February Road Trip: Giddy Yum!
Start and end with chocolate Take your Valentine on a romantic ride through the state's "Currier & Ives Corner," beginning at a chocolatier in Keene. Leave Central Square in downtown Keene via West Street, with a stop at Ye Goodie Shoppe, beside the Colony Mill Marketplace, for chocolate truffles and traditional heart-shaped boxes of handmade chocolates. Just past the mill buildings, turn left onto Island Street, then right on Winchester Street, going straight through the roundabout onto Route 10 South. Just past Hamshaw's, go left onto Matthews Road and follow it to the end. To your left is Cresson covered bridge. Pause for a second inside to observe the New England tradition that gave rise to their nickname as "kissing bridges" before continuing along Sawyers Crossing Road. At the T go left, then join Route 32 South, going straight ahead. In about a mile turn left onto Carleton Road to cross Carlton covered bridge. There is rarely any traffic here, so there is more time to observe old traditions properly. Follow Carleton Road, bearing right, into East Swanzey, turning left onto Flat Roof Mill Road. At its end turn right onto Route 12, heading south to Troy. Take a left on Jaffrey Road to its intersection with Route 124. Go right, past views of Mt. Monadnock on the left, through the pretty village of Jaffrey Center, where the Inn at Jaffrey Center offers fireside fine dining. Route 124 leads into Jaffrey, where Alice Blue Antiques, on your right opposite the common, is well worth a stop for a nostalgic bauble or perhaps a romantic bit of fine antique European needlework or French lace. Continue through both intersections and bear slightly right, following Squantum Road and signs to Woodbound Inn. The newly renovated inn, now the home of Aylmer's Grille, has - in addition to fine dining - rooms with double tubs. Relax by the fireplace after cross-country skiing through their snow-covered meadows and woods. Return to Squantum Road and go right then left to encounter Route 124 again. Make a left, then a quick right to follow Spring Hill Road, which leads into Sharon Road before merging into Route 101 in Peterborough. Look carefully at the sign for Kernel Bakery on the left, just before the Noone Falls mills - if it says "Open," come to a nose-down stop to turn left and indulge in a bagful of buttery cookies. Or take home the best croissants this side of Paris (some say even better) for tomorrow's breakfast. After crossing Route 101 onto Grove Street, watch on the left for Ava Marie Chocolates, another chance to spoil your sweetie with sweets. Their turtles were named "Best of NH" in 2008. Continue into the center of Peterborough, turning right on School Street to Depot Square. Here you'll find Twelve Pine, a good place for lunch or teatime, with a tempting selection of wholesome goodies and custom-built sandwiches. Toadstool Bookstore is adjacent, as is the Sharon Arts Center's gallery shop with fine handmade crafts. Return to Keene by the more direct Route 101 in order to stop at Unbridled Chocolates on the left in Marlborough. While all their chocolates are delectable and you might want to take home a selection of their hot cocoa mixes for a cold winter evening, 'tis the season for their exclusive aphrodisiac chocolates. Seven natural herbs are blended in a soft chocolate ganache, then surrounded by rich Belgian chocolate. Warning: Don't nibble on these until you're safely home. Even remote Carlton Bridge has some traffic!