Friday, August 23, 2013

Maine-made anniversary trip

One of the best traditions my husband and I ever started was giving each other the gift of a vacation together somewhere new every anniversary, rather than exchanging gifts. This works so well for us, as we are both more experience than belongings people. Don't get me wrong, I love stuff just as much as the next person, but I hate clutter so the two are at odds with one another. We celebrated 5 years of wedded bliss (among other emotions haha), 13 years of being 'together' as a couple, and  16 years since we first met. Our previous trips in dated order were:

Hawaii for our honeymoon
Asheville, NC
Charleston, SC
Yosemite & San Fransisco, CA
Cincinnati, OH

We decide where we are going based on interests, proximity, and sometimes even more largely, budget. However, we have had an amazing time every year regardless of where we have gone. We generally try to include a smattering of art, B&B's, historical landmarks, outdoor activities, and whatever great dining we can fit in. A trip to Maine had been on my list of desired destinations for a while, but not in the budget. Amazingly this year we found a deal that made that possible to my immense excitement. I am not sure why, but I have an obsession with cold beaches. Maybe it is my Alaska upbringing, but I love the concept of sitting with a book on a cool but sunny beach wearing linen pants and a comfy shirt, sitting in an Adirondack chair reading a good book-bliss.

Day 1- Traveling
We were supposed to fly United Airlines to Manchester, NH via Newark International Airport. Big Mistake I am not sure whether it was United or Newark or the combination of the two, but it was a maddening day. We were meant to arrive in Manchester to pick up our rental car from Dollar (all of which we booked through Hotwire) around early afternoon. However, when we got into Newark we discovered that our flight along with many others were cancelled. The United airlines staff at this location were bored and disinterested in helping us or any other customers. Our politeness only got us as far as a flight to Boston due to arrive at 7pm, from whence it was recommended that we take an express bus to Manchester and a taxi to the airport to get our rental car. To rent a car from Boston by changing our pick up location added nearly $300! A taxi was $200 and a new rental car entirely was $150, while the express added only $40. So we signed up for that rather than pay for our own hotel in Newark and wait for the next day. Of course this went awry as well...the plane had mechanical issues that kept us on the tarmac for a couple of hours, landing approximately 30 minutes after the last express. The Boston reps were nicer and ended up granting us a ticket voucher to compensate our 2nd rental car. The highlight of the day though, was how helpful Hotwire was! They helped us move our first night of accommodations, book a second rental car, overall they were amazing. After our edition of planes, trains, and automobiles we made it to Manchester.

Day 2- Traveling with stops at Portsmouth, NH; Brunswick, ME; and arriving at Bar Harbor, ME
We drove out of Manchester to make our way towards Bar Harbor and Acadia, taking the interstate and playing plenty of tolls, but also a few detours. Namely we stopped for breakfast in Portsmouth, NH a quaint New England coastal/river town with a bigger city feel to eat breakfast at Colby's . Having been to the United Kingdom, I would say that there is definitely a resemblance befitting its 1623 settlement date, as the 3rd oldest city in the United States. The breakfast at Colby's was also delicious. I had scrambled eggs with cheese and potatoes, while my husband went all out and had the french toast. The atmosphere was fun and crowded even on a weekday with a good mix of locals and tourists. The wait staff was efficient and friendly.
Following, we drove further up I-95 for a faster route in, considering our first day of travel was lost for the most part, stopping again in Brunswick. This was our first introduction to the adorable nature of Maine's housing and town architecture. I was completely in love. We parked in the town square off the green, where there was a lively farmer's market occurring and took a walk down Federal Street. Many of our suggestions were from Frommer's Maine travel guide, which we checked out from our local library. It was pretty current having been printed in 2011 and was extremely helpful, though I would have appreciated more maps. Brunswick didn't appear to have much of a touristy vibe. We ended up eating light by visiting Hannaford's grocery splitting a delicious chicken salad sandwich and pretzels before visiting the Museum of Art at Bowdoin College, a 'little ivy.' This museum is always free to the public and was extremely enjoyable, displaying the works of Maurice Prendergrast, an American Post-Impressionist primarily known for his use of watercolors.
Portsmouth, NH

Brunswick, ME


Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
Back on the road to Bar Harbor and finally made it to our B&B, Hearthside right in the middle of town with great access to lots of fun shops and restaurants. I would highly recommend this B&B. The room was well apportioned, though one of their cheaper ones on the 3rd floor, with sumptuous bedding and several amenities, though fortunately no television. The weather was so delightful we used open windows as suggested by the innkeeper to let fresh air in. The innkeepers, Barry and Susan were welcoming, kind, and knowledgeable regarding both hiking and restaurants in the area. Breakfast was delicious and a fabulous place to be welcomed by other guests. There was an air of camaraderie which I have not often felt in other B&B's, and to highlight this several guests were repeat offenders, so to speak. On their suggestion we ate at Poor Boy's, following a thwarted drive to the top of Cadillac Mtn, due to imposing fog. My husband loved the lobster feast that he chose and felt that it was very reasonably priced considering the quantity of food he received. I also enjoyed by crab cake caesar salad. Most of all it was fun to get into the thick of Bar Harbor with its fun eclectic crowd.

Day 3-Bar Harbor, Acadia
We woke up relatively early to take advantage of what would be our primary day in Acadia and went down to a delicious breakfast. We were warmly greeted by other guests and enjoyed getting to know them. From there we started out on the park loop road. Now it should be noted that if you are staying more than a couple of days taking the bus sounds incredibly convenient for getting around.
Cadillac Mt
The Park Loop Road is just what it sounds to be a loop around the primary aspects of Acadia. It is one way on the coastal side that takes you to the beach, this is also the side that actually enforces paying the park entrance fee ($20 for a vehicle for a 7 day pass). I am all about supporting the National Park System, so this wasn't something I was looking to avoid. It is cheaper though to enter on foot or without a car.
We hit the repeat button on our drive to the top of Cadillac Mtn, which was surprisingly not that crowded, and enjoyed breathtaking views from all sides. From there we continued down to Sieur de Monts the hot springs near Tarn Lake. While the springs and a small garden were easily found and enjoyed, I cannot say the same for Tarn Lake. While theoretically it appears to be right behind the Native American Museum, there are several unmarked trails of varying difficulty which can all take you to the lake. The best choice being a short trail to the left of the museum.

Sieur de Monts
Tarn Lake

Sand Beach
Next stop Sand Beach, which was beautiful but crowded, preventing us from getting any good pictures. We walked along the Park Loop Road to Thunder Hole. I wouldn't recommend this walk if you are actually looking to hike, but the stops of Sand Beach, Thunder Hold, and the Otter Cliffs are certainly worth the stop. Next we stopped at Jordan Pond to enjoy popovers and tea. It was raining but we ate outside anyways and had an amazing time! It was just the refresher that we needed, a pot of Earl Grey, a cup of chowder, popovers, and a view of Jordan Pond.
Thunder Hole

Reinvigorated we drove to the 'quiet side of Acadia' for a hike of Acadia Mtn. We set out with the intention of hiking Acadia and St. Saveur mtns, but ended up stopping after Acadia. It is always interesting hiking in different places. When we were looking at the difficulty by the quantity of time that it would take, elevation gain, and distance it seemed as if it would be moderate compared to the other trails that we have completed in the Smokies and Yosemite. However, I would say that we underestimated its difficulty, not from the concept of actually getting out of breath or fatigued by the rapidity of elevation changes. It was a great hike, but we spent a fair amount of time looking for hand and foot holds, climbing rather than just hiking. The views were amazing and it was the only hike that we did in the park that actually felt like a hike, really immersed in nature and not along some road where you can still see a myriad of cars.
Feeling satisfied in a way hiking best accomplishes we took off  down 102 to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Trenton. We got there almost at sunset. It was beautiful the way it just clings to the rocks, which amusingly is also the only way to acquire a decent picture.
We had pizza in the Quietside Cafe & Ice Cream, where everyone seemed to know one another with a nice homey feel. The pizza was great and we had every intention of sampling their fantastic looking ice cream or desserts, but as often occurs were too full following.

On our way back to the B&B we stopped in the Northeast Harbor to visit Asticou Terraces Thuya Gardens. I am immensely glad that we did too, while we were shooting for sunset for the lighthouse, we actually achieved it for the gardens. It was quietly going down as we walked up the cliff side steps of the formally manicured home of landscape designer Charles K. Savage. I wasn't certain what to expect, but was blown away by its beauty. Portions had a cottage garden feel, but others were more reserved in their aspect. Needless to say I wanted to move in. Reluctantly we left headed back to the B&B for a quick refresher, then back out into Bar Harbor for a night time stroll along the coast with salted caramel ice cream in a waffle cone in hand - sadly I can't remember which one we stopped at, but it was delicious.

Day 4- Maine Hwy Rt 1 with stops in Rockland, Wiscasset, Bath,
I feel as if I am over the border of being long winded, so lets pick up the pace. We started off from Bar Harbor following another enjoyable breakfast with the other guests, going the slow way down route 1. We enjoyed the views of the coast, though Rt 1 doesn't hug the coast the whole way, and the cute little villages. We actually stopped in Rockland where we ate our first Lobster roll at the Brass Compass, then visited the Farnsworth Art Museum. We took advantage of the Bank of America free weekend and had hopes of making it to the Portland Art Museum in time as well for a free visit, but to no avail. The Farnsworth was great and it was really neat to explore the several Wyeths and Winslow Homer who graced the museum. We didn't go inside any other places, but we did stop off to see the exterior of several other more prominent places, such as Castle Tucker in Wiscassett.

On a friend's recommendation we shared a panini and fries from Duckfat in Portland, which had a fun, hip vibe. We used airbnb for the first time while in Portland. We stayed with a woman named Judith. She was warm and welcoming. Gave us great suggestions and was an excellent conversationalist, who seems to have lead a fascinating, elegant life.There were downfalls though too to this arrangement, including a significant lack of privacy. We had to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom that we shared with her during our stay, namely. I made the incorrect assumptions that this would not be the case with a 2 story gigantic house built in the 1800's. Breakfast and Judith were amazing though, and the experience enjoyable enough to consider repeating.

Day 5-Portland, Cape Elizabeth

Since the museum was closed on Mondays, we headed to Fort Williams and Portland Head Light. It was a gorgeous day and we had a great walk around the park. The museum inside the lighthouse was interesting and enjoyable. After seeing the older styles of head lights I would to have one to make an end table out of or something. We started to get hot so we stopped once again at Hannafords for a snack. I was in the mood for lemonade, but Johnny sampled some local blueberry flavored milk to his delight. After we headed downtown to walk around. We enjoyed lots of interesting architecture without getting too bogged down in the details of the history, and went into a few boutique stores. We were planning on eating something local for lunch, but ended up resorting to the comfort of Whole Foods for some sushi. After we killed a little more time downtown and around the eastern promenade before getting on a schooner ride at sunset around the harbor. The schooner was built in 1924 and while it wasn't a private cruise, was a really neat experience through the Portland Schooner Co. After we had a late dinner at Caiola's sharing a cheese tray with Middlebury Blue Cheese from Vermont and grilled seafood dish over fresh corn and tomato sides.

Day 6-Portland, Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk
Our last day, be they ever so bittersweet. We went to the Portland Museum of Art which was a gem. Their permanent collection was incredibly enjoyable and we didn't even get to see all of it, as they had an exhibit on loan from the MoMA and an African art exhibit. After we were on our way to St. Anthony's Fransiscan Monastery in Kennebunkport, when we decided to take a more carnivalesque detour to Old Orchard Beach. Needless to say that despite it being a Monday it was packed. I have never been to a more crowded beach, nor been immersed in a crowd speaking so much French. The French being French Canadian, as apparently Maine is a popular summer vacation spot for Montreal natives. It was a fun place to stop with a poignant feeling of being alive in the atmosphere.
The monastery was quite the opposite, it was beautiful and peaceful. Apparently they even have a place for guests to stay. Kennebunk felt elegant, retired and beautiful. I think if money was no object it would be my choice of places to rent a house in Maine. Lastly, we kept on our traverse to Manchester, NH to fly out early the next morning. Visiting the LL Bean Outlet before eating dinner and turning in.

Day 7-Traveling
Smooth sailing on United through Cleveland back to Nashville the next day, in complete opposition to our first day of traveling

Things I would have down with more time:
more time on the beach, maybe including a bonfire of some kind
more hiking
sea kayaking or canoeing
walked the sand bar to Bar Island in Bar Harbor

Vacation Entertaiment
Reading: Game of Thrones: Dances with Dragons; Real Simple
Watching: Ken Burns Prohibition
Listening: XM radio (thanks Dollar Rent a Car) and a smattering of favs, such as Dirty Guvnahs, Head and the Heart, and Mumford and Sons