Tag Archives: site seeing

Olde Mystik Village (Mystic, CT)

Tucked away in the quaint village of Mystic, Connecticut, stands the hidden gem known as The Olde Mystic Village.

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At first glance, Mistick Village may seem like a nondescript shopping center.  But, Mistick Village is much more.

There are many cramped stores for specialty merchandise such as custom made clothing and hand made jewelry, pet shops and eateries that dot the village.  It would be easy to dismiss it as just another shopping center. But Mistik Village has many unexpected charms.  One of the biggest surprises at Olde Mistik Village is something very unique.

Right there, smack dab in the middle of the village is a pond.

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Forget about the cinema and the fudge shop.  The ducks are the most popular attractions at the village.  People feed them their dietary recommended food.  Signs prominently remind people crackers and bread are not safe for the ducks to eat.

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They are not restricted to the pond area either.  You can regularly see the ducks roaming the walkways of the Mistik Village.

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And, since so many people feed them, they are not shy.

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The flowers and trees at Mistik Village are another unique feature of the shoopping center.

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Yes, that is a birdhouse on the flag pole.

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Keeping with the aquatic theme, a waterfall leads to a stream with koi fish.

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Some of the most charming elements of the village are the decor.  Walkways are furnished with wooden gateways.

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Wooden chairs rest in front of this fashion shop.

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Various structures are scattered throughout the village.

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Of course, the Mistik Village is a dog friendly area.

I met Theo and Rebel.  Theo was happy to see me.  Rebel, on the left, not so much.

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I also made a friend at Old Mistik Village.  Charley is a rescue dog from Hurricane Katrina.  His dad told us how, after noticing Charley, he arrived at the dog shelter at 5 a.m. to  make sure he could adopt him.  Charley is a very special dog.

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Cutler Park (Needham, MA)

If you think all state parks are the same, with all the standard fare, you’ve obviously never been to Cutler Park.

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Named for the State legislator, Leslie B. Cutler, who helped the Department of Conservation and Recreation of Massachusetts acquire the land, Cutler Park is majestic in its beauty.

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You are sure to find something to like about Cutler Park.

Whether it is the rolling hills,

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Transparent water

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Or abundant wildlife, such as these robins, chipmunks, moths and even canines…you won’t regret the time you spend there.

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Master of camouflage.  Can you spot him?

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Ever the comedian, Layla stuck her tongue out when I took her photo

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Ladybug was wet from her swim in Cutler Pond.

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Bodi was a good subject.  Too bad I had my telephoto lens on.

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Bella decided to cool off while I took her photo

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England gave me a big smile when I shot her photo

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The 600 acre Cutler Park also boasts an array of colorful plants and flowers.  Such as cat tails, chrysanthemums and loose strife just to name a few.

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Cutler Park’s trails vary from dirt trails, makeshift narrow rocky trails and wood bridges over the marshy land.  The tall trees provide good shade and shelter from the elements.  It’s easy to get off the beaten path, literally.  But, be cognizant of where you are, Cutler Park is a huge park and one could easily find oneself lost or turned around.  Not that I would be speaking from experience or anything.

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One thing I noticed that I had not remember seeing before was the clouds reflecting on the shimmering waters of Cutler Park.

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Kayakers are prevalent at Cutler Park

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People weren’t the only ones having fun in the water.  Ducks were dunking and Roscoe was fetching.

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Also, off the beaten path you can find a tunnel, presumably once used when the state park was used as a water supplier.  Now, it carries graffiti and memories.  If tunnels could tell stories.

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A rickety staircase leads to some rail road tracks. Weirdly, the MBTA’s Commuter Rail runs through Cutler Park.  Granted, it is off the main paths, but it still out of place.  At least some people have a pretty view on their way home.

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As inviting as public transportation can be, I decided to drive to Cutler Park.  But, whether it is by plane, train or automobile, you should visit as well.


Mount Tom (Holyoke, MA)

Sometimes you find treasures in the most unexpected places.  Such is the case with Mount Tom.  Tucked away off Route 202 in Holyoke, Mount Tom is a 20 minute drive outside of Springfield, MA, is not one of the first parks that comes to mind when you think of the plethora of state parks in Western Massachusetts.  In fact, it almost seems to pride itself on being a hidden jewel.  Unless you were specifically looking for the park, you could easily pass right by it. DSC_0859 While there is not a designated parking lot for Mount Tom and barriers prevent cars from entering the paved trails, you can usually find parking just outside the park.  Or, since there are various entrances to the many trails, you can find places to park along the side of the road to the main entrance. The first impression of Mount Tom is slight disappointment.   Pretty views of flowers and landscapes are spoiled by chain link fences. DSC_0874 DSC_0871 However, with some effort and ingenuity, you can work around these barriers.  With the aid of some strategically placed rocks and other objects that you can climb, you can get some beautiful, unobstructed views of the park and Western Massachusetts DSC_0881 DSC_0894 DSC_0892 DSC_0891  DSC_0887 Mount Tom is also a popular spot for paragliding (the speck between the two wires is a paraglider) DSC_0908 There are a variety of flowers such as black eyed susans, sumac and daisies .  Although various plants are plentiful, I found many of the flowers and plants to be somewhat drab and not artfully laid out.  I suppose this does give Mount Tom a more natural feel.  But, the colors didn’t pop off like they do at other parks, such as Stanley Park and Prescott Park in New Hampshire just to name a few that I have visited recently. DSC_0915 DSC_0938 DSC_0909 DSC_0111 DSC_0077 There is also a variety of wildlife at Mount Tom.  Both creatures big and small reside at Mount Tom such as frogs, falcons and groundhogs.  There were also some chipmunks and a variety of birds that were too elusive for this photographer to capture. DSC_1001 DSC_1002 DSC_0997DSC_0102 We also spotted fresh hoof prints from an animal, most likely deer, that had recently been in the area. DSC_0049 Along the way , we found some buildings in disrepair and graffiti riddled because, of course, what else would you do to a perfectly good abandoned structured?  Just another example of why we can never have nice things.  The graffiti and vandalism aside, the structures gave a nice backdrop to some of the shots. DSC_0958 DSC_0957 DSC_0972 DSC_0999 Finally, we arrived at the crater like area of Mount Tom.  Although many people lay claim to the inspiration of Mount Crumpit from Dr. Seuss’ Whoville in the story/show/movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Squamish in British Columbia for one), Mount Tom is rumored to be the inspiration for the tale.  Since Theodor Seuss Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) was from nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, it is a good chance this is the place that inspired him.  See for yourself (and these aren’t even the “best side” of the hill). DSC_0012 DSC_0009 DSC_0030DSC_0028DSC_0029  DSC_0027   DSC_0032 DSC_0034 It’s a long way down there.  Be careful. DSC_0015 Satanists in Holyoke.  Who knew? DSC_0008 Having traveled a “good distance” (not to be too precise), we agreed it was time to head back.  Along the way, we saw flowers and landscapes that made for fine landscape photography. DSC_0964 DSC_0994  DSC_0989   DSC_0977 DSC_0970 Bees and butterflies hovered over and landed on the plants, lighting and pollinating them.  The orange looking objects in the photos are not flowers but rather butterflies. DSC_0060 DSC_0061 DSC_0985 DSC_0983 A brook runs through Mount Tom. DSC_0930 DSC_0927  DSC_0931 The cliffs and jagged rock that formed on Mount Tom were formed many years ago from faulting and earthquakes.  This, coupled with the cooling and heating of the Earth’s surface made for some unique shapes and surfaces. DSC_0088  DSC_0085 DSC_0084 DSC_0083 Of course, no blog post of mine would be complete without a photo of a dog.  None were present during my stay at Mount Tom.  So, I made a special stop at Westfield Dog Bark (yes that is the name).  Mollly was my obedient subject.  But, she seemed more interested in something in the distance. DSC_0124 Mount Tom is massive and little did we realize at the time the majesty awaiting us on the other side of the rocky hill.  It was only after I had googled images of Mount Tom that I realize many of the other parts of the park that we did not reach.  That clinched it.  Another trip to Mount Tom is in order.


Witch City (Salem, MA)

When people think of Salem (MA), they often conjure thoughts of the witch hysteria, ghosts or a litany of other things that may go bump in the night.  But, this isn’t fair nor accurate. No, Salem is more than “haunted houses” and stores that sell kitschy souvenirs. Nor is it only fun to visit during the Halloween season. Still, it did feel a little odd wandering around Salem without a Fall chill in the air or leaves crunching beneath my feet.  But, it wasn’t any less fun.

Salem, being an important port for trade in early colonial days, is rich with tradition and history.  One of the main ports of trade is at Pickering Wharf in Salem Harbor.

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Anchored in the wharf is The Friendship.  The Friendship is a reconstruction of a 1700’s trading ship.  Tours are available, except today as they were renovating the ship.

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Stately, rustic buildings dot the coast line. The ornate building with the dome atop it is the Custom House.  It is sandwiched in between the Salem Maritime National Historic Site (to the left) and the Simon Forrester House.

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There is also a lighthouse located at the end of the pier.

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Ducks and other birds frequent the harbor.

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Pickering Wharf has a variety of restaurants where you can enjoy fish, lobster and, well, fish.  It is also a hub for tour groups (whose favorite past time seems to be getting into my photos) and the occasional dog walker.  I found this dog who is all black, except for her front left paw.  DSC_0467

I could spend all day at Pickering Wharf.  But, in the interest of time, I began my journey to some of the other attractions in Salem.  The best part of visiting Salem is noticing the attractions and sites while you’re walking to each destination.

There was this house that caught my eye.

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There was this display outside the Salem Witch Museum.

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Irzyk Park, named after Brigadier General Albin F. Irzyk, has this retired Army tank in the park.

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I also bumped into Aida

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As well as Simba and Jasmin

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Eventually, I found my way to Winter Island.

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Winter Island is a hidden jewel within the outskirts of Salem.  A mile from the downtown Salem area, it is used as a RV/trailer park as well as a place to launch boats and hold functions.  I walked the mile to Winter Island from downtown Salem. It is pretty much a straight walk or drive from tge downtown area.  But, if you choose to drive. there is ample parking outside of Winter Island.  There are an array of flowers and a pond (more like a reservoir) with a power plant adjacent which gives a nice touch.  Geese and ducks are abundant there.

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There is also a beach and an area for bird watching on Winter Island (it’s not really an “island” (it is more like a peninsula) but I will let it slide.  It was the beach, Waikiki Beach, that was most impressive.  Rocks are scattered along the beach and make shift trails on the hills behind the beach offer private views of the beach.  Since it was low tide, I was able to walk along the rocks for better views of the harbor.  A lighthouse gives a nice touch and birds and flowers are abundant.

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A closeup of one of the many flowers on Waikiki Beach.

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A bee pollinating.

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The rocks at Waikiki Beach give the beach a unique landscape and offer a chance to get better views.  It also attracts a variety of bird life.

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There is also an area for bird watching at Winter Island.  Although they are easily scared away, I did capture these images of a Robin and a Red Winged Black Bird.

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There is also an old ammunition bunker in the bird watching area at Fort Pickering on Winter Island.

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It’s a shame that Salem is only remembered for the more commercial aspects and urban legends.  It isn’t all about being scared in Salem.  In fact, this is the scariest thing I saw all day.

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Of course, no visit to Salem would be complete without a photo of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem, and a visit to the World War II Memorial at Salem Commons.

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You can keep yourself quite busy just visiting the parks, beaches and assortment of other attractions in Salem all year round, not just during Halloween.  But, of course, I’ll be back in October anyways.


Stanley Park (Westfield, MA)

As you enter the main parking entrance to the lush, well manicured 300 acre Stanley Park, you could easily take it for a playground or picnic area, at least at first glance. But, don’t be fooled.  There lies a bevy of trails, wildlife and plant life as well as an assortment of memorials nestled behind the soccer nets, basketball courts and play areas.

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Stanley Park has several walking bridges and elevated wooden walking paths to view the various wildlife.  The park also has a waterfall and mill.

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The critters are not shy either.  Being accustomed to the visitors, particularly those with food, chipmunks, ducks and squirrels (grey and black) will approach you within inches in the hopes of getting food, in this case peanuts, to store or eat. Aren’t they patient?

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Since the animals there are so used to seeing people and often being fed, Stanley Park is an ideal place to photograph all types of wildlife, especially the amateur photographer.  It’s pretty easy to get an otherwise skittish animal to get close enough to get a good shot of them, like these critters below.

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Unfortunately, during my most recent visit to the park, a park worker informed me you must pay a fee to take photos, a steep one at that.  I am still looking into this (the person in charge of the parks and recreational services was conveniently on vacation when I called Monday).  So, my trip was cut short.  I do have photos on my phone from a previous visit, though.  Posted below are the photos shot with my camera phone.  After looking into the matter with City Hall, an official told us the fee is only for weddings and other functions.  A person shooting photos on their own does not have to pay the fee.

The Connecticut River runs through Stanley Park which gives ample opportunity to get some pretty views.

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Yes, those are Koi fish in the river.

Stanley Park also has a well maintained garden that has a variety of plant life such as petunias and roses.

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There are also miles of trails that runs along the Connecticut River.  You could spend all day, or many hours following all of the trails.

Stanley Park also has many memorials and statues scattered around the flower and garden area.  The memorial below was erected in memory of Otto Bono Galegari who was killed in the Korean War.  Otto’s father constructed the monument in his son’s memory.  Just contemplating the emotional undertaking this must have been is inspiring.  In fact, it seems out of place in a park where people casually while away their summer days texting and playing catch.  It deserves a more reverent setting.

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And some religious guy:

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There is also the Angel of Independence statue which was set up as a tribute to the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

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There is also a visitor’s center that has a  a map of North America in front of the structure (not virtual size).

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Overall, Stanley Park is a great place to spend the day or just a few hours (you’ll quickly lose track of time when you’re there).  Just remember to bring lots of snacks for the squirrels, birds and ducks.


Pompey (Portsmouth, NH)

“The Granite State”, “God’s Country”, “The Mother of Rivers” and “The Live Free State” are just a few of the nicknames associated with New Hampshire and for good reason.  The lazy, slow paced lifestyle mixed with postcard views, New Hampshire is the ideal place to visit.  The only question is which part to visit first.  For me, it was an easy answer.  Portsmouth (whose motto is “Heaven’s Light Our Guide”).  Hands down.

One of my favorite areas to visit, Portsmouth, New Hampshire has always incorporated just the right amount of quaint, sleepy town with a modern, new city feel.  Yet recently, it has felt like perhaps it is incorporating too much modern feel.  Previously unscathed land is littered with cranes, earth moving tools and other construction equipment, even to the point of marring otherwise perfect landscapes. This is not your parent’s Portsmouth.  That being said, Portsmouth still has a plethora of attractions and sites to keep you busy all weekend.

While it is not exactly clear how Portsmouth got the nickname “Pompey”,  some of the leading theories include that it is the nickname of the football club in Portsmouth and a variety of theories based on legend and tales.

The scenic drive, mainly on Routes 1, 93 and 95, was a breeze coming from Boston.  Just watch out for the Exit 3 to Portsmouth.  It comes up pretty quick after the fork in the road on 95 . And, of course, there are the not so inconspicuous state troopers lying in wait.  The driving only gets tricky when you get to Portsmouth.  It’s an old town so there are lots of one way streets, narrow roads and the parking can be sparse if you don’t get there early.  The good thing is everything is within walking distance and, if you luck out, there is free parking at the parks.  Parking enforcement workers were prevalent throughout.

I began my trek at Prescott Park, the main hub for entertainment as it is the venue for the summer arts and festivals for the area.  Prescott Park offers benches, well kept grass, flowers, monuments and scenic views of the Piscataqua River.  When you first approach Prescott park, you will be greeted by a monument, a common theme in Portsmouth.  An over sized anchor dedicated to Billy Juse who, with Tim Nordeen, died working on the Deer Island Sewage plant stands near the center of the park.  This is one of the appealing things about Portsmouth.  The town has strong ties to their past and they remember those they have lost.  They don’t forget.

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Prescott Park also has a vivid array of flowers.  Petunias, “Black Eyed Susans”, Saxifraga and “Goldliocks” are just a few of the flowers you will find here.

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DSC_0366Prescott Park also has a water fountain dedicated to Ensign Charles Hovey.  Envoy was a Naval Academy graduate who was commanding a detachment of men when his men and he was ambushed, leaving Hovey mortally wounded.  I’ve always wondered why some receive honors and others dies in anonymity,  Not to question Hovey’s and his men’s bravery, yet so many, even from the Portsmouth area, have lived, fought and died courageously with little, if any, appreciation.

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It being a seasonable New Hampshire day, with low humidity with a cool breeze, I decided to continue on my walk all the way to the center of town, aptly named Portsmouth Center.  Portsmouth Center is only about a half a mile walk from Prescott park.  But, along the way, there were many attractions and sites to detour you.  There was the City of Portsmouth Fire Department’s memorial, Vigilance.   The two sided monument is dedicated to all of the firefighters who risk their lives protecting others.

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As impressive as the monument is, some visitors were more interested in the water flowing in the monument.  Well, it was a warm day and Lulu and Seka couldn’t resist the watery goodness.

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Further along my jaunt, the Praying Hands sculpture at Temple Israel caught my eye.

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The “crown jewel of Portsmouth”, Pierce Island is another must see section of Portsmouth.  Who wouldn’t want to live on that island?  The photo below is only one of the gems of the area.

DSC_0478Pierce Island is also host to Four Tree Island (or Three Tree Island, Five Tree Island – maybe they had a hard time counting all the trees).  A peninsula shaped picnic area, Four Tree Island has a wide variety of bird life and other types of critters.  I was lucky enough to run into this guy.  Woodchucks like this are common to the area and generally aren’t very dangerous.  And, no, I don’t know how much wood he would chuck.

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There is also a diverse group of bird life on Four Tree Island.  I caught this bird in flight.

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There were also a few ducks floating out there as well.

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A remnant of the past, a fishing trap lies on some rocks.

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Two comorants huddle on a rock.

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Portsmouth is a dog-friendly town.  Everywhere you go you are sure to see someone walking their pooch and seemingly ever other vehicle has a canine passenger, their head excitedly thrust out the open window.  There are also many parks, some hotels (provided they meet certain height and weight limits) and parks that allow dogs such as, South Mill Pond.  Not only are there pretty flowers and scenic views (it must be especially pretty during sunrises and sunsets), there are also ducks for Fido to play with.

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One thing Portsmouth does not lack is memorials and monuments. One of these memorials is called, fittingly enough,Memorial Park.  Memorial Park is a fairly new addition to the monuments in Portsmouth, having been constructed in 2013.  A tribute to all of the veterans who have served, the Memorial Park  The bricks on the ground surrounding the memorial have the names of veterans and others who have passed away.  “Honor”, “protect” and “remember” are emblazoned on the stones in the  from the original Memorial Bridge which are stacked in the middle of the memorial.  Flags were at half staff in tribute to the victims of the Texas floods.

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Another memorial is the New Hampshire Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial on Pierce Island that remembers all of the men and women who have been lost fishing the waters of New Hampshire.  The monument, which was dedicated in 1987, states “In Memory Of Those Who Fished And Were Called Away.  With Prayers For Those Who Fish Today.”   It’s hard not to think, even briefly, of how much the area has changed.  A once vibrant fishing community has now evolved into a modern economy.  Like many seaport towns in New England, the fishing industry has dries up for many people and the modern era of commerce has prevailed.  Although you will see the occasional palm reading den and mom and pop shop, office buildings, financial institutions, bars and construction companies now chiefly make up the economy.

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And, in Portsmouth Center, you will find another fountain.  This one is dedicated to former Portsmouth Mayor McEachern Keenan,

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New Hampshire, the Portsmouth area particularly, being a historically important area, has many historical houses and museums that are open to the public.  In the interest of time I was unable to view them, except from the exterior.  Posted below is the Governor John Langdon’s House.  Langdon was, among other things, the second Governor of New Hampshire.

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I’m not sure the frog is an original part of the Langdon’s estate.

DSC_0446The Treadwell Jenness House is another beautiful mansion I put on my “things to next time I am in Portsmouth list”, which may be sooner rather than later.

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There are many other attractions I didn’t have the time for such as The Portsmouth naval Shipyard Museum  The Isles Of Shoals Tours and The Strawberry Banke Museum.

Despite the congestion and having too much to do to fit into one day trip, the hardest decision I had to make for this trip was to leave.