Tuesday, June 15, 2010
We just spent a wonderful 4 days in Portland, Maine!
We reluctantly left Tink with a fever of 105 and a rather severe bladder infection which was unsettling. The morning I flew out was spent at the doctor's office for an emergency visit after she was ill with abdominal pain and high fever the day before. Then, I hit the pharmacy, got Pink off of the bus, got the 3 little ones to their grandparents, then drove CB to Maryland and back to stay with her dad. Luckily, my flight was strategically at 8:50 pm, knowing full well the day would be full of departure drama, as it was. But, the flight to Maine is barely over an hour, and our hotel about 15 minutes from the airport, so it wasn't too painful.
Our hotel, The Regency, is one of the Historic Hotels Of America and stands regally on a private brick courtyard on Milk Street. It's just a short walk to Commercial Street which runs parrallel to the water where you can walk the docks of one of the oldest working ports in Maine. The Regency sits in the heart of the coolest part of the old port city. A beautifully charming hotel, The Regency was originally a neo-classic armory built in 1895, and all the architecture inside and out is quite unique. There is a fantastic restaurant on premises, a beautiful upscale bar specializing in a multitude of signature martinis, and a full service relaxing day spa.
We really felt like we were NOT in Jersey anymore. Portland, named obviously for its location on the water with a long history of being a seaport, is full of charm and a great place to feel like you're not doing the "generic" over commercialized vacation. The city itself is very unique, interesting, and full of history. Though it attracts significant tourism, it is not at ALL "touristy." Portland's cobble-stoned streets and old brick sidewalks are lined with historic, preserved buildings housing trendy, artsy boutiques, coffee shops, and amazing restaurants featuring delicious cuisine, mostly fresh, local seafood and farm-to-table fruits and veggies. There were NO chain stores or restaurants in the Old Port section itself (save the Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks which even looked cool clothed in historic brick and stone). You could walk down the same streets over and over again and always see something new... an Indonesian find with wooden elephants, silver jewelry, and hippy-like woven bags, a high end clothing store, a local potter's gallery with amazing earthenware, a hip coffee shop serving blends scented with Maine Blueberries, swanky wine and chocolate bars, funky young bars with live jazz at night, chowder joints and upscale restaurants, ice cream shops, fine jewelers and fine art galleries. Everything your imagination could allow. Such an array of boutiques, eateries, and nightlife let one spend an entire day and a full years paycheck wandering in and out of stores, taking in the eye candy.
My first day there, my husband had to spend the entire day at his conference. I woke up at 8:00 (major sleeping in for this girl!), enjoyed coffee and a fresh croissant at The Crooked Mile, a very hip coffee house across from the hotel, and spent over an hour there reading. I returned to the hotel for my first spa treatment; a one hour facial. I relaxed in a dim, aromatic room while I had my scalp, face, shoulders and neck massaged with various lotions, fragrant humid air opening up my pores, and treatment after delectable treatment applied to my skin. The best were the warm towels that were applied to my face a few times while fragrant bags of herbs sat on my eyes. After my facial, I sat in the sauna for 20 minutes and then took the longest, hottest shower of my life. Because of the chilly rain that day, I wasn't able to do much walking, so I only went a few blocks to a sushi restaurant where I sat at the sushi bar with my book and enjoyed a few rolls and hot tea. I met up with my husband around 5:30 and we eagerly ran to the restaurant we loved last time we were in Portland... called The Flatbread Company. This is a MUST GO if you ever find yourself in Portland. They make this amazing thin crust pizza baked in some kind of gigantic clay fire pit. Every ingredient is organic and farm grown locally. The ambiance is beyond cool in an earthy, hippy way and it sits right on the water with a deck and view of the boats. A bluegrass duo played while we ate our organic goat cheese, black olive, red pepper flatbread, drank a summer ale from a local Maine brewery and took in the port views.
Friday, my husband had only a half-day of conferences. I spent the morning visiting the spa again after walking to a french-inspired coffee shop... for my morning java and anise biscotti. At the spa I received an hour long aromatic massage which was heaven on earth. I topped it off with a jaunt in the sauna again before meeting my husband and driving to Freeport. Freeport is the town of outlets and home of the giant L.L. Bean complex of stores.
Now, my husband and I aren't really outdoorsy nor do we dress that way, but it was fun to walk around and see all the stuff. There were a myriad of other stores too... but just the generic: Gap, Banana, Children's Place, Reebok, etc. Nothing like the cool little stores in Portland. We lunched at Azura and I had the infamous Maine Lobster Roll which is a pound of picked fresh main lobster tail meat with a little bit of mayo on a buttered lightly toasted bun. Oh, it doesn't sound like much but trust me, if you're a seafood lover, this is DIVINE.
We headed back for a drinks and dinner sponsored by the conference which was nice since there are a bunch of fun people we see every year at this same event. We all went to the Armory, the hotel's upscale bar, post-diner for drinks, but my husband and I are such wusses that we ended up back in the room at about 10:00 pm. exhausted. We watched some random Discovery channel show about tagging great white sharks (and no that's not a metaphor for sex... we really watched this crazy show) and went to bed. In his defense, he is still not recovered from his blessed Lyme Disease. In my defense, I had too much beer with dinner.
By Saturday, I had already finished The Piano Teacher (it was just okay) and had started The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (Fantastic! You got to love a book that opens with the line: "Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love."). Saturday was the BEST day in Portland, both weather and activity wise. After a sunrise walk with my husband and breakfast at the hotel, we walked back to the docks and took a ferry over to Peaks Island.
Peaks Island is one of 14 un-bridged islands in Maine that claim year-round residency. A quiet, picturesque, summer getaway for some, but home for those who have "opted out" of the rat race and prefer the peaceful, anonymous and natural living of a small island untouched by strip malls, highways, and ghastly modernization. Some of the year-round inhabitants go across on the ferry to work in the big city. Many stay on the island as fishermen, or island handymen. The island has a diameter of about 4 1/2 miles and boasts an off-season population of about 600. It has one grade school (when they are older, the kids must take the ferry to the mainland for school), one post office, and cross-trains its police to also be EMTs and Firefighters. It has all the quaint charm of the New England cottages that dot the unadulterated simple landscape... very reminiscent of a Block Island or Nantucket (though smaller than Nantucket). It was so fun! Upon arrival by ferry, we went to the bike shop where we rented broken down three-speed bikes from a little shack, complete with rust, banana seat, and little metal basket. We biked around the entire island.
It was exhilarating to bike around and quite lovely with the rocky jettys and churning sea, smelling the salt air as we wizzed along the coast line like Lance Armstrong on these high tech wheels. We grabbed lunch at the Cockeyed Gull; a tiny little shack-like place on the water that came highly recommended by every local. I was quite happy with my crab cakes and we enjoyed an amazing view on the deck. We then meandered around poking into little shoppes and made our way to The Inn On Peaks Island's bar. There were enjoyed some beer from the local microbrewery "Shipyard" and my husband watched a World Cup Game. It wasn't half bad, but not much is with a cold beer or two.
After ferrying home we went out to The Grille Room, an amazing steak house, for my husband's birthday. He opted for Filet Mignon while I had an amazing rosemary skewed grilled scallop on the best mushroom risotto I've ever consumed! We walked for almost 2 hours through Portland at night. While we had high expectations of hitting The Wine Bar and listening to Jazz, Old Lymie's Lyme's disease (or general lameness) had us in before 10:30 again. No sharks that night. It was something infinately more exciting I'm sure.
Sunday morning we took an early morning walk again, stopping at The Standard Baking Company to buy a fresh baguette, chocolate croissants and coffee to eat while strolling near the water. After packing and checking out of our hotel, we were lucky enough to hit The Old Port Festival for a few hours before having to go to the airport. The Old Port Festival begins with a funky parade and takes over blocks and blocks of downtown Portland.
The streets are lined with hundreds of vendors, crafters, artisans and stands by the local businesses of town. There are tons of kids activities, several stages where bands play all day long, lots of food and entertainment. It is super fun and everyone in Maine comes out for it! We picked up some souvenirs, ate funnel cakes, Indian food, ice cream and then headed to the airport.
There was of course drama coming home... what would be a better introduction to the "real world" than having our 1 hour and 5 minute flight turn into 5 freakin' hours, circling around in a relentless holding pattern while unable to land due to storms in Philly... ending up with us needing to land in Allentown for gas and try again... by the time we got home, only Pink was still awake at nearly 10:00, worried like an old bitty because we were so late. And my poor in-laws faced a 2 hour drive back much later than they originally expected. Then, on Monday my husband flew out to Wisconsin for the week. Back to the daily grind! Ah, but it was lovely to live in paradise if only briefly...