A Very Unparked Domain
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Knackered in Nashua (Part 1)

We are in beautiful Nashua, New Hampshire, in the south east corner of the state, absolutely under siege from the elements.

We took the back roads in from Sturbridge, Massachusetts on Thursday, August 14, and got in late.

How late?

Too late!

Restaurants and grocery stores around here close at 9:00 pm. We finished checking in at…9:01 pm. Naturally.

We did however manage to snag one of the last rooms at the inn (the Granite Inn, in fact) on a Thursday night, going into a weekend when EVERY hotel in town was completely booked thanks to the Nashua Pride baseball team home game at historic Holman Stadium.

I also managed, somewhat miraculously, to wake up in time to hit the make-your-own-waffle-bar continental breakfast before it closed at 9:30 a.m. the next morning. (As a non-morning person, this was really a triumph for me.) Hooray!

Here I need to praise the Granite Inn: their complimentary continental breakfast is one of the two best we’ve had the pleasure to wake up for on this trip. The Sturbridge Publick House offered coffee, (good!) tea, and baked-on-the-premises fresh pastries that were very good. The Granite Inn has coffee, tea, a selection of juices, make-your-own-waffles (with a funky rotating waffle iron), fresh bagels, fresh English muffins, and fresh butter and milk free of preservatives.

You’ll notice that I use the word “fresh” a great deal: that’s because food-grade food has been rare in our experience of continental breakfasts over the past six weeks. Most cream cheese, creamer and butter / margarine we’ve encountered doesn’t require refrigeration because it contains more preservatives than food; many of the pastries have been so sugar-filled and chemical-laden that, to use Neil’s favourite phrase, they have the shelf life of gravel. In other words, it resoundingly fails the “don’t eat anything that doesn’t rot” standard. I realize that many people eat food like this every day, but my health and my excuse for an immune system just won’t tolerate the ersatz foods that constitute the standard American diet. As a result, we generally don’t have high expectations of hotels’ advertised “complimentary breakfasts,” and it is an absolute delight to encounter something that is not only edible but delicious.

(We understand from a chat with one of the staff that the Granite Inn is under fairly new management ownership who have been making a lot of positive changes, including fixing up the breakfast. Thank you!)

After breakfast our weather adventures began in earnest.

Friday was a hot, humid day; not a bad day compared to the sticky summers we’re escaping from Richmond, Virginia, but more than unpleasant enough by local Nashua standards. We got stuck outside for an hour (it’s a long story), overdressed. By the time we got home, I collapsed in a nap.

Friday night we watched the evening news: about how the weather on the east coast is so severe that the Bronx is FLOODED.

It was vindicating that it wasn’t “just” me crazy weather tends to knock me flat, and this summer has been breaking historic records for crazy weather. I’m glad we weren’t planning on spending the summer at the beach!

I worry for all the people in the tourism industry, especially all the mom-and-pop businesses, whose operations are being hit by both the poor weather and the high cost of gas. One of the hotel owners we’ve chatted with said that August is the month that hotels make their money for the year; it’s like Christmas shopping for retail businesses. And, outside of special events like the baseball game in Nashua and weddings in Sturbridge, every single hotel we’ve stayed at has been at least half empty for the entire trip.

We chalked my bad day up to crazy weather. Little did we know our weather adventures were just beginning.

Next: Knackered in Nashua Part 2

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1 Elizabeth { 08.20.08 at 8:25 am }

I love bed and breakfast or small inn breakfasts. Fresh pastries! Good tea is also one of my favorites. (Too often in the US tea drinkers are forgotten)

2 Shaula { 08.20.08 at 8:44 am }

Elizabeth! Thank you for dropping by. (Elizabeth, for those of you who don’t know her, co-hosts a great travel blog called Go Green Travel Green.)

I’m Canadian and Neil is half-British; we both come from fairly serious tea cultures. Our experience in the evolution of American tea service has been:

  • For years you couldn’t get (hot) tea in restaurants at all, although in the south you can consistently find “sweet” tea, what we’d call “iced tea” in Canada, and which has roughly the glycemic index of maple syrup.
  • The American restaurant industry started waking up to tea and began serving paper packets of Lipton’s (what is sold here is known as “shop floor sweepings” in serious tea-drinking parts of the world), and the 70’s glass beaker of hot-ish water that’s been strained through a used coffee filter. Lipton-mocha seems to be holding strong as the most common version of tea in much of the country.
  • The proliferation of health-benefit-touting articles about green tea spurred a growing number of non-Asian restaurants to include green tea in their beverage list. This is still a bigger city / more cosmpolitan restaurant offering; you’re not going to find green tea at your local chicken and waffle joint.
  • Much more recently, restaurant supply companies must have decided there was money to be made in premium teas, because now in medium-grade restaurants, tea is served like you are purchasing a cigar: an embossed wooden box is brought to your table for you to make your selection of over-packaged tea bags that are available for a fraction of the cost in your local grocery store. Ironically, the tea-midor usually includes everything /except/ black tea, and if my husband it looking for a simple cup of black tea, the server goes back to the kitchen to retrieve a bedraggled Lipton’s bag from behind a cabinet for him.

I find that in the US tea drinkers are grossly misunderstood as much as forgotten, at least in our experience.

We have frequently had the experience of a “helpful” server bringing the milk my husband has requested for his tea, as well as a mug of hot water with a slice of lemon included. (I believe this may be the generation for whom home ec budgets were slashed, because the basic chemistry of dairy+citric acid clearly escapes them.)

We don’t have the budget for bed and breakfasts on this trip, alas, but I have really enjoyed staying in them in the past, too.

3 Neil { 08.20.08 at 11:54 am }

The chemistry, not necessarily the concept: I once had a clerk attempt to save me from putting milk in my tea, as it would certainly curdle…

‘Tea’ is just something you learn not to ask for. You can’t get sweet tea North of the Mason-Dixon, nor West of the Mississippi, whereas in the South, you could get tarred and feathered for serving tea unsweetened as a default. ‘Hot tea’ and ‘iced tea’ come under the same category.

But I would like to announce to the world, that ‘plain black tea’ does not include Earl Grey :Þ