Just last week, my dad and I went to Portland, Maine. It was just a quick getaway, from Saturday, Sep 3 to Saturday, Sep 10, but it also marked his first real trip without mom being along. There was no real agenda outside of eating some great seafood and spending some time walking the harbor and maybe seeing a lighthouse or two.
I will post all the photos at the bottom of this story, there are a lot.
Saturday started off slow and easy, with the airplane landing some time around 11:30 PM in Portland. So there was time to finish packing and get some lunch. On the way through Baltimore, however, dad wanted to start off with some Maryland crab cakes during the 3.5 hour layover we had. It was a good time, even for an airport, with no worry about hurrying. We landed easily enough and within a few minutes were at the hotel (Portland is not big) which was only a couple blocks up from the harbor. We went to bed, saving up energy for the next day, which was to be cloudless and cool, perfect for walking our feet off.
We got up Sunday, no rush, and went down to see what kind of restaurants the hotel recommended, and I also got on Yelp to see what others thought of some of the places. For lunch, we ended up at Gilbert’s Chowder House on the wharf. I am not much for chowder, so I had fish and chips, which was great. Dad had the chowder and I think he overstuffed himself. From there, we continued up the harbor and the docks just taking in the sights and smells. One thing I noticed was that there were a lot of motorcycles, and they even had parking specific for them. It may have gotten up to 75 degrees, maybe. We ended up walking about 6 miles total.
On the way around the point and back to town, we stopped at a local brewery, Shipyard Brewing Company, to wet the whistle and get a bit more energy for the remaining walk. We ended up talking with a couple who were on a cruise ship and their own story is a lot like my parents’ where they are out enjoying the world while they have both the time and money. We left there and started looking for some place to eat and have some drinks before dinner. I tried making reservations, but they one place we had decided on, Street & Company, was booked, but we could put our name on the list. So we did, and had a couple hour wait. Down the street was a small pub (with a restaurant upstairs) where we got drinks, Central Provisions. We didn’t know it then, but that would become our regular hangout. When we finally got sat for dinner, it was close to 8pm. It was well worth the wait. Dad had halibut, I had pan seared scallops, and it was great.
The next day was also a walk-a-bout day so we started off easy again, grabbing lunch at another small local shop where dad got more chowder and I ended up with a salmon sandwich. Again, both were great. We sat around, asked where to eat for dinner, and wandered about again. I also got us signed up for a beer bus tour on Wednesday. We meandered about, walking up into town and checking out some other buildings and areas, before heading to Scales. Again, they were booked for dinner, but we got our names on the list. We didn’t have long to wait, so we decided to just get a drink at their bar. Lets just say, while their food was off the hook, and quite reasonable, their drink prices were through the roof, especially in comparison to the other places we had gone so far. Dad got halibut again, and I got my lobster. They did a great preparation, with the nasty innards already scooped. Dad headed back to the hotel, I headed to a brew pub to finish out the evening.
Tuesday we woke up to clouds, but we were planning on going down to Gloucester, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We took US1 down the coast, with a short hop on the interstate to get around a stuck bridge. We ate in Gloucester, got some photos, drove through Rockport and then headed up to Portsmouth. I wanted to visit a submarine that was on display, USS Albacore. Lets say, even in my prime, I would not have been able to live/work on a sub. At 6′, I had to watch my head everywhere in the sub. It was very neat to see, and there were speakers everywhere that told of different areas of the sub, and some stories from past crew members. After that, we high-tailed it back to Portland, as it was after 5pm and we were hungry. We stopped at a nice wine bar, Vignola, for some before dinner drinks and then off to what was arguably the best restaurant we could find, Solo Italiano. Dad got an award-winning pesto dish with fresh home-made pasta, and I had a (also home-made) spaghetti with a light sauce, italian sausage and mushroom dish, followed by a home-made chocolate gelatto. The restaurant was new (opened in July) but it was a 5 star house. The chef owner was an award-winning chef on an international scale. I went for more beer after dinner again, and dad went back to get ready for the next day.
We woke up to fog. Lots of fog. As we had planned on going to a couple lighthouses in the morning and then going on the beer tour in the afternoon, we didnt really have a choice. But it was worth the short trip to Portland Head Light. Everyone has seen photos while the sun was out, but it is a whole different story in the fog. We got some photos of the lighthouse and the Gottard Mansion (more just a facade now) and then headed back into Portland. We went to Flatbread for lunch, and had an awesome pizza before the beer tour. As we were walking about, however, it started to rain, so we ducked into the beer store where the tour was leaving from. Portland is a beer mecca, with more breweries per capita than some of the larger locales. I believe he said there were close to 50 breweries in the greater Portland area, and over 80 in the state of Maine. We hit 3 different breweries on the 4 hour tour; Fore River Brewing Company, Foulmouthed Brewing and Urban Farm Fermentory (nope, it isnt a word, but it is what they call the place). I liked the first brewery best, but the best beer came from the 2nd one (Belgian tripel). The UFF was kinda different. Fermented teas (Kombucha), ciders (always yum) and a few other stuff where they use plants other than hops to help flavor the beers. It was a hipster’s paradise. We went from there back to Central Provisions for some pre-dinner Scotch and then on to Street & Company for more seafood.
Thursday, we got up late and decided to try a whale-watching tour. It wasn’t sunny, but it didn’t seem as foggy as the previous days. Lets just say we were wrong. We left the harbor and it was smooth, but once we passed the outer breaks, the narrow boat started tossing about and the fog started coming in. Less than a mile from shore and no land could be seen. There were quite a few people, including dad, who ended up feeding the fish off the stern. No whales were seen, but we did see some buoys and some offshore birds. Also, we saw one harbor seal – in the harbor… Needless to say, when we docked, dad wanted something to try and settle his stomach, so we got some fresh ice cream. I got a milkshake with salted caramel ice cream, dad got a mocha shake. He went back to the hotel to try and get his wits, I went to, you guess it, Central Provisions, for some drinks. I also stopped at another bar and got some absinthe – nothing as strong as I had in Europe but it was good. No, I didn’t get sick on the boat – I stayed on top deck, and if I felt queazy, I focused on the horizon to get centered. Worked for me. We met up at a small Italian restaurant that did home-style recipes and was voted “Best Italian in Portland.” And it was great. It was what dad needed to settle up.
On our last full day, we got up pretty early and with the sun back in the sky and fog well out to sea, we headed back to the Portland Head Light to get some real photos. It is Maine’s most photographed lighthouse. Look below, and you will see a small reason why. We spend an hour there, got some more photos at Gottard and also out at an old marine gun placement (the area where the lighthouse used to be an army fort.) We headed back into Portland and dad drove around looking at some of the older mansions and buildings. We then stopped at Eventide Oyster Co for lunch. Dad got oysters, I got a lobster roll (done with brown butter rather than mayo!) We walked a bit more, I went in and had a few more tastes at Shipyard (it was around the corner) and then we headed back to the hotel to drop off the car. Back down to the port, dad was on a mission to bring some gifts back, I wanted to just kill some time. We split up for a couple hours and met back up again before dinner (I called and got a reservation for 7:15) at, Central Provisions. We had decided that we wanted to leave Portland with a last meal at somewhere we already knew to be great, rather than take a chance on a bomb. We went back to Sole Italiano and had an excellent meal of salmon gnocci. OMG it was great. Went back to the hotel to get packed up (had to be up at 3:15 AM). I had originally planned on going back out after getting packed up, but sleep was more important.
We left the hotel at 4AM, got bags checked and through security by 4:45 AM and were airborne by 6AM. Short layover at Baltimore had us landing in Louisville at 10:00 AM. As we got our luggage, I went and pulled mine off and started to walk away, when I realized it was not rolling. Looked down, and the wheel on one side was completely broken, as was the whole mounting bracket, and my clothes were sticking out. I was frustrated, but kept my cool long enough to walk out of Southwest’s customer service area with a brand new, slightly larger, suitcase that is the same style as I had. The kicker was my suitcase was not even 3 years old, and has only been on 4 flights… It took force to break it up. But all was good in the end.
Got home by 11, clothes in the wash, and my ass planted on the couch for the rest of the day. Which was fine, as it stormed later on in the day. All in all, a very fun and mostly relaxing week. It was nice not having an itinerary set in stone, save for the beer tour which had to be scheduled. Portland is a city I would visit again, given the chance.
And now, the photos! (mostly in order)