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Trip Report Quick trip to Mount Desert Island/Acadia - highs and lows

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(apologies for any typos -- I've written this twice already and it's so slow to post that it got lost, so this is my last try):

We only had 3 nights and 2 days there, thanks to Irene, but perhaps the following will be helpful to others who will have more time.

Lodging: Mira Monte Inn, on Mt. Desert St. Only a few blocks from "downtown" Bar Harbor, nicely situated in a row of historic B&Bs. A few reviewers who had street-side rooms have mentioned street noise, but most rooms do not face the street and would not have that problem -- esp. since it's not a late-night town anyway, for the most part. We had a ground floor room with its own tiny terrace, facing one of their very lovely gardens. Decor is Victorian-historic but not overwhelming Laura Ashley -- more authentic with owner's family's furnishings. Despite that, amenities include wifi, jacuzzi's, ionizing hair dryers, and -- it turns out, although you'd never guess -- a very "green" philosophy: one of the "greenest" inns in N. Eng., it uses solar power (hot water, plenty of it!), locavore and organic foods, and composting for the gardens. Breakfast is -- thankfully -- not a sit-down-and-be-served affair, but rather a fairly substantial buffet. Breakfast casseroles are good but a bit watery thanks to the quite-fresh vegetables used in the mix. Baked goods are fresh and good. Love those tiny local blueberries. There's an afternoon wine-and-cheese offering, too. Owner and manager will bend over backwards to be helpful, cordial, accommodating -- albeit in a very New England way.

Dining: High point: Jordan Pond Restaurant. Since this is the only restaurant within the National Park, and it's a bit upscale and pricey, many people opt to avoid it. BIG mistake! They have a popover-and-tea that people make reservations and line up for -- served out on the grassy apron with a view of pond, blueberry patch, and "Bubble" mountains. Very nice, but I recommend sitting inside for lunch and avoiding the 12-1:30 pm rush. The lobster stew is memorably sumptuous -- best anywhere. The shelled lobster claws-and-tail salad is the perfect way to enjoy pristine lobster meat without drowning in butter and cream. I was completely unable to resist having that second popover with butter and jam. Yes, it's not inexpensive, but still a value. Dinner is an even bigger deal, but lunch does the trick just perfectly. What we did: large B&B breakfast at 9, Jordan Pond lunch at 3 pm --- and all we needed later was ice cream in downtown Bar Harbor.

Dining: Middle point: Mama Dimatteo's Italian cafe set back a block from the Village Green. Perfect if you don't need yet another lobster dinner. You can dine light with small plates or have a full Italian dinner. The food is very good, but you'd better enjoy garlic (which I do).

Dining: LOW point: Sip's, in Southwest Harbor. The "lobster in profiterole" arrived as a very ordinary BLT on toast with a little shredded lobster. The scallop and mushroom crepe in gruyere sauce was 3 scallops in a tired crepe, swimming in gluey condensed mushroom soup goo. Almost as costly as the Jordan Pond lunch, and if we hadn't been starving and on a very short time leash, we'd have walked out. Shameful.

Sights and tips:

1. There is excellent, free bus service all over MDI (Mt. Desert Island), and if we'd had more time there, we might well have used it rather than driving our car everywhere. You can get almost anywhere from the Bar Harbor village green. Be aware that some roads through Acadia NP are not park service roads and some are. The ins-and-outs are hard to explain but not hard to deal with once you're there.

2. Passes for Acadia NP are good for 4-5 days. However, if you're over 62 (I htink it's 62), you can pay $10 for lifetime admission to ALL national parks, and if you do that, you don't have to pay the $20 for the 5-day car pass. This is such a good deal that I felt very guilty, given how tough things are for the Park Service right now.

3. Pay attention to times of tides -- they can be as much as 12 feet here. Rising tides can mean dramatic crashing waves; low tides can mean very pretty and interesting views of the rocks. NB: If you want to hear Thunder Hole thunder, be there an hour or two before high tide. You can walk out to Bar Island (we didn't have time -- for next visit, for sure) at low tide but don't get caught.

4. Sunset is a top-of-Mt.-Cadillac ritual. But it's also pretty wherever you have a pretty cove, pretty rocks, or pretty boats. In any case, Mt. Cadillac is best -- again IMHO -- early or late in the day, when you have great light and interesting angles. At noon, it's pretty direct and "blunt."

5. Schoodic Point is a must-see, despite its distance from MDI -- it's an hour's drive around to the next peninsula over to the east. It's much less tourist-congested (with no particular cafe-gifte-shoppe facilities) but there is an expanse of wonderful, interesting rocks to climb over and photograph and a great views around and back toward MDI. Parts of the Schoodic Scenic Drive are also quite lovely.

6. The "Quiet Side" refers to the western half of MDI -- notably Southwest and Northeast Harbors -- where there is much less commercial presence and more residential/neighborhoody feel. The fishing-village feel isn't quite there any more, and frankly Southwest Harbor is just too "quiet" IMHO, compared to Northeast Harbor, which has more life to it as well as more places to stay/eat/shop.

HOWEVER: NB: Look for "Sargent Drive" (autos only) on your map, running north-south between Northeast Harbor and points north, along the east side of Somes Sound -- very scenic and rarely mentioned in guide books.

7. Small gem -- for those who love Tiffany windows. St. Saviour Church, a few blocks from the Village Green on Mt. Desert St., has several. Tiffany vacationed there and also had commissions from founder/CEOs of Jackson Labs. The rose window is a marvel, not to be missed if you like Tiffany stained glass. The church offers tours and explanation of the windows, but you can drop in on your own any time the church is open.

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