A Romantic Escape in the Mountains of N.H.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dee Lyon of Arnold is the latest contributor to our Your Vacation in Lights feature, in which we invite Travel section readers to dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. Your hot tip could be the next guy's daymaker; your rip-off restaurant, the next family's near miss. To file your own trip report, see the fine print below.

WHAT: A ski trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

WHO: My husband, Keith, and I, both retirees.

WHEN: Jan. 17-25.

WHY: We had a week at a time-share exchange we had to use or lose. In addition, because it was impossible to drive around D.C. on Inauguration Day, we decided to grab a ringside seat at a TV in front of a roaring fire, with cocoa and beautiful, snowy scenery.

THE TRIP: Our resort was in North Conway, within walking distance of restaurants, shops and ice skating, and we took short drives into the Currier & Ives countryside. Our intent was to ski at Wildcat Mountain in nearby Jackson.

COST: We paid $164 in time-share exchange fees and $200 in gas and tolls. Shopping expenses don't count until the Visa bill comes.

GETTING THERE WAS . . . long. We drove 11 hours but broke up the drive with a night in East Hartford, Conn. Along the way, we passed the president-elect's train from Philadelphia and the [US Airways] plane being hauled out of the Hudson River -- both exciting and historic. Next time, however, we'll probably fly.

THE TIME SHARE: We stayed at the Eastern Slope Inn Resort, which was in the middle of town and had an indoor pool, a Jacuzzi and a very good stone-ground pizza restaurant called the Flatbread Company.

LAZIEST SNOW SPORT: Tubing at Mount Cranmore, a family-friendly ski mountain in North Conway. This "sport" takes no effort: Ride up the towline and slide down the hill.

BEST DEAL: On different nights of the week, some of the best restaurants in town would offer two-for-one dinners. For instance, we ate a three-course meal, including prime rib, for $25 at Decades Steakhouse. Other two-for-under-$25 meals were available at the Wildcat Inn & Tavern in Jackson and May Kelly's Cottage in North Conway.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: The food at the Mount Cranmore ski cafeteria comes from Decades Steakhouse -- same great chili and New England chowder.

UNZIPPED: Wildcat Mountain has a zip line in the snow. We would have attempted it, but -- thankfully, said a little voice in my ear -- it was closed because of a blizzard the day before.

A FLURRY OF ROMANCE: Nestlenook Estate and Resort in Jackson offered nighttime sleigh rides through an illuminated winter wonderland. We also could have skated, snowshoed and made s'mores over outdoor fires. The Wentworth Inn, also in Jackson, turns up the romantic heat with wine and fondue. This would be the perfect place for a winter honeymoon.

A CHILL HIKE: Diana's Baths in Bartlett has a half-mile (each way) hike in the woods that ends at a gorgeous, rocky waterfall.

DON'T FORGET TO PACK . . . warm clothes. You'll never look out of place in ski clothes in this town. I also wish I'd brought a disposable panoramic camera for the gorgeous winter vistas.

BEST EATS: All of our meals were good, but the greats were at Peach's, where I ate a different crepe dish every day and coffee cake that was more like a cheesecake; and at May Kelly's Cottage, where I had the best meatloaf I've ever tasted.

BIGGEST BUMMER: Not having enough energy to ride horseback in the snow at Farm by the River, a B&B with stables open to the public.

SWEET TREATS: We discovered penny candy galore at an old-fashioned shop called Zeb's General Store.

ASK THE LOCAL: The owner of the Little Shop in the Woods can answer any question you have about the town. When I asked if he knew where we could find fondue, he even called a restaurant to see if they were still serving it.

FINAL CONFESSION: We never made it to Wildcat to ski because there was so much else to do!

Want to see your own vacation in lights? We'll highlight one report each month. To submit, use the categories above as a guide (use as many as you wish, or add your own; for a list, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/vacationinlights), and send your report to Your Vacation in Lights, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071; or e-mail vacationinlights@ washpost.com.

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