Portland, Maine: I’m on a boat

After another long day in Quebec City, Kim and I jumped in the car and drove 6 hours to Portland, Maine. Our original plan had been to stop by Bangor, ME to see Stephen King’s house, but we ended up driving through a little late and didn’t have the time to stop. We did, however, see a moose. And it wasn’t just chillin like moose do, eating a branch or something, it was galloping alongside the highway – no joke. The customs guard told us that it’s their mating season, “The moose have been going craaaazy lately!” He said, “they’ve just been runnin all over the highway, so make sure you keep an eye out!” For some reason, he was amazed we’d seen one in Canada, despite all the moose crossing signs, “Yeah, I only ever see ‘em in Maine! Never hearda somebody catchin site of ‘em cross the border.” Maybe it’s because you never cross the border, I thought.

Econolodge in New Brunswick, Maine

We arrived a little past ten at our comfy Econolodge one town overĀ (we quickly found that it’s not easy to make last minute reservations in a vacation town over labor day weekend), spent the night and headed into Portland the next day.

We decided to take a cruise on a sailboat at 1pm with Portland Schooner Company and headed down to find some Maine lobster before getting on the boat. The cruise suggested we bring a picnic or bottle of wine to enjoy on board, so we stepped in the wine shop across the street from the pier. On our way out, we asked the cashier where the best place to get lobster was. “You see that guy dressed up in a lobster suit across the street?” We nodded. “You should go to his place.”Three Sons Lobster in Lobster Suit Portland Maine

“His place”, Three Sons Lobster and Fish, was a dingy, dirty looking place with a few inches of water gathered on the cement floor. It wasn’t a restaurant, it looked more like a mini fish warehouse that sold whole, live lobsters, and frozen lobster tails by the pound. Three Sons Lobster and Fish in Portland, MaineIt looked like a cool local place, but not exactly a sit-down restaurant, so Kim and I moved on. After another swing and a miss, we ended up at this little place called J’s Oyster. J's Oyster in Portland, MaineIt was exactly what we were looking for. We just barely beat the lunch crowd and ordered, were served, ate, paid and left in less than 45 minutes. Definitely try the lobster roll.

Windameer with Portland Schooner CompanyWe made it to our cruise with time to spare, and waited around until the launch. Finally, we got on the sailboat and were off! The crew found some adorable little kids to help them hoist the sails, and then wandered around talking to people the rest of the time. Kim and I pulled out our bottle of wine and I went in search of a wine key. Turns out there was no bottle opener to speak of on board (either that or the crewman I spoke to didn’t feel like going through everything to find one). That was a bit disappointing, since they had advertised on their site and brochure to bring wine or beer. The group next to us had the same problem.

Our inability to partake of our wine did not prevent us from enjoying the scenic views, however. It was so calming to be on a sailboat cruising around the beautiful bay for two hours. It wasn’t exactly a historical tour – there wasn’t a tour guide or somebody dressed like a pirate, but it was exactly what we wanted that day – relaxation and some pretty things to look at. That’s what vacation should be, right?

Scenic Views on a sailboat in Portland, Maine

After the cruise, I drove Kim to the airport, and she went home. Then I headed back to the Econolodge where I had left my camera charger. On my way back to Portland from Brunswick, I stopped on a whim at this cute little diner called the New Brunswick Dinerand had dinner there.

Historic Brunswick Diner in Maine

Photo Cred: Spoon & Shutter

I ordered the Lobster roll – which is apparently what they’re famous for – and it was delicious! I asked for some cocktail sauce on the side for my french fries and the waitress scolded me, thinking I was going to put it on the sandwich, “And what exactly are you going to put the sauce on?” she demanded. “The fries!” I squeaked, a little intimidated. “Well OK then,” she said, and brought me the sauce. In the end, I did sneak a little onto my sandwich when she wasn’t looking.

Eventually, I made it to my airbnb hosts’ house in Portland and spent the evening doing a (much needed) load of laundry. In the morning, one of my hosts, Martha, made incredible scones with blueberries and yogurt for breakfast. As it turns out, she is a fiber artist, and she gladly answered my questions about her work, even going so far as to demonstrate how to use a spinning wheel!

Streets in Portland, Maine

After completely repacking my car in Martha & Joe’s driveway, I headed back downtown to explore, then took off to Boston, my next destination.

Streets in Portland, ME

[travelthursday] Portlandia…food carts, Powell’s, epic surprise and all

So I know this post is WAYYYY overdue, (more than just a day late that’s for sure), so I apologize for that! BUT it is worth the wait. For the last post I wrote on my trip to Portland, go here.

At the end of May a friend and I went to surprise a good friend of ours for her birthday out in Portland, Oregon. Carly (the Portland friend) and I had tried to organize a trip a while ago to celebrate our two May birthdays, but I canceled because I didn’t think I would have time or money. Two weeks before what was supposed to be the big trip, Carly facebook-invited me to her birthday party. I responded ‘yes’ and said I’d go in spirit – which was the truth…until I got to thinking…what if I did go out there for her birthday? I began checking plane tickets and eventually found one for $350 Burlington, VT to Portland, OR on Kayak.com. Before I could think twice, I’d purchased it and sent a message to friend Nick to coerce him into coming along. Two short weeks later and we were on our way to Portland (after many pleas to come to Portland on Carly’s part and many made up excuses from us why we couldn’t).

Nick, I discover during my layover in NYC, has missed his flight (in typical Nick fashion) and won’t be able to make it to Portland until the night after the planned time. So much the better. We decide to make it a double surprise.

I stay the night with another friend, Dave (whose birthday also falls in May), and decide to explore the city while Carly is at work and then surprise her as she’s leaving her office around 5pm. I wander around for a bit, trying to stay dry (but failing for the most part). Seems like nobody here sells umbrellas. I find out later that the locals are so used to the weather they don’t bother protecting themselves from it…at one point some guy on the sidewalk pointed to my umbrella and said, “it’s not raining!” he puts a hand out to test for rain, “actually…I guess it kinda is.” But that’s Portland for you. It rains so much that even the tiniest respite seems like a sunny day. If you don’t take advantage of the sunshine right when it comes out, you won’t get another chance.

While I was waiting for Carly’s work day to come to a close, I headed over to Powell’s books, America’s largest independent bookstore. And it was beautiful. I have never seen anything like it.

I’m pretty sure the 12 year old avid reader in me fainted and then decided never to to leave the place. In addition to all the wares of a regular bookstore, Powell’s accepts used books that are in good condition – so it’s a great place to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Books at Powell's Book in Portland, Oregon

My book choices from Powell's

Somehow I managed to buy only two books for myself: The Woman’s Book of Creativity by C Diane Ealy, and American Gods by Neil Gaimon. I bought also a couple father’s day presents – one for my dad (a book to record wines in) and one for my brother-in-law who is a dad as of today! The book is called Be Prepared: a Practical Handbook for New Dads by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden. Powell’s alone is a good enough reason to visit Portland. You will see what I mean if you check out the pics at the end of this post.

So 4 o’clock rolls around and I decide to head over to Carly’s office. Some bad directions and a wrong address later, I’ve struck up a conversation with the concierge, and it doesn’t seem like Carly’s gonna show. I call her (we had planned to catch up today anyway) and find out that she’s on the bus on the way home. I tell her I call her back and manage to arrange for her boyfriend to come pick me up (he had no idea I was in town either). He manages to convince Carly to wait for him to come home before heading out again, and by the time we arrive she has called him twice and is fuming that he has spoiled her plans. She doesn’t even notice me as I walk through the door, she’s so busy sulking and staring at her phone.

“Sup Carly?” I ask, waving. She looks up and instantly the frown is wiped from her face morphing into one of shock, then disbelief, then she is screaming and jumping up and down. I don’t really remember what was said, just that there was a lot of screaming and jumping and some crying. The whole day, we talked about how Carly’s birthday bash would only be better if Nick were there. (I strategically spurred this conversation as I thought it would increase the incredibility of the full surprise.)

Guy Enjoying food carts in Portland, ORFor dinner, we check out a few food carts (one of Portland’s claims to fame!). It’s like a little food cart village! There are also a ton of them downtown. Another definite must on your travel list.

Later that night we all went out for a drink. Dave had given Nick directions to the bar on the sly since he’d be arriving late to the airport. We were all settled in at the bar (which smelled like barbecue ribs if I remember correctly though it was quite a classy establishment) when Nick just bursts through the front door and races towards the table. Carly took one look at him and stood on her chair, screaming and laughing. Then she grabbed Nick’s wrist and dragged him outside to do a happy dance.

The rest of the week was great fun, and Nick and I were sad to leave! Carly told us both that even after we’d been there for a few days she was having trouble believing it was real. Hopefully we can all see each other again this New Year’s!

[travelthursday] Fallin for Multnomah

Last month, my friend Nick and I flew across the country to Portland, Oregon to surprise our friend Carly on her birthday. Luckily, it was a last minute decision (we found super cheap tickets on Kayak.com less than two weeks before leaving!) because if we had been planning this for a while, there’s no way we would have been able to keep the secret. I will tell you more about our birthday surprise next week, when I’m going to write about the city of Portland and its different neighborhoods (and food carts, of course!), but this week is all about nature.

On one of our off-days, Carly, Nick, and I drove to the nearby Multnomah Falls. When we arrived, parked in a puddle 3 inches deep, and climbed to the bottom of the falls, it was difficult to tell if there was any spray, or if it was all just rain (with the exception of half of one day, it rained/drizzled nonstop during our whole stay in Portland). In any case, the falls were beautiful. You can even climb to the very top if you are feeling inspired. We were not. But we did make it to the bridge halfway up (see pics below).

Afterwards, we headed to the Vista House on Crown Point for a moment of clear sky (literally, a moment – by the time we got up there, the storm was already rolling back in. Was pretty amazing to see, though). We checked out the small museum (and shop, of course) in the basement of the Vista House. This is a definite must-see if you are close by Portland. It is simply awe-inspiring, and you can drive to the top – no hiking involved!