Note: This post is pretty link-heavy. Many of the links go to my photos from the trip. If you want to see all the photos together, go here.
The Rest of Wednesday: After leaving the clinic, we realized that we didn’t have as long as planned to find breakfast (or lunch) and catch the ferry in time for our next activity, a tour of Peaks Island. We walked from our hotel to the ferry port and bought tickets, then wandered back out to the street and had a lunch of hot dogs and fresh squeezed lemonade from a cart. (When GG asked why people weren’t out on the street selling lobsters, the hot dog cart girl said the lobster sellers were on strike!) After sitting around in the heat waiting, we were finally able to board the ferry and headed off across Casco Bay. It was a quick ride, and I took a Bonine so I didn’t feel sick.
When we arrived on Peaks Island (which is actually considered part of the city of Portland), we met up with our small tour group from Peaks Island Tours. We were taking the Spirit of Peaks tour, which seemed like the most general one they offered. Our tour guide, Steve, was really good, but I think you need to take everything he said with a grain of salt, because some of his stories were a bit unbelievable. We went in a little golf cart with another family around the whole island. We saw things like the post office and elementary school, lots of beaches, and some funny things. But mostly what we looked at were houses. Peaks started out as a middle-class Coney Island of the north, and the original houses were all little 14-foot wide buildings. Over time, as the island became more popular and property values increased, they either added on (sometimes in a surprisingly modern style), or tore down one or more houses and built a bigger one. Another interesting thing about Peaks Island is that it was used by the US military during WWII to defend the Atlantic coast, so there are some leftover forts on the surrounding islands, and batteries on Peaks. One former battery was converted into a house (it has several underground rooms, including places for planning, storage, and loading ammunition). Another interesting note about Peaks Island: until recently, they didn’t have road signs or house numbers, and the people there don’t like them, so they’ll often pull the signs down. Instead, the houses have names that refer to things like the location or the view that they have, or other clever things. And there are other little signs around to direct people.
After the tour we had a meal at The Inn on Peaks Island. In another coincidence, on GG’s 33rd birthday, the address here was 33. GG tried his first lobster roll and was hooked – all the lobster goodness, without any of the work of cracking shells! I didn’t want to eat too much, considering we’d already had hot dogs before we left and would be having dinner when we got back, so I had a hummus platter, which was actually really good! We thought we still had some time to kill before the next ferry, so we went to the little shop near the ferry dock and got ice cream. They had a few unique flavors – I ended up with blueberry ice cream topped with blueberry sauce. As we left the store, we saw a ferry at the dock, and learned that the times posted on the schedule were when the boat left the mainland, rather than when it would arrive at or leave the island! So we took our ice cream on board and headed back.
It was so, so hot and humid, and we walked back to the hotel in a kind of roundabout way so we could see more of the Old Port (and maybe pick somewhere to eat dinner), so we were extremely sweaty and tired by the time we got back. Once again, we got cleaned up and napped, and it was after 7 PM by the time we left for dinner. GG had wanted to try this raw bar we had seen, but they had an hour-long wait for a table. So we went across the street to this place called Dry Dock, where GG had his second lobster roll, as well as a Rolling Rock beer (with a “33″ on the bottle) and some clams. I just had a veggie sandwich (wasn’t all that hungry after our extra afternoon meal). We walked around the Old Port some more after dinner, but it was getting late and a lot of shops were closing for the night, so we didn’t go to too many places.
Thursday: Our original plan was to drive north to Wicasset to see the Musical Wonder House, then stop in Freeport, ME on our way back to Portland. But I think at this point in our vacation we were a little jaded by tourist stuff, and neither of us was especially interested in music boxes (I’d just put it on the list because I saw it on the Travel Channel or something once and thought it would be neat to visit, considering we were in the area). So we went straight to Freeport to visit the L.L. Bean factory store. It was actually another thing neither of us was especially interested in, not being very outdoorsy, but everyone said it was so big and crazy you just had to visit. Yeah, there were some neat things like an indoor pond and huge displays of taxidermied animals, but we still weren’t really interested in what they were selling. Of course, we got the requisite photo by the giant boot. We didn’t even bother with any of the other outlet stores in Freeport, because we’ve learned the sad truth: outlets generally don’t have any better deals than the original stores. They used to, when they sold seconds and items from previous seasons, but now they just have the same stuff as regular stores. Plus, there is 5% sales tax on clothing in Maine (compared to no tax on clothes in PA). So we had lunch at a restaurant called Lobster Cooker. GG had another lobster roll with a Lobster Ale, and I had a kind of gross veggie wrap. We walked around a little and got some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream before driving back to Portland.
After a rest, we walked down to the Old Port. We were trying to find this shop that had been on our list of places to go – it sold old sailing stuff, weird imports and knick-knacks, etc. But it wasn’t anywhere to be found at the address we had. We did find a similar store a couple blocks away, but it wasn’t as amazing as the first place was supposed to be. However, it was next door to the restaurant where we had dinner, The Farmer’s Table, which is apparently a new, family-run restaurant that features local ingredients. We just picked it because the building is an interesting shape and the menu looked good. We were seated on the upstairs patio and had a nice view of the street. For the first time on our vacation, it was slightly chilly – I almost had to pull out the sweater I’d been carrying with me all week (just in case). For appetizers, GG had mussels and I had brie fritters topped with blueberries. Then GG had the scallops with mushrooms, and I got the steak with blueberry sauce. The mashed potatoes were really good, too! After dinner we walked around some more, picking up a few souvenirs.
Friday: After our first meal at Bintliff’s on Monday, GG decided that we needed to come back once more that week. So on our last morning in Maine, we returned to Bintliff’s, where he ordered the same scrambled egg meal with lobster added and I tried an omelet. When GG mentioned to the waiter that some of their pancakes sounded good, too, but he really wanted to get the lobster scrambled eggs he couldn’t get anywhere else, the waiter suggested he add on a pancake as a side item for a couple dollars. He didn’t mention that one pancake was as big as a cake! The raspberry almond pancake filled the entire plate, and we cut it like a pie and each had some of it. After the meal we were both stuffed, which was a good thing, because we wouldn’t be eating much for the rest of the day.
We checked out of the hotel, and GG drove us south from Portland. Once out of the city, we switched seats and I drove through the rest of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and part of Connecticut, but then we switched back before we got too close to New York because I was nervous about getting stuck driving through the city. Turns out we didn’t have to switch so soon because Connecticut is like the tallest state ever, or so it seems. (I know, we actually spent more time driving through there because we were driving diagonally, instead of straight up the length of the state.) We had been making pretty good time and were on track to be home in less than eight hours, but in southern CT we hit a traffic jam due to an accident. So we didn’t get into NYC until afternoon rush hour was starting up. Then we tried crossing the George Washington Bridge. Also, some storms were moving north as we moved south, and we crossed paths while we were sitting there in the Bronx. It took over two hours to drive five miles, and GG was an extremely unhappy camper, but we eventually did make it over the bridge and out of New York. We have never been so happy to see a “Welcome to New Jersey” sign! After that awful experience, GG was happy to switch back driving duties, so I drove the rest of the way through NJ and Pennsylvania. We finally arrived home around 8 PM, ten hours after we’d left. What did we learn from this experience? Plan a route on a map, rather than trusting the GPS to know which way is best, and no more vacations more than 200 miles from home!
It was a shame that such a great vacation ended on such a sour note, but we really did have a fantastic time! If it weren’t for that long drive, I would love to go back, often. We were worried there might not be enough things for us to do in Portland and the surrounding areas, but we actually had too much stuff to do. There’s still lots more places to see and restaurants to eat at. Maybe one day we will return…