In order for this to not be too overwhelming (for me to write or for you to read), I’m splitting my vacation post into a few sections.
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.
We decided a year ago that we didn’t want to go back to Virginia for our summer vacation this year. Around that time, we got some brochures about Portland, ME and decided we’d go there for vacation, but we didn’t tell anyone for a year! (In fact, he called his parents on the way there and they still weren’t sure where we were going!) So here’s how our week went.
Friday: I thought it might be a slow day at work, but ended up having an extremely busy day. Lots of last-minute technical problems, meetings, solutions, and fixes. Plus I was trying to get things done for Monday, which would have been one of my twice-monthly very busy days, except I was going to be out of the office and needed people to cover for me, so I did as much as possible ahead of time and then wrote them detailed instructions. (Things went great on Monday, by the way – I never got any panicked phone calls, and when I returned this week everything had been done just fine.)
Saturday: I spent the day cleaning and doing chores around the house, because I hate coming home to a dirty house! That night, GG and I went out with a friend of his to see District 9. So good! It’s a really original take on the theme of dealing with immigrants, and the style’s really neat, in that it turns from a documentary to a sci-fi action movie. Super gory! (Peter Jackson’s specialty…) And aliens love cat food!
Sunday: We packed up and headed north! We took GG’s car, as he is our usual driver for long distances and unfamiliar territory. However, he asked if I’d drive once we got past New York, which, of course I would. I had suggested that he plan out a route ahead of time, but he figured he’d let the GPS figure things out, so of course it just had us head straight up I-95. It actually wasn’t that bad on a Sunday morning/afternoon. We stopped for gas in New Jersey, crossed the George Washington Bridge into the Bronx (where we got slightly turned around, but it was okay), then made it to Connecticut. At a rest stop there we switched seats, and GG did nothing but complain about my driving the whole time! So at the next rest stop, we switched back! We continued through Massachusetts, New Hampshire (stopped again to stretch), and finally Maine! Checked into the hotel, got cleaned up a bit, and headed out to see Portland!
We stayed at the Holiday Inn By The Bay, which was a great combination of affordability (the other hotels right in town were either gross or super-expensive) and location (walking-distance to just about everything). I had written up a whole itinerary for us using my spreadsheet (of recommendations) and TripIt, so we already knew we were having dinner at Pepperclub. This restaurant was described to me as a casual place serving good food made with local ingredients, so I was really looking forward to it. It ended up being probably my least-favorite meal of the whole trip. The food was… interesting. GG seemed to like his linguini with scallops, but I found my roasted veggies on goat cheese (with a side of spinach-rhubarb something-or-other) kind of nasty. The bean salad I was served was very good, though! The atmosphere was kind of weird, too. The staff seemed a little bit rude. Also, they only have one kind of salad dressing! (At least it was good!) After dinner, we just headed back to the hotel because we were tired, I had a monster headache, and we had big plans for the next day.
Monday: We got up early and, following the itinerary, planned to go to Strawberry Banke. But first, GG had to ask a question at the front desk of the hotel: Where can you get a lobster omelet? We were recommended to go to Bintliff’s, which again was walking-distance from the hotel. (On our way there we saw a man sitting in front of his house with a black and white cat on a leash sniffing around the garden. He must let the cat out every morning like that, because we saw him a few times.) Bintliff’s was awesome! We were seated upstairs by an open window overlooking the street. We both had a glass of delicious orange juice (and they serve it in big glasses, too!), and GG was about to get the lobster eggs benedict but decided to ask if lobster could be added to the Bintliff scramble (eggs with basil, pepper, and parmesan), and they could! So for $7 he had lobster added to his $6 meal. I had standard scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, and it was also quite delicious. The bacon there is like 1/4″ thick!
After breakfast we walked back to the hotel, got in the car (nooo! weren’t we just in that thing for 8 hours?!), and drove an hour to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to go to Strawberry Banke. The place was recommended for us to visit. I read their web site. We watched an introductory video when we first got there. And I still didn’t understand exactly what Strawberry Banke was! I get it now, though. It’s a re-created neighborhood, sort of like Jamestown or one of those places, but all the houses are set up to represent different time periods of the neighborhood’s existence, which ranged from the 1600s to the 1960s. So there’s like an 18th-century shipping tycoon’s house, and then there’s a WWII grocery store. GG tried out a privy. And one of my favorites was the Russian-Jewish immigrant house, the Shapiro house – one of the few spots with a reenactor. We had started out with a tour group (which was split into two groups, and even then was huge), but ditched them after going through just a couple houses because it was so hot and the houses were crowded, and it was awkward and you couldn’t even see anything. And the tour guide didn’t tell us anything, she just opened the door to the house, let us in to look around, then led us to the next house. So GG and I had a much better time just going around on our own. Most places we were in by ourselves, and we had the full attention of the reenactors or volunteer guides or whoever was in there. Learned a lot of interesting stuff, too!
Just when it was too hot to bear, we came across the ice cream shop, which reminded us of GG’s parents’ place, both in decor and in smell! We each had a cup, then wrapped up our visit with a trip to the Goodwin house, an upper-class house owned by a former governor that was set to be demolished, but instead was moved to Strawberry Banke. (Homes like that wouldn’t really have been part of Strawberry Banke, which was more of a working-class neighborhood.) The house had a beautiful garden and a breezy porch with a swing, where we sat for a few minutes to cool off before heading out.
Wanting to make the most of our day, GG suggested we walk around Portsmouth. The little town was cute, but it was so hot and humid. We weren’t prepared for that warm weather at all, and I was wearing closed shoes, capris, and a double-layer t-shirt. I could barely make it around the block without passing out. (Seriously, I actually thought, “Hmm, I could pass out right now.”) We found a little shop that sold cold sodas, and we each got one and stood outside to drink them. Then we finally got back to the car and headed back to Portland, where we got cleaned up and had lovely naps before dinner.
When we woke up and were ready, we walked through the “Old Port” area (think brick sidewalks, cobblestone streets, lots of shops and restaurants) to the bay, looking for lobster. This was all according to the itinerary. We decided on the Portland Lobster Co. GG got a tremendous 2-pound lobster, and I ate a kind of sucky cheeseburger (but the fries were great!). We sat on a dockside deck under a canopy, there was live music, the temperature was finally dropping a little for the evening, and it was very nice. After dinner, we walked around the Old Port some more and visited a few shops before heading back toward the hotel. At GG’s request, we stopped at Brian Boru, an Irish pub we passed walking between the hotel and the Old Port. GG had added it to the spreadsheet, actually. He had a Guinness and cider, I had a Coke. We sat at the bar for a minute, but then went out to the upstairs deck, which was nice, except someone was smoking. (Everyplace in Maine is smoke-free, it’s like a dreamland.) Finally we went back to our room and collapsed into bed.
Continue to Part 2!