Day Trip: New London
May is one of my favorite months. The sun comes out. Flowers bloom. People smile. It happens all over New Hampshire, but I dare you to find a more lovely setting for the promise of spring than New London.
New London sits in a just-so spot, a bit north of Interstate 89 in between Exits 11 and 12. It’s close enough for a day trip packed full of activities, but far enough to hold a sense of adventure and fun for us Concord-area folks. Its Main Street is the quintessential New England village (complete with picture-perfect Colby Sawyer College), and Little Sunapee and Pleasant Lakes frame the northern edge of town with the tall pines and deep blue lake water of a classic New Hampshire summer. Frankly, it just doesn’t get much better!
For Foodies: Forgive me for turning to food first, but I can’t help myself! You’d be silly not to stop at Ellie’s Café & Deli (207 Main St., 526-2488, elliescafeanddeli.com) for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Watch for new signage mid-month as new owners Three J Farms of Danbury re-brand Ellie’s as Graze Sustainable Table. The concepts of local, humane and sustainable food will be kicked up a notch. You’ve heard of farm-to-table? This is the farmer’s table. For something extra-special, you can’t beat the prix-fixe ($58 per person) dinners at The Inn at Pleasant Lake (853 Pleasant St., 800-626-4907, innatpleasantlake.com). Owner/chef Brian Mackenzie has not only the credentials, but the sense of balance and perfection that leads to unforgettable combinations of taste and texture. Perhaps we’ll see you there – his seared scallops are on my bucket list! Reservations are absolutely required, and dinners are served Wednesday to Sunday only.
If impeccable flower beds inspire your appetite, try The Millstone (78 Newport Road, 526-4201, millstonerestaurant.com), known for owner Tom Mills’s splendid gardens – not to mention the Maine crab cakes. The menu is varied and the selection robust enough for all. And if you’re looking for the best-burger-ever and a beer, head for the Lake Sunapee Country Club (289 Country Club Lane, 526-6040, lakesunapeecc.com). It’s also a great wedding/event venue, and does “fancy” in superb fashion – but don’t overlook the burgers!
For Fun: Okay . . . so this is still about food, but you’ll want to visit Spring Ledge Farm (37 Main St., 526-6253, springledgefarm.com). Astrid and Greg Berger’s old-fashioned farm stand takes the best of the concept and kicks it up a notch – or 10! They have perennials and annuals, ice cream and popcorn, pies and produce and, well . . . it’s just a cornucopia of goodies and a terrific alternative to supermarkets and big-box stores. For even more old-fashioned fun, take a right on Pleasant Street just after Colby Sawyer College and watch on your left for The Ice House Museum (91 Pleasant St., 526-9394, wfkicehouse.org). This is an outstanding and unique open-air museum (free!) of New Hampshirite Bill Kidder’s collections of antique cars, tools and machinery, children’s riding toys – even a fire engine and a jail cell! I will warn you right now, you’ll be there for hours and your kids will love it! Sticking with the outdoors theme, why not try exploring one of the well-maintained trails of the New London Conservation Commission? Maps can be downloaded at nh-nhcc.com, and I am told that the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog Trail is especially impressive. Like the water? Hook up with Kayak Country (Pleasant Lake Boat Landing, Elkins, 381-8685, kayakcountry.com) to rent a kayak and paddle across Pleasant Lake to Blueberry Island. Have your grandkids with you? Visit Skyeview Alpaca Farm (102 Wilmot Center Rd., Elkins, 526-2580, Facebook.com/pages/Skyeview-Alpacas) and snuggle with some of the alpacas, angora rabbits, cats, dogs . . . you’re sure to find a four-legged friend. Inside the farmhouse, pick up some alpaca mittens, a sweater or some socks for next winter.
For Shopping: You might not think of going to New London for shopping, but let me assure you there are several spots that will inspire you to open your pocketbook. When you stop at Ellie’s Café and Deli, you’ll notice Vessels & Jewels (207 Main St., 526-8902, vesselsandjewels.com). Owner Peter Ensign has assembled a remarkable collection of crafts and art from around New Hampshire, New England and across the United States. Each item is stunning and stunningly displayed – and Peter’s own open printmaking studio is right on site. Another good bet is Artisan’s (11 Pleasant St., 526-4227, artisansnewlondon.com). I love the crafted-in-NH granite and stone beads, the Stonewall Kitchen yummy jams and chutneys and Sutton artist Erica Walker’s beautifully simple jewelry. Being a dog person, though, my favorite shop is Unleashed (New London Shopping Center, 526-2088, Facebook.com/pages/Unleashed-New-London), where owner Penny Murano has assembled a completely irresistible array of unique toys, accessories and food items for our four-legged