The light at the end of . . .

Where’s the hotel?

. . . the tunnel. Literally. It’s not Boston’s Big Dig but it’s certainly been long-awaited. The tunnel project in downtown Lebanon that will connect the Northern Rail Trail and the Mascoma River Greenway is almost complete. Details about the Grand Opening on July 8 and the tunnel’s public art will be coming in a later post here on Artful.

The project in downtown Leb on a late Sunday afternoon still featured orange construction signs and forbidding fences, and the panels of the tunnel’s overhead glass skylight on the plaza remained covered, opaque. But the walk to the tunnel entrance was worth it just to peer through and glimpse the square of green and sun on the other side. (Photo, top)

Meanwhile, Lebanon was on a simmering bustle in the heat. Toddlers crawling on the playground equipment, late afternoon diners outdoors at Salt Hill Pub, servers buffing tables at Three Tomatoes in anticipation of the dinner crowd. Colburn Park, a/k/a the town green, was open after completion of a recent project that included replacement of the park’s walkways. The smooth asphalt is welcoming to those traversing the park on scooters and in wheelchairs, as well as to we of the exceedingly weak ankles.

The diners who are enthusiastically returning to outdoor seating at Three Tomatoes and Salt Hill Pub have choices not just on Court and Park Streets, respectively, but in expanding spaces on the pedestrian mall. Spiffy new tables and chairs for Three Tomatoes (photo above) offer Euro-chic seating options.

Now, where’s the boutique hotel in downtown Lebanon? The visual arts at AVA Gallery, the performing arts at Lebanon Opera House and the Upper Valley Music Center, the convivial atmosphere of indoor/outdoor seating at the town’s restaurants, the farmers’ market and concerts and picnic tables in the greenery of Colburn Park, the park-side food trucks, and now, the miles and miles of a scenic biking and walking trail . . . Downtown Lebanon NH could be destination travel.

(Photos by Susan B. Apel)

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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.

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