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Trip Report Maine trip report -- Brunswick

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With the Amtrak Downeaster from Boston now extending beyond Portland, decided to explore the towns it now serves. Freeport is one of these, and while it has excellent shopping (including the flagship store for L.L. Bean), it has little to offer in terms of the usual tourist attractions. Brunswick, however, has plenty enough to warrant a half-day's worth of exploration. A more leisurely approach would be to stay overnight and spend the next day exploring the town, though it is possible to see all its attractions as a very full day trip. Opted for the latter approach. Luckily, everything is close by the train station, as the train from Boston doesn't arrive until 12:30 PM at the earliest and departs shortly before 6:00 PM.

The Chamberlain Museum was the longtime home of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who served as governor of Maine, professor and president of Bowdoin College, and Civil War general whose greatest achievement was securing Little Round Top for the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg despite long odds. This Greek Revival house is shown via tour and contains limited furnishings, china, and personal effects -- these last including some of Chamberlain's military possessions, such as his boots, parts of his uniform, saddle, and a bullet which nearly killed him at Petersburg. Chamberlain was also a cellist, and his cello sits on a stand in the living room next to the piano his wife played. I left this tour (an earnestly presented one) a few minutes early to make the 2:00 tour of the nearby Skolfield-Whittier House, which I found more interesting. This is one half of a large Italianate-style duplex (the other half being home to the Pejepscot Historical Society, which administers the Chamberlain and Skolfield-Whittier) and appears pretty much as it did back in the Victorian era. It contains the family's full complement of furnishings (some a bit worse for wear), glassware, china, and other personal effects ranging from the sumptuous to the mundane. A highlight is the huge and ornate parlor. The tour given here was excellent, well-informed and interesting.

After a short time spent looking at the two small exhibits in the Pejepscot Historical Society's gallery spaces (one dealing with the Civil War, the other focusing on fine arts and handcrafts created by the women of the Skolfield family), headed down a few blocks south to the Bowdoin College campus. The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is modest sized but worth seeing. Its permanent collection contains Greek and Roman sculpture, Egyptian artifacts, Assyrian relief sculptures, Greek and Etruscan pottery, early American furniture, and American paintings by artists as diverse as John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Marsden Hartley, Alex Katz, and Rockwell Kent. Currently, there's a good-sized retrospective of seaside paintings by Maurice Prendergast. Close by is the small Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, which contains a mix of stuffed Arctic mammals and birds, Inuit prints as well as carvings from soapstone and antlers, and photographs and other information about Robert Peary’s Arctic expeditions. Allow a little over an hour for the former museum, ca. half an hour for the latter. The campus itself is expansive and attractive, with plenty of tree-covered open space surrounded by mostly 19th century brick buildings.

Food: given the tight schedule, there wasn't much time for a leisurely meal. Decided to try Scarlet Begonias, a place right by the train station that has received positive mention on Chowhound. A bowl of Tuscan chicken vegetable soup was hearty and delicious, full of chicken chunks, sliced mushrooms, and tender vegetables, while a half-sized spinach and mushroom salad was a good example of its kind, also featuring feta cheese crumbles, red onion pieces, diced tomato, and a capable balsamic vinaigrette.

In short, Brunswick is a day trip well worth taking from Boston.

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