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Day trip: Dover

Sometimes I just luck out. When Dover emerged as this month’s feature, I called on two long-time pals to be my guides. Though Edmund and Pat spent decades abroad in exotic spots like Hong Kong, India and Taiwan, they have happily settled in our own Dover.

Seems that Dover is a great fit if you love a place with a sense of history, a passion for engaging sights and sounds, and a robust enjoyment of food and drink.

Like the stories of so many New Hampshire cities and towns, Dover’s begins with a river. The Cocheco River runs right through town and out to the Atlantic Ocean, via the Piscataqua watershed. It shaped early and vigorous growth with ship building and, somewhat later, the mills. The city has a lovely contingent of elegant 18th- and 19th-century homes as well as meandering brick mill buildings, now converted to thoroughly modern businesses, like art galleries, software design firms and professional suites.

For Foodies: Ed and Pat have educated palates and discerning taste – and they took me straight to the Silver Moon Creperie (silvermooncreperie.com, 20A 3rd St., 742-6150). Opened in 2006 by a charming young Johnson & Wales-educated couple, Theresa and Chris Therrien, the creperie is intimate, disarmingly eclectic and very family friendly. The menu has sweet and savory selections as well as specials, and each crepe is handmade on the spot with fresh batter. My favorites? The tomato, mozzarella and pesto and the chestnut cream.

And then there was Café Ciabatta Bakery and Pastry Shop (cafeciabatta.com, 2 Pierce St., 516-5282). The aroma of yummy, fresh baked goods got my attention immediately. The display case is packed with cookies, croissants, breads and more – but I went straight for the highly recommended Almond Pear Torte and the amazing eclair. The owners are passionate about “fresh” ingredients and also offer soups, sandwiches and quiche.

One Washington Center, part of the re-purposed mill buildings project houses another off-the-beaten-track surprise, the main kitchen and factory store of Terra Cotta Pasta Company, complete with a tiny café and a selection of take-away products (terracottapastacompany.com, Suite 206, second floor, 817-4249). Owner Kevin Cambridge was on hand to chat about his controlled growth, word-of-mouth-only approach to maintaining quality and spreading the news about his freshly-made pasta, sauces and ravioli. Soup samples are free – but, trust me, you’ll end up buying something!

Asian restaurants can be very good . . . or not. Ed and Pat say that Dover is lucky to have Saigon Tokyo (892B Central Ave., 740-4128) and especially recommend the restaurant’s Vietnamese menu selections – though they say everything is fresh and tasty in addition to being healthy. Given that Ed and Pat lived and travelled all over Asia, this is a recommendation to pay attention to!

To do: As fun as the food is, Dover also offers some nifty activities and diversions. If you have the family with you, a stop at The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (childrens-museum.org, 6 Washington St., 742-2002) is a must. The exhibits are uniquely interactive and hands-on and are design to let families learn and explore together.

Shoppers who shy away from malls will adore Just The Thing! (451 Central Ave., 742-9040). This funky and eclectic vintage furniture and home décor shop is open seven days a week and houses more than a dozen individual vendors, each with his own sense of style and fun. Some items are new, some old, some rustic, some refined. And it’s all great!

If jewelry is your thing, stop in and see Branden Goff at Market Square Jewelers (marketsquarejewelers.com, 454 Central Ave., 740-9587). He has a fabulous and extensive collection of estate jewelry and not only buys, sells and trades, but repairs and restores items, too. His other shops are in Newburyport and Portsmouth, but I love the antique feel over the Dover shop. It’s a great place to spend an hour or two!

Entertainment: One of the most exciting things bout Dover is the new Cara Irish Pub (11 Fourth St., 343-4390). The Irish owner has made sure the ambiance and menu are hearty and authentic – bangers and mash, blackbush Irish stew and drunken haddock top the favorites. The small stage is perfect for the pub’s frequent live music shows – blues on Wednesdays and “open mike” Irish on Sundays.

Staying over: If you want to spend more than a day, you can’t do better than The Silver Fountain Inn (silverfountain.com, 103 Silver St., 750-4200). Built just after the Civil War, this elegant Victorian mansion sports original paneling, wallpaper, leaded glass and crystal – all enhanced by the design work of owner B. Susan Chang. Peek around in the serene and beautiful spaces like I did and you’ll be hooked, too!

For more info: Dover offers much more. Visit dovernh.org for information and links to everything Dover.

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