Looking at the beer list over our head — the one that started with “Get Maxxinated!” — Suzi said she found the one for me, which is interesting, since I don’t drink.
After an excellent lunch of chicken schnitzel and mashed potatoes, I had my mask on since we were about to leave, but my mouth didn’t need to be visible for Suzi to see what I thought of her suggestion.
Dirty look aside, I was in a really good mood for our visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
I didn’t even mind hearing Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” — an artist and a song I have never liked — from what must have the restaurant’s “no songs since 2000” playlist.
After more than a year of pandemic, business is apparently looking up in Portsmouth, with state unemployment down, a strong real estate market, restaurants reopening as they gear up for outdoor dining and a “tsunami of visitors” expected.
My eye isn’t particularly well-trained, but as we walked along the various streets, it looked like most of the small businesses were open, and the streets were pretty full of people enjoying the sunny weather and low-50s temperatures and eating either at well-separated tables inside restaurants or at tables on the sidewalk.
One thing we noticed when we first pulled into town was that everyone was wearing masks, even though New Hampshire had lifted its mask mandate. We originally thought people were just continuing to be safe and considerate — and I’m sure that had something to do with it — but I also found out that cities and towns were allowed to keep their own mandates, and Portsmouth has.
All told, I might have seen a half-dozen adults not wearing masks. I resisted the urge to say anything and just kept walking.
We don’t go to Portsmouth for anything in particular, although Ceo’s Gelato Bistro is almost worth a trip in itself. They had maple banana bread gelato … have you ever heard of such a thing?!?!
It’s just a pleasant city a little more than an hour from our house in Massachusetts. We walk around, enjoy the scenery and get lunch. Oh yeah, ice cream or gelato, too.
Portsmouth is right on the state line between New Hampshire and Maine, and sometimes we go over the border into Kittery to go outlet shopping, and we usually eat lunch there when we do, but we didn’t feel like it this time.
Portsmouth (and sometimes Kittery) is basically our spring-is-here trip, an early chance to get out and enjoy some nice weather after being mostly cooped up inside all winter.
There’s never any set date, but it’s usually around this time every year — meaning it was one of the first things we lost in the pandemic last year when we were basically not allowed to leave the state.
Which made this year’s visit one of the first things we got back.
We have gone other places, but there was something about resuming the routine of heading to Portsmouth that felt especially good, no doubt helped by unexpectedly getting notice in the morning that we’d be able to sign up for our first vaccine shot.
Not that everything will be smooth from here on out, but for a few hours, it felt like life was actually moving toward … normal.