Last week for our area it was officially February vacation. It's so hard to believe it has come and gone.

One thing is for sure, time does move fast. I hate to admit it, but I was honestly jealous of all the great places friends and families were traveling to.

I wish I could use a better word, but I just can't find one or make one up. I was just plain jealous. It's kind of funny, too, because I haven't said it to anyone else, but I feel comfortable telling you. When someone would mention where they were headed I was sincerely happy for them and couldn't wait to hear about their adventures, but that little voice in my head was screaming "I want to go, too!"

It just wasn't the right time for us. You know – money, time and a bunch of other worries. I tried to convince my family we should drive the 12 or 13 hours to Virginia Beach but given there are no guarantees with the weather and that we would all be stuck in the car together for hours, that idea was voted down quickly.

Finally, I settled into the reality that just like Presidents Day weekend was for us, this would be another Staycation Week. Staycation actually makes it sound fun and unplanned. I wonder who came up with that word. I'd like to thank them.

Just for fun, I googled "staycation." The word was actually started by a Canadian comedian named Brent Butt back in 2003. I guess it doesn't surprise me that a comic would have come up with it. He tossed the phrase out there during one of his performances and then somehow in 2008 it started to be used in the U.S. It looks like it was connected to the big gas crunch we were experiencing then. Remember when gas prices went through the roof? Airline tickets were too expensive and even driving long distances was cost prohibitive. Alas, the word Staycation was born.

Here's a quick rundown of our adventures and a few great people along the way we hope to meet again. One of the first days, we headed to Portsmouth, not too far away but far enough to make you feel like you did something different.

On this trip we decided to just walk around the city. We met so many great people but I will tell you about two here.

Dave Campbell, who owned a little wine shop by the water for 25 years and now runs an art gallery there — somehow we got talking to Dave about so much of the history of the state. Surprisingly, Dave had a connection to our area. He told us that back when Londonderry and Derry were settled, Londonderry became known as home to Presbyterians and Derry home to Catholic settlers. Dave's family was part of the Campbell legacy that played a major role in this.

While were were talking to Dave, Black Trumpet owner Evan Mallett came by to say hello. About nine years ago when he first opened his award-winning restaurant, he welcomed John and I in and offered us some of his fresh bread and homemade butter right before his restaurant opened for the evening. John and I had a little break away from the girls and Evan saw us peeking in his window. Evan didn't remember us but we will never forget him.

What to do with the rest of our staycation week? We were really struggling, too cold up north, not warm enough other places. Prom dress hunting saved us early in the week, but by Wednesday we had nothing.

There are some people who are always there to help others even when their own plate is full. Well, Donna Andronico is one of those people. I sent her an SOS text asking if she had any ideas and within seconds she responded back.

Her top thought was Newport, Rhode Island. I thought, we haven't been there for years. Thanks to Donna, we had a staycation plan. The perfect drive, low hotel prices and we could make a quick stop in Providence where John and I first dated to walk down memory lane with the girls.

One of our first dates was at the Capital Grill, and it will always be one of our favorite special occasion restaurants. John and I decided to surprise the girls there to start our 24-hour staycation. We walked in, sat down and our waiter Joe MacLeod came right over. He was personable, friendly and a veteran and made us feel like we were the most important people in his life for that hour. He loved his job, he told us he loved taking care of people and it showed. At the end of our meal, we asked Joe if we could take a picture with him because we would never forget him. When we left we all hugged too. Imagine if we could all make such a difference in others' lives. Our Farrell Family hat goes off to Joe.

When he heard we were headed to Newport, he even suggested the best Mexican restaurant we have ever been too out of our area. Newport stole our hearts. Did you know it's one of the few places in New England where you can watch the sunrise over the ocean and then at the end of the day you can find a place close by to watch the sunset over the ocean.

Now this is how our staycation ended...we ate a very late breakfast because we really didn't want to leave. We were the only ones in the hotel restaurant but then two great guys came in and sat next to us. I noticed the shirt on one of them. It was black and said "Gronk Fitness" on it. You know me, I had to ask what what that all about. Dan Bonato with the greatest welcoming smile told us that he was there with "Gronk's" brother Gordan for a fitness trade show. Mr. Gronkowski, the father, started Gronk Fitness more than 25 years ago when the family was young and before he knew any of his five sons would be so involved in the world of sports. We talked about all sorts of things, health, how Rob Gronkowski is doing, and giving back to communities and being involved. Another picture moment, handshakes, the best smiles and one more beautiful ride around Ocean Drive when it was just eight degrees outside. What I learned this week was that I will never underestimate a staycation week again.

Sherry Farrell is the Londonderry town clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.


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