Where to do your holiday shopping in the Port City

Charming Portsmouth and its array of shops is an excellent place to get in the holiday spirit.

Put a halo of mistletoe over the city of Portsmouth; you’re about to kiss the holiday shopping blues goodbye. Pure New England charm weaves its way through this city on the harbor where tradition and history are treasured and gift-giving is as sacred as a song. 

Pickwick’s Mercantile is brilliant with a capital “B” for “bring it on.” You will, I promise, discover something for someone, if not everyone, on your holiday list in this shop full of European flair. You’ll find men’s shaving kits beautifully packaged ($22), perfumery from Santa Maria Novella, handmade leather bags from Campomaggi ($595), British schoolgirl genuine leather shoulder bags ($75), marionettes for imaginative children, books, toys, soaps and more (a message in a bottle, $5). Check out the flannel shirts (washed 30 times); they fly out of here. The staff here is helpful and dressed as in days gone by.

Sincere apologies to the candy cane, but I do believe it can be replaced and, with great honor, may I suggest a lovely dark caramel with fleur de sel, hand-dipped in silky chocolate and sprinkled lovingly with sea salt crystals. Byrne & Carlson presents some of the finest chocolates and candies in the area. The truffles are made with real cream, the pure fruit jellies burst with flavor and the coconut squares dipped in milk chocolate are ridiculous. In all fairness, the traditional handmade candy canes are rather special. This handsome confectionery shop has a huge following, so order early.

Practical and functional describes most of the unique items you will find at Off Piste, one of the newest stores in Portsmouth whose name means “off trail.” Look for the popular over-shoulder waterproof bags by Bailey Works (local); they can accommodate a laptop, running shoes, a toothbrush and maybe a nightshirt (wink). The locally handmade skateboards from recycled wood are best-sellers. Check out the wooden coffee scoop that also functions as a bag sealer ($12) for a great office gift. The pocket IQ test ($10) is a great stocking stuffer.

The hottest trend in cooking is to make vegetables look like noodles, and there’s no better place to check out the selection of spiralizers than at LeRoux Kitchen. The GEFU Spirelli spiral slicer (looks like a pencil sharpener) can turn a zucchini into a pasta-like noodle quicker than you can say Godfather. Look for a large selection of olive oils and vinegars (tasting stations!) with one of the biggest sellers being the 18-year-old aged balsamic for $15.99. Bring in your own bottle and just pay for refills. The compost bins are lovely and make great gifts. Look for knives, cookware, baking ware and any kitchen essential you can imagine; this store is packed full and the staff is enthusiastic and helpful.

Gus & Ruby Letterpress is a must-stop if you want to make the holidays personal, funny and totally hip. You’ll find holiday cards (yes, custom is still available) as well as an amazing collection of laugh-out-loud cards (“I’m starting to regret some of your tattoos”) and other topics. The over-sized Wrapping Paper Calendar — each month featuring a different beautiful black-and-white floral pattern that can be used as wrapping paper at the end of the month — is brilliant. Look for journals, planners, calendars, desk items and an entire section for personalized invitations and announcements. Gift wrap, beautiful twines and other embellishments will inspire you. This lovely shop spills cuteness.

Sparkle when you walk into the room wearing anything from Angelica’s Muse. This stylish boutique is full of fashion and personal service. Look for great looks from Eileen Fisher (made well, great fabric, not flashy and totally timeless), Comfy, Joseph Ribkoff and more. If you love leggings and the layered look, look for the ponte pant by Elliott Lauren, which might be a better fit for office wear. The cashmere sweaters from Margaret O’Leary almost guarantee lingering nights in front of a fire. Friendly, helpful staff makes you feel as if you’re on a girls’ weekend.

Frye boots at Bliss
Photo by Liz Davenport

Frye boots are sizzling hot and Bliss is the place to find them. This upscale boutique explodes with fashion and sophistication. The long cloak hoodies by Prairie Underground (Seattle) are adorable and oh so warm.  Look for some great thermal tops and a return of the cowl neckline! Frye boots, Tom’s shoes and Citizens of Humanity jeans abound. The original signature satin wrap dresses (you can wrap it in several different ways to create a whole different look) are beautiful and come in a stunning array of colors.

Pretty Poppy is a jewelry and accessory store that is irresistible. Expect to find affordable and trendy (designer-like) jewelry for all ages and occasions. Look for flower petal headbands, sophisticated and personalized fabric duffel bags, over-sized purses and diaper bags, scarves, fashionable and colorful readers ($6) and so much more. The silver necklaces that can be customized with an initial, birthstone and an inspirational phrase are lovely. The watches make great arm candy. Friends who “like” Pretty Poppy on Facebook get a ton of perks, including flash sales and chances to win $25 gift cards every month.

Put “yourself” on your gift list and indulge at Janegee. This bath and beauty shop features more than 75 products created and developed by the store’s owner, Jane Gee, who is both a holistic esthetician and aroma therapist. Products are all-natural and contain no chemicals. The Three in One Acne cleansing treatment has shown incredible results and is a big seller. Look for lotions, bath balms, spritzers, moisturizers and more. The Turkish bath pestemals ($36) are lighter and more absorbent than a traditional towel and come in several sizes and colors. Private skin consultations and customized products and treatment plans are available.

Macroscopic is your go-to place for thoughtful gift, home décor and all things nautical. The weathervanes (mermaids, lobsters) are gorgeous and truly make a special gift for new homeowners. You’ll find beautiful sea glass art, up-cycled wood frames (wood from old pieces that come with a history) as well as jewelry and some great ideas for stocking stuffers, especially the pewter wishbones ($7). Next door is a whole different matter. Macro Polo will have you busting your gut with gag gifts galore. Look for pink flamingos, toys, tricks, whoopee cushions and “fart” candy. (Did I say that? Potty mouth!)