Our first stop on Commercial Street, in the historic Old Port of Portland Maine, was at David Wood Clothiers, a Haberdashery and purveyor of “Portland Style’ for over 40 years. We wondered if there was a need for bespoke tailoring on the edge of Casco Bay, in a town with a less then 70,000 people. Would the daily influx of cruise ship passengers and tourists be interested in anything other than lobster rolls, souvenir T-Shirts and the briny ambiance of the active piers and charming cobblestone streets? In the spacious and gallery-like Edgecomb Potters, we were instantly curious about the unique glazing on the stunning array of Maine made handcrafted pottery. Famished, at 11 am, and attracted by the aroma emanating from The Standard Baking Co., we stopped for coffee and wonderfully good scones and in a second of shared enlightenment, we realized something was up in this town.
From our delight at the modern nautical décor of our rooms at the hip Portland Harbor Hotel to our brief exploration and spontaneous coffee stop we had experienced cosmopolitan verve and quiet sophistication at every turn, and we were just getting started.
The shaded streets in the Old Port are lined with unique shops, interesting restaurants – from the fine to the fun, microbreweries, coffee bars and specialty shops selling local crafts and treats. We headed upward to the interesting and contemporary Portland Museum of Art where we viewed a very insightful and illuminating show of N.C. Wyeth’s work.
We ventured on to a late afternoon snack of Duckfat’s poutine, richly topped with their duck confit and shared a milkshake. A waterside walk would be the perfect palate cleanser so we headed over to the wonderful Eastern Promenade where we were tempted by the kayak rentals but chose to enjoy the views, park and fresh air on terra firma.
Later we joined the after-work crowd at The Sagamore Hill Lounge for some craft cocktails and friendly conversation.
We were overwhelmed by the wealth of insider tips on the latest attractions and favorite local breweries recommendations. We found an enthusiastic vibe throughout Portland that continued during our excellent dinner at Bluefin North Atlantic Seafood. We found Chef Gil Plaster’s lobster “scargot” and calamari “fries” to be excellent starters to our meal of beautifully prepared fresh Halibut and richly satisfying Cioppino.
The next day we got back into our Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring and jumped on the Casco Bay Lines ferry to nearby Peaks Island. The Ferry passes the historic Fort Gorges on Hog Island Ledge, a storage facility for submarine mines during World War II. On our brief sea passage, the present seems to fade into another era and once on quaint Peaks Island our time travel had indeed been confirmed. A favorite vacation destination for over a century, Peaks Island’s history is steeped in the arts, culture and military history.
Visitors can stroll across to the island, rent bikes or hire tour guides to see the tree-lined neighborhoods, beaches, visit the historic 5th Maine Regiment Museum or stay harbor side and enjoy a meal and view.
We sat by the sea and walk on the rocky coast during our visit to Peaks Island feeling the full allure of quintessential Maine at its finest.
For dinner, we wanted to continue our indulgence in distinctly warm traditions of America’s Vacationland and decided to forgo the thrill of dining at any of the many notable and world-class restaurants in Portland for sunset dining at the stately Black Point Inn in nearby Scarborough.
After sipping a cocktail on the lawn overlooking the bay it was lobster time. Lobster ravioli or lobster roll for the main course, fresh oysters or New England calm chowder for the appetizer? The gourmet comfort food served in the charming and traditional resort-style dining Chart Room on Prouts Neck at the Black Point Inn is picture-perfect, precise and prepared without pretense.
Whether you embrace history, tradition or trend, your thirst can be quenched and your curiosity will be heightened with all that there is see and do, in innovative Portland. There are great walks to be had, unique shops to explore, museums and historical sights to discover and stunning vistas to view. Plan a brewery crawl to enjoy Portland’s highly acclaimed craft brewing scene or go by bus with The Maine Brew Bus. The craft brew scene, trendy coffee bars and, energetic cafes and world-class restaurants, that are not to be missed, foster Portland’s hipness. We found that hanging in Portland is a blast and we are anxious to return. Visit Portland.
On the Saint Lawrence River.
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