Monhegan

Monhegan

 

“If you can visit only one island in your lifetime, it should be Monhegan.”

That’s according to our downstairs neighbor in The Seagull annex at the Trailing Yew. He is from Tennessee and says he is here because that’s what his Maine guidebook said. He couldn’t remember the name of the guide.

I’d like to think it was one of mine. This is a special place for me and for thousands of others who keep returning.

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I’d booked into the Trailing Yew this time because I thought I was coming alone and wanted to stay an extra day or two and sketch. The “Yew” caters to singles with its rates, $100 with a full breakfast, and family-style meals that draw a predictably interesting group – people who don’t mind shared baths and guest rooms lit with oil lamps (there are lights in the bathrooms and common rooms).

By happy chance my friend Felicia called out of the blue and agreed to come along, despite still-vivid memories of her post-hurricane ferry ride back from this island when we celebrated my 50th birthday here with our husbands.

This time too bad weather was forecast for the one night I had booked but I couldn’t raise anyone at The Yew when I tried to change it. Felicia was game and luckily it had stopped raining by the time we boarded the 60-foot Hardy Boat III at Shaw’s Wharf in New Harbor. Capt. Al Crocetti laughed when he read my advice in the guide about avoiding the (theoretically) 50-minute ferry ride is “no fun if it’s rough”. It   a roller coaster ride but the crew passed out ginger candies and we didn’t see anyone get sick.

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Per usual the trucks were lined up at the dock & we piled our bags onto “Monhegan Trucking” and Bill Boynton stepped out of the Lupine Gallery and said “Hi Chris” as though I had just been there last week instead of two years ago. Does he check out every ferry? I’d forgotten what a fabulous gallery it is and what a great art supply store. We bought sketching pens.

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The sun was shining and we headed up Horn Hill to Burnt Head to make the most of this magical evening that was supposed to be all rain. Burnt Head is a steep thousand-plus foot cliff high above the open ocean and peering over the edge now,

I can’t imagine why I never worried about my three unruly little sons during the weeks our family used to spend in a very nearby cottage. At any rate it is a glorious spot and we settled down to talk and paint for hours.

A perfect sunset over Manana and we shared it, along with our mussels and fries, with two Bath area men whose sailboat moored offshore. Back at the Yew we lit our oil lamps.

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Way too short a visit! Good breakfast and table conversation and off on a walk but the heavens let loose half way to Lobster Cove and we were drenched thru and settled for prowling the village.  Checked the notices on the (recently re-shingled) Rope Shed, the island info kiosk. Also hiked up Lighthouse Hill to the museum, which has a new admissions shed/gift shop.

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The News:  Lisa Brackett now owns not just the Fish Market but the store too and handles many of the cottage rentals.

John Murdock at Shining Sails , who manages some three dozen rentals , tells us thatthere are c.130 cottages all toll on the island, 8 or 9 lobsterman and the population is c.150.Shining Sails rooms remain the island’s most comfortable and best value for a couple, most with kitchen facilities and balconies ($150-230 in season).

The Island Inn has new owners who are well liked, local and hands-on ,but prices are higher than ever. ($345 for simple “ocean view” rooms with bath, $435 for a suite). Still it doesn’t cost anything to sit in a rocker on the inn’s fabulous front porch.

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Lunch in the Island Inn’s handsome dining room, hung with Don Stone paintings of waves and rocks, couldn’t have been more pleasant, incredibly light mini-crab cakes on a bed of mixed greens and beers from The Barnacle, the ferry-side chop owned by the Inn.

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Way too short a stay! Raced up to the lighthouse and museum to check out changes and off we went across a calmer bay than yesterday, on up to Damariscotta and the Millpond Inn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back to The Boothbays

 

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June 23, Five Gables Inn, East Boothbay

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Gorgeous morning again and splendid breakfast buffet. Picked up quiche and sides and carried it out to the porch. Innkeeper Steve Plansteiner is a tall, hearty man with a silver mustache and an easy smile, very helpful cluing me into the local big buzz . Paul Caulombe, the local mogul who turned Pratt’s general store into Oliver’s (hip restaurant), has invested $8 million transforming the Boothbay Country Club and has turned two of my favorite inns into housing for his employees. Other buzz: Ann Le Page, Maine’s fist lady, is waitressing at McSeagull’s!

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No problem finding free parking in Boothbay Harbor but everyone says “wait until next week”! $22 is the going rate for lobster roll . Lunch at Waves Restaurant, no view but still the friendly wooden booths from its long previous life as Ebb Tide. Current owners , Jie and Ian’s are experienced chefs . Great crab cakes.

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Down Rt. 27 and out to the Maine State Aquarium to visit the 17-pound lobster (he’s put on three pounds since my last edition) and two different kinds of sharks.

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On across Townsend Gut (Robinson’s Wharf has been spiffed up and was busy) .

Oliver’s at Cozy Harbor (now open daily) looks as great as ever but was quiet (lobster roll: $24) but Maine crab cakes with citrus salsa and orange remoulade just $15.

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Hardy souls were swimming at Hendrick’s Head Beach and seemed to having a great time but I shivered at the sight!

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Out to Linekin Bay, the only place in Maine that I’m aware of that includes sailing lessons and sailboat use in its rates. Ownership has changed (Scott Larson of Newagen’s Scott Larson and Steve of Knickerbocker Construction) and already much has changed since last year. Instead of winding down thru the woods to the main lodge. You hit a big parking lot beside a welcome center/gift shop and a new shingled, two-story lodge. Changes throughout. The resort now accommodates 160 and prices for the new rooms are $320-470 with breakfast, dinner, sailing, kids’ programs,etc. No weddings in high season.

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Brown’s Wharf on Atlantic Avenue looked better than I remember, waterside decks brimming with flowers, an attractive restaurant with a reasonably priced menu ($29 for bouillabaisse).

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5:30: Time out at Ocean point! Rock hopped out to a sheltered spot where I finally sat still by a tidal pool filled with spongy fungi and watched a family of ducks, painted Green Island and Fisherman’s Island with its lighthouse and Ram Island beyond. Finally I noticed the light sparkling of the water and the buoys that have been there all along.

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Then back on the prowl. Ocean Point Inn still looks like good value as the couple I met at Waves reported. Stopped in at the Carriage House (Ocean Point Road in East Boothbay), new this season. Looks worth a try.

 

Finally dinner back in East Boothbay on he deck at Lobsterman’s Wharf, fish tacos (great filling, cold taco) and a Stella—glorious sun and view of the Damariscotta River. Much improved with new ownership by Dan and Eileen Miller, owners of the neighboring marina. Try the Seafood Nage, a bowl full of seafood, scallops, lobster, large shrimp and mussels, for less than the going price of lobster.

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Still plenty of light so drove up to Boothbay to check out Watershed Tavern and the Boothbay Craft Brewery. Can see the appeal on a cold grey day but it was too dark and airless. But then I can’t handle many craft brews. Feeling old…

 

Back at Five Gables, lit the Duraflame in my fireplace and snuggled into bed to sort out the day’s brochures and go over my notes with the turquoise pen I’d picked up at Sherman’s this morning—all was great until I cleared off the bed & discovered that the open pen had bled turquoise ink into the white blanket and even the sheet . Youch!!!! I plunged blanket and sheet into the sink and scrubbed with shampoo until it seemed to disappear. Crawled into bed with just the blanket, praying and dreading presenting the linen to my lovely host in the morning.

 

June 24

Prayer works! The stains at least seemed to have vanished and Susan Plansteiner was gracious about it.

Off early to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens which seems more extensive and intensive each year!!!!

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You don’t have to be a gardener to want to spend at least a few hours here. These are not formal gardens in the usual sense. There is plenty of eye candy but also are perpetual sense of discovery.

The path to the water, corkscrews downhill with a different view at each hairpin. This 270 acres a failed development back in the 1990s when a small group of residents dedicated themselves to transforming it into one, big. distinctly Maine garden (some mortgaged their houses to get it started) . Much of what they had to work with was ledge and boulders and so they set themselves to “hardscaping” as well as landscaping. Everywhere you see benches shaped from the rocks and water spouts as well as falls   from rocks, redefining “rock garden”.

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Kris Folsom was kind enough to ferry me in a golf cart to the Rhodedendron Garden, a schlep from the central gardens. There were just a few shreds of color left but it’s a great secret-feeling spot with a waterfall and a constant chorus of frogs.

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The Children’s Garden is my favorite creation—you enter it through a circle of rock sculpture whales, each spouting at a different moment, so it’s tricky to dart between them without getting sprinkled (there’s a way around). Then comes a maze and a cluster of winsome cottages, a pond, a tree house and much more.

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Everywhere adults too are invited to slow down and look, smell, listen to birds (not recordings) In the Garden of Five Senses you are also invited to and of course there’s a (indoor/outdoor) café by the Burpee Kitchen Garden.

Lunch back in Boothbay Harbor on the screen porch at Harborside Tavern, overlooking the footbridge. New owners Chefs Fiona Dunlap ( formerly at the Newagen Resort ) and Greg Warlo. Who knew that a fish taco could be so fresh, light and just the right spicy with tender, crispy fried haddock & pickled Jicama slaw. Cilantro, lime and some secret ingredient. Hope to get back to dinner.

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Will also be adding the Harborage Inn on Townsend Ave. with units overlooking the water. Innkeeper Troy Chapman is the son of the Blue Heron owners and it looks exceptional, so welcoming with passion tea out for early arrivals and a blackboard breakfast menu.

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Farther along Townsend Ave (#93) Alison Evans Ceramics is another discovery. She and her husband have rehabbed an old shingled building as Ae Home featuring her hand shaped and glazed tableware. I covet the big oyster platter!!!

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Also spent some quality time in Studio 53, frequently changing exhibits and concerts on the piano and harpsichord. Like paintings by co-owner Heidi Seidelhuber. Final stop was Gleason’s, Fine Art simply one of the best high end, museum quality galleries in New England. Talk about eye candy!

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Back on Route 1, 2016

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Back on the road! Warm welcome from Marcia at the Kittery Visitors Center and from the ladies in Visitors Center at Brunswick. Strolled Maine Street and per usual the high point was Gary Lawless at Gulf of Maine Bookstore. That store is so rich. Could spend hours there. Also looked in on the Brunswick Inn. Looks as good as ever.

Finds: The Curtis Library is gorgeous with a splendid old-style reading room and slick new addition. Also found a big parking lot I hadn’t realized existed and rediscovered the Federal St., two ways so it work whenever you get stuck on Maine St. (one way) and runs right into Rt.123, which takes you thru the campus and on down by  beautiful old farms and hiking trails to Harpswell.

At the Harpswell Inn Richard greeted me with “Welcome Home”. I have the Lookout Room with a deck chaise to lean back in with a hat over my face and smell the salt from Middle Bay—HEAVEN.

Recharged, headed over Mountain Road and down to Morses’s Cribstone Grill to a single table by the water in a quiet corner. Simply can’t beat the salads with 3 kinds of berries and lobster or crab. Took another picture of owner Sheldon Morse, pulling lobsters from his pound.

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Perfect light so wandered around snapping the Cribstone bridge from Cook’s , then Mackerel Cove and the Giant Steps.

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Ran out of steam and light and got back to Lookout Point just in time to catch the sunset—first an orange smudge—then a huge orange ball and it was gone but I saw the green flash..

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June 21

 

Another glorious, warm day.

Breakfast was superb-“baked eggs” with spinach and met the couple who had wandered in yesterday afternoon and shared my deck.

They were Barbara and Chris, owners of Russian River Vineyards in the Russian River Region of California & I ended up bartering a book for two bottles of Pinot Noir, promised delivery Friday!!!

They and the other guests had all dined at the Dolphin and couldn’t ay enough for the herb crusted haddock and the view.

Sooo comfortable at  the inn and a late start, drove down through Harpswells to the Common Table B&B but no one was there—looked homey.

On back over Mountain Road and up to Cundy’s Harbor to Donna Dillman at Captain’s Watch It’s still an exceptional place but Donna is “cutting back” so the “no vacancy” sign is always out. You just have to call to make a reservation.

Donna suggested “Gurnet Trading Post” for lunch—$11.68 for a loaded lobster roll, just the right amount of mayonnaise – sat at a shady table the river.

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Stopped at Bath Visitors Center & walked Front Street, found the Live Edge Deli (101), seems a great addition: inviting, sleek, everything fresh & local, casual and affordable, fills a needed niche.

In Markings, one of my favorite art/crafts coops anywhere., bought silver and garnet earrings, made by Susan Parker from Yarmouth.

Over the bridge and down to Coveside B&B in Five Islands. I’m in Alice’ s Room, with fern pictures and that incredible view of the cove.

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Dinner at the Osprey with Coveside innkeepers Tom and Carolyn. Hot bloody Mary and fish tacos with the view from inside that’s like being outside-could see two very active osprey on their nest out on the water plus all the interesting boats at the marina. Osprey is now owned by Tiffany Lee who seems hands-on, a good vibe

 

June 22

 

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Carolyn’s crabmeat & asparagus buckwheat crepes for breakfast in the sun on the patio, yum!

Thought I made a clean getaway but just got as far as Georgetown Pottery when got a call from Carolyn that I’d left my toothbrush….

 

 

In Bath Elizabeth Knowlton, Inn at Bath innkeeper knows everything and everybody around. She called the Maine Maritime Museum , also insisted I check out neighboring Mulberry House , alias Moses Galen House, which I ‘d never included because it was too cluttered for my taste. The new owners Diane and Bill Racine, spent a year de-cluttering and restoring this 1874 painted lady its 1901 interior design by Maine’s most noted architect of that era, John Calvin Stevens.

“I want to let the beauty of the house speak for itself” Diane says. It does glorious stained glass windows, (including one by Tiffany), detailed woodwork and a beautifully tiled dining room hearth, two airy big bedrooms and one smaller, 2 baths at present ($175-185). The third floor surprise is a screening groom with 16 vintage wooden seats and a projector that works off an apple computer.

Diane is an artist and is organizing artists’ workshops, other groups .

The snag is it’s just open May-Oct and only on weekends. Bill is a busy local accountant. They say they want to share his showplace but keep their sanity.

 

Rain threatened so I hurried out of town and down the Phippsburg Peninsula, stopped at Bissson’s General Store (now just serving pizza), glimpsed llamas at the historical society (what’s that about?) and on down Parker Head Road to Popham Bach. Spinney’s has added a real wooden deck and a couple of tables for take-out. Percy’s back room, still the better bet for a lobster roll. Anna Water’s Edge hadn’t opened yet weekdays and it began to rain. Stopped at North Creek Farm which was unwelcoming. Owner Suzy Verrier was obviously away and the two young people in charge seemed uninterested in serving anyone they didn’t know. In fairness, the “crab meat chowder” was delicious as was the toasted rosemary bread and just $8.40? This is really a beautiful nursery specializing in roses, a beautiful place to wander and even in the rain there were woodpeckers to watch through the big, back window.

 

Still raining , good timing for the Maine Maritime Museum and “The Distant Lands of Palm and Spice”, my favorite permanent exhibit. This summer’s special exhibit is about the colorful local steamboating era . Luckily, a congenial docent (David Bellows) escorted me on thru the remaining permanent exhibits, explaining the difference between different rigs and about “ship portraits” and clued me into the museum’s nifty new excursion boat ”Merry Meeting’ (actually Chebeague Island’s spare ferry) and its extensive excursions. The rain had stopped by the time I walked out along the Kennebec to the impressive new lobstering exhibit .

 

5:30 PM by the time I reached East Boothbay and a beautiful evening. A great welcome at Five Gables from innkeeper Susan Plansteiner but too tired to look far for dinner and the Boathouse Bistro, my standby, wasn’t taking any singles. Finally I landed Kaler’s,which I’ve always taken for a tourist trap, but there was a table overlooking the harbor and at the next table I met the man who sang the national anthem Father’s Day (last Sunday) at the Red Sox game (Boston won!).

 

And the day wasn’t over yet. Back at Five Gables I sat down in the living room to read magazines and a couple joined me, the husband brought me a glass of port and now we are invited to their houses in Lexington for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sharp New Look for our big, old, Maine Explorer’s Guide

9781581573305New in March, 2016 ,  this 18th edition of  Maine’s oldest, best-selling guidebook has been designed to sharpen its content as well as its look.

All those hundreds of photos taken by its authors over the years as we hit the road to regularly update it are finally  in full color and — while we grumbled about having to cut and weed content — we have to admit that the result is far more appealing than the black & white guide that has come to be known as the “Maine Bible” for its heft as well its comprehensiveness and reliability.

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Old Favs and What’s New On and Off Route 1, Midcoast

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The third edition of our  Maine, Coast & Islands is hot off the press and I’m back on the road, working on the 18th edition of Maine, An Explorer’s GuideMN_1.1

Off to a bumpy start as I put the last touches to my backpack & stepped on my glasses—luckily fixable but it was a glum, cold Monday, raining by Freeport and dismal in Brunswick – which I know better than to visit on a Monday, the one day that the Bowdoin College  Art and Arctic Museums and several restaurants are closed.

Find: Scarlet Begonia’s. The chef Doug Lavallee is still there at the grill & now his son, wife Colleen with sparkly lights and décor in the bar and outer room by the Rail Station & Visitors Center—bean & ham soup,half grilled sandwich, hit the spot.

More Favs along Brunswick’s Maine Street include Gulf of Maine Bookstore and  The Brunswick Inn. It’s a great, long shopping street and worth extending by taking the easy Rt. 1 cross-over to “Fort Andross”, the name for the former textile mill complex  — Frontier Cafe & Cinema Gallery and mammoth Cabot Mill Antiques ‘160 dealers.

Beyond the Bowdoin campus  Rt. 123 runs south to the Harpswell, by old farms in rolling meadows. The  Harpswell Inn is almost at the end of Lookout Point Road, set back in its lawns overlooking Middle Bay. A warm welcome from Anne Mosely and a the relief of flopping onto the  high king bed in the first floor Radcliffe, a room with space and grace. (love that burgundy claw foot tub). Restaurant prowled and should have stayed put at  Dolphin Marina but ended up at Estes because rumor had it as having improved & I figured I owed it a try. Worst seafood  I’ve ever had in Maine—overly rich “bowl” of lobster stew in a paper cup ($17) and a heap of dry onion rings, wishing I was at Morse’s Cribstone Grill on Bailey Island, feasting on lobster or crab bedded on mixed greens!

Day 2—Came into the kitchen for early coffee with Dick Mosely, talking about how there were once 52 hotels in Harpswell.  Prowled Bailey Island and decided that Cook’s is what it is—touristy but deservedly so with shiny wooden booths and sense of its long, successful family-owned tradition. New this year: The Alert  , a small schooner is moored here, offering regular cruises in Casco Bay. The Driftwood Inn still offers one of the coast’s best lodging locations  & it’s  publicizing meals in its totally old fashioned dining room this year and the  Bailey Island Motel  by the Cribstone Bridge is also a great place to stay.  In  Cundy’s Harbor Holbrook’s Lobster Wharf seems better than ever with Danny Gilmore at the grille, and Captain’s Watch still looks like a great place to Stay.

Bath Area: —Lunch at the Winnegance General Store, the new hot place in town.

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On Rt. 24 south of town, this store was sat shuttered for years. Recently restored  , it’s managed by Shawn Schutty who has been getting rave reviews for his  Schuttys food cart next to Sea Spray Kayaking on the New Meadows Road.  My chowder & crabmeat tacos couldn’t have been better but one was more than enough.

Rainy afternoon, perfect for downtown Bath—a better mix of interesting shops than ever—just the right size: women’s clothing, Reny’s, the new Mustard Seed bookstore, toys, antiques.  Dinner at o Beale Street Barbecue  for the firs time in eons, just the right kind of neighborhood place.

The Bath Iron Works crane crowns Bath's main street

The Bath Iron Works crane crowns Bath’s main street

 

 

 

 

 

can be higher res if necessary (by Lia Rothstein, with permission) sunrise

 

 

Day 3:  Coveside Bed & Breakfast , Five Islands, Georgetown.

 

 

Nothing is more dazzling than waking to sun sparking on a cove beyond your bedroom window – after two days of drizzle and fog.   I’m propped up I bed, looking out the wall of windows and door to the tall trees and the literally sparking water. It’s not 8AM yet but two guests are down at the end of the lawn in the waterside sea. Flowers—rhododendron, peonies, lots of color everywhere around the main house. I’m in the annex in an incredibly perfect room & sense that this will be a good day….

Day 4Millpond Inn, Damariscotta Mills

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Last night feasted on fried oysters at Schooner Landing—fun but really an insult to Damariscotta Oysters which are so good fresh & then went for desert to Van Lloyd’s Bistro, the newest place in town. It’s hidden away on the waterside town de parking lot. Hope it lasts for the sake of the young couple who own it, smoke, cure and bake everything they serve  and are getting g married this weekend.

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This morning I keep grabbing my camera to catch the view from my window, the  rocks reflected in the pond. Made myself a cup of coffee in the kitchen & was sneaking back upstairs to write when innkeeper Bobby Weare steered me down the series of holding ponds that form the famous “fish ladder” for alewives (a form of herring, 9-12” long) that return the zillions every four years from the ocean to spawn in Damariscotta Lake, returning via the Damariscotta River to the ocean in July. This is a good year although the alewives run has been sporadic, beginning in mid-May & then stopping, starting again. The fish ladder—a series of no less than 69, natural-looking but really cement holding pools– has been restored in recent years through volunteer labor and fundraising, culminating with a big festival Memorial Day weekends.IMG_0192

We lucked out this morning and saw slews of fish, seemingly swarms in a few of the pools, so many at the lowest—where a percentage are caught and held to be sold off for lobster bait ($30 a bushel) that you could smell them.

Like most days on the road, this had its lows and highs. Low: a $25 ticket for “sloppy parking”, one wheel was over the line in a large town parking lot with few other cars & none near me. I had run in to get batteries from Reny’s . Should have taken a picture but was so mad that I didn’t think to. I could swear I was the only out-of-state car in the lot. But a member of the Reny family later assured me that the town’s parking enforces have spare no one & have many nicknames locally. Beware!!

Fav in neighboring Waldoboro: the Philippe Guillerm Gallery is a standout.Check the website for its amazing story and don’t miss their place!IMG_0197

On the Pemaquid Peninsula: In Round Pond lunch at The Anchor, formerly Anchor Inn, operated for 27 years by the owners of the peerless Damariscotta River Grill. Turns out that the building has always been owned by the Reny family and is now operated by Dan (grandson of the stores’  founder) and Andrea Reny. It’s been totally renovated but keeping the same layout, now offers more water views and still moderately priced menu . Can’t fault my crab and avocado wrap. Still I’m happy to so see that  the neighboring Granite Hall remains its old special self.

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Day 5, Boothbay Harbor, Room #4, Topside Inn

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Windows on 4 sides—view of harbor on front—masts above trees to the west, spacious-king bed and armchairs,no frills except a couple massive pillosws, huge bathroom with 2 sinks—the kind of room that makes you want to stretch! And breakfast! Fruit cup, homemade breads, deviled eggs with salmon and a pansy plus a shrimp and egg dish that demands its portrait.IMG_0212

Got to  the Coastal  Maine Botanical Gardens by 9:30, given abortive attempts to park there over the past two years. No problem but unfortunately I hit a low bloom period.  Great ride in a golf cart down to the Sheepscot River to see the new electric boat Begal that now offers tours/Kayak rentals are ow also available. The gardens are now 270 acres but most is wooded trails, c. 23 acres are landscaped gardens.

Back in Boothbay Harbor the big discovery was  Waves, formerly Ebb Tide,a landmark little year-round eatery with great clam chowder that closed to everyone’s horror last Fall. It’s been Waves  just since May and is still the same wooden booths interior but the food has spark. The new recently married owners are Joe Chan and Ian Ronan (formerly at The Thistle). Should also mention that dinner at The Boat House—a  lobster, avocado & mango tapa with house salad & white wine was perfect!

On the way home I stopped in Wiscasset at  The Little Village Bistro, another brand new restaurant run by Tony Bickford , Ian Ronan’s former boss at The Thistle in Boothbay Harbor.

Can’t help but notice that three  young couples I’ve met this week have opened ambitious new restaurants featuring good locally sourced food. The upshot: It’s getting  easier each season to eat well at any price along the coast in Maine.

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Two Nation Vacation

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Long known as the “ Doing the Quoddy Loop, the idea of touring both the US and Canadian shores of Passamaquoddy Bay has been freshly branded the “Two Nation Vacation.”

Both Maine and New Brunswick are refocusing on this beautiful, little-touristed region for two reasons. (1) In September a new 14-hour Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelt family includes plenty of footage about Campoblello Island, N.B. Just over the bridge from Lubec, Me. the island was summer home of the Roosevelt family for six decades. (2) After a two-year closure & a multi-million dollar upgrade, the 1890 , 234-room Algonquin Resort has reopened in St. Andrews, N.B.

Since 1964 when Campobello International Park was established, it has been a major inducement to drive the extra 1 ½ hours of Rt. 1 beyond the turn-off for Bar Harbor. It’s been less of an inducement since 9/11, when a passport or identity car) was required for US citizens to cross back Campobello to Lubec. Tour buses have stopped coming.

Campobello was easier to get to in the 1880s, when American developers built three large hotels and a number of high end cottages there. Since the 1820s the island had been a thriving shipping center with steamboat connections to Boston and Montreal. FDR’s parents were among the socially prominent families who came to stay at one of the hotels and stayed on to buy a “cottage.”

(Campobello photos by Joyce Merrill}

(Campobello photos by Joyce Merrill}

The hotels are long gone but the Roosevelts’ red, shingled 34-room Cottage retains most of its original furnishings and feel , part of “the world’s only international park” which also includes a Visitors Center with a 15-minute film, excellent exhibits and maps to eight miles of trails webbing its 2800 acres . Daily events include “Tea with Eleanor”, a chance to sip from dainty cups and munch sugar cookies while waitresses relate incidents from the controversial first lady’s personal life.IMG_2801

It rained mercilessly during our recent visit, precluding a trek out to Head Harbour Lightstation (known in the US as East Quoddy Light), possibly the most striking and interesting light house on the Eastern Seaboard. It’s easily viewed from the northern tip of Campobello but the colorful complex is tantalizingly close, just across a narrow channel that’s walkable only during the 4 hours of low tide.

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The 51-foot high wooden light house itself was built in 1829, with the distinctive St.George red cross added before the end of the century. All five of the station’s 19th century buildings have recently been painstakingly restored – scraped and painted as well as stabilized its present owners, a group of ten dedicated Friends of Head Harbour Lightstation. Weather permitting, in the summer volunteers offer access ($5)and tours ($10) and will soon also offer lodging (limited to 4 people) in the keeper’s house, now fitted with water, fuel and period furnishings.

According to Joyce Merrill, the well known artist who repainted much of the light’s red stripe herself, there’s already a waiting list for the Keepers’ House. so it’s a good idea to get on the list. In the meantime you might want to order a copy of “Essays, Short Stories and Poems” written in 1881 by Mary Snell, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, with illustrations Merrill. In their spare time Joyce and her partner Jan Meiners (also a driving force behind the lighthouse restoration) operate Owen House, a historic and welcoming inn that’s reason enough to cross the bridge to Campobello.

Owen House

Owen House

For more about Campobello and crossing Passamaquoddy Bay via the colorful car ferries, check my Quoddy Loop blog from last August, when we had better weather.

The rewards of having to drive around this time included seafood chowder studded with whole lobster claws, scallops and clams at Quoddy Bay Lobster (there’s now inside seating)
in Eastport, browsing in the quirky 45th Parallel gift shop in PerryIMG_2815
and at Carol Heinlein’s fabulous Calais Book Shop 405 Main St.. We also stopped to check that the town’s hidden treasure is still there. The Wabanaki Cultural Center museum with its outstanding collection of Passamaquoddy baskets and multi-media displays, on the lower lever of the Maine Tourist Information Center (39 Union St.) in Calais.

The St. Andrew’s part of our tour is pretty much the way I told it in last August’s blog, with the small difference that The Algonquin is once more fully open, complete with central air conditioning , an indoor pool with scary waterslide and a gorgeous spa.

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Finally our luck with the weather changed here and I was able to go kayaking on Passamaquoddy Bay.
kayaking.

For a map/guide to cultural sites and events on both sides of Passamaquoddy Bay check out Artsipelago , also available in hard copy throughout the raea and from the Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport, Me.

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June 16, 2014 · 4:32 pm

Maine Explorer’s Guide, 17th Edition, new for 2014

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The 2014 edition of Maine’s oldest, most complete, most frequently updated and best-selling guide is hot off the press. It includes the coast from Kittery to Eastport & Lubec, also Campobello & the “Quoddy Loop” around Passamaquoddy Bay to St. Andrews and the island of Grand Manan (just 10 miles off the Maine coast. It also covers the North Woods, theWestern Mountain and Lake Region, the Kennebec Valley and Aroostook County — with the kind of honesty, clarity and detail the comes with repeated visits.

A big thank you to all the friendly people of Maine who have helped my co-author Nancy English and myself, yet again, to ferret out the best of what there is to see and do, where to stay, eat and shop throughout the Pine Tree state.
The Web offers plenty of info, but much of it misleading. This old-fashioned, hard copy guide tells it like it is, what we see when go there. We visit every lodging place we include.
When I wrote the first edition of this guide in 1981, there was no web & there were also far fewer places to stay in Maine. Over the years as lodging multiplied, the book thickened. This edition is 640 pages, with 38 maps and 465 photos.
For the record, that’s down from 792 pages for the 2012 edition.
Known as “the Maine Bible”, it was getting too heavy to tote.
This edition is more selective in lodging and dining choices & we also managed to cut the bulk—while increasing the number of photos—by using thinner paper.
As a longtime travel writer—not just a guidebook writer—I take pride in crafting an overview for each destination—as well as accurate descriptions of places to stay. What I value most is the kind of welcome I receive from the innkeepers and staff and their ability and willingness to tune me into the best of what’s available locally. Of course I value cleanliness and comfort but I’m also recommending only places that I would like to stay myself. We include prices, not just $ symbols, which can be misleading because they include different meals and services for different places.
We also include menu price ranges for restaurants described under Dining Out . More reasonable options are found under Eating Out. It doesn’t hurt that Nancy is a food writer.
Enough! Except I have to add that my format seems to work. The book begins with What’s Where , alphabetically tackling subjects from Abenaki and Blueberries through dog-sledding and puffin-watching to vineyards and zip lines. Then come more than 50 chapters, each describing a region of Maine. Countryman Press has adopted this format for most of the 100 Explorer Guides that it now publishes to this country.

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