When I pulled out of Boston last Friday afternoon to make the two-hour drive north on 93 to the small town of Holderness, in the heart of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, it didn’t really feel like Christmas was less than two weeks away. After all, it was sunny and near 60 degrees, and just the weekend before, I returned from two weeks in Peru, where I was sporting tank tops and flip flops.
The Manor on Golden Pond was built in the early 20th century by a wealthy British businessman in the style of an English manor.
But by the time I turned up the Manor on Golden Pond’s long driveway, it felt like winter had finally arrived – the temperature had dropped and the fog had rolled in, and I couldn’t see much beyond the large yellow house perched on the hill.
And it didn’t take long to get in the holiday spirt after I entered the Manor’s warm and inviting entryway, with its wood-beamed ceiling, soft lighting, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and large fireplace topped with festive greens, bows and balls.
The Manor serves afternoon tea for guests every day in the library.
The woman at the reception desk quickly ushered me to my room in the Manor Wing on the first floor. I almost squealed with delight when I opened the door to the Yorkshire – it was a far cry from the $7 dorm beds I had slept in during my travels in Peru. The suite was light, bright and covered with blue toile wallpaper, which gave it a very romantic feel (I appreciated it, even though this was a solo getaway!).
The suite was divided into two areas – a seating area was on the right, with a loveseat, chair and fireplace, and the bedroom, with a large four-poster bed, was to the left.
Needless to say, I did not want to leave the room – or the tub.
Hiking was, unfortunately, out of the question that afternoon, given the gloomy weather. So I enjoyed a glass of hot apple cider in the cozy library before heading out to explore Meredith, a popular tourist town at the end of Lake Winnipesaukee about 15 minutes down the road. The Lakes Region sees most of its visitors during warmer months – April through October – so most of the stores in the Mill Falls Marketplace were nearly vacant, and I was able to quickly check a few items off my Christmas gift list.
Guests who want extra pampering can book services at the on-site Seasons Spa.
I survived the dark, foggy drive back to the Manor with plenty of time to spare before dinner. Even though my original plans were to catch up on some work, I opted instead for a long soak in the room’s large Jacuzzi tub, accompanied by a few glasses of wine. I was so comfortable that I was almost late for dinner, and needless to say, I accomplished nothing productive that evening.
While Lakes Region is more popular during the warmer months, there is still plenty to do off season.
When making my reservation, I had been pleasantly surprised to see on the Manor’s website that the restaurant offers a vegan tasting menu. I was intrigued, especially given that meat and potatoes are definitely more popular fare in New Hampshire, and the Manor’s co-owner, Mary Ellen Shields, was kind enough to accommodate my request.
The Manor’s Three Cocks Pub serves casual food and drink. There is an event space to the left, which is popular spot for holiday parties.
At 7:30 p.m. I arrived in the Manor’s intimate Van Horn Dining Room and for the next two hours I was treated to seven – SEVEN – vegan courses, each one better than the next, all of which I happily devoured. Starting with carrot ginger bisque and ending with a trio of mulled cider, maple and gingerbread spice sorbet, each dish was fresh and perfectly seasoned, along with being elegantly plated. I am fairly certain I will remember this meal for a long time.
The first course of the vegan tasting menu – carrot ginger bisque. The Manor offers both one- and two-day cooking classes.
With a belly full of vegetables, I slept quite deeply in the suite’s soft bed. When I roused after 8 a.m. – which is sleeping late for me! – I was pleasantly surprised to see that the sun had come out. I discovered that I actually had a beautiful view of Squam Lake and the surrounding hills from my small balcony, which had been obscured by the fog the day before.
The view of Squam Lake from my balcony. The Lake was featured in the popular 1971 film On Golden Pond starring Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn.
I finally made an appearance in the dining room for breakfast at 9 a.m. I was offered coffee or tea, and could choose fruit and pastries from a small buffet. The breakfast decision was a difficult one, since there were so many tempting options, but I went with the cranberry oat pancakes with maple syrup, and I was very happy with my decision.
These were some seriously good pancakes – and you can’t beat real maple syrup!
After breakfast I decided to take advantage of the good wifi in the suite before heading out to explore more of the area. Mary Ellen’s husband, Brian, walked me through the various activities that are available nearby during this time of year.
Meredith is full of New England charm.
I decided on one of two hikes he recommended, but then took a wrong turn leaving the Manor and found myself back in Meredith. Since I was right there, I just had to go shopping again (right?). This time, I treated myself to some Christmas gifts – trail runners and a bottle of wine from a local vineyard – followed by a leisurely lunch and stroll along the lake.
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire.
Back at the Manor, Brian generously accommodated my request for a late check out, and by 4 p.m., I finally forced myself to depart – refreshed and ready for the holiday season.
What destinations do you recommend for getting in the holiday spirit? Have you ever enjoyed a tourist destination during the off season?
- Lee’s Candy Kitchen – I was completely overwhelmed with the selection here – not surprisingly, since they claim to offer more than 1,000 types of candy. I ended up with a few gifts for my family and salted dark chocolate caramels for myself.
- BootLegger’s Footwear Center – BootLegger’s has several stores in NH and MA, but this is the first one I’ve been to. I’d been looking for a pair of trail runners for months, and finally found ones here that fit and were on sale!
- Hakuna Cafe & Lounge – They serve a variety of fresh salads, sandwiches and juices, and they advertise live music on weekend nights. Since it was so warm that Saturday, I got to eat al fresco!
- Innisfree Bookshop – I love bookstores so much, and sadly, they are hard to come by these days. I spent a long time browsing their wide selection of books, games, cards, and toys.
- Oglethorpe Fine Arts & Crafts – Luckily for me, this gift and crafts store was offering a tasting of wines from a local vineyard, Hermit Woods. I enjoyed the Petite Blue – made with real blueberries! – so much that I bought a bottle for Christmas dinner.
I was a guest of Manor on Golden Pond, thanks to a collaboration with Select Registry. All opinions are my own.