Maine - May 2006 Megamail

Well, it seems that it wasn't too long ago you received a very tardy Spain Megamail so it should be refreshing to receive one from a completely new location. Ah, I can feel the gratefulness already! We went to Maine over Memorial Day this year. And as you are receiving this a mere two months after that, this sucker is down right early compared to the previous Megamail that was delivered almost six months after the fact.


This was our first trip using a new carrier in Richmond, JetBlue. Our flights would take us through JFK in New York, and then on to Portland, Maine. And I have to say that as far as airlines go, JetBlue was pretty darn good. Although we experienced delays on just about every flight due to weather in New York, everything else concerning our trip was delightful.

This began with our flight from Richmond, which kept on being pushed back, and back and back. Eventually we looked at our connecting flight and said to ourselves that we aren't going to make that connection (assuming it was still on time itself). A few minutes later we were called up to the desk and issued new boarding passes to reflect that we were moved to a later flight from NYC to Portland. And we didn't have to do anything to get that. That is an example of the type of service you don't see much of anymore on any airline.

Of course, the individual DirecTV sets didn't hurt either. They even include the Weather Channel so you can verify weather-related issues wherever you are headed. And heck, they still give you a choice of snacks and beverages on the flights. All this, and for much less than the normal carriers charge!!! As long as they keep their safety up, I'm all for flying JetBlue in the future.

Oh, and the terminal in JFK has free wireless Internet which is a huge plus. The only drawback is that these areas often have bench seating which means selfish bastards will sprawl out to take a nap, preventing people with computers access to the power outlets in the area. Bastards!

So, due to flight delays, we couldn't make it all they way to Dana and Kiersten's that night as planned. Oh... some explanation is necessary. Dana and Kiersten, friends from Richmond, also have a house in Maine. Kiersten is from Maine and this was her childhood home. We've been trying to get there for years and finally got schedules aligned to make it happen now. They live a good 3-4 hour drive away from Portland along the coast on Gouldsboro Bay... the bay shaped like a lobster.

As we arrived to Portland pushing midnight, we only drove up to Bangor that night which is about a two hour drive from Portland instead of making it all the way to Corea.


After getting some much needed sleep, we drove the rest of the way to Dana and Kiersten's place. Now that it was daylight, we could finally glimpse how beautiful Maine was. You immediately get the feeling you are 'way up there' because it is so green and it still has that Route 66 feel with stores and restaurants built up along the roads, but not a whole lot in between.

The bountiful artisan galleries are kind of like the bison in Yellowstone: the first one you see is precious and memorable, but then you are just sick of them before you leave because they are *everywhere*. Well, that may be a little harsh, but rest assured, if you want to spend money on artsy stuff, you have a near infinite number of choices.

After taking some wrong turns (signage in Ellsworth is horrible) we finally arrived at our oasis on the coast later that morning. We were promptly given a tour of the grounds, which has a secluded feel, yet offers an outstanding view of Gouldsboro Bay. The house itself was very charming, filled with books on all topics and topped with a rooftop deck, which provides for maximum relaxation and star gazing potential.

Soon we were off to discover the Gouldsboro Peninsula and surrounding areas. Our first stop was Bartlett's, the first winery in Maine. As there isn't much in the way of grape activity in Maine, they used what they had at hand: apples, pears, blueberries and other fruits not normally associated with wine. We tried several wines and came away liking the Coastal Red and the Semi-Dry Pear the best. But the fruity dessert wines are a must. We bought several bottles to take back with us.

We then zipped over to Grindstone Neck. This was an interesting location. Apparently, a bunch of mega-rich people liked the area so they built several extremely large houses on this peninsula that sticks out of the Gouldsboro Peninsula. And many of these mega-rich people have movie stars as friends so it isn't uncommon to be rubbing shoulders with them if you find yourself around here. I can't remember all the names that Kiersten rattled off, but I remember Martin Short for some reason.

It was rather interesting to hear Kiersten regal us with stories of when she was younger and how her 'neighborhood' was. It was also amazing to wonder how much these places cost and then it is even more astounding when one thinks that these houses aren't used but for a fraction of the year and that the owners probably have a few other places spread around the world. I just hate old money.

We then made our way to the eastern branch of Acadia National Park: Schoodic Point. If you find yourself heading past Acadia towards Nova Scotia, then you definitely want to make a detour to see this place. Maybe we just caught it at the right tides, but nature was putting on quite a show as the surf pounded the pink granite.

We spent a good hour or two investigating the rock formations along the coast. I have a particularly fond photo of Sam, Dana and Kiersten scrambling the rocks like little kids. It's always good to have that feeling, isn't it? Just be careful of the big black dikes. That's a little geological humor there.

After some more stories of Kiersten's youth and some shopping, we decided to get dinner early so that we could enjoy the sunset from their deck. We went to Fisherman's Inn in Winter Harbor.

It was kind of like a high school reunion for a while as all the waitresses came up to say hi to Kiersten and the rest of us. What I found interesting during all these talks was the number of jobs people had. Nobody had just one job because the economy in Maine is so seasonal. Our waitress was also a teacher, and a blueberry picker. Her husband was a blueberry picker, worked at the sardine factory and did cabinetry during the winter. I'm pretty sure I'm not even close to reality here, but you get the idea that people don't idle much.

I imagine this kind of professional existence has both pros and cons, but what I came away with more than anything was how hard working these people were. They weren't looking for no welfare! They worked hard and long and I found that work ethic very inspiring for some reason.

Sorry for rambling there... back to dinner. As this was Maine, seafood was in order and this place had lots of it. Not ready for lobster, I went for some sort of scallops dish that was quite tasty. Sam went with one of the house specials, which was good, but was definitely not worth the unadvertised price of $30+. To assist our meal we had some of the Bartlett's wine that we tried earlier in the day.

We enjoyed a very long dinner with lots of conversation and almost missed our opportunity to see the sunset, which was the whole reason for eating early to begin with so we dashed back to DAKIR's (DAnaKIeRsten's) house. There we enjoyed some brews while absorbing the miraculous sunset, followed by an even more astounding display of stars. I wish I would have remembered my astronomy because it was quite a show.


Sunday marked the arrival of yet two more guests to the oasis: Brian and Kathy, who now live in Manhattan and drove up for the occasion. But they would not arrive until much later in the day which allowed us to take in our first hike.

But before the hike, we visited a couple of art galleries. Actually, one of these galleries we saw the day before, but it seemed better to include it here. That one was U.S. Bells. They make a variety of, you guessed it, bells. No, not church bells, but bells you would put at the entrance of your house or chimes you might put in your back yard. We have one of these bells, a wedding gift from Dana and Kiersten, and the sound is awesome... even though Jake and Lola still get riled up when they hear it. What is impressive is that they do their entire forging right in their garage and if you time it right, they can put on quite an exhibition.

Another place we visited was Gull Rock Pottery. This house has an excellent location on an inlet with an awesome view of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia off in the distance. Their pottery tends to be somewhat limited in style, but voluminous in variety of dishes. Most pieces are blue and white, and though they have a few other color schemes, the selection in those lines is more limited. Then again, if you know exactly what you wanted and were willing to wait, they could make pretty much anything you wanted. We opted to get a scenic tile with a seakayaker near a coastal bluff in commemoration of our first seakayaking adventure later in the week.

We visited another gallery that specialized in ridiculously high priced paintings that in my opinion weren't all that good. I just didn't like the style that they painted in, which apparently I'm in the minority because otherwise those things wouldn't cost that much, right? Actually, I have a great social commentary on modern day artists near the end of this Megamail so don't stop reading now!!! I just wish I could remember the name of this gallery so that you could avoid the place.

For lunch we stopped in at Bob & Kathy's Kitchen for some sandwiches. I recommend the meatball sub as very filling. The lobster rolls that I saw at another table also looked pretty good. Amazingly enough, we met even more people that Kiersten knew.

Enough dilly-dallying, off to the hike we go which was to the top of Mount Gouldsboro. Now 'mountain' is a bit a stretch here as it is only 1500 feet tall, but it pretty much started at sea level so it is the full 1500 feet. But still, it isn't like we're climbing to the top of McKinley or anything.

The same trailhead leads to a well-used swimming pond so there were a lot of cars in the lot, but the numbers on the trail to the peak were very few. But everybody we met during our assent indicated the black flies were brutal. Black flies are much worse than mosquitoes, if you can believe it.

The view at the top offers pretty much a 360 view of the surrounding area atop a treeless, rocky flat peak. Actually, most of the hills we climbed in Maine had the same MO. This, of course, makes for excellent vistas and makes the hikes well worth it.

But, sure enough, the black flies soon rose to epidemic levels and required reapplication of our insect repellent and immediate evacuation. The black flies are worse than mosquitoes because the marks they leave behind are much larger, uglier, bloodier and stick around forever. Poor Sam looked like Dracula had her for lunch.

After our hike we headed to the Corea co-op to purchase lobsters for that evening's feast. Unfortunately, our hike took too long and we missed our opportunity at the freshest lobster anywhere. But we did get a good explanation of the lobster industry in Maine from Kiersten who patiently answered all of our newbie questions.

The next thing we did was hike around Corea Beach at low-tide, one of Kiersten's most favorite activities. Now, 'beach' is a term that I think downeasters (sorry, I had to show off some Maine slang) use a little too liberally. Maybe it is because I grew up apart of the SI Swimsuit generation, but to me a beach involves sand, blistering sun and scantily clad goddesses informing me how sexy I am.

Many 'beaches' in Maine, although truly majestic and worth a visit, aren't what I would qualify as a beach. Especially distressing to me was the lack of scantily clad women. But I digress.

Our hike along the shore, and because it was low tide, out to an island, as the sun started to drop in the West was just what the doctor ordered. I had the same feeling I had the day before at Schoodic Point. Just a kid again jumping from rock to rock, boulder to boulder. I even skipped previously misclassified unskippable stones. Pure joy!

Brian and Kathy took their sweet time arriving (probably hoodwinked by all those art galleries along the highway), so we decided to meet them out to eat for dinner at the other fine restaurant in Winter Harbor: Bunker's Wharf. There is actually a third restaurant that was pointed out to us, but that was described to us as the Crisco Cafe because everything was deep-fried.

That night Sam dove into a lobster, I love how courageous she is, while I probably stuck with something safe like a seafood pasta. Sam made excellent work of the red critter and the waitress made some Picasso quality artwork from its tentacles. To accompany our dinner we again had some Bartlett's wine.

We were the last ones to leave and the restaurant rid some leftover bread by giving it to us. It would come in handy the next day for sandwiches. We then returned to DAKIR's for cocktails and conversation.


Acadia, which is about a 45-minute drive from Corea, could wait no longer for us. Our plans were pretty open-ended, but what we knew for certain was that we were going to hike up to Cadillac Mountain. Now, one can drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, but where is the adventure in that?

After loading up on some picnic supplies in Bar Harbor, we parked at the Wild Gardens of Acadia and then hiked up Dorr Mountain. This smaller mountain is immediately next to Cadillac and provides the ardent trailblazer to claim they hiked two peaks at once. One then has to descend a little bit into a ravine before finishing the climb to Cadillac. This was a pretty strenuous hike, but not that long. For those of you who have been there before, we did not take the trail with the ladders.

On top of Cadillac, I was reminded that Acadia once belonged to the Rockefellers. Just imagine owning that entire beautiful island and that wondrous view. And it still might be theirs if weren't for their charity.

We lingered on the top of Cadillac for quite some time before returning to the cars. We took a different way down than on the way up, along the Canyon Brook trail. And I would have to say, the route we took was definitely the way to go. The descent was very gradual and provided ample opportunities to peer out at the ocean. If you were hiking the other way, your back would have been turned to all that beauty.

The Canyon Brook trail was a hike worth it just by itself, but to combine it with the trip up to Cadillac made for perhaps the most enjoyable hike of my life, and I've had several good ones.

We then drove down to Otter Point to inhale our lunch. Our group rather quickly came to the consensus that physical activity was no longer on the menu for the day. Instead, we drove to Jordan Pond, which has an excellent view of the Breasts... I mean Bubbles. If you see these things you'd make the same mistake, trust me.

And then to round out the day we went to Bar Harbor to consume some tall, cold beers and to perform the obligatory shopping ritual. I was kind of surprised how early things were closing down on Memorial Day, but whatever.

For dinner we went to the Jack Russell Brew Pub on the edge of town. As I recall, they had some pretty good beers, but I was a bit unimpressed with their entrees. I had a lobster tail that I thought was overcooked. They more than made up for it with a delicious blueberry pie alamode. Mmmm, I can still taste all the blueberries we had on this trip.


Tuesday's primary activity was a morning session of seakayaking with the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket. I'm just kidding!!! Seriously, in Prospect Harbor (notice how all the towns in Maine have 'Harbor' in their name?) a new company just opened up called Seascape Kayaking.

The guide for the seakayaking is a former Marine, and you definitely get that armed forces vibe from him. Which, I think, when paddling on the ocean for the first time in your life is a very good vibe to have. Actually, Ed was a really great guide, very friendly and didn't micromanage our poor kayaking form in any way. I wish him and his wife Cheryl the best of luck in their new adventure.

Our seakayaking trip, which is pretty much like regular kayaking, or canoeing, except the vessels are a bit larger, and thus more stable, put in on Grindstone Neck. We then paddled out to Turtle Island for a snack of blueberry scones and some trail mix before heading back. It was an awesome time and I look forward to doing it again some day.

After lunch, Sam and I parted from the Knee's to put 'Phase II' of the Maine vacation into motion. The first part, as you know, was spent with Brian, Dana, Kathy and Kiersten in Corea. The next part, was a B&B hop back to Portland. I think our write up in their guest book described the trip thus far: 'This doesn't suck!'

Our first night was in Camden. We wanted to do some sightseeing along the way, but we left DAKIR's way too late and pretty much had to boogie to get to Camden by the 6pm check-in. I guess that is one thing that I dislike about B&Bs... the early check-in. One place in particular that looked pretty nice was Belfast.

Camden is the quintessential touristy Maine coastal village that I'm sure everybody pictures in their minds when they think of touristy Maine villages. Certainly Bar Harbor has this down to a science, but Camden puts forth a commendable effort.

Our home for the evening was the Blue Harbor House which was right on US 1 just two or three blocks from the city center. I will say that everything was terrific about the establishment; however I have reservations about recommending it because of one big drawback. The room we stayed in was right next to US 1 and therefore was very noisy because it had a lot of traffic, especially early in the morning. So you might consider this when finding accommodations in Camden... find something off the main drag.

After getting settled in, we took a walk to downtown to see what was happening. Things were still definitely off-season as many stores were not open late. Therefore the only thing left was to find someplace to eat. There were several choices and we had a hard time picking one, but ended up at Cappy's Chowderhouse which has a 'fisherman's after work pub' feel to it.

By the time I am writing this I have long since forgotten what we had to eat, however I do remember that the chowder was indeed excellent. And the blueberry pie, although not as good as Jack Russell's, was a fine way to end the evening.


After a restless night of sleep due to our room's proximity to the busy highway right outside our window, we ate a very good breakfast offered by the B&B. The first course was some sort of poached pear in a fruit sauce and the second was an asparagus and asiago omelet. Juice, coffee and tea accompanied the meal, along with some sort of biscuit. Everything was very nice.

The activity scheduled for the day was to go hiking in nearby Camden Hills State Park, which was just a couple minutes drive north or Camden. Although it was not raining, it was very foggy. Upon arrival at the park's gate, the gatekeeper said it was no point to enter because you couldn't see anything from on top anyway. We believed her, but wanted to go hiking anyway, hoping the fog would clear in the meantime.

We took the hike to Ocean Lookout and Adam's Lookout. The hike was easy enough however the fog certainly hadn't lifted. Some serious vertigo waged war on us. It is so strange to see a big fog bank and know there is supposed to be a beautiful panoramic view.

Upon our return to our car, we drove to the top of Mount Battie, and it was still too foggy so see anything. Not satisfied with our hiking thus far, we decided to leave the main section of the park and go to the Maiden Cliff hike that overlooks some reservoir. By the time we reached the top of this hike, the fog started to break up. Finally! We snacked on some Lunchables at the top while we enjoyed the view.

Given that the fog was lifting, we decided to head back to the top of Mount Battie to see what we could see now. That was a wise choice for the view is definitely worth the detour to take in. With a sleepy Maine town next to a crystal blue harbor and tree filled islands and coast line... just spectacular!

We still had plenty of time so we decided to do a little shopping in Camden before moving along. That didn't turn up much, however this one shop had wood carved penguins on skis that were pretty cute.

The next town that isn't all that far away is Rockland. We stopped in and parked our vehicle, walked for all of maybe three minutes, returned to the car and left. As you might have guessed, Rockland wasn't all that appealing, at least compared to Camden. Supposedly there is a nice lighthouse in Rockland, but the town is very industrialized otherwise and doesn't invite you to stay long.

So on we went to Port Clyde, and our accommodations for the evening, the Ocean House Inn. Along the way we passed up a movie theatre along the outskirts of Rockland and thought we might return later if better entertainment options didn't presented themselves.

My expectations for Port Clyde were as follows: small, rural, quiet. It just about fit that description to a tee. I'm not sure how many buildings are in Port Clyde, but I'm pretty sure everybody knows everybody pretty well. Think of the movie 'The Village', and you got it pretty much summed up. This was amplified by the fact that the roads were currently under construction so they were gravel instead of asphalt.

Our check-in to the Ocean House was noteworthy. First of all, we didn't see an obvious parking area so we parked our car next to another across the street from the inn. The host, who I wouldn't say was rude, certainly was very matter-of-fact. He kind of had the feeling that he's seen just about everything and us city slickers aren't showing him anything new. Hysterical!

So after filling out our paperwork and giving him a check for the rent, he took us upstairs to show us our room. He basically said, 'well, you could have this one... or this one. Take your pick.' We picked the one with the wood floors over the carpeting. We then asked if there was a key. 'Nope.' Is there a key for the front door then? 'Nope.' OK, well, we parked across the street, is there a better place. 'Nope. But you should leave your keys on the desk downstairs in case the construction crew is working there tomorrow.'

OK, so now we are leaving our keys to our car plainly visible on the desk in a house that is never locked. Breath. Well, it all worked out in the end, but it was certainly interesting.

Now Port Clyde really doesn't have much to offer in the way of nightlife, especially in the off-season as many places were closed. So we headed back in the direction of Rockland as we did see some restaurants that looked open in Tenants Harbor.

The place that we discovered was a complete surprise. Sul Mare looks like it opened recently and is a fabulous Italian restaurant right along the road from Rockland to Port Clyde. What's best is that it says it is open late, 10pm, which for Maine is a rarity. I dove into their thin crust pizza while Sam had some seafood risotto. Both were excellent! The place was a little on the pricey side, but we were so overwhelmed to find such a fine restaurant where we did, we didn't complain. Naturally, dessert was blueberry pie.

We then tried to catch a late showing at the movie theatre we passed earlier. That was a mistake as there were no late showings at the movie theatre. So back to Port Clyde and some reading to close out the night in preparation for the big adventure the next day: hiking on Monhegan Island, made famous by some painter dude.


We awoke very early to peek out the window and check the weather. If there was any fog we were going to scuttle our plans for the day because what would be the point. As luck would have it, however, the weather was cooperative.

Thus we cleared out the room, put our stuff in the car, dropped off the key, and then went down to the dock to purchase our tickets for the big voyage. We timed it perfectly as there was virtually no time from the point we bought the tickets and when they blew the all aboard horn on the ferry.

The ferry's size quickly gave the impression that during peak months there must be a lot of visitors to the Monhegan Island. It could easily fit a hundred or more passengers. As it was, I saw three... including us!

I've had a few choice moments in my life where I either got seasick, or started to get seasick. This... was not one of them. Despite the choppy water, the hour long commute didn't impact my stomach in a negative way.

Upon arrival at Monhegan, which was still hazy, but not foggy, we opted to get a coffee and cocoa to warm up a little bit before our trek. The general store that is right at the dock is good summary of what the rest of the island would contain. An eclectic mix of old fashioned and modern technology. Meaning, although all the modern conveniences are available, you don't help but get the feeling that you stepped back in time 50 years.

We then walked a few minutes to find the only public restroom on the island. Along the way we noticed a few eating establishments and a few artsy stores. Everything was pretty dead at this early hour, except for the endless procession of trucks. See, the thing is that the only vehicles allowed on the island are owned by the residents. And this island isn't that big, nor that populated. However, I saw more traffic on Monhegan than I saw in other parts of Maine that week. And I think it was all done by four trucks that just drive back and forth all day from house to house. I mean, if you lived on that island, what would *you* do all day?

So the public restrooms were a treat: 50 cents. We didn't have any coins so we floated a dollar down the 'honor system tube'. We hope we didn't break some etiquette with that maneuver.

And so now, finally, we get to what we came to Monhegan in the first place: the hiking. We started out by going south towards Lobster Cove. Something to note about trails on Monhegan... they aren't really well marked. The map of the trails that you can buy at the ferry ticket office is a must. And although we always found our way, there was always a hint of doubt that entered our minds. This was especially so when traveling along the shore where numerous unnamed paths crisscross haphazardly and one really has no idea which trail is *the* trail.

So, Lobster Cove, although it was beautiful, compared to the rest of the sights we saw that day, this was definitely the least spectacular. Even the rusted out shipwreck washed on shore didn't hold our attention.

What we did find interesting though was watching a painter setup his pedestal trying to find optimal placement so that he could paint whatever intrigued him that day. What was funny about this exhibition was that it looked like this was his first day on the job.

So we continued our counter-clockwise hike around the island's perimeter. We did so in a very leisurely pace stopping frequently, snapping photos, engaging in PDA activity with no one to see it. So I guess the P in PDA isn't 'Public' in this case, but 'Private.'

The trail that goes around the island, Trail 1, occasionally slips inland to make its way up and down the bluffs. There is an alternate trail, Trail 1A, that occasionally separates from the main trail, but rather quickly remerges. 1A is supposed to be easier. As far as which one we took, I couldn't tell you. We were probably on a combination of both because, as I said earlier, the trails aren't all that well marked.

Our journey took us to Gull Rock, so named for the mounds of bird shit slathered over the granite. Or was that Gull Cove which quickly followed? Anyway, the best views were from White Head and Little White Head. We lingered here, on the cliffs 160 feet above the ocean for quite some time before continuing. We made it as far as Squeaker Cove before deciding to head back to the village and catch the 12:30 ferry back to the mainland.

We could have easily have gone further, and if we would have been hikers first and sightseers second, we probably could have hiked the entire perimeter of Monhegan Island in the four plus hours that we had between ferries. The trails that cut across the island didn't have much to offer, with the exception of the lighthouse.

As we had some time to kill, we got the brilliant idea to send ourselves a postcard from the island's post office. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived home and received a card with a Portland, ME stamp on it!!! In fact, all the postcards we sent from Maine had a Portland postmark on it. Bummer!

We also visited some of the art galleries and souvenir shops along the way. We then arrived back to the dock with enough time to quickly scarf down a sandwich and cold soda. The trip back was a little fuller with maybe 10-15 passengers; most of them were people who stayed the night on the island. But that option looked way too pretentious (i.e. expensive) for us to consider.

After our ferry ride back to Port Clyde, we had another fascinating run-in with the innkeeper at the Ocean House. When I asked him if there was anything we needed to sign, or if there were a guestbook, the now typically gruff response was: 'No. Nope!'

Our next destination was Pemaquid Point, which is the lighthouse featured on the Maine quarter. It is located two or three peninsulas west of Port Clyde. Which meant that there was a lot more driving involved than necessary, but what the hay, what else were we going to do?

Our trip to Pemaquid was an instance of bad timing. Just as we arrived, it started to sprinkle and this continued to pick up steam throughout our visit here. Thus, we took a rather hurried Kodak moment tour. The rock formations by the lighthouse are really quite unique. I don't know if I would go out of my way to see the lighthouse as we did, but if you're in no hurry, as we weren't, it is worth the visit.

We also stopped in at a nearby fort but settled for just a picture when we saw the admission fees. The fort was very difficult to find as it was on a side-street that is very easy to miss.

Our destination for the evening was Wiscasset and if one peers at the map, the route between Pemaquid and Wiscasset will bring one through Darmiscotta. As we drove through this charming town, Sam and I both desired a thirst quenching ale so we stopped in at the King Arms Tavern. This had 'locals hangout' written all over it, which made it an entertaining place to be. Combine good brews and some steamed oysters and you got yourself a good time.

We stayed here longer than we wanted to because the skies opened up and damn near flooded the streets. I'm surprised our car didn't float away there was so much rain. This would also mark the last time we would see good weather for this trip. It pretty much rained the rest of our stay.

The short dive to Wiscasset went fast, but it was solidly raining. We were thinking of going to Boothbay Harbor that evening for dinner and drinks, but the weather immediately put a kibosh on that.

Finding our accommodations in Wiscasset, the Marston House, was a little bit of a chore due to one-way streets and few signs. But eventually we found it and the owner brought us out to the garage.

Now before you get excited, our room was in the loft above the garage and was really, really nice. It had really kept with the 'barn loft' motif with wood plank floors, cathedral ceilings, and a mixture of solid-wood furniture, not any two pieces matching, and a wood fireplace. It was extremely nice...

Everything was great except for the soap in the bathroom, which really freaked us out. The liquid soap by the sink came in a small plastic bottle with volumes of very small text printed on it. Reading the bottle was like watching a TV evangelist. I can't even remember what the life lesson that was printed on it, but I knew for certain I didn't want any of that stuff touching my body!

Wiscasset wasn't as happening as we had hoped for. We could only see one restaurant, and that looked like a Crisco Cafe, so we opted to cross back over the bridge and scope out a place called Bintliffs. This turned out to be the best dining experience during the trip.

Both Sam and I were kind of tired of seafood by this point, so despite many tempting dishes, we went the meat route. I dove right in and got the prime rib, which was very well done. Sam had one of the specials. To go along with our meal we had a bottle of Rioja Reserva, which was too well priced to pass up.

As we enjoyed our dinner, we both marveled at the fog rolling on and off of the river. It was at this point we realized that Maine has some really long days. The sun rises incredibly early, yet the sun doesn't set until 8:30. We both remarked how this contrasted with our time in Prague where it seemed the days were so short.

We capped our meal with a creme Brule sampling of three flavors. It too was good. And the prices were extremely reasonable. I think this was our least expensive dinner during the entire trip!

We discovered there was nowhere else to go for a nightcap in Wiscasset so we just retired for the evening to enjoy a well-deserved rest.


Our last day on this trip would also turn out to be the wettest. We awoke to rain and the rain was off and on throughout the entire day. Normally, the B&B we stayed out would have served us breakfast in their garden. However, with the weather the way it was, they brought it to our room in an oversized picnic basket. It contained fresh squeezed OJ, granola topped with bananas and strawberries and milk, piping hot biscuits with butter and jelly, and fresh brewed coffee or tea. It really hit the spot and went with the style of the room well.

Our plan was to spend all day in Portland, however, given the weather; we opted to stop in Freeport along the way for shopping. Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean and more importantly, it's three factory outlet stores. It was such a big success that just about every other outdoor gear company also located a factory outlet store there. And not to be left out in the cold, many more factory outlet stores not related to the outdoors have also surfaced.

We did have a pretty focused agenda however, to get Sam some better ski gear, so we headed to the North Face store. There we spent maybe $100-150 dollars on a bunch of stuff that normally goes for probably $500 so it was a stop well worth it. Be sure to tell Sam how professional she looks if you see her skiing next year.

We then arrived to Portland around noon and immediately went in search of one of the brewpubs. We made a wrong turn into the parking area for one of the office buildings in the area and immediately left, but were confronted by a stolid woman who wanted us to pay the $5. But we insisted that we made a mistake and that if she looked at the ticket, she would realize we'd been there for like two minutes. Eventually she relented, but don't make the same mistake as us. Look for clearly labeled public parking ramp that has a $2-3 hourly rate, not just something that looks like parking.

After finding legitimate parking, we walked to the Sebago Brew Pub for lunch. Not much earth shattering in our beer selection here, Sam got a hefeweizen and I got a porter. For lunch I realized I hadn't had a lobster roll yet and so I quickly ordered myself one. Compared to other rolls I'd seen, this one looked a little dry, meaning not enough mayonnaise or other creamy stuff. It wasn't bad mind you; I just think it would have been better elsewhere.

Sam on the other hand had a fabulous plate of the ravioli special. It was quite tasty and included multicolored ravioli. And I'm not talking about several pastas of different color; I mean that each ravioli contained multiple colors. Yummy.

We then did some shopping in the downtown shopping area. A funny anecdote occurred during this time. Like many areas in the country, the parking garage tickets in Portland can be validated by businesses in the area so you don't have to pay for them. Every place we asked said they didn't validate them. And then in one artsy store, another pair of customers asked to get their ticket validated to which the clerk responded with the now familiar, 'Sorry, we don't validate parking tickets.' To which the other customer asked, 'Does anybody validate them?'

So, the whole parking validation in Portland... a bunch of crap. Don't believe it! You know, if you're gonna spend $500 on some piece of artwork, you think the gallery could fork over the $5 in parking. One would think. Eh, the cheap bastards!

Our first truly tourist effort was visiting the Observatory kind of northeast of downtown. There is plenty of on-street parking in the area, so don't worry about that. Although the Observatory itself was quite interesting and provided some of the nicest views of Portland one can find, the tour guide was difficult to understand.

She was old, which, there isn't anything wrong with that, but she rambled the way some older people do. Which, again, isn't a bad thing, but then combine it with the fact that she was a low talker and then you got yourself a problem. So basically one strains to hear what she is saying, and then one realizes that they probably didn't need to strain all that much in the first place.

By this time, it was now pushing 4pm or so. On Fridays, the Portland Museum of Art is free after 5pm. So we parked over in that part of town and walked around until we found some enticing establishment to enjoy a cool and tasty beverage. We found one just a block away from the art museum, across from the self-proclaimed 'oldest bar in Portland'. We didn't go to the oldest bar in Portland because it had a bunch of Pepsi signs on it, which did not encourage us. It was nice enough outside at this point that we could enjoy our drinks from the second story patio. The TGIF celebration next to us provided ample entertainment.

At five we went to the museum. The best way to experience it is to take the 'vators up to the top and then walk down through the various galleries. As a whole, I wasn't wowed by the pieces they had on display... but this is probably because the most recent museum I've been to before this was the MOMA in New York, and that has a truly impressive collection of art. However, there was a temporary exhibit on photography that was appealing. Of particular note was a photo of Arabian (Iranian I believe) 'women' getting training on shooting pistols. I say 'women' because they were more manly looking than the stereotypical East German women that we all know and love.

As this was the first Friday of the month, Portland has this thing called the Artwalk. I think this is a national event as Richmond has the same thing, but we call it 'First Fridays.' Basically, many of the art galleries stay open late on the first Friday of each month so people can come and see their wares. To entice people even more, there are often free snacks and drinks.

So we availed ourselves to this experience and caught some of the flavor of Portland nightlife. As for the galleries themselves... eh, overpriced crap! I'm serious, what passes for art nowadays anyways? I think to be a successful artist; all you need is the balls to put a price and an 'emotional impact statement' on something and bam... instant artist!

And then for all the artwork that was actually worth a damn, it seemed 90% of it was a scene from Monhegan Island... like that is the only place worth painting in Maine or something?

By now it was solidly raining so we scurried back to the car and then drove to the parking ramp down where we parked initially for lunch. Keep in mind, if the weather were nice, we probably would have centrally parked the car for the day and just walked everywhere else. Portland isn't that big to warrant all this driving, except for the Observatory, which was a ways out.

OK, so for dinner our destination was Gritty McDuffs. Yep, another brewpub. This one is done in the style of an old beer hall, which means there are few, if any, tables for small groups. They are all big tables that seat eight or more and you will likely have to share with other parties.

I can't even remember the beers we had at this point, so let's just cut to dinner. I was still borderline ODd on seafood so I went for some meatloaf platter. Sam, not finding anything appetizing on the menu, just went for chili, which she said wasn't that good. My meatloaf, on the other hand, was pretty tasty. But overall, McDuffs was inferior to Sebago on just about all accounts.

After dinner we were pretty much exhausted, not enough to prevent another beer from slipping into our mouths, but for the most part we wanted to retire so we drove to our hotel, the Quality Inn in South Portland. From our research, hotels in downtown Portland were a bit overpriced. And as Portland isn't all that large, we looked for accommodations in the suburbs.

We decided on the Quality Inn in South Portland, but there are a bunch of other hotel chains within spitting distance. My recollections are that the QI was OK, but not GR8. Sorry, all those acronyms couldn't be passed up. I'm not sure if the other hotels in the area would have been better though. The group west of downtown, kind of near the big mall might have been better.


This, I think, was the first trip in which we returned home on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. I think we did this primarily to decompress on Saturday and Sunday before launching into the workweek, but there might have been some cost benefit as well. From the decompression point of view, this was certainly a success.

Of course, it was raining both in Portland and in New York, however I don't recall any of our flights being delayed too much. In fact, a late flight would have been a blessing out of Portland. This brings up my only negative comment about JetBlue, the check-in at Portland.

The self-serve kiosks kept going in and out of service so that held everybody up. That and the fact that there were too few people behind the counter taking care of bag claims really slowed things down a lot. The rudeness and selfishness of some of the passengers didn't make things better either. And then to top it all off, in Portland, you have to take your checked bags from the counter to the security scanner yourself. So this adds more time to check-in. Overall, the check-in process in Portland takes much longer than it should.

But that, as they say, was that. Despite some bad weather to bookend our trip, Maine was awesome and treated us well. I think the next time we find ourselves up that way we'll go in the fall to take advantage of the autumn colors

What's next for the Bilbao Travel Hounds? In September we are heading to NYC for a weeklong bite of the Big Apple with Sam's family. We'll be catching some matches at the US Open while we are there. I hope I get to see Maria. :) Then in October we are off to Vegas for a long weekend with my parents. Thanksgiving brings our annual trip to Europe. This time it is Rome and Venice. And then finally we head back to Spain for Christmas.

So as you can see, a mountain of Megamails are in your future. Lucky you!



Crashing waves at Schoodic Point.


Sunset in Corea, Maine.


Respecting nature atop Schoodic Mountain.


Having a Picnic at Otter Point.


The Bubbles at Jordan Pond.


Camden Harbor


Rocky coastline of Monhegan Island.


One of the White Heads on Monhegan Island.


Interesting rock formations of Pemaquid Point.