Tourist For a Day
In My Own Hometown
in New Hampshire
by Marcia Passos Duffy
I lived in the suburbs of New York City almost all my life and it was only when
I was in my 20's and working on 5th Avenue when I finally went to the top of
the Empire State Building. It took me almost two decades as well to ice-skate at
Rockefeller Center, browse the Museum of Natural History, and see a
Now living in New England I still tend to overlook the tourist attractions in my
own backyard. It took us eight years after we moved to Keene, NH before we
climbed the “most-climbed mountain in the world,” Mt. Monadnock, just a 15
minute drive from our house.
I once read a magazine article about a family that took a week-long vacation in
their own hometown. They visited museums, ate out every night, and basically
took in their surroundings with the new eyes of visitors. I didn’t have a week –
but a few hours I did have. So when my neighbor suggested that we become
tourists for a day in Keene I jumped at the chance. My neighbor and I planned a
simple late morning excursion with our kids on the Keene trolley.
A Trolley Adventure
I have never been on the Keene trolley. I see it motoring around town every
time I leave my house to run errands. It looks sweet, touristy, and fun. The
windows are rolled all the way up in the warm weather. The seats are wood.
The pick-up spot was a five minute walk from the house, so we all walked
down to our local Hannaford’s supermarket to wait for the 11:35 a.m. trolley.
Why it seemed so exciting is beyond me. I knew where the trolley went and
I’ve seen all those spots a thousand times. I knew our final destination was a
mere one mile from our house. But somehow, shedding the car and climbing
aboard the trolley made it all different. And the kids actually cheered (the
younger ones) when the trolley made the turn into the parking lot.
I want to say it was a pleasant ride and wax philosophical about the wind
blowing through my hair and seeing the familiar scenes through different eyes.
And I would if my youngest had not had an intense attack of vertigo which
made him exclaim (uh, shout) that the trolley was going to tip over with all of
us in it with each turn the driver took.
He insisted on sitting up front, where the windows were closed, with me glued
to his side; I spent the entire 20 minutes of the ride trying reassure him that this
was not a doomsday ride.
But hey, those are the chances you take traveling with children, even if it’s in
your own backyard.
The ride took us the “long way” past the hospital, toward downtown. “It takes a
lot longer to get the Colony Mill on the trolley,” my son said when we finally
got off, relieved to be on solid ground (the driver I’m sure was even more
Shopping and Ice Cream
The Colony Mill Marketplace is the Keene, NH version of a “mall,” – it is
actually a renovated mill originally built in 1838 to produce wool garments,
including uniforms for the Union troops during the Civil War and the Allied
forces during the World Wars I and II. And it housed scores of civilian
companies and families until it closed its doors in 1953. It was completely
transformed three decades later into a regional marketplace.
Today it houses quaint shops. My kids, with their pockets jingling with
birthday money from grandparents, made some modest but happy purchases.
We had lunch at the mall’s atrium -- unlike your typical “mall” setting in both
food and atmosphere. Sometimes they even have live piano music.
I had the homemade artichoke soup from Kristin’s Bakery, my kids ate
croissants stuffed with spinach and cheese; the other choice at the Marketplace
is Chinese food and I ordered a plate of dumplings for us to share.
It was good, satisfying; not a French fry or double cheeseburger to be seen yet
all four kids ate heartily (maybe it was the thrilling trolley ride that made them
Our trip ended at another adjacent historic “mall” next door called The Center
at Keene, originally a scenic railroad station in the 1800's that now houses
several retail shops and an excellent ice cream shop, Rick’s Gourmet Ice Cream.
We ate our ice cream outside (I had chocolate custard with chocolate sprinkles –
While we were enjoying our ice cream, we suddenly saw the return trolley go
by. “Oh well,” my son said, “we can walk.” And we did -- bundles in hand -- on
the bicycle path.
My friend and I looked at each other, pleased with the day. It was already past 2
p.m. “It wouldn’t have been the same if we took our cars,” she said. And I agree.
There is really something special about being a tourist in your own hometown
About the author Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and the publisher of The
Heart of New England online magazine.
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