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Maine: Portland, L.L. Bean Freeport, Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island, Bass Harbor, Rockland
2004 Travelogue # 13 Maine
Sand Dollar Inn
6/13 This day was going to be beautiful, not a cloud in the sky with temperatures in the mid 60's. We continued traveling US 1A along the ocean up the coast to Portland. Since we didn't get enough to eat yesterday, we thought we'd have brunch at Becky's on Hobson's Wharf (www.beckysdiner.com) in Portland, Maine.
Becky's, on Commercial St. near the waterfront, opens at 4 am to serve the early fishermen. As usual, when finding a good restaurant, there is always a line, and this Sunday the line was long. We opted for two stools at the Formica counter. While conversing with our waitress, she said her name was Millie and that Becky was her big sister. Becky had 6 kids, divorced, and needing to make a living, she started the Diner 14 years ago. Shortly after opening its doors, Esquire Magazine wrote about it and things have never been the same.
From our perch, we watched two cooks working over a hot griddle, well seasoned by thousands of previous breakfasts. Ours would be no different Italian sausage, Italian toast, buttery eggs and huge blueberry pancakes a delicious Sunday morning treat.
Once again, after brunch we needed exercise and a good reason to explore the 24-hour retail operation of Mr. Leon Leonwood Bean, commonly know as the L.L. Bean & Co. in Freeport, Maine. The town of Freeport is one continuous outlet mall but not in the usual strip center design. Here, there are individual alpine-type shops up and down narrow streets with the LL Bean complex in the center. Definitely, this is a shopper's paradise and Peggy loved it.
However, we needed to make "tracks" toward Bar Harbor or we would never get there. So, Peggy said "Good-bye" to L.L. Bean and we were back onto US 1A, up the coast through the towns of Bath, Wiscasset, Waldoboro, Camden, Belfast, Bucksport, Ellsworth, and into Bar Harbor. Each of these towns has much to offer in New England charm and we wish we had more time to spend in each one.
We drove in, out and around Bar Harbor looking for a place to stay. I finally decided to follow a small, winding, interesting looking road from the highway toward the ocean; I just knew there had to be something behind those bushes and trees. Sure enough, we drove into an 8 acre wooded landscaped setting where an inn offered the quietness and quaintness of a European hotel The Bayview.(www.barharbor.com/bayview)
We walked through the Colonial front doors, held by Ken, the friendly bellman, and entered a small cozy lobby. An antique registration desk was in one corner with several wingback chairs sitting around the perimeter. In the center was a circular table displaying information of the area. Looking through the lobby, we saw the dining area which opened to a balcony overlooking Frenchman Bay. What New England charm!
Carla, the lovely lady working the desk, offered to show us one of their 26 rooms, each with its own balcony. We told her that wasn't necessary; we would take it for two nights. We were not disappointed when we walked into the spacious, nicely appointed room, with French doors opening to our own balcony overlooking the Bay.
The Inn sits close to the Bay Ferries Terminal, which we could see from our balcony and the large hydrofoil ferry was moored at the dock awaiting its departure at eight the next morning.
Carla made a recommendation for dinner; a little bistro in town and Ken would provide shuttle service. He dropped us at Geddy's Pub, a former waterfront dive up the hill from the harbor, known as the Surfside Saloon. Geddy Mitchell, a former bouncer, had transformed the Saloon into one of the most popular places in Bar Harbor. They have live entertainment every night and a bustling atmosphere that just bubbles with excitement. Some past entertainers were Bonnie Raitt, Winston Marsalis, and the Pure Prairie League.
We climbed onto our stools, ordered a frozen Margarita and a cold beer. The walls were covered with old black and white photos; a sprinkling of old signs, license plates, and any general nostalgic items that could be hammered to stay, bringing to life a bygone era. Everyone was having fun. Peg ordered steamed lobster and I had the fish and chips, which was fresh haddock.
After dinner, we walked down to the waterfront and made a call for Ken to pick us up. When we returned to the hotel lobby, Carla greeted us with dessert, an assortment of fresh from the oven gourmet cookies, which included my favorite, chocolate chip.
6/14 This morning we had breakfast in the dining room, off the lobby, overlooking Frenchman Bay. This was not an ordinary continental breakfast. Besides the homemade pastries, including Maine blueberry muffins and coffeecake, they offered every fresh available fruit, and we could also ask "Cook" to prepare something hot, like any type eggs, blueberry pancakes or waffles. Now, that was fun!
A young couple from Georgia was also in the dinning room. The young wife had surprised her husband, for their 10th anniversary, with a week at The Bayview. They were helpful with information regarding Acadia Park and suggested several places for us to see and, since they were leaving today, they gave us their automobile pass, which was good for the Park Road admittance for several more days.
Acadia National Park covers 41,000 acres, located on Mt. Desert Island, which was formed when the glaciers receded, carving the coastline and gouging out the valleys. The shoreline shows the relentless pressure from wind, rain, and the sea. Acadia is the second most visited National Park in the country and was the first National Park located east of the Mississippi. This is the only Park in the system where private citizens donated the land. John D. Rockefeller Jr., between 1913 and 1940, was a large benefactor in its establishment. Many wealthy families such as the Vanderbilt's, Morgan's, and Fords built large summer homes. All of these old magnificent homes were destroyed in an 11-day fire that swept the island in 1947. The fire also changed the timber structure of the island.
The Park Loop Road is a one-way road, going clockwise through the Park and around a portion of Mt. Desert Island. Since it is one-way, it's possible and convenient to stop in the right lane, walk to the edge of the rocks and gaze into the thundering Atlantic whenever the desire hits. We stopped at several locations; one was called Sand Beach, and is the only sandy beach, of ground granite rock and shells, on the island. The next stop was the famous Thunder Hole, where the Atlantic has carved out a slot under the granite causing the surf to make a thundering sound when it surges in. The next beautiful point was Otter Cliffs. We walked down along the granite rocks and watched the dark blue seawater of the cold Atlantic pound into the rocks, throwing white sparkling splashes into the air, truly a view that is seen once in a lifetime, just for us.
We drove across the island to Bass Harbor and the small fishing village of Bernard. The main attraction for us in Bernard was Thurston's Lobster Pound. We found that any restaurant showing a "pound" sign was the best and cheapest place to eat lobster.
Thurston's was a two-story eatery built on a pier. When sitting on the lower level, we could see the water through the wooden slats and the shoreline. We sat on the second level, located at street level. Yellow canvas tenting covered the eating area, which was furnished with green plastic tables and chairs and baskets of red geraniums. The day was cool and misty; so the clear plastic sides were rolled down to add a little warmth. When entering we placed our order at the front counter for two lobsters, 1.4 - 1.8 lbs. at $10.50 per pound. The bins of lobsters were right there at the counter; the cashier reached down, picked out two live ones, weighed them in a basket and rang up our ticket. Then she walked outside onto the porch and placed our lobsters on racks above boiling sea water to be steamed. Shortly, they were ready; we picked up our trays, shell crackers, lobster bib and drawn butter and sat to eat while watching the boats move in out of Bass Harbor.
Being pleasantly stuffed, it was back to The Bayview for some needed rest.
I watched the Bay Ferry arrive from Nova Scotia at 6 o'clock from our balcony
then we had Ken take us to town so we could walk, window shop and people watch.
We ended the evening again at Geddy's for pizza and Peg topped it off with blueberry
6/15 We returned to Acadia this morning to spend time at the Visitors Center. We viewed an informative movie, dealing with its geological formation as well as how the land was accumulated for the National Park.
Sadly, our travel north has come to an end and it's time to turn "down Maine" toward Manchester and St. Louis. We thought about cutting across to Bangor and going west into the White Mountain National Forrest of New Hampshire, but decided to save that for a fall foliage drive. Driving along the Atlantic Ocean is a rare opportunity for us, so we took US 1A back the same way we came; going in the opposite direction gave us a different perspective of the beautiful coastline.
We toured the downtown area of Camden, ME, with its narrow streets bustling with activity as people wandered in out of the quaint little shops. The town curved around a harbor, where we stopped for a moment to visualize the Windjammers spreading their tall sails.
Our next stop was near Rockland, where we parked the car and walked out on the jetty that leads to the Owls Head Lighthouse. Then, back in the car and on to Bath, where we hoped to see the Maine Maritime Museum but we were too late and it was closed. Now, we needed to make time going south. We decided to hop on I-295 for faster travel so we could spend the night, once again, at Lily's Sand Dollar Inn in Scarborough.
It was good to see Lily; she was surprised and pleased that we had returned. We unloaded, put on our sandals, poured a glass of wine and headed to the beach. It was fun to slip out of our sandals, chase the ebb and flow of the tide and feel the cool sand under our feet.
For dinner, Lily recommended Huot's on the waterfront, where the Saco River flows into the Atlantic. Huot's has been there since 1935 and the creamy fish chowder with huge hunks of haddock was wonderful. Peggy ordered a fresh 1½ lb lobster and I went for the fried haddock fillets.
After dinner, we walked out on the jetty near the restaurant, about ¼ mile into the bay and watched as folks began their evening fishing for mackerel, strippers, and bluefish. While we were standing on the rock jetty, a small group of kids arrived, paused and listened, as their leader gave them the "how to's" for walking on the rocky jetty. They stepped carefully onto the rocks for their walk. No sooner had they departed, when another small group arrived. The same instruction took place, however this time a lady stayed behind, giving us a chance to visit. She said they have 150 kids at the Ferry Beach Camp this week, attending a five-day Ecology School at the Conference Center. This camp is a six-week program in five-day increments. The students attend classes on ecology and have expeditions to experience what they have learned. She said these particular students were from Belmont, MA.
An interesting fact we learned, as we eavesdropped on one of the instructors, was that this jetty was commissioned during Abraham Lincoln's administration and signed into law in 1870. The Saco River originates in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
We had a leisurely drive back up the coast to the Sand Dollar Inn; it was a good ending to a good day.
Bob & Peggy Woodall