Bristol, New Hampshire
My husband and I haven’t taken a vacation in quite a while, but we’re about to remedy that. We both love New England, and I ask you, could there be a better time of year than October to visit New Hampshire, Vermont or Maine? I think not.
My sister passed away two years ago. For a number of years, she and her husband lived in the shadow of the White Mountains in a small town in New Hampshire called Bristol. They sold all manner of things at a gift shop there. After they moved to Florida, she always had fond memories of that little town and especially the people who inhabited it. I believe she was happiest when she lived there.
We used to visit her every fall. It was easy to see what my sister saw in this lovely, little town. I fell in love with Bristol and the beauty of the surrounding area, the local shops, and the friendly people.
A wide brook ran behind my sister’s house. A hillside gently sloped down to its edge, and red and golden leaves always dotted the landscape in that second week of October when we visited. Golden branches bowed their arms over the waters edge, and every morning during our visit, we would sit at a table by a large window that afforded us one of the most tranquil views I’ve ever seen. The familiar conversation, the aroma of her coffee and the taste of her incredible food, prepared so much like our mother’s, are only memories now.
After breakfast we would sometimes take a drive around Newfound Lake. She and her husband rented cottages there. Visitors boated and swam and fished on the lake in the summer. In the winter the ice shacks would go up and for the very hearty, the ice fishing would commence.
We always spent at least one day visiting local antique shops, other local shops, and roadside stands that sold big orange pumpkins, apples and even handcrafted pot holders. We usually hit some of the nearby attractions like Franconia Notch State Park, home of The Flume Gorge, and where The Old Man of the Mountain used to reside. Maybe we would just drive up into the White Mountains and do a little Leaf Peeking or visit the Canterbury Shaker Village.
Our time there was not packed with one exciting event after another. We were not scheduled or expected to arrive anywhere on time. Instead the days seemed to unfold upon themselves, slowly revealing subtle pleasures and singular beauty. As is often the case, I could not know that those days in New Hampshire would be the happiest memories I would carry of my sister. They were not perfect, they were not grand, but rather there was an aimlessness – a timelessness – to those visits, but of course, nothing last forever. Even then I knew that, but now I know it in a different sort of way.
I do know that those visits to Bristol were filled with laughter, sometimes till we cried, and I know that I will not be able to resist visiting that memorable place one more time. No, I do not expect it to be the same. It will not, but I will do a little drive around anyway. We’ll check out the old house where the gift shop once was, and then we’ll swing around Newfound Lake. Maybe we’ll drop in on an antique shop or grab lunch or breakfast at a local restaurant… just for old time’s sake.
Don’t visit Bristol or the White Mountains or bother with leaf peeking or Newfound Lake if you’re looking for flashy, or big, or fantastic. Don’t even waste your time unless you’re prepared to slow down a bit and see what’s there to be seen. You might bump into a moose or two, or spot a few deer. You may even run into a bear, or stop at a roadside stand for some maple syrup and apples. You’ll definitely see some beautiful country, eat some good food, and feel your heart slow down, only to drive around the bend and have it stop at the majestic beauty that resides in New Hampshire. We’ll definitely visit many of the wonderful places in New England, but Bristol and the surrounding area will be special for me.