The travel biz is a lot like fashion: we are always prepping at least one season ahead of whatever it is now. So while Miami is basking under an August sun, guys like me are already looking towards September and October, and the best places to go to take in the foliage. Autumn colors are big business.
Sitting on the narrow slice of land where New Hampshire just barely has a seacoast, Portsmouth was, in the day, was the one place you didn’t want to go. Brothels, saloons, and a sky-high murder rate made the city one of the most iniquitous in the country. If you were going to Portsmouth, we all knew what you’d be doing—if you survived it.
Today, Portsmouth is the very image of New England charm (urban renewal goes a long way), with leafy lanes and colonial architecture conveying the very soul of propriety. Being outside the developmental sprawl around Boston, it’s also a good HQ for taking in the colors of fall colors without having to go far afield.
Set in a grand Queen Anne-style manor and laced with a strong dose of Old England, the Hotel Portsmouth (gay owned!) is perhaps the most popular in town. Technically a 32-room B&B, the Portsmouth looks like something out of “Downtown Abbey,” but the iPod/Pad docks and WiFi suggest otherwise. Have no doubt: this place is up to date with the amenities.
Unlike a lot of B&Bs, the Portsmouth itself is worth a bit of exploration. As large as it is, the hotel has both a posh study, and an open and airy “sitting parlor.” The study is almost exactly what you would expect such a space to be: dark, rich colors with leather chairs, a roaring fireplace, and a veritable library for an end-of-day wind-down. The same attention to detail went into the parlor, right down to the cool-looking chess set.
If all this sounds a little on the tranquil side, that’s the whole point. The hotel, and indeed all of Portsmouth, isn’t Rio, and neither is trying to be. Put them all together, however, and you have one of the best places in the country to go and relax. Maybe take a stroll along leafy lanes. Or a show at the historic Music Hall theater. Or shopping among the time-warpy goods of Pickwicks Mercantile. Did you know New Hampshire has a thriving wine industry?
Sit down, bliss-out, take in the autumn splendor. It’s better than you think.