When you return to Portsmouth after being away, you realize that the city is a part of you. The first glimpse of that skyline scattered with bridges, churches and brick buildings is comfortably beautiful as it remains seemingly unchanged. As your eyes fall upon the port city, your mind may be caught replaying past memories of family dinners, Halloween and Christmas parades, plays, concerts, and best meals ever. Still, the weight of the atmosphere is so gentle and says without words that as much as you missed it, it missed you. It’s always the same but different when you're driving in; the tall, decorative streetlights stand motionless between the traveling tourists and leisuring locals. After you (possibly) find a parking spot, your feet know the brick sidewalks enough to deliver you on your path without much thought and your lungs are the sea air flow like the tides through your body. If you’ve grown in Portsmouth, it has grown in you, and these flowers are the most heartwarming of the garden of Portsmouth, New Hampshire's attractions.
1. The Whale in Prescott Park
My earliest memories of my small city are snippets of meals with my family and the sound of my dress shoes as they clicked down uneven bricks through the hills and winding narrow side streets of downtown. Then, I can feel the paint on the black whale that stands in Prescott Park and my brother pushing me to the top. You can sit there looking out at the river as if you're riding the tail. I remember how solid and unchanging it felt each time we would race to the statue, and the ownership we had on our little whale.
2. A window seat in Breaking New Grounds
When you want it to, Breaking New Grounds feels like the last corner of the Earth, the smallest coffee shop in the smallest town with the coffee you crave to warm your soul. And sometimes, whether you want it or not, it feels like the center of the universe; a reunion of old friends and faces of people you've never met but will always recognize. A window seat and a pot of tea have been proven to cure the negative thoughts any life problems I’ve ever had.
You might be waiting for an empty table for a while in Flatbread until you appreciate the familiar feel of the wooden benches and creaking floorboards beneath your feet. The oven, a clay contraption with a bright and powerful fire, burns and cooks pizza like it has never rested, and the smell will pull you into a deep hunger for the good stuff. You might be drawing a new menu cover or playing with some dough, but if you're at Flatbread you know exactly what you're doing and how good it feels to be doing it.
While the city is small, everything is at your fingertips. Salty wind splashes icy water as a gift in the summer and a curse in the winter. When admiring the tugboats at sunset, take caution; your senses will probably overload from the view soft yellows and reds of the orange sun melting in the sparkling beneath the Memorial bridge. The Tugboats stand tall along the docks and feel as pretty as a recurring daydream.
5. Farmer’s market
Saturday mornings in the summer should be spent in Portsmouth’s municipal complex where local goods are sold with smiles to the tune of a live band. Puppies, babies and fresh fruits and vegetables are all together in one morning, and it’s the best place for a breakfast sandwich treat with the view of the Portsmouth skyline.
6. Whale Wall
Living in Portsmouth comes with the acceptance that the beauty will attract tourists, and tourists will drive their cars and occupy the parking spots. So, as you loop and loop around and dance the familiar dance with open parking spots, you have most likely ended at the Whale Wall. The life-sized mural makes you feel like you're friends with the huge, forever swimming happy whale. The Whale Wall brings more Portsmouth vibes than what travel magazines could possibly list for attractions.