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When the livin' is easy, find a veranda and sit a spell

Email|Print| Text size + By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / May 28, 2006

On those summer evenings when the living is easy, Gary and Linda Moore like to make the drive from their home in Bradford, Vt., to New Hampshire's White Mountains in search of that perfect warm weather combination -- a cool drink, a rocking chair, and a veranda.

At the Mountain View Grand Hotel in Whitefield, N.H., the Moores order something light from the bar menu and then adjourn to the veranda to take in the south-facing landscape of fountain, golf course, and the mountain range with names like Adams, Madison, Jefferson, and Washington.

A little later, they make the 20-minute drive to the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, N.H., for a glass of wine on its 900-foot wraparound veranda, the longest in New England. In this serene outdoor space, with its wicker chairs, rockers, and hanging plants, they watch as the sun sets, painting the top of Mount Washington in color while the base is cloaked in darkness.

For the Moores, who grew up on farms, a veranda recalls evenings spent on a farmhouse porch where family and friends gathered to sit, chat, and rock.

``To me, the rocker is key," said Gary Moore, a retired educator. ``When we were growing up, sitting on the porches on our rockers was a release. Back in the ' 50s, it was a quieter time and life wasn't quite so hectic."

The veranda is quintessential New England , a place where life can still slow down. Wooden planks might creak underfoot. The view can be breathtaking or modest. The veranda can be the site of elegant evenings or a place of comfort for those who want to sit and think. It offers alfresco dining at its best.

A veranda can also be a spot to be seen or to take in a scene. The Red Lion Inn on Main Street in Stockbridge, has such a porch. Two stone lions guard the entry to the white-columned, 200-year-old Berkshire inn that once served as a stagecoach stop between Boston and Albany, N.Y.

People-watching from the black-and-white rockers here has long been a popular pastime.

Joseph Hodges Choate, a famous New York lawyer and ambassador to the Court of St. James (1899-1905), who built nearby Naumkeag as the family summer estate, was quoted saying, ``If anyone sat long enough on the Red Lion Inn veranda, he would see pass everyone worth knowing."

Still worth knowing are the red-jacketed servers who shuttle drinks between the Widow Bingham's Tavern inside and the front porch and back brick porch in the courtyard.

Another well-known veranda is the double-decker version at the Deerfield Inn on historic Deerfield's charming Old Main Street, which has been drawing visitors since 1884. Guests of the inn have access to the upstairs porch, while the public can enjoy drinks on the street level across from the Federal-style Stebbins House and steps from Deerfield Academy.

The veranda boasts gray rockers and has a pale blue ceiling on both levels. The color was chosen in the 1880s as a way to keep birds from nesting. At least that is the tale told by innkeeper Jane Howard Sabo.

There is also a resident ghost named Hershel. The story goes that the playful spirit is around only when children stay at the inn, and he apparently has a thing for the rockers on the veranda.

``It can be a perfectly still day, the porch empty, no wind , and one of the rockers is going back and forth," Sabo said. ``It is a phenomenon."

O ptions for veranda viewing abound across New England.

In Rhode Island, a wraparound porch overlooks Narragansett Bay and a collection of bears, elephants, and more than 20 other creatures at the Brayton House at the Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth. Rocking chairs are there for relaxing, but no food or beverage service.

In New Hampshire, golfers can play nine holes at the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson and then walk across the road for a sip and sit on the veranda. On the coast, the renovated Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle has a wraparound porch with rocking Adirondack chairs and a whirlpool.

The blue waters of Lake Willoughby ripple beyond the porch at the Fox Hall Inn, a bed -and -breakfast in Westmore, Vt., near the top of the Green Mountain State. The southerly Inn at Manchester's front porch is just a short hop from the center of town.

Spring through fall, the porch at the White Hart Inn , looking out on the Salisbury , Conn., village green , is a popular lunch and dinner spot in the Litchfield Hills in the northwest part of the state. Manicured lawns and gardens, including one named for Shakespeare, are among the elegant vistas from the Mayflower Inn veranda in Washington, Conn.

The wraparound porch on the hillside Five Gables Inn overlooking the lobster and pleasure boats on Linekin Bay in East Boothbay, Maine, is a place to both start and wind down the day with breakfast and afternoon tea. The porch is decorated with green wicker furniture, hanging baskets of fuchsia, rockers, and a well-placed hammock to relax in the breeze.

Tea is informal , a chance for guests to munch on homemade chocolate chip cookies and sip something warm or cool from the kitchen of Mike and De Kennedy, who have run the Victorian bed -and -breakfast for 10 years.

To the Kennedys, the porch is a reminder of De's childhood in northern Georgia, where her family has a Civil War-era home with three porches. ``We were what you call porch dogs," Mike said .

The tradition of rocking and rambling in the evenings down South was well documented. In summer 1993, the pair found a diary that belonged to De's great-grandparents; it was written when her relatives were about the same age as the Kennedys are today .

``And they were doing the exact same thing we were doing -- 100 years earlier -- sitting out on the porch," Mike said. `` When we bought the inn, we brought that mind-set with us."

Contact Marty Basch, a freelance writer in Center Conway, N.H., at marty@martybasch.com.

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