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|Where’s Georgie-Jet? Maine|
A long weekend in Maine offers nature, comfort and culture.
By Georgette Diamandis
My summer travel plans included funky Portland, laidback Rockland and adventurous Bar Harbor. It was a diverse and magical long weekend as I stayed at three different resorts in just four days. I really got a taste of Maine. Yes, I ate lobster and blueberries, but there is much more to this charismatic state that has not quite caught up with the rest of the world ... thank goodness!
I spent my first night at the Portland Marriott Sable Oaks, which is actually in South Portland. The hotel has a golf course and a lovely indoor pool. It seems like a business hotel but served my purposes just fine as a place to stay for one night before I headed north. My suite was large, the bed was super comfortable and the lounge on the second floor had a computer, TV and coffee and bottled water.
PORTLAND HEAD LIGHT
The first thing my husband Cam and I did was drive out to the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth to see the famous lighthouse. It's the most photographed lighthouse and has been painted by many artists, including Edward Hopper (more on Hopper later). The historic lighthouse was commissioned in 1791 by George Washington and is impeccably maintained. Then we walked the expansive Fort Williams Park, which is right on the water and is a great place for a picnic or flying a kite. It is so windy and open here, it reminded me of the vast headlands on the Pacific Ocean near Sydney, Australia. From Fort Williams Park, you can see another fort, Fort Gorges, right out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (very surreal looking), which kayakers can visit; a must-do for my next trip. Check out www.gotoportland.com; it will help you get organized as you plan your trip and provides all the information you need to know about Portland.
PLACES TO EAT
Next, we headed out on Rt. 77 to The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, which was only a five minute drive. Here we did the local thing: wait in line for twenty minutes to order ... what else? A lobster roll, whole fried clams and French fries, which came to a whopping $38! But definitely worth it! The clams were sweet and the lobster was so fresh. They actually have live lobsters staring at you while you order which did intimidate me. "Should I just get the fries and clams? NO! Sorry lobsters!" We enjoyed the rolling surf that brings a refreshing ocean breeze into the restaurant. It was about 15 degrees cooler here than in downtown Portland, thanks to the cold Atlantic. Even in July, I needed a sweater. Back at the Sable Oaks Marriott hotel, we had a swim and got ready to have dinner out on the town, 10 minutes away at the Back Bay Grill. The Back Bay Grill is not really within walking distance to the Portland Wharf, but definitely worth the cab ride. We enjoyed the ambiance and meal. I had rolled Scottish salmon with ginger vinaigrette, black rice and baby bok choy. Cam enjoyed the grilled Flat Iron steak with garlic mashed potatoes. The meals and service were great; pretty girls in white oxford shirts, only distinguishable by their different colorful earrings, attended to us. Back Bay Grill, 65 Portland St., Portland, ME 04101, Tel: 207-772-8833.
Next, we took a cab to the wharf area to enjoy the nightlife of Portland. Portland is an old fishing town and down by the wharf there are a lot of old buildings that haven't changed much, so it has a very colorful atmosphere. Since it was a Friday night, the downtown was hopping with many different venues featuring all sorts of live music. This is what it's known for. We ventured to The Porthole, a funky old diner-style restaurant, best known for its seafood, with a large deck right on the wharf. Here, we listened to a Jamaican reggae band. Next, we wandered over to an authentic Irish pub, Ri Ra, where we listened to three musicians playing acoustic Gaelic tunes; it reminded me of a trip to Nova Scotia. According to Cam, the selection of beer was "amazing!" Ri Ra, 72 Commercial Street, Portland, ME 04101, Tel: 207-761-4446.
THINGS TO DO
The next day, we took in the Portland Art Museum, which has an impressive collection of works by N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Robert Henri and Edward Hopper, along with works by French and American impressionists. We then flew in a chartered jet to Bar Harbor. The small plane seated up to six people and costs $1200 for the half-hour flight. (For more information: Portland Air Charter, 207-773-8179.) Getting there was a snap but if you drive, it's only three and a half hours. The Harborside Hotel was the next stop. The Harborside Hotel is part of The Ocean Properties group and this hotel is set right on the water. Old-world charm and elegance abound. From the courteous staff to the large stone fireplace in the lobby, the pool overlooking the ocean and the best location in Bar Harbor, this hotel cannot be beat. My room was on the ground floor and overlooked the harbor and the whale-watching boat. Unfortunately, the day I was there, the harbor was thick with fog like pea soup and all the boat rides were cancelled. The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. offers three different tours; a whale watch cruise, which takes you way out in the ocean (if you're prone to seasickness, beware), an in-harbor lobster and seal cruise and a nature cruise. All the boats depart from right next to the Harborside Hotel.
THE BAR HARBOR CLUB SPA
We had lunch at Stewman's Lobster Pound, right next to the hotel. It's a casual spot on the water with a menu that features burgers, salads and fantastic lobster rolls. Afterwards, I walked around the charming old town, the former playground of the likes of the Carnegies and Rockefellers until a huge fire demolished most of the old hotels in 1947. I did a little shopping, then went next door to the hotel to The Bar Harbor Club Spa and had the most amazing foot reflexology with Fiji coconut products. The spa is small but très chic, with marble showers, comfy chaise longues to wait in and Belgian chocolates, Maine blueberries and herbal teas to indulge in. The massage was very relaxing. I had time to go back to the room and enjoy the view, in spite of (or maybe because of) the atmospheric fog, before heading to dinner back at the Bar Harbor Club, just upstairs from the spa.
THE BAR HARBOR CLUB
The Bar Harbor Club, right on the harbor, was built back in the 1800s and has recently been restored. You may even feel like a Rockefeller or an Astor yourself as you dine on halibut or lobster. After dinner, we went into town to mingle with the locals and play pool at Carmen Verandah's. I felt like a teenager again as we paid the $3 cover charge and slipped inside.
The next morning I did a very hard hike called The Beehive, in Acadia National Park. It was quite vertical and, being afraid of heights, the view down to the coast below made me dizzy. I would recommend going with a guide like Acadia Mountain Guides, who can outfit you as well as accompany you on your journey. A half-day guide costs $100 and the price decreases the more people you have; for a group of five people, the price is $60 per person.
After our brief tour of Bar Harbor, a place where I could easily spend a week (or a summer!), we drove down the coast, in Panama Geddy's van. Geddy, a colorful Maine character accompanied by his dog Sta' (it's really Star, but with a Maine accent, it sounds like Sta'), chauffeured us past Camden to the Samoset Resort. Located on Penobscot Bay, originally the site of a grand old hotel built at the turn of the century, it is now a modern resort. Again, the weather was foggy and cool, with light rain, so we opted not to play golf or use the outdoor pool. On-site, there's a fitness center, indoor pool and small spa area, which was a bit of a letdown after the Bar Harbor Club, but the massage I had was very good and the spa area will soon be updated. The resort is great for families who love golf and has an ESPN golf school. We toured the 18-hole champion golf course, ranked 7th in the world by Golf Digest and met the pros. My room was gorgeous, the result of a recent multi-million dollar renovation. It had beautiful fabrics, luxurious marble-topped dressers, a flat screen HD TV and a lovely deck overlooking the bay.
DINNER AND DESSERT
Dinner was at the resort at Marcel's where the traditional menu features things like tableside Caesar salad and prime rib. Dinner was excellent and we had a great view of the course and coast. For dessert, we ventured out of the resort to Rockland to visit Primo, one of three restaurants owned by Melissa Kelly and specializing in organic food (most of it grown in the garden right next door). Sharing several desserts, we couldn't decide which was better; all were fabulous. After dinner Melissa, whose restaurant Primo was named for her Italian grandfather, (which made me like her immediately since I loved my Italian grandfather, too!) signed copies of her new cookbook, Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too! (Harper Collins) for us.
In the morning, we visited the town of Rockland and the celebrated Farnsworth Museum. If you like the Wyeth family, all three (N.C., Andrew and Jamie) are represented here. It is a very special place and planning to spend several hours there is the way to go. I saw an exhibit of Andy Warhol, Jamie Wyeth and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all of whose works were made at Warhol's "Factory" during the potent '70s and '80s. The show referenced their influence on one another. The museum is open 9am to 5pm daily from Memorial Day to Columbus Day and is closed on Mondays during the winter. Admission is $10 for adults ... well worth it. I could have been in New York City with this caliber of artwork, but thankfully, I was in Maine.
Maine has so much to offer. If you like nature combined with comfort and culture, I urge you to start planning your trip. My quick visit to Portland, Rockland and Bar Harbor was diverse, relaxing and exciting. Visit these places and you will understand Maine's reputation for coastal beauty, a laidback lifestyle, world class art, ever-changing weather and top-notch resorts. For more information, visit www.visitmaine.com.
On the way back to Connecticut, we stopped in Boston and visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see an Edward Hopper exhibit. It was incredible to see the same places we had visited like the lighthouse at the Portland Head and Victorian homes with mansard roofs portrayed in watercolor and oil. I found it remarkable to think that in fifty years, these places have not changed. I guess that is what makes Maine so special in our ever-changing world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I am Georgette, a writer and artist (here's my website) based in Connecticut. I am also Johnny Jet’s older sister, who quite possibly ignited his first spark of interest in traveling to exotic places, when at the impressionable age of 14, he saw my trip to Australia last three years! Whether skiing in the mountains, snorkeling in the tropics, or exploring faraway cities, I am always game for traveling and the privilege of writing for my baby brother's website JohnnyJet.com. Of course, coming home to my husband Cam, our dog Baci, and three cats - Ace, Arrow and Wizard - is great, too!
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Note: This trip was sponsored by Ocean Properties.
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