|Lupines in the fields of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire|
Patrick and I have been having some wonderful getaways this summer as we continue to slowly peel back the lovely enticing layers of our new home state. The more we explore New Hampshire, not only do we want to savor these early discoveries but the list of places to explore and visit grows longer and longer.
|Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire|
Several weekend options lured us up into the gorgeous breath-taking White Mountains of New Hampshire recently. In my early research about New Hampshire, I came across an article in an issue of Yankee Magazine that elicited "oohs" and "aahs" as I read through the words and soaked in the sweet images of fields of lupine flowers flowing up the base of the mountains along the Presidential Range.
In Texas, I was captivated by country drives during springtime to soak in the fields of Texan bluebell flowers. I love that each state seems to have its signature flower that is indigenous to that area of the country.
We decided to retrace the steps of the Yankee Magazine article, in reality instead of virtually, since we are now bonafide residents of New Hampshire and are within an hour's reach of this beautiful spectacle.
In the heart of lupine country, one sweet inn caught my attention so we booked a weekend stay at The Inn at Sunset Hill in the lovely historic town of Sugar Hill, NH.
|Heading towards the White Mountains in New Hampshire|
I couldn't help but be equally lured up into the White Mountains in order to have an excuse to stop at the much adored breakfast pancake spot...Polly's Pancake Parlor. Being that our kitty's name is Polly, it was practically an obligation to make a pilgrimage to her namesake to see if their pancakes are as special as our sweet pet...right?!
|Scenes around Sugar Hill, New Hampshire|
For 75 years, Polly's has been flipping pancakes and using all natural maple syrup from the region. Gingerbread pancakes, Oatmeal Buttermilk pancakes, and Buckwheat pancakes are a sampling of the list of batters that are stirred up in the kitchen. The pancakes can be mixed and matched in order to sample a variety. And, then there are the add-ins such as blueberries and walnuts...
The scenery driving up into the White Mountains became more and more beautiful and impressive as we crossed over the mountains on the drive to Polly's Pancake Parlor. We ignored all of the exits leading to the inviting Lake Winnipesaukee, perfectly situated at the base of the mountains. So many locals here in New Hampshire tell misty-eyed childhood stories of spending summer after summer swimming, picking blueberries, and catching fireflies on Lake Winnipesaukee. We're tempted, but it'll have to wait to be discovered after we've feasted on flapjacks as well as fields of purple, pink, and white lupines.
|The view across from Polly's Pancake Parlor|
My choice was the buckwheat pancakes. They came stacked high with a pitcher of maple syrup and generous scoops of butter. We had saved our appetites all day to enjoy this treat and it did not disappoint.
The view across the street was of the towering White Mountains splayed out before us. The winds were breezy as they scooted the marshmallow clouds along the tips of the mountain tops. Patrick had the blueberry pancakes as well as the oatmeal buttermilk. We feasted our tummies and well as eyes on the food and the views.
|The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire|
We had driven up and over the White Mountains. The view behind us was gorgeous. Not too far down the road from the famed flapjack house, we drove along the country road, appropriately named Sugar Hill Road, to find our weekend spot at The Inn at Sunset Hill.
We turned left onto an even smaller charming country lane marked only by the adorable St. Matthew's Chapel. With its pale yellow doors and glimmering stained glass windows, I expected to see horse drawn wagons like in Little House on the Prairie rolling up to the doors.
|The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire|
At this point, swaths of lupines could be seen up the hillsides of the mountain, in fields behind country houses, and all along the roadsides of the picturesque drive. I literally clasped my hands in delight as this storybook scene unfolded before us.
We rolled up to the lovely Victorian inspired inn. Dick Green, along with his wife Sally, are both from the UK. They fell in love with New Hampshire after vacationing here long ago and it was their dream to settle in the heart of New Hampshire. The owners of this sweet B&B were such a delight to meet. When we arrived, Dick was out front playing with their lovable and sweet dog, Dudley...an English Sheepdog. We quite easily fell in love with Dudley and now have English Sheepdogs on our list of future pets...
All I say is...the views! The views! As the sun began began to slip down the sky, the colors changed from oranges to blues to purples. On either side of the cozily nestled inn there are mountains ranges spreading across the horizon. At one point, the soft rays of the sun spilled muted pastels over the White Mountains to the east and a soft barely-there fingernail moon slipped into view as we gazed over the manicured golf course to the Green Mountains of Vermont to the West.
We enjoyed the touches of English culture that Dick and Sally bring to the Inn at Sunset Hill. Patrick enjoyed a generous pour of beer from the little pub. We settled ourselves into our moodily lit and rather romantic room but to be honest, we couldn't help but be lured outside because the views were too enticing.
Polly's Pancakes were becoming a much earlier memory and the clinking of dinner preparation and kitchen aromas could be heard and smelled when we took a peek into the dining room. Again, the views of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains stretched all the way across the dining rooms. We kept saying, "Can you imagine these views with the beauty of painted oranges and corals in the fall? What about the mountains and sky streaked with pristine whites and greys during the long cozy dark days of winter?"
|The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire|
As the air outside became crisp, we settled ourselves in the dining room to watch the dazzling colors wash across the sky while we enjoyed a slow and absorbing dinner. I enjoyed a delicious bowl of clam chowder. I am still new to clam chowder so I am taste testing this seafood soup whenever possible before I embark on various recipes at home, that is, if we ever finish renovation work on our farmhouse kitchen.
Instead of worrying when sunset will occur, Sally and Dick have set up a sweet-sounding bell, called the sunset bell, that rings shortly before the sun slips over the horizon. It was fun to be a part of the hotel guests as we all joined each other outside to share in this evening ritual.
Patrick could NOT resist the fish and chips. With owners of the inn hailing from England, he knew he would be in for a certain treat. They did look and taste delicious. The slight beer flavor added to the batter was a nice touch.
The Guava Double-Glazed Pork Chop caught and held my attention. It was a moist pan seared chop glazed in a guava purée, accompanied by sautéed spinach and topped with crispy leeks...all sitting on a nice pilaf of rice.
With the sun setting over the western mountain range, I couldn't help glancing over to the eastern mountains to anticipate the morning sunrise over the fields dotted with hundreds of lupines. We slept comfortably in our room that night, leaving a window open to let in soft breezes that billowed the curtains across the floor giving us glimpses of the moonlit horizon that was steeped in deep hues of purple and black etched against an indigo painted sky.
I set my alarm for 45 minutes before sunrise the next morning. Leaving Patrick to sleep heavily under a bundle of bedding, I gathered my camera equipment, layered on several pullovers, pulled on a warm hat, and slipped into some tall boots.
There was no way I was going to miss seeing the vast fields of lupines become softly lit one after the other by the morning's sun rays.
|Breakfast at The Inn at Sunset Hill, New Hampshire|
Many of my most special memories of travel are made during these early sunrise hours. I love the solitude of slipping outdoors, tromping through fields of wet dewy grass, and seeing my own breath float behind my wandering trail.
I hiked down the country road from the inn carrying my tripod over my shoulder. I crunched through the tall grasses that grew in the fields until I found a spot to set up my camera. Fields of lupines overlapped each other and volleyed for space as each one reached to feel the first soft rays from the sky.
I was quietly joined by 3 other photographers who settled into various parts of the huge open lupine fields. We each whispered a soft hello to one another but didn't dare break the morning reverie with chitchat. We didn't want to break the beautiful reverent mood of the early morning hours. We are each wrapped up against in the brisk chill of morning air. There were a few clicks and sounds of adjustment as each of us readied our tripods and camera gear.
As the sun rose up over the mountain line, and the lupines lit up one by one across the fields, the only sound that could be heard was the clicking of photographs capturing forever the beauty that lay before us. We didn't speak...we just enjoyed each moment for what it brought. Eventually the clicking stopped, and we each nestled into the tall grasses and just enjoyed the scenery as it woke up to a new day. What an experience...certainly as special and memorable as the photos captured.
|A stop off the highway at Flume Gorge in Franconia, New Hampshire|
Breakfast at inns are always a fun and lively affair. I can chat with just about anyone...anywhere. That being said, Patrick and I ended up practically joining the couple at the table next to us. Quite surprisingly, the delightful couple were from New England, but currently on an assignment in, OF ALL PLACES...Louisiana (my birth state). They kept us laughing in stitches as they recounted their experiences of culture shock in the deep south...having grown up in New England. They were at the inn escaping the sultry humid southern weather but happily anticipating their return to the south, their continued enjoyment of southern cuisine, and their embrace of all events having to do with Mardi Gras.
Breakfast is my most favorite meal of the day. Breakfast for dinner is a typical and welcome occurrence in our house. I'm always looking for breakfast options and love when guests visit to try out something new. Our daughter, Madeleine, was home for the summer on a brief break in between internships.
I thought I would try making a delicious breakfast that I enjoyed a few summers back at a B&B way up north on Prince Edward Island. I stayed at a precious B&B called Shady Lane. The couple that own the B&B, Ian and Pam, were busy putting together a cookbook and they ended up using many of the photos that I took for them while there for their new cookbook.
They made a delicious French Toast Casserole that I enjoyed on one of my mornings at the inn. I thought I would try it out for Madeleine as a treat on her brief respite from the working world.
It was very easy to pull together the evening before. The cream cheese cooked into the eggy mixture was delicious as well as the generous dose of maple syrup. I used some maple syrup that we brought back from our journey into lupine country from a famous little shop up the road from the inn called Harmon's Cheese and Country Store.
We're racing each weekend to keep up with all of the summer offerings in New Hampshire. We're trying to not let the home renovations keep us tied down. There is so much to do and see. Farm stands have popped everywhere, blueberry fields beckon us to pick containers full, art fairs are so tempting to stroll, and just a teensy yearning for the experience of fall up here in New England is beginning to be felt...just a teensy bit as we soak up every day of this beautiful first summer.