John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

The Portland, Maine waterfront

Portland Head Lighthouse

Smuggler's Cove Inn from the beach

A large schooner sails carefully into crowded Boothbay Harbor

Boothbay Harbor with the cross harbor walkway in the distance

June 26

Tuesday marked four months exactly since we left our now very distant home in Delta. We have covered 18,500 kms, seen countless wondrous sights and slept in far too many different beds, but none as comfortable as the ones in this Holiday Inn Express in Portland. They are almost as comfortable as our bed at home and, between seeing the colour schemes here and watching too many HGTV makeover shows, Brenda is well down the path of redecorating our bedroom when we get home.

It was incredibly hot and humid as we stepped outside our hotel to drive down to the Portland Harbor; very unusual for the Maine coast. We found a convenient place to park Big Blue and picked up a map from the Visitors Center to take a walking tour. From the waterfront, Portland's historic district is mostly uphill and with the heat, I was soaked by the time we got to the first stop, an historic mansion called Victoria House. Fortunately, Brenda and I agreed on a major point...we are pretty much done with museum and house tours for a while.

We moved on to the center of town to the Art Museum that is supposed to be architecturally significant but looked to us like an overblown beach changing room. The museum consists of three buildings from three different architects and we saw primarily the front of the latest addition designed by the I. M. Pei firm; if it was my firm, I'd make sure they took my name off it.

We walked back down to the Harbor for lunch, doing some shopping along the way. Mostly we ducked into stores for the air conditioning rather than to buy anything because we were, by now, seriously pushing the envelope on our duty free limit. Our lunch theme of late has been on waterfront decks and today was no exception. We followed the recommendation of our parking attendant and went to the Dockside Pub. Down by the water a nice breeze gave us respite from the heat, even if our napkins had difficulty staying put.

We reviewed our area maps and saw that, off Cape Elizabeth south of Portland, there were several lighthouses to visit in the State Parks. It seemed like a good idea to stay near the water to escape the heat so we retrieved Blue with her welcome AC and headed south. The first lighthouse we came to was the Portland Head Lighthouse at the entrance to Portland Harbor. It is one of the most beautiful lighthouses to see inasmuch as you can walk right up to it and photograph it from many angles. It is featured in many well-known photographs and paintings and has a plaque speculating that this is where Longfellow got his inspiration for his poem, "The Lighthouse".

While enjoying the cool breeze (a mere 24°C instead of the 32°C in town), I struck up a conversation with a park worker who, when he found out I was from Vancouver, asked if we could send some more hockey players like Cam Neely to the area. I told him that that was considered the worst trade in Vancouver's history, if not the entire NHL, but that Boston and Columbus had some pretty good young guys from the Giants.

We drove on to another site called Two Lights Point that kind of paled in comparison to Portland Head but did have some great scenic wave action on the rocks as well as a lobster fisherman off the point, trying to pull in his traps in the wind and waves. We drove back to our hotel, anticipating another glorious night of sleep in our luxurious beds.

June 27

In a conversation I had with a fellow retiree on the Quincy-Boston ferry, I mentioned we were heading up toward Bar Harbor on the Maine Coast. He urged us to stop in at a lesser-known place on our way, called Boothbay Harbor. It would be a short, scenic trip from Portland and, we felt, if it didn't appeal to us, we could just keep going to Bar Harbor.

As it was, Brenda found a coupon for the area in a waterfront resort and I found an article in the Portland paper saying that this afternoon at 2:00 pm, there would be a windjammer fleet sailing into the Boothbay Harbor...sounding better all the time. We arrived at Smuggler's Cove Inn just after 1:00 pm and were happy to find it had everything we were looking for. It reminded us a lot of the places we used to stay at on the Shuswap and Kalamalka Lakes.

Our resort was about 5 miles east of Boothbay Harbor in the appropriately named, East Boothbay Harbor. After unpacking and getting set up, we drove back to the main town (I'm getting tired of typing out "Boothbay Harbor") for the Windjammer event. Parking in the compact town center was non-existent and, just as we were going to drive away, a policeman rapped on our window and offered us a place that had just opened up...Nordgren luck again!

We just got ourselves seated in a waterfront restaurant when the first of the magnificent boat/ships sailed around the point into the Harbor. The Harbor was jammed with people, boats and lobster traps but the skipper glided in and performed a flawless180° turn right in front of us. As the second vessel sailed in beside it, the crew lit off a cannon that caused the (much older) seniors around us to gasp and choke on their lunches. Five boats had completed the sail-in before it was over, just as we finished our lunch.

We walked toward the Harbor's walkway to the opposite shore, which was described in our literature as being "just behind the bowling alley". Wondering why an historic town would use a bowling alley as a reference point, our curiosity was allayed when we saw the 40's vintage log building with 6 lanes of 10-pin candlestick bowling where they use a ball similar to 5-pin bowling. It was fully occupied with people waiting for lanes to open up.

We found the walkway, which was packed with post Windjammer crowds of tourists like ourselves. We met a nice couple from New Jersey along the walkway and, once again, had a long talk about the joys of retirement. They had been coming here for 30 years and just loved it. Unfortunately for them, one reason they came here was to escape the oppressive summer heat of home. This year, they were experiencing weather 20°F warmer than usual here, coupled with the high humidity.

We returned to our resort and enjoyed martinis on the balcony accompanied by a refreshing breeze that had come up. The gorgeous scenery of our bay looked mysterious in the twilight, as a light haze or mist generated by the humidity hung over the water. We continue to revel in the sheer good fortune and adventure of poking around the hidden corners of our journey, where we find the best memories.

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