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yk & family 4-day trip to Portland, Maine; July 2014


Aug 1st, 2014, 11:35 AM
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yk & family 4-day trip to Portland, Maine; July 2014

DH, me, our 20 month-old toddler, and my parents spent 4 nights in Portland Maine earlier this week. We chose Portland because DH & I spent a wonderful weekend there 4 years ago, and it is within easy driving distance from Boston (where we live). My parents (in TX) visit us every summer and I suggested we meet in Portland instead.

I rented a 3BR/2BA apartment via Airbnb, located in the Parkside neighborhood. The apartment is huge and fits all our needs.

We (DH, me, DS) drove up to Portland on Sunday, arriving around 2:30p (check-in was 2p). After setting in, I made a grocery run to WF to stock up the kitchen, then started dinner prep, and off to the Portland airport to pick up my parents. By the time they got in, it was time for dinner and bedtime for DS.

The next day, Monday, was very wet. We, as well as every parent in Portland with a child under the age of 5, headed to the Children's Museum. http://www.kitetails.org/ There was only 1 register so we all stood out in the rain for at least 10 minutes even though the line wasn't that long. It was super crowded inside and DS was a bit overwhelmed, but soon he discovered the car and firetruck and tractor. The museum is on the small side, but enough to entertain a 20 month-old. We didn't stay long because DS soon was tired.

We ate lunch at an Asian noodle place called Mi Sen, which is on the way home for us. http://www.misennoodlebar.com/ The prices were pretty cheap but the noodle bowls are small. Some were better than others (I liked my drunken noodle, and dad liked his tom yum noodle soup). We were met with torrential downpour during the 5-min walk home; we were all drenched from knee down.

DS went down for his nap and the rain stopped, so I ventured to Holy Donut (park Ave location; an 8-min walk) to pick up some donuts. http://www.theholydonut.com/ Sadly, they were all sold out by 2pm.

After DS's nap, we returned to the Children's Museum (admission is good for the day), except my dad who wanted to check out the Portland Museum of Art, which is right next door. He really enjoyed the Richard Estes exhibition. As for the Children's Museum, it was fairly empty by then so DS got to play more without having to wait his turn.

At closing time, we drove down to Old Port area and had dinner at Portland Lobster Company on Commercial Street. http://www.portlandlobstercompany.com/
It has a huge deck and is self-service. Mom and Dad shared 2 clam chowders plus the DownEast plate (1.5 lb steamed lobster, steamers, corn on the cob, cole slaw, and fries). DH & I both got the Lobster dinner (1.25lb lobster, corn, potato, slaw). Our lobsters were soft-shelled and watery, but tasted fresh anyway.

1 block down on Commercial Street we came across Captain Sam's Ice cream so we went in for dessert. https://www.facebook.com/CaptainSamsIceCream Their ice-cream is really good. Dad had a small blueberry - very robust, real flavor. DH & I shared a regular sized ice cream. Their vanilla is rich and creamy.

On Wednesday, the day with the best weather, we went to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum for a train ride (DS's first). http://www.mainenarrowgauge.org/
Even though the website says the train ride is 35 minutes long, in reality, the train is in motion for no more than 20 minutes total, which is perfect for our son with short attention span. It goes along the Eastern Promenade and stops before a disused bridge. We can then get off and walk around (and tour the engine if one wishes), before we get back on and ride it back to our starting point. The train ticket is also good for the small museum, which has several train cars, memorabilia, and most importantly (for DS), toy train sets to play with.

On our way home, I stopped the car outside Two Fat Cats Bakery so DH could buy a couple of their famous whoopie pies. http://twofatcatsbakery.com/ Then I dropped DH off at Congress Square (across from the Museum of Art) so he could pick up several sandwiches from the Small Axe Food Truck. http://smallaxetruck.com/

DH got 3 sandwiches: brisket; fried hake; and Korean pulled pork. All 3 were really delicious. OTOH, I wasn't that impressed by the whoopie pies. There is a bakery here in Boston that makes whoopie pies and I prefer those3.

After DS's nap, we walked to Deering Oaks Park, a large green space just a few minutes walk from our apartment. The park has a pond, wading pool for kids, lots of trails, as well as a children's playground. http://www.deeringoaks.org/ We stayed in that night and I cooked dinner.

On Wednesday, we drove 15 minutes out of town to Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, home of the Portland Head Light.

It was cloudy but not too foggy, so we still had a good view of the ocean. Another attraction there is the Bite into Maine Food truck which serves different variations of lobster rolls. http://www.biteintomaine.com/ Although its website says it opens at 11am, on the day we visited, the truck rolled in right at 11am, and then we were told it would be at least 20 minutes before they start serving. Luckily, there was a toddler swing set near the picnic area so I entertained DS while DH patiently waited for the food truck to open.

DH got 2 regular rolls and 2 curry lobster rolls. They were all chock full of lobster meat, no fillers. At $15 each, I think that's a pretty good deal. We ate at one of the many picnic tables at the Park (note: it is carry-in, carry-out), facing the ocean. Can't ask for a better view!

Then it is back home for DS's nap. That afternoon, we returned to the Old Port area along Commercial Street for a stroll. We were amazed by how many tourists Portland gets. Lots and lots of souvenir shops selling nautical-themed items, or kitchen wares, or blueberry-related things. We walked along Commercial Street and Fore Street, then headed towards Exchange Street in search of Mount Dessert Island Ice Cream. But before we got there, we found the OTHER branch of Holy Donut and they were not sold out. We decided we'd get donuts instead of ice cream. They are famous because their donuts are made with potatoes (and flour). DH got their coffee brandy one, while I got the chocolate sea salt (unfortunately only GF avail). I didn't really like mine because of the GF feature - it was very crumbly! I offered some to DS and half of it ended up on the floor.

That night, we planned to eat out at Pai Men Miyake noodle house near our apartment. http://www.miyakerestaurants.com/pai-men-miyake/ Everyone on Chowhound raved about it and said it is child-friendly. However, when we got there, we found out they do not offer high chairs. No go for us. Plan B was Hot Suppa 1/2 block down the street.

Ooops... DS is now up so rest of TR to be continued...
yk is offline  
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Aug 1st, 2014, 12:18 PM
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Sounds like a good break. I'm quite fond of Portland.

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Aug 1st, 2014, 01:53 PM
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You still write the best TR's, yk!
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Aug 1st, 2014, 03:26 PM
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following along! have always wanted to go to Maine!
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Aug 1st, 2014, 04:59 PM
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Finishing up where I left off - our final dinner of our trip was at Hot Suppa, after we were more or less turned away at Pai Men Miyake. http://www.hotsuppa.com/ They were certainly much more welcoming.

Mom and Dad each got a creamy tomato soup, then shared a plate of Falafel poor boy. DH had a pulled pork mac & cheese. I got an appetizer of boudin/cabbage dumplings dumplings, and a side of collard greens (yes, the place has a southern influence).

Thursday was our departure day. After breakfast, DS & I dropped my parents off at the airport (love that the airport is only a 15-min drive and no traffic during rush hour), while DH finished packing at the apartment. Originally, we were going to get sandwiches from the Small Axe food truck again for lunch, before checking out (12noon). But turns out the food truck opens at 11:30a, which is too late. We decided to return to Hot Suppa for brunch. We got there at 10:45a and the place was packed! Luckily we only had to wait 5 minutes for a table. I had no idea this place is so popular for b'fast & lunch (it wasn't crowded for dinner the night before). TBH, I don't know why it's so popular; the food is decent but not outstanding, and the prices aren't that cheap either. DH got a pulled pork sandwich with grits. I got a "waffle plate" - 1 buttermilk waffle, 2 eggs, and 2 sausage links. I think DH's dish was good but mine was just fair.

We left Portland shortly after 12 noon and got home in exactly 2 hours.

So I guess that's it! Thank you for reading!

It's been 2 years since I last wrote a TR here, simply because we haven't traveled much since the birth of our son. Our interests now are very different from the trips we took pre-baby. I don't know how useful this TR is for the average Fodorite, unless one has a toddler in tow!

If anyone wants a more adult-centric TR on Portland, here is mine from 2010 in which we did a lot more art/architecture things:

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Aug 1st, 2014, 05:28 PM
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Great report as always yk
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Aug 1st, 2014, 11:51 PM
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Enjoyed your report.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 03:23 AM
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Sounds like you found the perfect location and vacation with a toddler. I was disappointed about Pai Men Miyake after reading all the raves on Chowhound but the Axe food truck sounds wonderful. Have not tried using Airb&b so thanks for the heads up.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 07:38 AM
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I enjoyed reading your fun filled time in Portland.

I am not familiar with Airbnb. Would you be willing to share a link to the Parkside apartment you rented? Any problems with the rental?

Thank you for sharing.

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Aug 2nd, 2014, 09:45 AM
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Thank you for all your comments. MomDD, you should think about heading up there some time. It's a pretty cool, vibrant little city.

dfrostnh, thanks for your trip reports on Portland in the past few years. The Fort Williams Park & Bite into Maine truck was one of the highlights of our trip.

Sandy, there are quite a few posts about Airbnb on this board (and in the Lounge). I used to use VRBO more but nowadays it seems like there are more choices on Airbnb.

Anyway, the apt I rented was listed on both Airbnb & on VRBO. I found it on Airbnb first so I rented via them. Here's the same listing on VRBO http://www.vrbo.com/467890

The owners actually live there most of the year, but rent their home out when they are out of town (I think they're traveling this summer). So it may not be available most of the year. They also rent out 2 rooms in their building - one is a studio apt, the other is just a single room; both share the same bathroom.

I can't think of any problems with the rental. The owners were prompt with their email replies; but they hire a property manager who takes care of emergencies (we had none).
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 10:08 AM
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Seems like a long way to travel, from Texas, just to eat lobster and stale donuts. Hopefully once the toddler is older you can get out and see more of what the state has to offer.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 12:29 PM
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Great report, yk. I hope to get to Portland on my next trip to Maine and will use this as a reference.
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