WP DAILY PROMPT 6/3/2013:
MY DREAM “TOURIST” DESTINATION
FIVE BEACHES IN MAINE AND NEW HAMPSHIRE
I pulled into a parking spot on the Ligonier (PA) diamond just after another car had pulled into an adjacent spot. As I inserted my coin into the parking meter—coins which must cover my time needed, since the meter maid knows our car and must have a sixth sense when the red sign will pop up and my rental fee for the space will immediately increase to $7.00—but I digress.
As I inserted my coin into the meter the woman who pulled in just before me said “I like your jacket. The purple…” She paused as she inserted her coin in the meter.
“It’s from Hampton Beach,” I told her, looking at the iridescent purple with the print letters proclaiming Hampton beach, New Hampshire.
“Ah, the beach, the place to be.”
As we walked down the sidewalk I asked her if she knew where Hampton Beach is.
“No.” It was an expected answer.
“It’s in New England.”
In so many words she responded that she yearned to go to New England, the end of our conversation as I reached the door to the diner and she continued on.
I, too, yearn for the New England beaches, a destination I love. However, I cannot select one as a dream tourist destination. Actually, the New England isn’t exactly a tourist destination for me.
It’s a visit to the land of my roots…
There are five beaches that equally top my list as a “tourist” destination.
In 2003, the year my husband Monte retired, I decided I not only wanted to go to New England for three months, but I wanted to walk all possible mainland beaches (not island beaches) between Lamoine Beach in downeast Maine and Wallis Sands beach in Rye, New Hampshire.
Along my beach-walk I discovered Popham and Old Orchard beaches.
Thus, the four #1 New England Beaches that make up my dream “tourist” destination are, from north to south, Lamoine, Popham, Old Orchard, Wallis Sands, and Hampton.
LAMOINE BEACH, Downeast MAINE
The first time I stepped onto Lamoine Beach I felt a mysterious connection with the land—a feeling I never before experienced. It is rife with family history, beginning in 1796 when a handsome French emigrant married a “local,” a young woman born in East Lamoine (formerly Trenton). That’s seven generations back in my history, but it’s lead to my writing a historical romance novel. The beach, on Frenchman Bay, is a quiet location at the juncture of the Narrows and Frenchman Bay. Its surface is sand, mussel shells, and rock. Across the narrows is Mount Desert Island and its prominent peak, Cadillac Mountain—where it is reputed to be the first spot in the United States to experience the rising sun.
POPHAM BEACH, MAINE
It was during my beach-walk that I discovered Popham Beach. I immediately fell in love with its topography—the fact that at the Fort Popham end you could step into an edge shaped like a teacup and be immediately in water over your head, that at low tide a flat plain of sand leads to a giant rock to climb, but you daren’t be caught out there after the tide rises lest you remain there until the next low tide. There is a long sandy beach to enjoy. The estuary at the furthest end from the fort, which you can cross in low tide but be in water over your head as the tide fills the basin.
OLD ORCHARD BEACH, MAINE
I also discovered Old Orchard Beach during my beach-walk. Although the center of activity is the Palace Playland, New England’s only beachfront amusement park, I enjoyed slowly strolling down the seven-mile long sand beach, stepping into the waves along the way. The beach name comes from an abandoned apple orchard planted by its first settler (1653), Thomas Rogers—my maternal ancestor who named the orchard Garden by the Sea. When the Rogers family home was burned during an Indian attack they fled to Kittery.
About three-fourths of the way to the end are Googin’s Rocks, named in 1737 for Thomas Rogers’ son-in-law Patrick Googins.
WALLIS SANDS BEACH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
During my first 10 summers, while living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I experienced many fun times at Wallis Sands Beach. There I built sand castles, collected shells and crabs, splashed in the waves, and scaled the high rocks. Always in the distance could be seen the Isles of Shoals, although I didn’t come to appreciate them until Monte and I took a boat trip out on our last visit to New England—2008. But I don’t want to digress here.
If my older sister Nancy and I went to Wallis Sands Beach with my grandparents my grandfather drove us in his early 1950s Chevy. Our grandmother sat a flat rock high above the waves.
If we went with my mother, we caught a bus on the corner of Miller Avenue and Spring Street. My mother would spread her towel out on the sand and let the sun tan her then-youthful body.
In either case my sister and I were mostly left to our own devices. Rarely were we admonished for our fun-filled escapades.
HAMPTON BEACH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Hampton Beach not only has a nice sand beach, there is an orchestra bandstand, children’s playground, stores galore, and lots of people. Nancy and I used to play on the swings and watch Turkish taffy being stretched by machinery—or employees—in the store window.
When my grandmother died my grandfather drove to Hampton Beach. He took me with him and the rest of the family came searching for me.
Monte and I stopped at Hampton Beach on our honeymoon. We watched a line of traffic leaving the coast that Labor Day weekend as we timed our travel to arrive on the day after, when stores were still open but people were shutting down for the winter. Now, the stores and shore experience a longer season, stretching further into September than they did in my childhood days.
There you have it—my dream “tourist” destination—a selection of five New England beaches.
If you, by chance, visit any of these beaches, either for the first or the umpteenth time, I would welcome your comments.