O Little Town: Start the Holidays in Bethlehem

Bethlehem, incorporated on December 25, 1799, is the perfect place to begin the season.ItinerarySaturday MorningWe awoke in the room where Cary Grant and Barbara Hutton honeymooned, in the turreted corner of what was then the Woolworth family's summer "cottage." It was built in 1908 by Sylvanus D. Morgan, who'd only recently completed the nearby Mount Washington Hotel. The Adams Room (I think it should be the Cary Grant Room) features original birds-eye maple woodwork and curved glass in the turret and Art Deco light fixtures. Over hearty breakfast our host told us about the Mulburn Inn's other glittering guests, including Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. Our interest in Bethlehem's history piqued, we followed a walking tour map of other historic buildings with architecture from high Victorian to Arts and Crafts, including a Sears Roebuck house and a pagoda.LunchBack on Main Street, a row of brightly painted shop-fronts ended at Terra On Main, where we ate burgers and really good fries. November wasn't quite the season to sit on their wrap-around porch.Saturday AfternoonFor a town Bethlehem's size, the shops are amazing. Anchoring the colorful commercial block is Local Works Marketplace, filled with works by 200-plus local artisans. We were wowed by the talent displayed here in mediums from glass and gold to wool and wood. We bought Christmas cards and checked off almost half our list. At Interiors Green we found a Ghana market basket for only $35, and a toasty organic wool-filled comforter. The adjacent antiques shop turned up White Mountain memorabilia for my collection, then on to Ragamuffins. Like WREN's, its changing variety never fails to surprise us. We added gift cards and pottery by owner Barbara Thompson.Dinner at Cold Mountain CaféWe'd had wonderful lunches here, but never dinner. After splitting a starter of dates stuffed with local chevre and wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, we savored rack of lamb cooked exactly as ordered, and grilled pork tenderloin with lemon-rosemary sauce. No room for desserts, but the espresso was piping hot.Saturday EveningFortunately, because that was not a dinner to rush through, nothing was playing across the street at The Colonial Theatre, one of America's oldest continuously operated movie houses. So we returned to relax in front of the Mulburn Inn's parlor fireplace.Sunday MorningAfter breakfast, we bundled up and headed for The Rocks Estate, another of the summer homes where the wealthy escaped the city heat. Today the 1,400-acre farm is a conservation and education center for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. We toured most of it on the four-plus-mile Michael A. Gozzo Trail, exploring woodlands and overgrown apple orchards, past beaver ponds and wetlands. The farm's crop today is Christmas trees, and we ended our hike by cutting our own. We picked up a few final gifts and a balsam wreath at the Marketplace - The Rocks' holiday crafts show.Sunday AfternoonBy now it was mid-afternoon, so before leaving Bethlehem we stopped for a late lunch at Maia Papaya. The sign says coffee and tea, but they serve custom-built sandwiches and hand-made desserts. My sandwich was great, but completely overshadowed by maple shoofly pie. We bought cookies for the ride home.
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