Posts Tagged ‘Maine travel’

An autumn ramble

October 8, 2009

EIMG_4590ven though the color is a bit from peak, it’s still gorgeous in the Bethel area. If you’re looking to slip away for a day or two, you won’t go wrong here in the next week or so.

My overnight began with a backroad noodle through the village- and lake-speckled rural countryside between m Augusta and Bethel. Trust me on this: Arm yourself with a DeLorme Map and Guide and just mosey through Leeds, Turner, Buckfield, Sumner etc. The rewards are well worth a few wrong turns; actually getting lost is half the fun.

IMG_4577Once in Bethel, I met a friend for lunch, a pulled-pork sandwich at BBQ Bob’s Orange Trailer, adjacent to the Good Food Store on Route 2. Despite retreating to a car to finish lunch due to an afternoon sprinkle, I give this picnic table enterprise high marks. Wasn’t too crazy about the cornbread, but the pork was delish.

IMG_4634Then off to the Crocker Pond House, an architect-designed B&B down a rural byway off Route 2. What a find! Stuart (he’s the architect) and Ellen Crocker’s B&B blends angles, projections, big windows, balconies, soaring spaces and intimate places into a cozy whole. Family rooms have sleeping lofts for the kids, a great idea. So quiet at night, too. How quiet? While in the living room, I could hear the soft psiu psiu of the cats padding down the hall. And outside, acres of undeveloped land, with a big lawn, a private pond, and trails deep into the woods. And breakfast? Stuart’s magnificent blueberry pancakes.

For dinner, I hit $5 burger night at the Jolly Drayman at the Brier Lea, an extremely popular Monday night happening in Bethel. No little patties here, these are big burgers topped with lettuce, onion, and tomato and served with a generous side of fries. All for $5.

IMG_4682Next morning, I wandered around Bethel, then drove over Paradise Hill, a must for foliage viewing without stress. Drive out past the Bethel Inn, then keep going, bending to the left on Paradise Hill Road. It climbs up to a ridge with panoramic mountain views off both sides, before dropping. At the T intersection, turn left and you’ll be back in downtown Bethel. A quick loop, but one with big rewards for leaf peepers.

Lunch: S.S. Milton. First time I’ve returned since it replaced Mother’s ages ago. I’ll definitely make it a must on my returns to Bethel. Good food, well prepared, friendly service, and a comfy space: a warren of small rooms in an old Victorian on Main Street. IMG_4587

Next stop, Cafe DiCocoa for chocolate chip cookies (yup, these rival those at Old Gourmet for top honors so far) and tea for the road. (Note to self: Return in winter for one of the ethnic themed prix fixe dinners).

IMG_4706Final stop, in Turner at Nezinscot Farm. What a gem, a family farm/fiber store/frommagerie/cafe/and so much  more. I purchased farm-made cheese, meats, relish, pickles, Anadama bread (some of the best I’ve had, right up there with that from Friar’s Bakery, in Bangor) and yes, a cookie (excellent!, a contender).

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On the water, off the grid

September 28, 2009

Ed and Karen Curtis don’t just talk green talk, they walk the green walk and share it with their guests at the Three Pines Bed & Breakfast. Their 40-acre organic oceanfront farm, located on the east side of Hancock Point, fronts on Sullivan Harbor, just below the Reversing Falls. It’s completely off the power grid, and owners Ed and Karen Curtis have completed a conservation easement through the Frenchman Bay Conservancy to protect this special, private, spectacular land from development.

“My husband had taken an interest in solar in the late 1970s, and when we were ready to make a change from our engineer lives, he wanted to put that interest into practice,’’ Karen says. Ed did all the planning to make the house as energy efficient as possible. The design is passive solar; photovoltaics provide electricity; appliances are primarily propane-powered; satellite technology operates the TV and Internet systems; a masonry heater provides warmth in winter. Guests stay in one of two rooms in a separate building that’s attached to the main house, where a full, vegetarian breakfast is served (farm-fresh eggs!).

For the Curtises, it’s not just about being green, but also about sustainable living. They raise rare breed sheep for wool and chickens for eggs; grow organic vegetables, berries, and grapes; maintain a 40-tree orchard; and recently began keeping bees. They also make cheese, yogurt, soap, cider, jams and jellies, and maple syrup.

“We get people drawn to various aspects of our project here,’’ Karen says. “Some have no idea we’re off the grid, they’re coming strictly for location. Some are very interested in the farming aspects. Some come because we’re vegetarians. Some people never even know we’re off the grid, if the subject doesn’t come up. Unless they happen to ask, it’s completely transparent.’’

I can attest to that. We spent a blissful night here (amazing star gazing). I only wish I’d brought a kayak to launch from the front—or is that the back—yard. Or a bike, to pedal the old railway bed from the Tidal Falls Preserve to the point.

Unlimited golf at Sebasco

September 24, 2009

Sebasco Harbour Resort has a decent deal for golfers. The Midweek Bed, Breakfast, & Golf package provides a double-occupancy room for the night, with breakfast for two, and unlimited golf for two days, beginning at $159 per room, per night. It’s available Sunday through Wednesday, through Oct. 18.

MDI foodie reruns

September 24, 2009

We finished our visit to Mount Desert Island with two returns, Mache Bistro for a dinner and Jordan Pond House for lunch.

Once again, Mache did everything right. Chef/owner Karl Yarborough knows how to put out excellent food and how to keep the front of the house running smoothly. Our table of six ordered two cassoulets, two salmon specials, one scallops, and one mix of appetizers (calmari salad and the lobster/crab cakes), and none of us was disappointed in any way. We each kept raving, and for the most part, refused to share. One friend, a regular at Hammersley’s in Boston’s South End, proclaimed this cassoulet better, quite an accomplishment. The only complaint at our table was the need for a bit more light (and perhaps larger print on the menu—yeah, we’re all in denial about the glasses thing). You definitely want to make reservations; this place is very small and very popular.

Visiting MDI without having lunch at Jordan Pond House is like visiting the park without touring the park loop. Four of us went, and while we each had at least one popover, or lunch choices were varied. One cranberry island salad, made with greens, dried cranberries, pecans, and apples tossed with the house vinaigrette. Two orders of the soup of the day, a golden pea with butternut squash that was rich and delicious and quite flavorful. And one order of the lobster stew, served with big pieces of lobster meat. Now all that’s quite fine, but for me, it’s the popovers that make this place sing. Call me a sucker for tradition, but I just love ’em. And here’s a hint, if you’re not offered the blueberry jam, ask for it—it’s thick and rich and tastes just like fresh-picked blueberries. So good, you might just want to skip the popover and just eat it by the spoonful.

Island Hopping 4: Isle au Haut

September 23, 2009

In summer, the daily boat to Isle au Haut is packed with kids and dogs, hikers and freight. Not so in September. As I write this, I’m sitting at the Black Dinah Chocolatiers Internet Cafe, having nibbled my way through a couple of selections and a cup of tea. That alone is reason to visit this lovely oasis about a 45-minute boat ride from Stonington.

Frankly, though, most folks come for the hiking. Isle au Haut is home to a remote section of Acadia National Park. On most mornings, a park ranger boards the boat in Stonington, passes out trail maps, points out highlights en route, and answers questions as the boat stops first at the town landing, then continues on to Duck Harbor. Also here are a handful of lean-to camping sites.

What an idea time of the year to hike. The temperatures are coolishly warm, or is that warmishly cool? A nice breeze keeps it that way. The trees are beginning to blush. And the trails are all but empty.

From Town Landing to the park is nearly 4 miles, so it’s smart to exit at the park for hiking only. But, if you want to visit the Isle au Haut General Store, see the tiny post office, visit Black Dinah for to-die-for truffles, or shop at the island’s lone souvenir store, The Urchin Shop (you can purchase all of local celebrity swordfishing captain-turned author Linda Greenlaw’s books here), then Town Landing it is.

Truth is, if you want a ride, it’s a safe hitch. Everyone slows down, waves, smiles or nods. it would be easy to request a ride on down the, even if that means hopping in a pick-up bed. Island cars aren’t fancy, but they do the job. But walking provides other pleasures, like watching the dragonflies dance and deer nibble on fallen apples in forgotten orchards.

Truly, there’s not much on Isle au Haut, and that’s what’s so appealing about it. You can hear yourself think and, if you’re lucky and in the right frame o’ mind, achieve Zen.

Lose the ‘tude, dude

September 21, 2009

Back on MDI for a couple of nights of R&R after the book deadline. Last night, we went to Town Hill Bistro, with my foodie friend E and her boyfriend. It’s a cozy, small restaurant, with a rustic, barn-like decor; fireplace at one end, bar at the other.

We began with the mussels, grown in Hulls Cove using a Dutch technique. Oh my, these were delightful. We ended up requesting more bread to sop up the juices. Bread was hot from the oven, potato bread. Mmmmm.

For entrées, we each had a different choice. My pork loin stuffed with prosciutto was enough to make me return. Ditto for R’s  gnocchi with bacon (pancetta) and mushroom mix in a light Pecorino cream sauce (there’s an oxymoron for you). E couldn’t stop raving about her Statler chicken breast, and T’s veggie lasagne was divine.

Truly one of the best meals I’ve had on the island. Now, if only the waiters would lose the bordering-on-arrogance aloofness. Geez, guys, sorry we’re not locals. Hope to return sometime and repeat, without the ‘tude.

Apologies

September 18, 2009

I just turned in the manuscript for a new edition of Moon Coastal Maine, slated for spring 2010 publication. Between meeting that deadline and now dealing with what’s stacked up behind it, I haven’t had a chance to post here. But I will. Soon. Honest.

Leave are beginning to turn, with hints of (and occasionally full-blown shocks) of red, gold, and orange coloring the landscape. Days are in the 60s, nights dropping into the 40s. Gorgeous time to come up for an escape, and I’m beginning to see lots of enticing offers, too. I’ll try to play catch up, soon.

Inside B.I.W’s gates

September 9, 2009

I always wanted a peek behind the gates at Bath Iron Works, and I got one on Maine Maritime Museum’s BIW trolley tour. The one-hour tours aboard a trolley bus (if you want to be comfortable, bring a cushion as a sit-upon) are narrated by former BIW emloyees, who share their experiences, insights, and pride (big emphasis on that latter term, the slogan here is Bath built is best built). File this under Must Do when visiting Maine.

Prior to boarding, we had to supply our full name, signature, and citizenship, and relinquish cell phones and cameras (you know, security issues). The trolley departs from the museum,  enters BIW  at the South Gate, then s-l-o-w-l-y zigzags through the yard, stopping at key points, such as the monstrous Ultra Hall building, where the modular Mega Units are assembled, and the gigunda, 750-foot-long dry dock (shipped from China, through typhoons and ocean storms). The individual modular sections are moved by self-propelled transporters, with upwards of 80 wheels to support their massive loads. Truly wish I could’ve snapped a few shots to bring the mammoth proportions to life.

Along the way, guide Norman J. Albert, who worked at the yard for about 40 years, shared such trivia as the reasons behind the various colors of hardhats, the stories of old-style ways launching gone awry,  how BIW’s towering  cranes flip the modular units (which are constructed upside-down, for ease and safety), and the changes in both shipbuilding and ships over the years (In 1988, BIW employed 12,250; today that’s reduced to around 5,600 worker).

Currently under construction are the  Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS guided missile destroyers, with four more slated for delivery by 2011, and the lead ship of the new Zumwalt destroyer class.

NOTE: These tours are extremely popular, and reservations are necessary at least a week ahead, if not two. And here’s a hint. I toured the museum’s grounds prior to the tour, and while all of it adds to the experience, watching the launching demonstration really helps understand the process and the changes from ways launching to dry dock launching. By the way, you can purchase sandwiches and even a lobster roll at the museum’s outdoor (seasonal) Even Keel snack bar.

Restaurant Week in Boothbay Harbor

September 1, 2009

Just back from a day trip to the Boothbays, and the buzz is about the upcoming Restaurant Week, Sept. 19-25. Participating restaurants will be offering three-course meals for $22.09 (+grat., tax, booze). Details are hard to find, as there’s nothing yet posted on the Chamber of Commerce’s web site.

IMG_4210But, I can tell you the Topside Inn is promoting it, and I can’t think of a nice or more convenient place to call it a night…or a morning. It crowns that intown knoll, and the views extend over the harbor and bay and beyond. Very private, yet a two-minute walk to all intown activities.

Rooms, spread out between the main inn and two motel-style annexes are all decorated in handsome B&B style (nothing frou frou here), and most have at least a glimpse of the water. But frankly, I think I’d spend most of my day in one of those Adirondack-style chairs, placed just so on the lawn, mesmerized by the views.


Portland snooze

August 29, 2009

IMG_4020The Holiday Inn by the Bay is one of the ugliest buildings in Portland, but it also delivers  perhaps the best bang for the buck of any intown hotel.

For starters, the Spring Street location is convenient to the Arts District and West End, and it’s very walkable to the Old Port and Waterfront, making it easy to park the car and forget about it.

Better yet, that parking is free (big points!).

Now add a free shuttle service.

And free Wi-fi.

And an indoor pool, along with fitness center and sauna.

And a free business center.

And a free coffee/tea/lemonade bar (and yes, there’s a full restaurant and lounge).

And a guest coin-op laundry.

Even a pillow menu.

Best perk: The views. From the top floors (Ask for one on the 11th floor, bayside), they extend over the city, harbor, island-salted Casco Bay, and SoPo’s Spring Point to the horizon of blue ocean.