“I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,” wrote poet Theodore Roethke of a lady love, and we often feel the same about certain New England seacoast towns. Now that the throngs of visitors have departed and wealthy summer folk have retreated to warmer climes, Kennebunkport and Newport are lovely indeed in their bones. They have a kind of spare beauty that shines brightly in the winter light, and boast romantic, warm retreats. Here’s how they stack up on some amorous essentials:
Newport: Michele De Luca-Verley has a bewitching way with the artisanal chocolates that she makes for La Maison de Coco (28 Bellevue Ave., 401-845-2626, www.lamaisondecoco.com). She crafts her tea-infused truffles daily with fresh cream from a nearby dairy. Customers find the flavor of the caramel truffle comfortingly familiar, but as a winter warmer, De Luca-Verley recommends the ginger truffle or one she calls La Forêt (cinnamon and plum).
Kennebunkport: Summer crowds glom onto the saltwater taffy and the unctuous
fudge at The Candy Man (20 Dock Square, 201-967-5693), but this time of year the shop is perhaps best known for turtles, including dark chocolate with cashews, milk chocolate with pecans, and an unusual coffee turtle. Many of the handmade truffles sound like bar concoctions (Kahlua white Russian, Irish Cream). They come in two sizes — a dainty bite, or a larger one, ideal for sharing.
Advantage: Newport. La Maison de Cocoalso serves a killer hot chocolate.
Newport: Caswell-Massey, self-proclaimed as “America’s original purveyor of luxury personal care products,” was founded in Newport in 1752. Not surprisingly, the Newport Historical Society’s Museum & Shop at Brick Market (127 Thames St., 401-841-8770) carries virtually the entire line, from soap, body dust, and cologne in the Elixir of Love scent (one of the company’s earliest) to Number Six (George Washington’s favorite) and Jockey Club (for those who want to smell like JFK).
Kennebunkport: Soft jazz playing in the background sets the mood at Compliments Gallery (Dock Square, 207-967-2269, www.complimentsgallery.com), which features beautiful things made by artisans from Maine and across the country. There are plenty of choices for men and women alike, from handblown martini glasses and beer steins to felted wool and silk scarves to comic ceramic car sculptures that can be customized with your own likenesses in the passenger’s and driver’s seats.
Advantage: Newport. The shop staff are a font of historic gossip tidbits (be sure to ask about the Quaker love triangle).
Newport: Built for an 18th-century shipping merchant, the Francis Malbone House (392 Thames St., 800-846-0392 or 401-846-0392,
www.malbone.com) combines authentic history, sumptuous comfort, and perfect downtown location. Many rooms have working fireplaces, as do the elegant parlors.
Kennebunkport: Although not the most lavish of the town’s bed-and-breakfast inns in sea captains’ manses, the Captain Jefferds Inn (5 Pearl St., 800-839-6844 or 207-967-2311, www.captainjefferdsinn.com) has some truly unique rooms. “Assisi,” for example, has a fireplace and a separate indoor garden with flowing fountain, while “Arundel” has a king bed, a three-sided fireplace, and a two-person whirlpool.
Advantage: Newport. The Malbone afternoon tea is a formidable feast of cakes, tarts, and cookies.
Newport: The city’s island-tip location means that fierce winds sweep its otherwise romantic shoreline in the winter. But there’s romance inland as well. Try popping the question by the ruins of the Old Stone Mill in Touro Park. The Newport Tower, as it’s also known, was probably built in the 17th century for Rhode Island’s first Colonial governor. Romantically minded mystery mongers, however, suggest it was constructed by medieval Vikings or 15th-century Chinese sailors.
Kennebunkport: It’s hard for your beloved to turn down a marriage proposal proffered on the seashore, making any place along Ocean Avenue a good candidate, though the benches overlooking Walker’s Point have the best Winslow Homer views. Sunset can be spectacular.
Advantage: Newport. Romance should come with a little mystery attached.
Newport: Why are the best nightspots often underground? Head down the stairs at the Perry Mill for live rock at the otherwise sports-obsessedRhino Bar & Grille (337 Thames St., 401-846-0707, www.therhinobar.com) and its DJ-centric dance room, Tusk. Locally brewed Newport Storm is on tap.Continued...