After seeing photos of a friend's trip to Maine last year, it shot to the top of my vacation destination wish list. Scott and I hadn't been to any of the Northeastern states together and neither of us had ever been to Maine so we figured it would be a fun adventure.
We booked our tickets in April so I had more than four months to indulge in internet research and social media crowdsourcing! I started by contacting everyone I knew who had spent time in the state for their suggestions - thanks Kate, Pete, and Lisa(s)! I also followed a blog, Maine Today and Twitter accounts so that I could electronically "clip" anything of interest. I created a Pinterest board and a Foursquare list (which thanks to an app revamp was rendered useless on my smartphone). Thanks to all of this research, I made a detailed itinerary so we'd have a starting place every day (I hate sitting around asking each other "What should we do?"). I knew we could deviate from the plan and just do what we felt like doing in the moment which we did with regularity.
Day 1: Travel day
Our flight from Atlanta to Portland was delayed by 1.5 hours so we arrived later than expected. Thankfully the airport is tiny and picking up our rental car was speedy. It was also a breeze getting to West End Inn, our home away from home for the weekend. The innkeepers, Deb and Scott are extremely organized and helpful. They won my heart by having a refrigerator full of seltzer water, a bowl of York peppermint patties and a giant stack of local magazines at the door. They also prepared a map with restaurants circled including information about late night dining options since they knew we'd be arriving later.
We chose Pai Men Miyake because it is a sister restaurant to one of the restaurants my friend, Kate Fukawa-Connelly recommended and it was just a short walk away from the B&B. Upon arriving at Pai Men Miyake, I was already in love with Portland. We sat at a long picnic table across from a statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and were able to tune in and out of conversations of the locals. The food was fantastic - brussel sprouts and edamame for appetizers and cooked salmon "sushi" (Scott made it a point to tell me that since the salmon was cooked it wasn't really sushi) and beef kimchi ramen.
Day 2: Portland
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Booking Room 2 at the West End Inn ended up being one of the best choices I made for our vacation. The bed and bedding were among the most comfortable I've ever experienced and the Inn had all of the comforts of home and Deb and Scott think of every detail to make it so.
We started the day with an amazing breakfast. With your stay, you get a light continental breakfast at 7:30 AM which consists of homemade organic granola, fresh baked muffins, juices and organic yogurt with hot beverage options of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
Between 8 and 9:30 AM Deb provides a menu of the day's breakfast options and Scott makes your breakfast to order. I chose the fruit cup and blueberry pancakes (when in Maine!) with chicken sausage. Scott had the vegetable juice and Belgian waffle with bacon. What a beautiful and delicious start to our day!
We started our day with a coffee walk to Bard Coffee so I could try their nitrogen-infused cold brew. I failed to request no ice and it was served in a plastic cup so I don't think I was able to fully experience the possible benefits of having cold press served from a tap.
We continued our walk to the Eastern Promenade stopping by Eastern Cemetery on the way. Eastern Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in the city of Portland.
We walked along the Eastern Promenade until we reached the Back Cove Trail (well it wasn't that seamless since we struggled to follow the Google map directions from one trail to the other). I wanted to walk the Back Cove trail because it would allow us to check out Sundays on the Boulevard in which Baxter Boulevard is closed to car traffic every Sunday May through October and people can enjoy the open street. I thought that it was going to be an event similar to Minneapolis's Open Streets but it was much more laid back and free of programming/vendors. Most people opted to use the established bike/pedestrian trails along the boulevard so I'm not sure the concept is catching on (or at least it wasn't the day we were there). It was hot and there weren't many shaded areas along the trail so to avoid getting overheated, we exited the trail and hung out in Hannaford, a local grocery chain to cool off, rehydrate and eat trail mix. I also checked out the seafood department which is definitely different from our Midwestern seafood department (live lobsters and clams and mussels!).
After Novare Res, we walked around Commercial Street and made our way to Casco Bay Ferry Lines and decided to ferry over to Peaks Island. The only research I'd done is that it was listed as one of the trails on the Portland Trails website so I thought we'd show up and that a hiking trail would be immediately obvious. Nope. Oh well, we just walked along the streets and moved out of the way for the occasional automobile or golf cart.
In hindsight, I wish I had known more about what to do on the island. In the end, we walked around a bit of the southern coast of the island and explored some of the rocky beaches and looked at the cottages - both the quaint, cute little ones and the large mansions.
After walking around for about an hour, it started raining and we realized that if we didn't make a beeline for the ferry we'd have a two hour wait. Since it seemed like there was only one restaurant on the island (and it was packed!), we went back to Portland. I recognized a lot of people from our ferry to the island so I guess we weren't the only ones who made a quick trip.
We returned to the B&B to refresh before dinner. It was still raining so we chose a nearby restaurant, Bonobo Wood Fire Pizza. It was an excellent choice. The combination of it being a stormy night and the many twinkle lights on the exterior and interior of the restaurant made it feel magical. I remember just taking deep breaths and enjoying the here and now focusing on my dining companion, the warmth of the wood fired oven, the smell of the pizza, and the sparkly lights.
We split a house salad (romaine, arugula, spinach, endive with pickled cucumbers and lemony vinaigrette). Choosing a pizza was tough so we did 1/2 Caspian (roasted chicken, smoked tomatoes, garlic & basil) and 1/2 Morocco (spiced lamb sausage, feta and goat cheese, roasted red pepper, and scallions).
It was an excellent first day of vacation. A recap of days 3 & 4 will be posted soon!
The Nivens Family