Love the Upper Valley, but as you know, it doesn't have a seacoast. For that, and for a brief change of scene, there is New Hampshire's Portsmouth, just a little over a two-hour drive from the center of the UV.
It's Black Friday, and rainy; all inhabitants of Portsmouth must be heading to the Manchester malls because the town is quiet. We went out looking for a little history and some art, preferably in a warm and dry place. We found both, mostly in the museum and visitors' center called Discover Portsmouth. The nice people who work there cranked up the DVD about Portsmouth's history just for us, an audience of two in the tiny makeshift theater. We indulged in a little retail therapy in the gift shop.
Art Gallery: Holy Cow and What Artists Look Like
Discover Portsmouth has an art gallery with two exhibitions, one a juried show sponsored by the Pastel Society of NH, with eclectic depictions of tranquil seascapes, shelves of sneakers, and two favorites, Relics (above) by Laetitia Borden, and Anticipation by Terri Brooks (below) which was beribboned with something called the Great American Holy Cow award.
Anticipation by Terri Brooks
Works by Michael Labrie; photo of Labrie by Jay Goldsmith
African-American Burial Ground
Slavery is part of Portsmouth's history. Strolling through the rain, we came upon the African Burying Ground Memorial on State Street. Signage at the site says "In 1708 . . . there were 70 enslaved Africans in the colony. A few black people in colonial Portsmouth were free. Most were not." Discover Portsmouth has a Black Heritage center with walking tours.
"I stand for those who feel anger."
French Bakery: La Maison Navarre
Just a little slice of France, where you can order your coffee in English or in French, resist (or not) the elegant pastries, and ogle acres of pastel macarons.
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Susan B. Apel, author, ArtfulEdge