After a month in Hull, we continued north; yep, even further north for October. No we’re not crazy! We’ve driven through Maine on many occasions but we think it should be spectacular with all the fall color and hopefully, we’ll be out of there before the first snow falls! The drive along the ocean as we entered Salem was gorgeous even on a gloomy day. We had hoped to visit the Essex Museum but as luck would have it we were there on a Monday and the museum was closed. The Salem Witchcraft Memorials were far more moving than I had expected. They have a memorial to each person who died after being convicted of witchcraft. I hadn’t realized that there were men among them and I also I didn’t know that they weren’t all hanged but that some were pressed to their death.
I continue to be fascinated by the age of buildings. True, it’s not old by European standards but it is given how young our country is.
The tags on many of the homes indicate the pride locals feel in owning a bit of history. It’s not a long drive from Boston to Portland and even stopping along the way, we arrived at our new residence by late afternoon. Kathryn, our host, greeted and gave us a tour of how everything worked. She lives in the front half of the house and we have the rear apartment.
It has a great outdoor area and is conveniently located right in the city. Portland’s population is only a bit over 65,000 but it lives far larger than that and we were pleased to be close to shopping and restaurants. We usually spend our first day getting settled, unpacked and some basic groceries in. Then we head out to dinner. We had been told by many that Portland is known for their great restaurants and boy, were they right! Kathryn had suggested DeMillos in downtown Portland. Wow! What a great introduction to Portland! Right on the water and a great menu of Maine seafood. We could even feel the slight sway of the boat on the waves. Seafood, be it lobster, clams or crab is ubiquitious! My favorite throughout our stay was the lobster salad. I must have had it in at least half a dozen locations as well as at home. What a shock it’s going to be when we leave the coast.
When I think of Maine, rocky coasts, light houses and lobsters come to mind. And with good reason, all three are everywhere. The iconic Portland Light was at the top of our sights to see. About a fifteen minute drive from our apartment we found Fort Williams Park. And the lighthouse looks just exactly like it I expected. Even though it’s early October the weather was comfortable and we we didn’t have all the mobs of people that I’m sure are here in the summer.
The shoreline drives both south and north of Portland are lovely. We particularly enjoyed Two Lights State Park. This park is popular with Maine residents. There are lots of benches; a great place to read a book or just sit and reflect. And nearby we found a fabulous hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Fisherman’s Catch. https://www.fishermanscatchwells.com/ Like so many other places along the eastern seaboard, they were just getting ready to close for the season but the day that we were there it was in the 70’s and felt more like a summer than a fall day. I think I may have mentioned previously in this blog that Rachel Carson grew up in the same small Western Pennsylvania town as my husband’s family. In fact, Rachel’s mother was a good friend of Bob’s grandmother. That said, we obviously are very interested in Ms. Carson’s research and try to visit all things Rachel when we come upon them. When we saw the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge was nearby we knew we had to visit. Starting in 1952 Ms. Carson spent many of her summers in Maine studying the beaches and the tidal pools. The refuge consists of a small building providing visitors with a brief history of the area along with biographical facts about Ms. Carson. There are numerous trails that lead out from there.
Acadia National Park is about a 3 hour drive north. This is one of our very favorite national parks but we’d only been there in the summer. The drive up was a bit drizzley and we weren’t sure we had made a good decision but it turned out to be a perfect day. The rain ended by the time we entered the park and the overcast skies made for some great pictures. Even though we knew it was going to be beautiful in the fall, we still were amazed by the blazes of fall colors and the less crowded shorelines.
We love Thunder Hole where at high tide the water often rushes in and out with a thundering sound so we were a bit disappointed when it wasn’t “thundering” while we were there. Because of the distance from Portland to Acadia we decided to spend the night in Bar Harbor and the next morning we returned to the park, but still no thunder. Guess we’re lucky to have heard it when we first visited with the kids so many years ago.
Closer to our Portland home was Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Gloucester. This is the last active Shaker village. Its meeting house was built in 1794. And at its height it had more than 200 members. A museum was established in 1931 with the goal of educating the public about Shaker beliefs. In the museum we saw examples of their woodenware, their tools, as well as descriptions and photos helping us understand the Shaker lifestyle. We also met a woodworker who was carving little figures that would sell in the gift shop. We had noticed highland cattle, what were called “Hairy-coos” in Scotland, and the woodworker shared a lot of information about the farm and its history. The “Hairy-coos” we later learned, thrive in harsh Maine winters and are being raised in increasing numbers because of their healthy meat which has less fat than traditional beef and less cholesterol than a chicken.
We never tire of Maine’s shoreline so we also made additional trips along the coast to visit small fishing villages.
Again, we found that while we were on the tail end of summer, many sights were still open…just without the crowds. Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are lively places just because they were the summer homes of the senior Bushes. What a gorgeous location!
Within the city of Portland there’s lots to see and do as well. We had heard about the Portland Whaling Wall which is a 950 foot mural painted (I believe spray painted) on the side of the Maine State Pier.
The mural was done in 1993 by Robert Wyland as one of 17 marine murals he completed in 17 cities on the east coast in 17 weeks. Later he went on to complete 100 murals in 79 cities in 13 countries around the world! Really impressive!
We also got tickets for the Portland Symphony. Isn’t it wonderful a city of 66,000 has its own symphony? They were playing Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major the night we were there! Wow! A message included with our tickets suggested we arrive early to see the beautiful architecture of the building!
Not only does Portland have its own symphony but it also has a wonderful museum of art that dates back to 1882. I particularly wanted to visit the exhibits of NC Wyeth (father of Andrew Wyeth), Frederick Remington and Maine’s own, Winslow Homer. But it was the art of Ashley Bryan that most interested me. I knew Bryan best as an illustrator and writer of children’s books. The ones I knew are based on African folklore and proverbs. Bryan was born in 1923 and after serving in a segregated US Army during World War II he settled in Maine not far from Acadia National Park. He is also a sculptor and much of his work is created from “things cast off.” It’s his puppets that I love most.
Not far from the Portland Museum of Art, we found the Wadsworth Longfellow House and Garden. This was the boyhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was built for his mother’s parents in 1786. The last person to live there was Henry’s sister who stayed there until her death in 1901. And what a good caretaker of the home she was. Because the home is small we waited in the gift shop (where else?) until our group could enter. We particularly enjoyed the little “behavior reminders” posted throughout the home.
Once in, a docent gave us a brief history and then we were allowed to go on our own self-guided tour. In each room there was another guide who would provide us with details about what we were looking at as well as answer any questions. Bob and I aren’t big on touring homes where the furniture is replicas of the original, but here we were looking at authenticity: the actual desk where Longfellow wrote as a child, his rocking horse, his favorite portrait. We were looking at the real thing.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, an interesting challenge we have monthly is getting our hair cut. I often go to Yelp for some help and it’s usually a good resource. But this time it led us to a most unusual experience. When I began to hunt for barbershops for Bob, one jumped out at me, Forest Avenue Barbershop. Not only did they have great reviews they also have gorgeous golden retrievers in their shop. Definitely the barbershop for us! What a great choice! The dogs greeted us; they are extremely well-behaved. Both the barbers are very friendly. It turned out to be the most inexpensive haircut and beard trim Bob’s had in four years AND it was also the best. This is definitely a place to return before leaving Portland! Thank you Yelp!
Periodically, our host would stop by and share some warm apple bars out of the oven or drop off some fresh flowers for the table. The night before we left, she invited us to dinner. Just one more reason why we enjoy staying at Airbnb’s. We get to meet such nice folks who also share with us interesting stories as well as suggest places to see in the area. Maine has been a really fun stay. And while we have enjoyed Portland, the city, it’s also been a good base for exploring surrounding areas.
More interesting signs we’ve enjoyed in Maine:
Maine looks lovely – we didn’t make it up there last fall. So have to go later.