a delicious meal that included lobster and bacon (little did I know that this is a very popular combination in the many Holderness restaurants). Happy, satiated and surprised, I toddled up to my room, the Wellington, which turned out to be a suite.
As I sat on the plush bed in a soft robe eating warm cookies delivered at turn-down service, debating a quick dip in the in-suite jacuzzi I wondered if it was possible to be more comfortable than I was. I also wondered why I had ever questioned the luxurious offerings of the Granite State.
This sense of overwhelming comfort prevailed throughout the trip. Even the more traditional outdoorsy activities have a luxurious edge.
On Sunday we went on a boat tour of the lake with Cindy O'Leary of Experience Squam, and this was no tippy canoe or put-put boat. It was spacious motorboat stocked with all the lake amenities a tourist could ever need. Amenities aside, it was magnificent to see this body of water we’d been circling all weekend from this angle. We even got some sun, a welcome change from the cloudy skies and sudden downpours we’d had all weekend.
When I was a kid and moping by a rainy window, my father would tell me to make my own sunshine. All my childhood efforts paled in comparison to The Manor on Golden Pond.
One particularly rainy afternoon I was escorted by an umbrella-toting English lad to the Seasons Spa, which is a small and modest building that contains top of the line therapists and treatments. Like the Black Bear Body Scrub made of local and organic ingredients that left me dewy and glowy and the massage that left me as relaxed as a pile of jello. A lovely afternoon indoors, all in a town with no cell reception. Who knew?
Apparently, lots of people. The Lakes Region thrives on tourism, and their population swells in the summer. It’s allowed for a thriving cultural presence in these towns that, despite the wintertime drop in population, persists all year round. There is an emphasis on taking advantage of all that this fertile area has to offer: the restaurants use local food, the Science Center preserves local species, and the galleries display local art.
In fact, this attachment to local craftsmanship is something I wish would catch on. These small towns have a diverse artistic scene that accommodates a wide variety of tastes and styles. There are birch lightswitch covers and carved canoe paddles at the Squam Lakes Artisans in Holderness. This store is for the more traditional, rustic types looking to decorate an old-fashioned lake house.
And there’s also the slightly more upscale craftsman’s guild in Sandwich, which has things like locally made wooden bowls and hand-crocheted linens for those looking to add a natural touch to a modern kitchen. Then there’s the Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery, which features internationally renowned artists and avant-garde paintings that would be at home in any NYC penthouse apartment.
Even art-novices will appreciate the view from the big, restored barn that houses the gallery. There’s also a sculpture garden in the back that would be fun for kids to play in while their parents looked at paintings of a cockfight in Argentina or a bound foot from China. The range of art is impressive, and their receptions are a favorite among the locals.
This beautiful, old barn with new and exciting art really encapsulated for me what makes this area so distinct. These towns have looked inward in order to progress.
No resource is left untapped: the forward thinking artists, chefs, scientists and preservationists are awarded free reign to explore possibilities which, in turn, rewards the inhabitants, whether they’re full-time, part-time or just stopping by, with an incredible bounty of innovation, all housed in beautifully preserved relics of the past.
Read more GoNOMAD stories by Sarah Banks Hartshorne:
Read Stephen Hartshorne's story about their visit to Squam Lake:
Like this on Facebook: