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Trip Report Trip to Maine and New Hampshire, June 26 - July 6, 2012

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We arrived in Portland, ME, on Tues., June 26, at 6:30 pm and picked up our rental car from Alamo. I got a great deal on Hotwire - $247 total for 10 days – and we were upgraded to a Chevy Malibu.

We had a nice dinner at Walter’s in downtown Portland and then drove to Rockport, where we spent the night at Claddagh Motel & Suites; price was $79/nt. and included a continental breakfast. Proprietor has a great Irish accent and is very chatty.

The next day we went to the Farnsworth Art Museum, in Rockland; it features artwork by Maine artists. It’s a nice, small museum that’s in several locations that are very close to each other. We went two of them (we skipped the student photography exhibit) and finished in about 2 hours.

We then drove to South Thomaston and had lobster at Waterman’s Beach Lobster because several people on this site had raved about this place. It was very good, but didn’t seem particularly different from other lobster shacks. We also drove through Port Clyde, which was very nice but not particularly different from other towns we saw on the trip.

Next we drove up the Mt. Battie auto road and enjoyed the view from the top of Camden Harbor. I think we received a senior discount; even without that, it’s not expensive.

We then drove to Southwest Harbor, where we spent the next three nights at the Kingsleigh Inn. We stayed in the Wellington Rm. for $180/nt. This B&B is superb – the best one we have ever stayed at. The breakfasts were incredibly good and creative. They included a choice of orange, cranberry, or V8 juice each morning plus a small glass of a freshly squeezed juice (we had cucumber one morning and a delicious honeydew juice another; I can’t remember what we had the other morning). There was also a fresh fruit special – e.g., Cairns (inspired by the trail markers of Acadia) offering three tiers of fresh pineapple and banana drizzled with hot butter rum maple sauce. Each day there was a choice of one of two entrees – one was a special kind of pancake or French toast and the other was an egg dish, e.g., a frittata, plus sausage or bacon. The most spectacular one was the Saturday-morning breakfast of eggs, lobster, sour cream, tomato, basil, and fontina cheese. And all of this was followed each morning by dessert, e.g., a fruit sorbet. My only reservation would be that the offerings were mostly sweet and would not be good for a diabetic. (There was also wine and light hors d'oeurves in the late afternoon, but we never were there for that.) Pamela and Bryan have thought of everything. There was as pitcher of port and homemade chocolates in our room. In the common area was an espresso maker and cookies or muffins that could be accessed at any time. There were nice bathrobes and slippers in the room. I recommend this place very highly!

Southwest Harbor is much quieter than Bar Harbor, but has plenty of good restaurants. However most of the things to see and do are in Bar Harbor, so you’ll probably end up driving there (about 20 min.) each day.

On our first full day in the Acadia area we drove to Bar Harbor. We first went to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center and saw the short film. We then drove downtown and rented bicycles at Acadia Bike Rentals. We ended up renting a bike carrier also and parked at Eagle Lake and road the bikes on the carriage roads from there to Jordan Pond, where we sat on the lawn at the Jordan Pond House (nice view!) and had a lunch of lobster stew and popovers. (It took us just under an hour to ride there; the bike ride is easy-to-moderate; there are some climbs. We could have skipped renting the bike carrier and either ridden the bikes from the rental place, but would have been competing with car traffic some of the way, or could have taken a shuttle bus, but they didn’t come very often.) I had made a reservation in advance for lunch. After lunch we walked around Jordan Pond, which took us about an hour and a half. As you go counter-clockwise around the lake from the restaurant, there is a nice path on the first half, but coming back we had to climb on and over a lot of rocks and much of the rest of the path was boardwalk. We then rode our bikes back to our car, which look over an hour.

We came back to downtown Bar Harbor and dropped off the bikes. I did most of the walking tour described in one of the local tourist papers (e.g., went into St. Saviour’s church and saw its nice Tiffany windows), and ended up at a free student brass concert at the Maine Sea Coast Mission Mansion.

We had a very good dinner that night at the Havana restaurant. I had made a reservation in advance.

The next day we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain and did a couple of ranger-led walks
(Secrets of the Summit and the Cadillac Summit Walk). We then went to the Sieur de Monts Spring area of the park and visited the small branch of the Abbe (Native American) Museum there and the Nature Center and Wild Gardens (not much was blooming, though there was a lady slipper in bloom).

We then drove back to Southwest Harbor, where we had lunch at Eat-A-Pita/Cafe 2 and then went on the Sunset Kayak (4-8 pm) with Maine State Sea Kayak, which is based in Southwest Harbor, not far from our B&B. I had selected the sunset trip because I thought we’d see more wildlife, but we saw very little. The boats were nice, with foot-pedal-operated rudders, and spray skirts. They took us by van south of Southwest Harbor, where we began our paddle, and then picked us up near Pretty Marsh, where we ended. Most of the paddling was fairly easy. However, we took a break at Dogfish Cove and after that were paddling into wind and waves and got drenched. All in all, it was a good experience (though we couldn’t wait to get out of the wet clothes and take a warm shower – the bathrobes the Kingsleigh Inn provided were much appreciated at this point -- and ended up going to the local laundromat to wash and dry all of the clothes we wore). At $44 per person for a four-hour guided tour with van dropoff and pickup, the price seemed very reasonable. We paddled for about 3 hours, which may be a bit much for people who aren’t experienced kayakers or aren’t in reasonably good shape.

We had nice diners on Wednesday and Friday nights at Sips, which was just around the corner from our B&B.

On Saturday we checked out of the Kingsleigh and went to Bar Harbor to see the larger branch of the Abbe Museum. We’d also planned to go to the Bar Harbor Whale Museum, which we’d read about, only to learn that it was no longer operating.

We then drove to White Mtns. Area -- it’s a long, but pretty, drive -- and checked in at the
Notchland Inn ($199/nt.) in Harts Location, where we spent the next three nights. The Notchland Inn is in a great old house with many common areas and beautiful grounds. It would be perfect for a family reunion or other type of trip that entailed several groups of people. There are two very well-behaved large Bernese dogs. The breakfasts were good (you ordered off a menu but could ask for just about anything you wanted – e.g., I had an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelet two mornings. It didn’t match up to the Kingsleigh, but I don’t think any other place would. Our room was quite large and comfortable, but would have benefitted from some blackout shades, especially since the sun rose around 4 am.

We had dinner our first night in the area at the Margarita Grill in Glen, about a 15-min. drive from the
Notchland Inn. We also ate there our last night in the area. The Notchland Inn is fairly isolated and one needs to drive 10 min. or more to get to a restaurant.

On our first full day in the White Mtns area we drove the auto road to the top of Mt. Washington. It cost $33 total for the two of us, which included an interesting informational CD. It was cold and windy at the top. We visited the Adams Summit Museum at the top, which focuses on the area’s geology and extreme weather conditions. It’s quite interesting, especially the very funny film of someone trying to have breakfast during a raging windstorm.

After driving down, we had lunch across the street, at the Great Glen Trails center. We thought about renting bicycles, but it was raining at the time.

After lunch we went to Bretton Woods and visited the Mt. Washington Hotel, which was a grand old hotel that was the site of the conference that created the IMF and World Bank. There are many interesting historic photos on the walls.

The next morning we hiked to Arethusa Falls; the trailhead was about 2 miles from our B&B. It was a good hike that was of easy-to-moderate difficulty and took us about 2-1/2 hours total.

After lunch, we went to the Frost Place, in Franconia. Robert Frost had lived and vacationed there. There’s Includes a short film about Frost, and you can visit the home. There’s a pleasant nature trail that is marked with lines of his poetry.

We them visited the New England Ski Museum, at the base of Cannon Mountain in Franconia. Being skiers ourselves, we enjoyed this museum, which is dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of the history of skiing. Free admission.

Returning to the B&B we drove on the Kancamagus Hwy, which some fodorites had raved about, but we didn’t find it any more scenic than other roads we’d been on.

That evening we had the 5-course dinner at Notchland at 7 pm for $40 each. The dinner was good, but took nearly 2 hours (which we had known in advance).

The next morning, we checked out of the Notchland Inn and drove to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness, N.H. We looked as some of the exhibits at the center (e.g., there are good displays of [live] birds, e.g. a pair of bald eagles, and then we took the Explore Squam boat tour which was pleasant; we saw loons and recently fledged bald eagles. Squam Lake is where “On Golden Pond” was filmed; the boat tours shows where some scenes were filmed.

We had a late lunch at Walter’s Basin, next to the boat launch, and then drove to Portland, and went straight to Hadlock Field to see the Portland Seadogs (Bos. AA) play the Trenton Thunder (NYY AA. The game started early (at 6 pm) because there were fireworks afterward.

In Portland, we stayed at Hampton Inn Portland Airport, in South Portland ($134/nt.). This was a very nice place. The room was spacious and had a fridge and microwave. Breakfast was included and was amazing – the best I have seen of this type – eggs; bacon, sausage, or ham; pancakes, a waffle maker; many kinds of breads, bagels, muffins, and cereal; and juices and fresh fruit. The hotel is across the street from the Mall of Maine, so there are options for (a late) dinner, and easy freeway access.

On July 4 we went to the Maine History Museum and took the guided tour of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, which was very interesting. At noon we listened to the annual public reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the House.

We then went to the Portland Observatory and took the guided tour of the only remaining maritime signal tower in the United States. There are great views from the top.

On the recommendation of people at the observatory, we then went to the Portland Head Light, a classic, very photogenic lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth, and toured the small museum there.

This was followed by a lobster lunch at the Lobster Shack on Cape Elizabeth.

We planned then to go to Kennebunkport, but it began raining quite heavily, so we decided to skip that.

The next day we drove to Boothbay (about 1-1/4 hrs.) and visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. We took a tour at 11 am and got interesting information from our guide about the history and design of the gardens, which only opened a few years ago. Following that we took a long walk on some of the outer trails, and then had lunch at the café. The Gardens are beautifully laid out and are well worth a visit. This is a very nice place to go for a pretty, easy hike.

We then went kayaking in Boothbay Harbor. We rented the kayaks from Tidal Transit Kayak and Bike Rental and paddled out to and around Burnt Island, which has a nice lighthouse. It cost us $45 total for a double kayak for 2 hours.

Nice dinner at Robinson’s Wharf on Southport Island nearby.

On our drive home we stopped in Freeport to visit the L.L. Bean complex, which is quite amazing. There are five large L.L. Bean stores – flagship (clothing); home; hunting & fishing; bike, boat, & ski; and the outlet store -- and all but the last are open 24/7. There are also many other outlet stores in the area. This year is the 100th anniversary of L.L. Bean so there is a series of special programs; a concert was taking place while we were there.

On our final day we did a walking tour of Portland (1-1/2 hrs. long; $10 pp), which met at the Maine Historical Society.

Then we drove to the airport, returned our car, had a lobster lunch in the terminal, and began our journey home.

All in all, a very nice trip. Pleasant weather, while much of the U.S. was sweltering; beautiful scenery; excellent food; some good physical activity; and some interesting museums and historical sites.

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