Rising To The Road | Portsmouth, New Hampshire

The New Hampshire seacoast. How, in 34 years of life — more than half of which were spent next door in Vermont — I never managed to visit this beautiful little corner of the world, I do not know. 

Luckily for me and my camera, I rectified that situation last weekend. My 34th birthday fell on a Tuesday this year, which gave me a choice of two "birthday weekends." My birthday itself was absolutely wonderful, celebrated with my parents and my daughter, who made it so, so special (hearing my three year old sing a heartfelt rendition of "Happy birthday!" looking right into my eyes made my soul explode with love). I also taught my first dance class to a small group of badass local mamas the evening of my birthday as a gorgeous sunset spread across the windows behind us, which was so much fun.

But I wanted to do a little more for myself this year for a few reasons. 

Number one: a couple years ago, a bad experience became associated with my birthday, making the celebrations since a painful reminder instead of a happy hooray. So I wanted to press reset and reclaim my day.

Number two: the past six months have been, well, not the best, as any Phoenix Mom Rising reader can attest to without further explanation. So I wanted to begin my next turn around the sun with a fresh start on a blank new page. 

Number three: this weekend was an astrologically uber-powerful time. as the summer solstice and the strawberry moon fell on the same night. A growing full moon lighting up a stunning sky all weekend and this super combination was said by intuitive astrology to have been a time to shed what does not work for us once and for all, and to step into our truest, highest selves. A perfect opportunity to set new intentions.

At first, I was going to travel to Miami or Toronto with my best friend and his wife, which would have been wonderful. And a bit ironic, since the last time I spent a few days alone was with them for their wedding. But those options weren't working out easily and my gut said it wasn't the right trip for this particular weekend. I wanted to be completely alone; just me and my camera hunting for a new journal (which I found in the best little store in Portsmouth, called Pickwick's Mercantile) in which to write my intentions for this next year. 

And that's precisely what I did. I chose Portsmouth because I've been so curious about the area (it seems the best of both worlds to me, combining the seaside that I need with the mountains, lakes and trees that I adore), and because it was nearby, so I could accomplish a short, affordable trip to gift myself a mental reboot going into my 34th (okay, technically my 35th) year.

The timing is and was all rather delicious, I have to say. And so was the trip. Have a look (and click to enlarge any photo).

It was 9:15 AM before my Portsmouth-bound car pulled out of the driveway, despite trying to leave early in the morning. Parked on the coast by 11 AM, I immediately hit the streets to wander and get my bearings (I'm directionally gifted) and snap photos of everything in sight. I'm unabashedly that tourist everywhere I go.

Then I ate my way through the rest of the day. Walk. Eat. Walk. Eat. Repeat.

I stopped for a little sushi lunch at Sake, which I would not recommend. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. The rice was not super fresh and that really ruins a roll for me. With the chance for a do-over, I would have chosen Domo, which is on State Street right near Prescott Park. Domo has better Yelp! reviews and looked more authentic and charming from the outside (I didn't find it until later in the day).

My only two culinary goals for the trip were sushi and oysters: not really optimal choices for a gal on a budget, but I made it work. Actually, Row 34 made it work, with an everyday $1 oyster happy hour until 5 PM. I opted for a 3 PM dozen-oyster snack, which I washed down with a local New Hampshire cider. Delightful, I must say.

Given I drink, well, never these days, I had a humming little buzz leaving Row 34 and skippity-walked around for another couple hours, exploring the areas around Prescott Park and the harbor more closely.

By 5 PM, I was absolutely beat. Six hours straight of exploration on foot (I eat way too fast, so my food breaks didn't provide much respite) had my body screaming, "No ma'am! You're done!" So I stopped at Lady Pickwick's for a bath bomb and headed back to the hotel. 

The Sheraton Harborside upgraded me to the Club floor for my birthday (thank you, Sheraton!), so I had a super view and a lounge to enjoy. Not one to turn down amenities, I gratefully accepted a glass of cabernet and a small plate of fruit and crudités, potstickers, cheese and crackers and took them straight to the tub. I threw in my bath bomb and enjoyed my bathside refreshments until the water got cold. I refilled it with hot water and it wasn't until it became lukewarm a second time that I gave in and got out. 

Then I crawled into bed looking out at my view, opened my new journal and filled the first few pages with wonderful, positive thoughts for the year ahead. I really loved doing this, and will make it a new birthday tradition. 

Tired beyond belief and lulled into comfort from my bath, I don't think I saw 9 PM. So my entire plan of seeing the moon on its brightest night got foiled. Thankfully I caught its incredible rays (you had to go outside and feel them - peeking through a window didn't do it justice!) on Monday.

Given my accidentally early bedtime, I did not enjoy the sleep-in that I could or should have, considering no three year old was underfoot to inquire at 5 AM if I "had a nice sleepies?" I was awake at 5 AM anyway. But I did fall back asleep intermittently until 7 AM. Then I got up and headed back to the lounge for a surprisingly impressive breakfast spread, and took a long walk (and more photos, of course) by the harbor until my 9 AM yoga class at 3 Bridges Yoga.

A new yoga studio is a shot in the dark, but Yelp! did not steer me astray. I was gifted with the perfect class for that morning, that day and that trip with Gretchen. It was a challenging and accessible blend that my body and mind loved, and having set an intention to work hard and strong throughout the class, I came out feeling energized and grateful. 

And what a way to end such a trip.

Mamas, what is the best birthday indulgence you have ever gifted yourself? Please share in the comments below.