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Trip Report The Frugals Go To Maine

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Let me just say that it is possible to book a Maine cottage during 4th of July week for less than $100/night. It will not have an ocean view or be on a beach which I don't mind but it may be a little too rustic for some tastes ... and I won't let me husband book lodging for us again when I'm not around to double-check.

But the cottage does have a dorm-size frig with freezer and a microwave so we'll cut back on dining expense by making our own breakfasts and doing some take-out dinners. A quiche and some homemade muffins were packed in an insulated bag. Our objective is to eat as much lobster as possible, switching off to fried clams or crab rolls if necessary. As a New England resident, I know that many supermarkets will cook a lobster for you and they were $4.99/lb lately. Melt some butter in the microwave and we could be all set but half the fun of lobster dinner hunting is finding the great shacks with a few picnic tables and a great water view.

Current steamed lobster dinner prices are hovering around $17. There's a glut of lobsters and soft shells are at their best right now. $3.99/lb at the store. The shells are just hard enough so the meat has filled out but still soft enough to easily crack open. Side dishes will vary but are typically nothing more than a roll and a bag of chips. Maybe a small cup of cole slaw. Fresh lobster rolls are in the $13.95 range, usually with chips or fries. There's usually an up charge if you want onion rings instead of fries.

Who has the best lobster rolls? Google and you'll get a great list. On this vacation I noticed more signs for hot buttered lobster than I ever saw before. It was rare to ever see anything except lobster with a light coating of mayo. Also new to menus, lobster and fish tacos. Chances are if you are foolish enough to go to MacDonald's or Subway for your lobster roll, you're going to get a pretty good lobster roll. It MUST be packed into a New England style hot dog roll (split top) grilled in butter. It should NOT have any noticeable amount of celery or lettuce. There should be enough lobster so you have to eat a few chunks that are threatening to fall off (4oz of meat in the typical roll) before you take a bite into the roll. Your first taste should remind you of the ocean.

We scheduled our visit to coincide with Bath's 4th of July parade and Heritage Days. In addition to the parade, we returned to the downtown area for the library book sale and Rotary Club's friday night chicken barbecue ($15) and free concert by the town band. There were enough seats and tables for dinner but for the music we got out our trusty bag chairs which we consider required equipment for visits to Maine. On Saturday morning we were back again for a visit to the farmers market and the craft fair.

We have our favorite areas in the mid-coast part of Maine and the Harpswell area is at the top of our list. On another visit we discovered there are public areas that are literally hidden gems, conservation areas where people can hike, picnic, etc. This time the local free newspaper contained a whole list and we later got one for Bath. Many times I see posts about not going to Maine in July and August because it's too crowded. Well, it is, is some areas but not all. So we know we're not going to stand in line at Red's in Wiscasset to get what may or may not be the best lobster roll in the state and we're not going to try to find a parking place in downtown Boothbay Harbor. Instead we'll only see a few people on a lovely walk along a cliff (not the Marginal Way), only a few people at a public beach in a working harbor, and none at all on a hike thru woods to the ocean's edge. No parking fees, no admission fees. We did, however, pay $2/each at Pemquid Lighthouse where we set up our chairs to enjoy the view and some quiet reading.

Another free/inexpensive afternoon can be spent visiting vineyards and tasting wines. We skipped Cellar Door Winery this visit and headed to Breakwater Vineyards in Owls Head (near Rockland) and Sweetgrass Winery and Distillery in Union. Wending our way back to US Rt 1 we discovered the legendary Morse's Sauerkraut and European Deli in the middle of nowhere (actually Waldoboro). This would have been a budget killer but I restrained my buying to very small packages of bacon, etc.

In addition to the farmers market in Bath (Sat morning), we also visited the markets in Rockland (Thurs) and Brunswick (Fri). These are good places to find a breakfast snack. Later I stopped at a farmstand for late season strawberries which are good with vanilla yogurt (Balfour Farm organic dairy at the Bath market) for an after dinner dessert.

Surprisingly, one of the best sandiwches I had was at a lunch truck that didn't seem to be open as many hours as advertised. Yesterday's special was crabmeat salad topped with tomatoes and avocados. Some of the larger, established restaurants have menus that never seem to change so I was quite happy to try a no-name place with an interesting menu for take-out to bring back to the cottage.

In addition to lobster, our goal was some quiet time to read and enjoy the scenery. I carry a small insulated bag, drinks and snacks for these times. There are lovely parks, commons and boat launching areas throughout the mid-coast area where one can sit. We finished up our visit with a benefit tour of local gardens and one last lobster roll lunch.

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