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To Plan A Trip

April 2023
1min read

For details on events of the 1995 Candlelight Strolls, contact the Strawbery Banke Museum (603-433-1100). The Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce (603-436-1118) will provide information on nearby attractions and accommodations. I enjoyed staying at the Sise Inn, a Victorian building beautifully decorated for Christmas and only a ten-minute walk from Strawbery Banke (603-433-1200).

Candlelight Strolls take place on the first two weekends of December, Friday afternoon through Sunday evening. Adult admission is twelve dollars, but special rates, including one for families, are available. Each day’s events begin around 3:30 P.M. , an hour or so before dusk. It is very pleasant, however, to pay the place a visit in the morning hours, when there is no admission fee and it belongs to only a few dog walkers and joggers and when its cast of characters, those who once inhabited the houses, seem still to be slumbering in them.

Right across the street from Strawbery Banke lies the beautifully laid-out Prescott Park, its serene stone walks and terraces leading down to the Piscataqua River. The park seems to have been in this spot for a century or more, but in fact it was presented to the city in 1939, the gift of two wealthy maiden sisters in honor of their father, Charles S. Prescott. The Prescott sisters had been scandalized by the run-down area, a seafarer’s place of work and drink and womanizing, and had put their money to work cleaning up the place, in the process clearing out some fine old examples of the tawdry vernacular. For present-day visitors some of the life of the place is gone too, graceful as the park may be.

In the spirit of the Prescotts, a week after Christmas each year Portsmouth celebrates First Night, a New Year’s Eve event stressing nonalcoholic family activities that encompass public spaces throughout the town. From time to time at Strawbery Banke the Puddle Dock area is flooded and frozen for ice skating by moonlight.

Portsmouth is a walker’s town, and even though the stately museum houses are shuttered for winter, it’s still a pleasure to prowl the streets, admiring the houses from without, browsing in the shops (mostly marked by an elegant individuality not common in a resort), and stopping to warm up in any one of dozens of appealing pubs and restaurants. I enjoyed several meals at Rosa’s, a hearty Italian restaurant that has occupied its spot close by Strawbery Banke for sixty-eight years and has seen the neighborhood through much change. The Dolphin Striker, an agreeable restaurant just off Market Street near the harbor, contains the ancient well that provided water to early settlers. Located next to the bar, the well’s glass cover allows one to peer far down into its depths.

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