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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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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Mountain Town Charm- Jackson, NH

The first time I went to Jackson NH was back in college. I went cross country skiing around Jackson Village and immediately fell in love. For a New England girl that loves the White Mountains Region in all seasons, Jackson is where its at. First of all, one of the entrances into the village is through a red covered bridge. It’s called the Honeymoon Bridge. Through the bridge, the first inn on your right will be Nestlenook Farm. They have sleigh rides and ice skating there, and it is beautiful all lit up at night. There are so many cute inns with much history in Jackson. Someday I want to stay at the Wentworth Inn in one of the rooms with its own little hot tub on a little balcony. The complete list for lodging in Jackson can be seen here.

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Ski Culture in Jackson

No matter where you stay or where you eat in Jackson, the ski culture is ever present. There are two downhill ski areas close by: Black Mountain and Wildcat Mountain. They are very different. Black Mountain is a smaller, family oriented mountain. They do horseback riding and other activities in the summer. This is where you take your family of five to get all the kids skiing, or maybe go with multiple families and the kids can’t get into too much trouble because the mountain isn’t THAT challenging. Wildcat is a different story.  There is certainly beginner terrain on Wildcat, but it is a huge mountain compared to Black Mountain. The lift ticket is more expensive too ($79 vs $55 on a weekend), so probably better for skiers that will enjoy more of the mountain.

Cross country skiing is huge in Jackson as well. The Jackson Ski Touring Center is a nonprofit organization where you can rent cross country skis (skate or classic), snowshoes, and take lessons. (Side note: snowshoeing has gotten really popular lately!) The trail system is expansive. Most of the inns in Jackson are on the trail system which makes it fun skiing from one inn to another. The golf courses for the Wentworth and Eagle Mountain House becomes gentle sloping ski loops, and the trail that goes along the Ellis River is beautiful. There is a cocoa cabin on the Ellis River Trail that has come a long way since I started skiing there. To cross the river from the Wentworth golf course to the Ellis River Trail, you ski through another red covered bridge. So perfect.

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All of the restaurants and inns have maps, signs, and memorabilia from the ski areas. Jackson is extremely proud of their ski heritage, and in a few places, you might even see photos of Benno Rybizka who might be the reason for it all. Rybizka was the second in command to Hannes Schneider, who was one of the most prestigious ski instructors in Austria/Switzerland. Carrol Reed had the vision of having a ski school like the ones in Europe here in New Hampshire. At the time, there were no ski resorts in New Hampshire. There were vertical areas that you would climb up and ski down….as many times as the sunlight and your body allowed. Reed raised the money to bring Rybizka over in 1936 and the Eastern Slope Ski School in Jackson began. It ran out of what is now the Wildcat Tavern and lessons were given on a slope on Moody’s Farm. Eventually Rybizka moved on to North Conway and started his ski school there where Cranmore Resort is now, and one is his trained instructors, Arthur Doucette, kept the ski school in Jackson going. He ran his ski school at Black Mountain for 25 years, and also founded the Jackson Fire Dept. The lessons, and money, and excitement that grew from the ski schools led to ski shops and eventually J bar/T bar lifts and now here we are. Downhill skiing is a huge part of the economy in New England, and as this article that chronicled this beautiful history says, it all started here. The article was written in 1965 so many of these historic ski heroes were still alive. Benno’s wife was model turned ski instructor Blanche Rybizka. Check out her photoshoot for Life Magazine in 1945 here. She was/is the epitome of winter slope style. This was in the days when Benno was up at Mont-Tremblant. The couple later divorced and Blanche married Dick Hauserman, one of the founders of Vail. They opened the first business in Vail, a ski shop called Vail Blanche. Her third husband was Cortland Hill, who was a Mammoth Mountain pioneer. The last name that she went by was Christie Hill, not sure if Christie was maybe a nickname due to her middle name or maiden name, Christainsen. She was a pretty remarkable woman, quite the skier- here is an article Vail Daily wrote about her when she passed in 2015 at the age of 100!

The Eating & Drinking Culture in Jackson

Jackson is the type of place that likes to work hard and play hard. Most of the inns have their own restaurant and taverns with nightly dinner and apres ski specials. There are really too many places to name here but I will cover a few of them!

Breakfast

For breakfast, definitely check out one of the inns!! The inns are ready for the folks that want to eat a little something before hitting the trails or have a nice big country breakfast. We have stayed at Christmas Farm Inn in the past and they have a really great breakfast. If you are like me and don’t like to eat a huge breakfast before skiing, get a little something to go from J-Town Deli! They have delicious breakfast sandwiches and burritos. They also have the best variety of Ritter Sport chocolate I have ever seen and stroopwafels!

Lunch and Apres-Ski

So when I am out skiing or hiking for the day, lunch is the forgotten meal. We usually eat snacks or just have sandwiches. J-Town Deli is obviously my favorite sandwich joint in town, but I will also say there is a grocery store called Grant’s Shop n Save in Glen which is not far from Jackson to get sandwich stuff and cheap snacks. For me, if there is a meal to save money on during ski/hike days, it’s lunch

Favorite Apres-Ski spots are the Shovel Handle Pub and Wildcat Tavern.  The Shovel Handle Pub is really ski club rustic inside in a good way right next to Black Mountain. They have a great menu if you want to stay for dinner, good drinks, and live entertainment. Wildcat Tavern is my favorite. The vintage ski posters, booths made with double ski lift chairs, great menu, live entertainment, or great bar…..you pick, its all good. Parking can be a little dicey on the street, but it is a great spot. When its busy, settle in because the service can be a little slow, but the atmosphere is so great, I have never minded.

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Dinner

Now, as I have mentioned, most of the inns have dining rooms and taverns where you can get a great dinner. We ate at the Highfields Restaurant at the Eagle Mountain House and it was delicious. Both the Shovel Handle Pub and Wildcat Tavern do a great dinner. For me though, probably my favorite place for dinner is the Red Fox Bar and Grille. Here’s why: they have woodfire grilling and pizzas! This is the Wentworth Golf Course Club restaurant in the summer months, named after a fox that was known for stealing golf balls! It is probably the largest stand alone restaurant in Jackson, and it has TVs which made it a popular destination for playoff football this past weekend. I love the brick oven woodfire pizza there, and they woodfire grill meats and vegetables, so I know this sounds random, but the woodfire broccoli is amazing. There are definitely some cute ski decor type stuff around, but this restaurant is a little more on the modern side of life.

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Jackson NH definitely has my heart. Jon and I hope to someday have a little place up in that area and retire up there. I think that North Conway which is a little south might be a little more family friendly- think more hotels with indoor pools instead of the cute inns, bigger restaurants, larger main street, playground- but I love the quiet in Jackson.

We stayed at the Eagle Mountain House this past weekend! Check out my post on the Eagle Mountain House here: Winter Weekend at The Eagle Mountain House, Jackson NH

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Winter Weekend at The Eagle Mountain House, Jackson NH

Many years ago, back when I was in college, Jackson Ski Touring did a Hearts across Jackson Tour for heart health month. We cross country skied between all the inns, and each inn had a treat, some heart healthy, some not so much ha. It was really fun because you got to go in and see all the inns. I remember the first time I saw the Eagle Mountain House sitting up on its hill. Its a pretty big hotel for Jackson. I remember walking in and just wanting to stay. The lobby was cozy with a vintage telephone booth, and the elevator from 1930s still worked. This past weekend, my husband and I finally stayed at the hotel that I fell in love with so many years ago.

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The Eagle Mountain House was first built in 1879 and was run basically as a guest house by Cyrus Gale. Cyrus was an avid fisher and outdoorsman, and like many farm houses in the area, he opened his doors to guests as more and more people were flocking to mountains of NH for that curative air and activity over the summer. In 1915, the original inn was destroyed by a fire. The carriage house is the only thing that survived. The carriage house was originally used for horses and carriages, then became the garage for automobiles, and is now a ballroom for functions. The inn came back bigger and better in 1916. The new sign boasted 125 rooms with 100 bathrooms. The wrap around veranda lined with rocking chairs was 280 feet around. Arthur Gale, Cyrus’s son turned the pasture farmland in front of the hotel into a golfcourse in 1931. For many years, the hotel was only open in the summer months. They would collect guests from the train stops in Glen or Intervale to stay for a couple months typically. When cars became the preferred mode of transport, it still could take upwards of 5 hours to drive from Boston.

We arrived in Jackson Saturday around noon and did some cross country skiing until we could check in. The trails over by the Eagle Mountain House were in great shape actually, so we did some skiing in the village, and then headed to our hotel so we could go right in from skiing. After checking in, we brought our bags up the antique elevator that won’t budge until the doors are closed by hand. Our room had a queen bed with a mountain view. There was even the antique telephone still in the wall.

The lobby still had some holiday decorations up and a few sitting areas. One of the sitting areas was around a Christmas tree, and another was around a warm crackling fireplace. A library beyond the lobby had a second fireplace with more comfy seats, a piano, historic photographs, and of course books. In the summer there is an outdoor pool, and there is a hot tub inside that wasn’t working sadly this past weekend. There is also a game room which was popular with the kids, and a small gift shop with mugs and tshirts. In the morning they had tea, coffee, and hot cocoa set up in the lobby, and then in the afternoon they added cookies to the to-go spread! The Eagle Landing Tavern was packed in the afternoons into the evenings. We ate dinner at the Highfields Restaurant on Saturday night and Monday morning.  I got the beef tips, Jon got the duck, and both were delicious. Monday morning they had a delicious breakfast buffet. The french toast had the perfect amount of cinnamon and crispiness and then eggs benedict is made fresh that morning.

In the summer, they serve food and drinks out on the veranda, so we will have to go back sometime to do that. The views from the hotel are really beautiful. In 2012, the hotel was bought by George Heaton of Heaton Companies. They have really committed themselves to being caretakers of this historic hotel by gently making upgrades and maintaining the historic charm. An example of this? I believe the Eagle Mountain House was one of the last hotels up there to finally get air conditioning!

This hotel, as well as many other historic hotels up there were built for the guest that had to forced to finally come inside at night. Staying at the Eagle Mountain House in the summers of its hey day was about being outside away from the noise and pollution of the cities. The rooms were really meant to be for sleeping only, with the windows open in the summer! We really enjoyed our stay. Between cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking, there is so much to do outside in the White Mountains!

I wrote a little bit more about the lovely town of Jackson here: Mountain Town Charm- Jackson, NH – Check it out!

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