Girls Weekend at the Portland Regency Hotel & Spa

Spring has finally begun! There might still be a half foot of snow on the ground, but according the calendar, it is spring! This past weekend a few girlfriends and I spent a night at the Portland Regency Hotel & Spa right in the heart of the Old Port in Portland ME. We had such a great time catching up and spending time together.

I was the first to get there Saturday, so I walked around for a while to enjoy the daylight. I have been to Portland many times with friends & family, but I had never really had an opportunity to just wander around alone.

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This is where the Casco Bay Island Ferry is! A cruise around Casco Bay is definitely on my list for a summer visit!

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Quiet in the off season!
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The old US Custom House on Fore St., built between 1867-1872
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Loved the light blue and white on the Proctor Building
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Living in these apartments would be rough in the winter, but it must be nice in the summer!

I popped into a few stores and just wandered through aisles. I wanted to get a snack and a drink so after all my wandering, so I walked into The Holy Donut. It was late afternoon so there were very few donuts, just got a hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was AMAZING!! Thick, rich, chocolatey, creamy….all the good words. Their donuts….are made….with Maine mashed potatoes. I got a maple donut the next morning, so amazing. The dark chocolate donut with coconut was so good too….lets be honest, they are probably all fantastic.

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I headed back to the hotel and my friends arrived! We had a fruit/cheese/cracker plate and champagne at the hotel and caught up. Maybe we watched School of Rock, maybe that happened too, the final scene at the battle of the bands? Loved it haha. Then we headed out to dinner at Five Fifty-Five on Congress St. The building was really unique. The second floor where we were seated was completely open in the middle looking down on the first floor. Top recommendation would be the truffle mac and cheese with lobster. It was amazing, a little pricey, but the cheese/truffle sauce was delicious, and of course, Maine lobster meat is the best. I also got the side of roasted brussel sprouts, and we got chicken liver pate for the table. For dessert, we got the chocolate parfait, key lime pie, and creamsicle. The desserts were a little…artistic (read not a slice of key lime pie but a plate with 3 blobs of key lime filling on graham cracker crumbs with three little piles of whipped cream arranged around it), but they tasted great.

From dinner, we went to Bull Feeney’s to listen to live music and hang out, and then The Armory Lounge at the hotel for a nightcap before heading upstairs to bed. I had been to both these bars in the summer, and man what a huge difference in the off season! Both of these bars this past weekend were very relaxed, not empty, but quieter and relaxed. Seats were available, bartenders were attentive, and while the atmosphere was not as lively as in the summer, it wasn’t dead either.

Next day my friend and I headed to The Holy Donut to get fresh donuts. It was so busy! The two of us are the ones who need to eat first thing after we wake up. Thankfully we have each other so we don’t have to wake our other friends that prefer to sleep in a bit! Then we all went to brunch around 11 at the hotel restaurant, Twenty Milk Street Restaurant. We packed up our room, checked out, and went downstairs to the spa! I got a facial and my friends got massages. I love getting facials because with my pale complexion, I worry about environmental damage from the sun in the summer, and the wind/complete lack of moisture in the winter. It was such a nice way to end the weekend and we are definitely planning to go back this summer and see the area in full swing!

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Thinking warmer weather with J. Crew Factory

This past week with the ridiculous blizzard, I got to day dreaming about warmer weather hopefully coming our way! I checked out one of my favorite sites for those basic wardrobe essentials like shorts and tees, and I think I found some good items!!!

First up, the striped studio t-shirt. I know, navy and white stripes for summer in New England? Groundbreaking! Seriously though, the price on this tee is $18.50 now which is a great price and this is one of those essentials for me to wear casually with shorts, OR throw on a nicer statement necklace and pair with a skirt.

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So if you read my blog or check out my instagram pics, you know about my dalmatian Mizpah. She is my best friend and I just love her to pieces. I saw this tee, now $21.50 and literally eeped out loud! I wish it wasn’t a gray tee because its a little blah, but the dal on it is too cute.
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This mini skirt is navy on white for $32, and the print is just beautiful. I think it would look great with a tee or tank top or could be dressed up a little with a sleeveless blouse and navy blazer with the right shoes.

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For me, the 5″ length shorts are my happy place, you might be happier with 3″ or 10″, to each their own. J. Crew Factory has these pull on shorts….and they do have the elastic waistband, but they look nice, not like workout or pajama shorts! They look perfect for throwing on with a tee or tank to head out for a warm day…..especially if you know you are going to be eating a lot haha….cookouts…fried seafood….ice cream….ugh is it summer yet?? I got the coral and navy…might end up getting the green if they work out!

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Other items that I was checking out as part of my summer daydream storm retail therapy include this shimmer boucle dress,  this gemstone tassel necklace, and this camp tunic shirt.

What items have you been checking out for this coming spring and summer??

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Some Florida snaps during Blizzard Stella….

A couple weeks ago was the school vacation week in New Hampshire, so I took some time to run away to Florida and see my lovely parents. They are a bit outside of Tampa, living the retired life! Now I am sitting in my living room watching the blizzard through the windows definitely missing the sunshine and warmth! Besides spending some time in Tampa and at my parents’s house, we also spent some time in Tarpon Springs and Clearwater.

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One of my favorite things to do at my parents’s house is just walk around or go for runs to enjoy the nice weather. The birds are so pretty down there, and so are all the flowers and plants. My parents have a couple palm trees and beautiful hibiscus flowers in their yard. Their backyard is actually the golf course, and it makes for some fun people watching from the lanai.

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I wore this outfit for a luncheon with my mother and some of her friends. Lilly Pulitzer shirt is sold out but this one is similar. White jeans here from Vineyard Vines and sandals are here from Palm Beach Sandals!

Tarpon Springs is a coastal city on the Gulf of Mexico northeast of Tampa. It is an important location for harvesting natural sponges and the historic sponge dock area has fun shopping and Greek restaurants. Tarpons Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US.

It was so nice to be near the water and all the sponge boats. My past few visits to the water had been pretty cold compared to this one 🙂 Walking around Tarpon Springs, there are lots of decorated bikes. My favorite was the one above decorated in sponges. They started appearing in the spring of 2015, and they are truly art. Warren Gregory is the artist behind the bikes. He was inspired by many years living in Amsterdam. From Tarpon Springs, we headed south to Clearwater for some beach.

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The Clearwater Beach sand is very fine, so soft on your feet. I love all the palm trees and the dunes here.
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Clear water indeed!
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The hotels along Clearwater Beach are so colorful
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Dress from Mahi Gold// Hat from Vineyard Vines// Sandals from Jack Rogers// Bracelet from Kiel James Patrick

Watching the snow fly and blow around outside, its hard to believe I was ever in warm Florida. I have gone down every February since my parents moved down there, and it really is such a nice winter getaway. Hopefully anyone else affected by this winter weather is staying safe and warm and maybe, just maybe, my pics will help get you through!

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The Oxford Exchange in Tampa

I have been following Carly Heitlinger’s The College Prepster for years. She is from the Tampa area and I have seen many pics from her trips down there, including some posts about a spot in Tampa, The Oxford Exchange. My parents live in that area of Florida so when I went to visit this past week, we checked it out! According to my parents, it’s in an older part of Tampa, far from the big shopping malls and airport which are the parts I am most familiar with. It actually is only open til 5:30 which I thought was interesting! Not sure if maybe that area just doesn’t have a nightlife or what?

The exterior of the place is crisp white brick with black accents. The store front really pops among all the others. I love the Spanish terra cotta style roof styles.

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When you walk in, there are sunglasses/glasses displayed for sale to the right, and books for sale to the left. This part sort of reminded me of an upscale Urban Outfitters without clothing. They don’t have every book, but its a good collection of books. I loved the white and black floor in this part too!

Continue walking and you will come to a cafe counter with great lounge/work area with chairs and places to sit. There are stairs with fabulous portraits but I didn’t venture upstairs. Continue on and there is a very cool gift shop….think Anthropologie meets Williams & Sonoma? There’s also Aesop skincare in that area too which I believe is a newer addition.

From there to the right is the hostess area for the restaurant. There is a dining room that is nice, but I was pretty excited that we were seated in the other room which has the white brick walls, a fountain, palm trees, and feels a bit more like a courtyard or atrium.

The food is amazing, all made from scratch. I wanted the club but with grilled chicken instead of turkey- done. My dad did the burger, and my mother did the chopped salad. We also got the maple bacon brussel sprouts side, which is amazing. We loved everything! They have an extensive list of teas and coffee drinks as well as fresh squeezed juices and wine. The sandwich I got might be the best sandwich I have ever had- thin sandwich appropriate grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli all on buttered toasted white bread…just thinking about it, I want another one!

It was a great spot, definitely one that we will continue to visit over the years! Next time I want to go for brunch…. 🙂

Here is the main post from Carly on Oxford Exchange, although really most of her Tampa posts involve pics from trips to the OE!

Oxford Exchange (a must see in Tampa)

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Hampton Beach with Mizpah

Yesterday was quite the day for my pup Mizpah. We did off leash fun at a park with awesome trails near us and then made the short trip to Hampton Beach. Massachusetts and Maine both have beaches with more lenient rules for dogs in the offseason. Maine beaches and some of the beaches on the cape actually allow dogs during the summer before a certain time and after a certain time…usually before 9 and after 5. I moved to New Hampshire, the land of live free or die, and our short coast line here is made up of state parks and there is a hard and fast rule that there are no dogs allowed. Even the short sections of beach that are considered “town beach” can’t be accessed without going through state beaches.

We went expecting to just walk along the boardwalk- not as good as walking on the beach, but still nice views. When we got there though, sure enough there were lots of people walking their dogs on the beach! They were all on leash. It seems like the rule is in effect, but just not enforced because the rangers aren’t around patrolling.

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Pretty unbelievable that all the snow melted in much of the trails! My outfit was perfect for the weather. The needlepoint hat from Smathers & Branson, my Barbour Argon jacket (sold out but similar here) , LLBean scarf (sold out), and my LLBean boots held up nicely on this cool day. 
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One end of Hampton Beach, past here its mostly rocks up against the wall
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Mizpah loves the feeling of sand between her paws
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Running around the beach with Mizpah
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Down at the other end of the beach, a very brave surfer heading into the water

It was strange to be at Hampton with all the stores and restaurants boarded up, but it was also so nice and quiet! Hampton Beach is…..lively in the summer. The first time I went to Hampton was in 6th grade with two friends and I was totally overwhelmed in a good way I guess. The beach, arcade, and all the food. I had only ever been to Wingaersheek, Crane, and Good Harbor on the North Shore in MA where we brought our food in a cooler and just ran around the beach. The best deal on the boardwalk was at Sal’s Pizza- $5 for a huge slice of pizza and a can of soda. There’s the Candy Corner, the numerous trashy tshirt companies, and leaving the beach, we always had to stop for ice cream at Hodgie’s Too. Hampton is certainly not the most classy or picturesque beach, but it is definitely fun. Ok, time to stop procrastinating and pack for Florida!

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Warm winter afternoon at Crane Beach

So from pretty much the day after snow polo to the end of this past week, I have had the worst cold!! Coughing, sneezing, watering eyes, fatigue, all of it. Thankfully I started to feel better this past week just in time for the unseasonable heat wave here in New England.

For my first “finally feeling better afternoon out”, I headed to Ipswich MA to visit a friend who just moved there just down the street from Crane Beach. It felt so good to get out of the house for more than just work, hang out with friends, and of course be at the beach!!! Crane Beach allows horseback riding and off leash dogs from October 1 to March 31, so we brought her chocolate lab Wellie with us. I totally felt like I was cheating on Mizpah, she will come next time. We both ride horses so of course are both dreaming of trail riding there as well.

Here are some pics I snapped. With the blue sky and the setting sun, the water looked an iridescent blue. It was perfection for my first adventure out in the world post-sickness!

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Still a little bit of snow on the dunes. Check out our super long winter shadows!

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Sun setting on a beautiful day. To the right of the sun, you can just make out the roof/chimney line of Crane Estate.

My friend got her resident beach sticker recently, which I think will make for some really fun day trips this coming summer! Crane Beach is usually pretty busy in the summer, the normal parking rate can be pricey at $25 but they do have nice bathroom/shower facilities and a snack shack type place with food and novelty ice cream. Where I am in NH now, while I of course have way closer access to the NH beaches, I am more excited about being closer to the North Shore beaches in MA that I grew up loving. Alrighty, hope everyone enjoys their weekends! I am on vacation next week so I will be heading to Florida to dust off the Palm Beach sandals again!

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Snow Polo in Georgetown MA

Hello! Its been a crazy few days. Huge blizzard this past Thursday into Friday, and another big one Sunday in today. We have gotten over two feet of snow in these storms. Thank god for our snowblower. This past Saturday that snow was useful for the first annual Northeast Snow Polo Championship. The match was between a team from NY and Boston Polo at Boston Polo’s new home as of this summer, Twisdenwood Farms in Georgetown MA.

Boston Polo, Stage Hill Polo, Newport Polo; all polo clubs in New England that have serious high level players but also have lessons and programming to help people get involved and develop skills in polo to eventually play in the higher level chukkers! It’s smart, they bring more people into the sport while generating revenue to keep the clubs going. Mark Tashjian is the man behind Boston Polo- head instructor and manager of the club. He served as the umpire for the match on a cute flea-bitten gray pony named Mimosa. They used red arena balls and played 3 on 3 for 4 chukkers.

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Boston Polo was wearing green, NY was wearing the white/gray
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The white pants that we typically see on our polo players are called polo whites!
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Love the BP clip job
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There were gray ponies, bays, chestnuts, and yes…a palomino polo pony!
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This pic shows the red arena ball over to the right! It was challenging to deal with the ball getting lost in the snow and bouncing in the uneven terrain

It was a cold day for sure but we dressed for it, brought blankets, and of course some thermoses of hot apple cider. We packed some chicken salad sandwiches, cheese n crackers, and I even made some chocolate dipped strawberries. Spectators set up around the arena and there was also an indoor area that had live music and get this, heated bathrooms!

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Hot drinks were a necessity! We brought our LLBean thermos and our Woolrich thermos
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Bundled up in my favorite LLBean pom hat and my Horseware Newmarket throw blanket. That’s Mark Tashjian to the left of the photo!

It wasn’t St. Moritz or Aspen, but it was beautiful. I love horses, I love watching them move. Watching these polo ponies race through the snow kicking up snow dust instead of dirt was pretty cool.

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To check out some of my other posts on polo:

Aiken, SC Part 2: Sunday Polo!

Polo lessons with Stage Hill Polo

Sunday Funday at Myopia Polo

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The Lighthouses of Portsmouth Harbor

The Piscataqua River is a tidal river that separates NH from ME, forms Portsmouth Harbor, and empties into the Gulf of Maine. Recently I ventured out into New Castle, NH, which is an island. Driving around the island I found a nice spot to see the Portsmouth Harbor Light and was so happy to see that from the same park, you can see the Whaleback Light just over the border in Kittery ME. Another site worth checking out in New Castle is Wentworth by the Sea, but I made the decision that visiting that historic beauty would need more time than I had…probably a nicer outfit too.

Portsmouth Harbor Light is actually at Fort Constitution. You can drive toward the Coast Guard Base and then follow the signs for the Fort Constitution Historic Site. From May to mid-October they actually do tours of the lighthouse! I am definitely going this coming summer. You can actually climb all the way up to the lantern room! Fort Constitution was originally Fort William and Mary. In 1791, NH gave the site to the US, and the fort was renovated and renamed something a little more American : )

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Coastline of New Castle NH from Great Island Commons
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Coastline of New Castle NH from Great Island Commons. The seagulls are so cute right now, all puffed up with their winter down.

I viewed the light houses from Great Island Commons, which is a pay to enter park in the summer, but is free right now! I also got a closer look at the Portsmouth Harbor Light from the end of Ocean St…..like I was one step away from trespassing on US Government property haha. The original wooden lighthouse was built in 1771. It was rebuilt in 1804, shortened in 1851, and then rebuilt again in 1878 lined with cast-iron bricks. There is an oil house built in 1903 and a keeper’s house from 1872 that is being used as US Coast Guard offices.

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Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

The Portsmouth Harbor Light is a fixed green beacon that can be seen 12 nautical miles out. Part of the reason for the steady fixed beacon and for the shortening of the light house was the construction of Whaleback Light, a little farther out in the harbor. Whaleback Light is actually just over the border in Kittery Maine off the coast of Wood Island. The original Whaleback was built in 1820, rebuilt in 1872 after a bad storm caused cracks to the foundation. The lighthouse is made of granite blocks and sits on a rocky outcrop in the harbor. There is a keeper’s living area and a storage area within the house. Whaleback has a bright white LED light (new in 2009) every 10 seconds. It originally had a fog bell, but at some point it was changed to a horn. The light was automated in 1963, so the last keeper to live there was James Pope, USCG in the early 1960s.

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Wood Island Life Saving Station & Whaleback Lighthouse

Wood Island is home to the Wood Island Life Saving Station. It was built in 1907 in Kittery, and before the USCG was around, this station had rowboats for the US Life Saving Service to help mariners in distress. The station is actually in the midst of a restoration to be used as a maritime museum! See the progress and more history of the station here.

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Whaleback Light- love the solitary gull there on the rock

There is something about exploring the coastal areas of New England during the off season. Great Island Commons is probably packed in the summer with walkers, families, picnic-ers, and so on. I bet there are days when the parking lot gets full and they have to turn people away! It is definitely cold, but for me its rejuvenating! Getting out of the car to this beautiful scenery and that raw wind blowing in your face- talk about all the shivers! In the winter, these coastal areas are so quiet, and still.

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New LLBean Staple: The Rugby

LLBean has brought quite a few wardrobe staples into my life. There’s the fisherman sweater, the slightly fitted Scotch plaid flannel, the sweater fleece pullover, Bean boots, camp socks, and now, the super soft rugby.

The shirt comes in two solid colors right now, gray and navy. It also comes in three striped colors combos– red with white stripes, cobalt with white stripes, and white with navy blue stripes. The stripes start around the chest and get wider as you go down the shirt. The lining inside the collar, down the button front, and in the side slits is a soft chambray type material. The shirt itself is a cotton French terry material- its maybe just a bit thinner than the Vineyard Vines shep shirt. The LLBean logo on the front is the traditional little LLBean/Katahdin patch that I just love.

I purchased the solid navy shirt and as usual with LLBean, I sized down to a small. The shirt is light, comfortable, and as advertised, slightly fitted. I wore a tshirt under it which worked, but it is definitely more fitted in the shoulders/arms than the sweater fleece pullover, so it might not be meant to worn over too much. I wore it on a casual Friday to work when we had a professional development day- got lots of compliments.

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The price point? Not too bad- the solid colors are going for $39.95 and the striped colors are $44.95. The red and navy strip combos, and some sizes for the navy and gray solid options are already backordered! I think it will be a popular item heading into spring and for years to come. I am looking forward to more colors in the future.

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Skiing Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch Park, NH

This past weekend I headed up to Cannon Mountain to ski with my husband and a few friends. It was a cold day, mid 20s for the temp, but there was some serious wind too. The sky was gray, snow guns were going on quite a few trails, the world looked sepia. The only color was from bright ski jackets, and the two tramway cars, Mustard and Ketchup. The tramway? Oh man, I could write a whole post on the history of the tramway. Alexander Bright saw tramways in at ski areas in Europe as a member of the US Olympic Ski Team. North America’s first aerial tramway was built in 1938…..Alexander Bright’s vision came to life thanks to L.R. Bateman and his American Steel and Wire, E.J Loyd and Roland Peabody of Franconia, and the NH government at the time. Peabody was the first manager of the tramway. One of the chairlifts is named after Peabody.

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Heading up to the top on the Cannonball Quad, loving the beautiful rime ice on the chairlift!
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Mountain Station, tramway side! There’s Mustard ready to head back down the mountain.
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Other side of the Mountain Station, the 4080′ Cafe and restrooms are inside. Selling point? Highest Beer Tap in NH!
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Looking back at the view on the Peabody quad I believe
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Racing shack on Lower Ravine (my favorite trail)….but lets just pretend its my quaint warming cabin k?
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Check out all the snow making action! It was so windy we wondered if any snow made it to the ground!

I am pretty sure we did every blue trail besides the Tuckerbrook family area. There aren’t a ton of green trails, but loads of blues thankfully! A couple of us took a break and my husband and some others headed over to the Mittersill ski area. Mittersill is a sub peak of Cannon Mountain. The Taft Trail on Mittersill had been used for skiing/racing since 1931-32. Baron Hubert von Pantz (I know, what a name) opened lift service to the Taft Trail in 1942 with a rope tow. The Baron built what he called the Franconia Mittersill at the base of Mittersill after his Austrian Mittersill Castle. After WWII, Mittersill was quite the resort- a restaurant and ice bar along with the inn, and besides skiing there was skating, dancing, tennis, and car races on frozen Echo Lake! In the late 50s, Mittersill started to make snow, and the resort flourished in the 60s. Competition with its neighbor, Cannon Mountain, started to heat up in the late 60s and by 1984, Mittersill was done. The inn is still there though, see their website here. When the inn opened in 1945, it was a society hot spot. The Baron was already back in Austria working on his Mittersill Castle there when the ski area in NH closed.

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Looking back at the summit of Cannon from Mittersill! See the Mountain Station up there?
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View of the Cannonballs and the Kinsmans are in the background in the clouds.

Before Mittersill even closed, Cannon was trying to figure out how to incorporate the Mittersill ski area. See the history here or here. Finally in 2009, the rope cutting took place! In between time, many backcountry skiers utilized the Mittersill trails by skinning up, and skiing down. That is now not allowed! In those early couple years, you had to take the tramway or the lift up to the summit of Cannon and ski/hike over to the Mittersill trails. It was still very much backcountry status. A double chairlift started up in 2011 over there so now you can ski Mittersill without using lifts at Cannon. On Saturday when we were there, my husband said big training/racing was going on over at Mittersill, very exciting. Part of the deal for Cannon getting Mittersill was that the Mittersill trails were going to be a racing complex. The money needed to construct and expand the trails for that were contributed by the Franconia Ski Club and the state of NH. That means that the racing facility does not just belong to Cannon….it belongs to the Franconia Ski Club and NH…which is pretty cool. See all the drama of the racing expansion here.

So I need to go back many more times. There was just too much. There’s a ski museum at Cannon that I didn’t even get to go to. There is so much history at Cannon/Mittersill. I just can’t help but think about how glamorous it all must have been. The Cannonball Pub at the base of Cannon is terrific, but to see the ice bar or restaurant at Mittersill back in the 50s? That would be something.

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