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The Frugals Go To Maine

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Jul 8th, 2012, 06:06 PM
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The Frugals Go To Maine

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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Jul 8th, 2012, 06:55 PM
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Nice visit and nice report. It sounds like you enjoyed the lobster, views, camp chairs, and each other.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 08:48 PM
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Sounds like fun!
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Jul 9th, 2012, 11:00 AM
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And yet another area for the "to see" list. Thanks, Dfrosty!
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Jul 9th, 2012, 02:27 PM
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What a lovely trip! Thanks for sharing, dfrsotnh!
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Jul 10th, 2012, 03:36 AM
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Returned to zumba class last night to find several others had also been vacationing in Maine. We are lucky to have so many great vacation places so close.
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Jul 20th, 2012, 03:21 AM
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The trip sounds wonderful and relaxing. Maine is one of the remaining 8 states I need to visit, your trip sounds nearly perfect.
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Jul 20th, 2012, 05:31 AM
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Sounds like a fun, relaxing holiday.

I think New England has an endless supply of wonderful places to visit.
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Jul 20th, 2012, 06:26 AM
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Great report! Where would you recommend someone stay on the amaine coast that has a view of the beach and nearby restaurants/things to do?
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Jul 21st, 2012, 03:46 AM
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Samsaf, usually we camp when we go to Maine (and actually had an ocean front site at Searsport Shores). First you have to decide whether you want rocky coastline (north of Portland) or sandy beaches (usually south of Portland). We did like the Dunes in Oqunquit (cute little white cottages with adirondack chairs and beautiful, spacious lawn) but the ocean view was blocked by ... a sand dune. There is probably more to see and do Portland and south but DH does not like traffic and crowds. Do a fodor's search on Maine to see what other posters have recommended.
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Jul 22nd, 2012, 10:23 AM
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Glad you had fun! I always enjoy reading your reports and recommendations!
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Jul 21st, 2017, 09:04 AM
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Great report, enjoyed learning of places yet to put on my list for our upcoming trip!
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Jul 21st, 2017, 09:13 AM
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Reading about the lobster made me hungry!
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Jul 21st, 2017, 09:56 AM
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I always enjoy your posts, and if it's about Maine--even better! Glad you had a good trip.
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Jul 21st, 2017, 08:20 PM
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Maine!! On my list, too. Thanks for the yummy report.
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Jul 22nd, 2017, 02:12 AM
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LOL, it was fun to read my report from 2012. Local supermarket lobster (steamed free) prices are on special this week for $5.99. I don't think we're going to see $3.99/lb again now that China has discovered Maine lobsters.

Did go to Boothbay last year in mid-June to see Maine Coastal Gardens. Did an overnight in East Boothbay which is much quieter than Boothbay Harbor. Found a little park on a little island connected to mainland by short pedestrian bridge where we took our lobster rolls from Karen's Hideway. Then moved on to Rockland because we got availability at a rustic cabin mentioned in Yankee Magazine as hidden gem. Right on the water. Location forced us to discover "Claws", a drive in type restaurant on Rt 1 on the north side of Rockland. We also went to McLoon's which is now our favorite lobster shack. Sadly, Waterman's owners decided to retire last fall so the sisters could enjoy Maine summers again with their lobstermen husbands.

This year, still drove past Red's without stopping. On Monday, July 3, there was a long line at 2:30 pm. Somebody said the line moves fast. Well, the view is a lot better at McLoon's. Got to Bath in time for the used book sale but skipped Bath's Heritage Days parade for a different kind of local 4th of July parade. Won't tell you where. There's only 800 people in town and over 5,000 show up for the parade. We parked our butts around 10am for a noon parade. Good spots in the shade were already disappearing. The people who arrived next begged us to move over a bit so they could fit in one more lawn chair. No marching bands but pretty good synchronized lawn chair brigade and we really liked the Fake Newds group.

Elberko, almost got to MDI this time. DH required we visit the Chicken Barn for more used books so I requested we continue past Ellsworth to a lobster and barbecue place across from the airport. Really nice people. Tried grilled mussels which were good but not spectacular. Shared a twin lobster deal which is usually against the rules. Very nice wait staff but outside patio tables and a little too hot but you can watch private jets taking off. There's another lobster and barbecue place on the other side of the road that you get to a little sooner but according to our waiter this is the place you want to go to. (sorry, forgot the name)

BTW dh got the Rolls Royce extra big lobster roll again at McLoon's. We learned to order it both ways so there's a bit of mayo on the roll but you also get some hot butter for dipping the pieces that might fall off. That's one of the signs of a great lobster roll. It's a little too full of big pieces of lobster meat.

We stayed near Damariscotta this year because that area is where I found this year's rustic cottage. Really good Thai restaurant in town plus you can get real homemade hash at Chrissy's Breakfast and Coffee Bar but the pulled pork hash is even better. And DH enjoyed shopping at Reny's but he still likes the Reny's in Bath better because it is in an old building with tin ceilings or maybe hardwood floors or something like he remembers from his youth. Back when Sears and Penny's were on Main Street.

We moved south for two nights at an air b&b next to a Rachel Carson 3,200 acre salt water marsh. Had to visit Two Lights on Cape Elizabeth but it was pouring rain so we couldn't fairly evaluate the view. Lobster roll was pretty good. Had to get fried clams at Ken's in Scarborough which is your typical (if you live in New England) extremely popular seafood place where everything is on paper plates and you can get clams either batter or fried in crumbs. Usually the crumb style is what you find most often.

Reason for the move south was so I could go on yet another garden tour, this time the Munjoy Hill neighborhood in Portland. We haven't been to Portland often enough so this was the first time we discovered the Eastern Promenade. This is a beautiful grassy park with a section for launching boats. There's also a gazebo and free parking and a fantastic view looking south on Casco Bay. I thought there was only one fantastic view of Casco Bay and that was looking north from Fort Williams Park (where Bite Into ME lobster roll truck parks). On scouting day we didn't have much choice of grassy but shady spots with a limited view of the water since it was a Saturday and lots of people were picnicking and sunbathing in the park. We got out our trusty bag chairs and sat a spell. Eventually a Harbor Marine Patrol truck stopped next to us. Thought we were going to be told to get off the grass but, no, the friendly guy wanted to warn us a thunder storm was coming in about an hour. DH had already noticed the distant dark clouds so it was a good time to leave. We didn't want to drive on busy highways in heavy rain. For people with young children, there's a playground further at the end of the park.

We returned bright and early the next day for a prime parking spot and start of a city neighborhood garden tour. Interesting. Some were extremely creative in what they did with a tiny yard but I think the best part was being too early for the tour and having to watch the water for awhile. Sunday morning and some people are out paddle boarding in Casco Bay. The big ferry was in dock. We could watch the mailboat going out. If you have never been to Portland ME, there are islands in the bay where some people live year round. Kids commute to Portland schools on the mailboat. You can enjoy touring Casco Bay on the mailboat and there are also sunset and lighthouse cruises.

It's unfortunate that we don't like raw oysters because you can take wine and oysters boat trips on the Damariscotta River which is famous for its oysters. Two years ago our Maine visit was to the Stonington area which had a terrific 4th of July boat trip with a local historian. The boat captain narrates current day points of interest such as why the bridge to Deer Isle is not going to blow down like the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge even though it was designed by the same person. (google and watch the YouTube video if you've never seen an engineering bridge disaster before) Next year's Maine trip might be a bird watching boat ride (not puffins). I generally plan a Maine vacation around something like that or garden tours or 4th of July parades.
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