A Spring Weekend in Historic Derry

With mud season well behind us, we celebrate spring at a B&B set in a garden and explore the history of Derry and some of its famous residents.



Tiffany Gardens B&B
photo by wendy wood

Friday Evening

We’d eaten at other locations of the family-owned La Carreta Mexican Restaurant, so knew we’d find authentic Mexican flavors here. We ordered Chiles Rellenos and fresh-made guacamole with crispy tortilla chips while we decided on our main courses: tender pork carnitas and Chile Verde — steak in a mild green sauce. Although not a bit hungry after cleaning our plates of every last drop of the delicious sauces, we couldn’t pass up crispy churros and a mound of creamy flan.

Saturday Morning

Breakfast at Tiffany Gardens B&B is prepared with locally grown foods wherever possible, and ours started with fresh-cut fruit salad and scones still warm from the oven. We chose, respectively, an omelet and a frittata accompanied by home fries and ham, and lingered to discuss the garden with our hosts, Kathy and Jim McMahon. Before setting out for the day, we followed the winding paths through the gardens brightened by spring bulbs and flowering trees in bloom amid native rocks, pools and a waterfall.

The Robert Frost Farm
photo by wendy wood

Derry’s best-known attraction is Robert Frost Farm, where he lived from 1900 to 1911 and where he wrote some of his best-loved poems. The house was restored to its appearance when the Frost family lived here, and their oldest daughter supervised the choice and arrangement of its furnishings. Original wallpapers were identified from fragments and the patterns finally located in a store in Plymouth, NH. The soapstone kitchen sink is the same one used by the Frosts, and their Royal Doulton china is among several original Frost items here. Especially significant about the farm is the part it played in Frost’s work. Most of the poems in his first two books were written here, as were a number in his 1916 “Mountain Interval.” Frost once said, “There was something about the experience at Derry which stayed in my mind, and was tapped for poetry in the years that came after.”

Before leaving the house to walk along the Hyla Brook Trail, we contributed to its preservation by buying a slice of the maple tree that inspired Tree at My Window.” When the original maple had to be cut down, sections of limbs were sliced into “cookies” still sold to Frost admirers.

Lunch

We had planned on MaryAnn's Diner, a replica 1950s diner that has won several Best of New Hampshire awards, but found that on weekends they serve only the breakfast menu. So we walked on down Broadway to The Halligan Tavern, a pub housed in the old fire station, where we ordered creamy, lightly herbed fish chowder filled with chunks of haddock and red potatoes, and a deliciously rich onion soup made with Porter ale.

Taylor Up and Down Sawmill

photo by wendy wood

Saturday Afternoon

We were lucky to be in Derry on a Saturday when the Taylor Up and Down Sawmill was running. Although this is not the original mill that operated here from 1805, it is one of the same type and age that was found in Sandown, NH, where it had been disassembled and stored under a barn. Re-assembled on the site of the old Taylor mill, it operates on a 12-foot-diameter water wheel, and can cut logs up to 28 inches in diameter. After watching a log be sawn into boards, we walked a bit of the Rockingham Recreational Trail, which passes through the property on its 18-mile route between the historic rail depots in Sandown and Windham. 

Dinner at Amphora Restaurant

In our search for ethnic cuisines, we could have chosen from several Chinese restaurants in Derry, but opted for the most authentic Greek meal we’ve found in the state. We began with Saganaki: sizzling hot Kasseri cheese in an Ouzo-lemon sauce with grilled pita. Along with this hot appetizer we had Dolmades, grape leaves stuffed with lemon-scented rice and sprinkled with tangy feta cheese. For entrées we settled on Psari-Sto-Filo -— fresh haddock in a creamy white wine and mushroom sauce, baked into filo pastry — and slow-braised shanks of grass-fed lamb served with lemon-oregano potatoes. We made room for crispy-sweet baklava with our coffee. 

Saturday Evening

After dinner we enjoyed our fireplace in the Juniper Suite, our room at Tiffany Gardens. The large room has cathedral ceilings and windows overlooking the garden (as did our private deck, but the evening was a bit chilly for that).

Clam Haven
photo by wendy wood

Sunday Morning

After a breakfast of waffles and bacon (preceded by hot muffins), we set out to the Derry History Museum. Here we learned about Derry’s prominent figures: Revolutionary War hero General John Stark (of “Live Free or Die” fame), Declaration of Independence signer Matthew Thornton, education pioneer Mary Lyon and astronaut Alan Shepard. The displays on local Native American culture include a dug-out canoe discovered at the bottom of Beaver Lake. We were surprised to learn that Ocean-Born Mary lived here, and to see a piece of her wedding dress, made from the green silk brocade that features so prominently in her story.

Sunday Afternoon

For lunch, we got a taste of summer, with our first fried clams of the season, at Clam Haven, then drove around Derry to find historic sites we’d learned about at the museum: the 1730 Town Pound on Mammoth Road, Plummer’s Tavern at its intersection with Rte. 102, and the marker noting that the first potato ever grown in the United States was grown in by Irish immigrants in Nutfield, now a part of Derry. 

 

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