August 18, 2014
We left Boston and had the fine idea to head north of our destination, Dennisport, not far from the elbow of Cape Cod. Wellfleet is a lovely little town, and we had a very nice breakfast at the Flying Fish. I heroically resisted the urge to buy those adorable dishes.
So thrifty, these Cape folk.
Then we headed south and got in an absolute ton of bumper to bumper traffic. How can this be, we thought. But then Steve said, I bet they have Saturday to Saturday bookings, and I said no way, and he was right. But we weren’t crawling for more than about 10 minutes, and then we drove to Dennisport. We had a motel, and stocked up on food so we wouldn’t have to go out because we really were pretty tired. I mean, we barely took any pictures because I think we were officially destination-ed out. But the beach was about three minutes walk, and quite lovely.
In the morning, we rented bikes and took the path that starts in Dennis and ends God knows where. We rode 10 miles to Brewster, and about two miles into the way-home trip, I started to count the miles. And at one point I pulled over because I did not want to pedal any more. Ever. Again. But this plucky butterfly renewed my spirits.
Steve got in the water, which was warmer than Maine. But that isn’t saying much.
What does that middle sign mean? No ballet on the beach?
It was Super Moon night, and this woman stood and waited for the moon to come up. She was very dramatic.
Then some guy joined her, but he had on a bright green shirt and made the scene much less pensive. So we turned and got the sunset in the Nantucket direction….
And there’s the Super Moon, which honestly didn’t look that big, but it was quite beautiful all the same.
And Then We Went to Boston
August 16, 2014
Well, despite our enchantment with Portsmouth, after a brief walk, and a couple of pictures….
….it was time to get back in the car, and oh me oh my was I sick of being in that thing. But we had to get to Boston, and since I hadn’t gotten my way in Portland with the bike adventure, I INSISTED on going to Salem. Years ago, I was in what I swear was one of the Worst Productions Ever of The Crucible, and that is a high freaking bar, because it’s not like it’s the greatest play in the first place, all dour and baleful and the only comic relief is when someone says, “A fart on Thomas Putnam,” my husband in the play. But I have always been fascinated by this sad, sorry chapter in American history. Well, this is what Salem is like:
I mean, yeah, that statue is pretty cool and spooky, and apparently the Peabody (pronounced “PEEB-udee” and not like Mr. Peabody) is a badass museum, but we were museum’d out for the time and we walked around and didn’t listen when we were BEGGED to take witch tours. And the people in the town are a bit cranky because I bet if the only reason people visited you was to see where the witches were burned at the stake only to find out they didn’t even do that, you would probably be a little cranky, too.
Well, down we went to get to Boston, and Steve was ABSOLUTELY SURE that we wanted Exit 24 even though GPS said, quite clearly, Exit 25. So we circled around the Boston freeways and one-way streets for about an hour, and it was his turn to just start laughing, that laughter of the damned where you know you’re just sort of fucked so you might as well get a cackle out of it. We stopped at a bank on Cambridge Street, and this very nice woman printed out MapQuest directions, which are pretty cool because they say things like “If you pass a mortuary, you have gone Too Far.” So we made it, and we got this view, and it was pretty great.
The Westin is just a couple of blocks from the harbor, and after a walk, we felt like we could handle the ICA, Institute of Contemporary Art, because it wasn’t paintings, and big installations have been our favorite thing of this trip. And this was really amazing. There was this huge Jim Hodges show, he does all sorts of amazing stuff. When I had seen something by Jeff Koons at the Whitney show with my friend Deborah, she had said, yeah, but he’s just ripping off Jim Hodges. This was an amazing curtain made of disassembled fake flowers.
This was all scarves.
There was tons more, including this amazing video installation by Ragnar Kjartansson. He got a bunch of musician friends in a giant house. Everyone went in a separate room, and they were all connected by head phones, and everyone had his or her own camera trained on him or her. And there were also a bunch of people hanging out on the porch on another screen, reacting. And you walked from screen to screen just listening and watching these folks create this beautiful haunting music. It was amazing, and one more of those things that really wouldn’t work any other way.
Well, in the morning, we decided to blow off Boston and go to Harvard. Now you would THINK that Cambridge around Harvard would be absolutely nothing but awesome places to get breakfast. But you, alas, would be as wrong as we were. We asked this guard, “where should we eat?” And he said, very earnestly, “I prefer IHOP. The International House of Pancakes.” Steve is Mr. Organic, so this was not an option.
Well, after searching and walking about a thousand miles, this is where we ended up.
So hats off to you, Mr. IHOP recommending guard.
Here’s the thing about Harvard. You walk through this gate and there are a billion tourists. Then you walk past the really obvious buildings, which I believe are technically “Old Harvard Yard,” and there are about 50 people. Then you walk a little further and you have it to yourself. And that is quite nice. This, for instance, is from Memorial Hall.
We went to the Natural History Museum, and goggled at the glass flowers and sea creatures.
And FINALLY solved the riddle of “happy as a clam.” That thing is smiling like that duck in A Christmas Story. Also, the bug board was pretty cool.
And I saw this and truly wished it was a place where they taught you to make divinity, because an IHOP breakfast can only take you so far. We also popped into Longfellow’s house, and I liked that Shakespeare was overseeing the proceedings below.
Then we stopped at Whole Foods back on the Boston side and this lady who was kind of like Ruth Gordon in Rosemary’s Baby told us to go to Faneuil Hall, and we smiled and said “You bet!” and then I told Steve we were most certainly NOT going to Faneuil Hall because it’s got lots of chains which may be kind of a big deal if you don’t live in the Midwest, but no thank you. And then that same lady came back and showed us this completely white squirrel that is her neighbor; he was on her iPhone. And that was pretty awesome, and she had a great Boston accent and said, “Isn’t he gaw-juss?” Yes, indeed he was.
We saw some street performers, including this band, and that kid in the pink shirt blew the HELL out of that trumpet while kids danced in the fountain, which is really one of the greatest city sights of all.
We were right near the Boston Holocaust Memorial, which is hard to convey with this picture, but quite incredible. You walk through this long passage of columns, and there are no names on the glass, just the numbers that were tattooed on people’s arms. And there are quotes from survivors etched into the glass, and you walk over grates with lights below in the blackness, and also hot air shoots out of them. It’s beautiful and powerful and just a stunning memorial.
We ran into some other street performers, and we saw another batch of guys doing this almost identical act in NY a couple of days later, so this is a new thing. It’s a band of about a half dozen black guys who dance like crazy, then grab people out of the crowd and jump over them, but the thing that is distinctive is that one guy is the leader and the other guys all kind of chant responses in unison, it’s like this street call and response thing. And both groups had the exact same schtick to line up the people they were going to jump over including yelling, “We need an Asian! We need a white kid! You are now going to see a black guy running 80 miles an hour with no cops chasing him!” Etc.
Anyway, we walked home and Steve got that really cool shot of the moon, one night before SUPERMOON. And the view from the room was just as cool at night as at sunset.
One FINAL Maine Fling Before Portsmouth Stole My Heart
August 14, 2014
Well, after our lovely night in Portland, Team Bauer/Hoekman woke up with a dilemmer on our hands. I love cities, and I’ve become quite fond of smaller cities, like Halifax and Portland, on this trip. One of things you can do in Portland is take a ferry to an island and ride a bike around it, and I was very big on this. However, Steve loves harbors, and had seen a picture of Ogunquit, and he really wanted to see Ogunquit in person. And I was getting very much in the frame of mind where I felt I had seen quite enough harbors. But it soon became clear that Steve wanted to see the harbor, which he was being very nice about, more than I wanted to ride a bike because I knew we would be kind of rushed and then we’d have to get in the car, and honestly the idea of more driving was really starting to feel Quite Trying to the Bauer portion of the team, so I was being a bit of a crankypuss. So Steve and his calm clear reason won the day, because 1) he did much of the driving and I dislike driving enough that I am willing to cede to driver wishes, including on music selection, and 2) the non-cranky person should also get points for being enthusiastic about traveling STILL MORE after about a half century of driving and driving and driving through Maine.
So we went to Ogunquit and stopped for coffee and breakfast at this place called Amore which is pretty famous and perhaps resting on its laurels a bit, but it was still pretty good. They sold these sassy items; I’m not sure if the bottom row helps you achieve a gay accent or mitigate one, but I certainly hope it’s the former. I’m working on mine!
And My oh My, could they make a fine latte.
And Ogunquit was absolutely wonderful and we loved it, moi as much as Steve, and post latte, quite quite fortified and back to my usual sunny game for anything travel self. I mean, look at this place.
They have this awesome walk called the Marginal Trail, and we also finally saw a beach. There is no audio so you cannot hear my squeal when I got into that water up to about one inch, because it is MAYBE 50 degrees on a good day. But those Mainers just head right in. And Steve said, “It’s not so bad,” but he has also swum in glacial lakes in Germany and says they’re “refreshing,” which is his way of saying, “don’t be a baby just because the water’s not like amniotic fluid,” which is pretty much where I like it.
The awesome people in the parking lot gave us a shortcut to walk up the hill to the Ogunquit art museum, which has these fabulous sculptures and—Great Scott, what IS that protruding from the creature’s belly?
Close up, this is what the creature looks like.
More creatures! So fun.
There was a great concise collection of Andrew Wyeths donated by the LL Bean heiress (and I think her name is Lucy L. Bean or something like that and I’m not going to google it). Also, some beautiful photos from a woman who went and lived alone in Ogunquit in the winter. You weren’t allowed to take pix, so you will just have to go yourself, and you should because Ogunquit and the museum are awesome.
Now we were both in a great mood and we headed to Portsmouth, NH. We stayed at the Ale House Inn, and it was the absolute best hotel on the trip. Kelsey at the front desk was wonderful and gave Steve a beer when we came in; I could have had one but you know me and beer (and if you don’t, read previous posts). We went and explored Portsmouth, which is a genuinely delightful place, and our first stop was dinner at Brazo’s, where I had this amazing paella and we split this pyramid dessert, which was scrumptious.
Then we shopped and I just loved the profusion of stuff in this kitchen store. The downtown shops at Portsmouth are not chains.
This is not just a clever name. They sell salt. Well, it’s not technically a cellar, but that’s all salt in the window; isn’t it cool?
And the harbor was pretty magical at sunset and after.
The Bremen Town Magician and a Little More Maine
August 13, 2014
It was time to leave our sylvan retreat, and we wanted to see the real harbor that was not, according to Captain Bob, a T-shirt shop. On the way there, we passed through Bremen. Or at least, there were signs to Bremen, but I saw this out of the corner of my eye….
We had stumbled upon the massive sculpture garden of Nathan Nicholls, on the road to Bremen just past Waldeboro. It stretched back over a good acre and it was amazing. A very small sampling….
There were hundreds of sculptures, just amazing stuff: rusty ants marching down a log, frogs, peacocks, people, cars, lobsters. A sign said that the artist had recently “passed; no sculptures are for sale at this time. Please enjoy them and take pictures!” This is completely worth the trip.
Just down the road was our real, no-frills harbor, New Harbor.
We had been told to “eat at Shaw’s” so we did.
As a friend has noted, one rarely hears of clam uprisings.
Then Steve had read about the lighthouse at Pemaquod Point. Another amazing stop. The lighthouse is up at the top….
Top of what? you might ask. Well, one clambers down the rocks, and I loved this part where there were all these weird little Blair Witch rock pyramids.
Steve was better attired for clambering’….
And any time you looked down, you saw some variation of this….
We then continued back out the little peninsula we were on, stopping in cute Damariscotta (pronounced Dam-ris-COT-ta, kinda like Bach Cantata) and drank this.
Now we come to the sad part of our story. We had heard of this Music Box museum in Wiscasset, which calls itself “Maine’s Prettiest Village,” and it is quite lovely, but Maine is pretty badass on the “Prettiest Village” front, so I’m not sure how you can make that determination. So we went up this hill and saw a great big place, but no sign of a museum, and it didn’t look as if there had ever been one. We saw this local-looking woman walking down the street, and she said, “Oh, that place closed. I believe the gentleman passed away.” Then we asked, well, what happened to the stuff, and she kind of shook her head like it was a bad business, and it was feeling a little Harvest Home.
So we stopped at an antique store that had these awesome stairs…
…and she just got kind of hushed when she talked about it too. And we asked around several more places, and it sounds kind of like that movie Bernie, where some people sort of took over the museum and the man running it was in poor health and now no one knows if he’s in a home or if he died, and the rumors are that the music boxes are being sold on eBay. So that was all quite mysterious.
This ice cream, however, was not mysterious, and cheered us right back up.
Portland! A city! Steve is a kombucha fan so I brought him here for a tasting. I personally think kombucha tastes like about the worst thing ever, like you had leftover juice that you forgot about and then you drank it because it was kind of expensive juice and you felt guilty. Well, anyway, they make this stuff in Maine, and we tasted some.
Downtown Portland is so pretty! What a cool town. We wished we had longer. We were too late to really be tourists; I guess they have a great museum.
I had read about this amazing restaurant, Grace, inside a church….
It’s such an awesome idea, I wonder why more people haven’t done it. And the food was, of course, heavenly, particularly this giant gnocchi shaped like scallops.
The Bounding Maine
August 10, 2014
So this was an amazing day for 3 reasons:
1. We stayed home, I wrote a lot, Steve caught up on biz stuff, and We Did Laundry. Dear ones, you cannot know the joy of doing a big load of laundry until you have been on the road for 10 solid days and not done it.
2. We went sailing, me for the first time in my life. Rather than attempt to wax poetic about the pure bliss of sitting on a gorgeous blue bay, the 3-knot wind billowing out the sails as the ship leans toward the water, I will attempt to regale you with the words of Captain Bob.
Me: Where you from?
CB: He-yuh. Rockland.
(Unlike Eugene O’Neill, I shall henceforward attempt no further approximations of a Maine accent.)
CB: When I was kid, they called it Camden-by-the-Sea, Rockland-by-the-Smell.
Me, upon seeing the pink buoys of the Lady Reaper as it sails through the harbor: I love that they’re all pink.
CB: That’s so they tell whose traps are whose. Those all belong to the Lady Reaper. She’s part of a family of lobstahmen, they have three boats, the Grim Reaper and the [sorry, didn’t take notes]. She’s a lobstahman. There are no lobstahpeople, and no lobstahwomen. The female lobstahmen call themselves lobstahmen.
(I am so DYING to do a story on female lobstahmen.)
Me: Do we want to go to Boothbay Harbor?
CB: Do you need a T-shirt?
CB: Camden, Boothbay, they’re T-shirt shops.
Me: How about New Harbor?
CB: That’s a nice little harbor.
There was more, but I didn’t take notes. He explained all of the stuff we were seeing, and we got to see the lighthouse from the day before in a whole new way.
And really, I can’t do him justice. Just charter his lovely sailboat, Morning in Maine (www.amorninginmaine.com) at some point, because I think anyone lucky enough to go on a sailboat with a good captain and Ed, the crewman from Tennessee…
…will wear a happy face for quite a while after.
Steve has sailed a lot, and he was just in heaven.
Afterward, we went to the Farnesworth and goggled at their Wyeth collection, which was quite wonderful, but didn’t allow us to take as many pictures as we liked. This awesome piece of a ship was an exception. Unknown shipbuilding artist, who really should have signed his (her?) name.
Oh, and now we get to
3: We cooked dinner. We just used up everything that we had bought at Beth’s.
And then we looked out our back window and were, as has happened so often on this trip and in our lives. thoroughly happy.
August 8, 2014
One of the things that had happened—serendipity? or DESTINY??—was that the annual Lobsterfest in Rockland, Maine, just happened to coincide with our days in Waldeboro. Now I figured Lobsterfest would be a lot like the Gilroy Garlic Festival, to which I once took my son: You walk around a lot of different booths that smell like garlic, you eat a lot of garlic, you end up smelling like garlic but you don’t notice until you get about 10 miles from the festival because absolutely everyone else smells like garlic, too, and then finally you try on a garlic clove hat. And we’ll discuss the fascinating aptness of this analogy in a moment.
But first, Steve was determined to so some exploring (I wanted to write that ” ‘splorin’ “, kind of like when Ricky would tell Lucy that she had ‘splainin’ to do, but…well, you can see why I opted out, it just looks bizarre). He was absolutely heck bent on finding the perfect little working harbor. So we went to Friendship, which is wee and about 3 miles from our cabin, and poked around at the dock. There was zero interesting touristy stuff here, just real lobstermen; as we would learn the next day, there are no lobsterpeople or lobsterwomen, everyone who plies the trade is a lobstahman. So we happily snapped away at this dock, the only non-lobstahmen present. And as you’ll notice, Steve is into the beauty shots and framing things perfectly….
…whereas I just like to look around and find things that strike me as odd, because usually “odd” and “beautiful” are the same thing to me.
So between us, we get the shots we need.
We headed up just north of Rockland to Rockport, another beautiful little port that doesn’t have much, and we stopped to get coffee at this swanky restaurant. Now everyone we’ve met in Maine has been incredibly wonderful and nice, and this was the first place where we felt like they were kind of not into us showing up. Which is fine, and is also why I don’t mind sharing this little anecdote with you, because obviously people are coming to this joint for a Swanky Food Experience, it being written up all a-rave-o in the NY Times and all that. But we just got coffee and sat at the bar, which surround the open kitchen, known in the trade (and probably elsewhere) as a theater kitchen.
Steve didn’t know what the expediter was, and I’m guessing he’s not alone in that. The expediter is the person who stands near the line (that’s the literal line of cooks in a restaurant kitchen) and calls out the food orders, but also checks that the food is up to snuff and makes sure it looks pretty before it goes out to the customers. It’s also called “the pass,” and if you watch any cooking shows, it’s the spot where Gordon Ramsey stands during service and bellows at people that they’re donkeys. And Ramsey is a showman and something of a performance artist, but honestly, having worked in restaurant kitchens with hardass chefs at the pass, he’s not that far off your typical kitchen experience.
So this guy at the pass is very biz-like and doesn’t seem too Ramsey-ish, and I’m explaining all this to Steve. And we’re watching the kid on what’s know as “pantry” put the salads together that are going to go on these breakfast plates—you know you’re in a swanky place when they serve artisanal greens with brunch—and I said, see, he’s BRAND new, b/c the kid was having some issues with tongs and getting about a third of the salad on the counter, and any cook who’s honest and has a halfway decent memory will relate. And the two guys on sauté, i.e., the ones who make the bulk of the food, hand a couple of plates over to the expediter, and he takes one look at one of them and then just shakes his head. And the cook who handed the shaken head plate over—this is another thing to know, the guy who cooks your food is rarely the chef, who often ends up at the pass, he or she is just a cook—took one look at this plate and put his head in his hands while he was standing up. Such drama, and so quick, and naturally I was sad that the cook was having a rough day but honestly, it was making my little “this is how restaurant cooking works” chalk talk with Steve extremely effective, because I am something of a showman myself and I like a good real-life illustration.
Well, when you see one kitchen drama, you’re pretty much done, and anyway, we had Lobstah to attend to. So on down the road to Rockland, where we were getting our classic Route 1 in Maine experience, which is one in which you drive very, very slowly for quite a while. Steve is not one for driving very, very slowly for quite a while, and I AM one for walking a great distance so as to get as many points on my ActiveLink as possible. So we parked somewhere in Rockland and then just walked downhill because we knew sooner or later we’d end up at the Fest.
On our way down Main Street, I saw this amazing little tome, Zap It!, a microwave cookbook produced by the Pittsburgh Ladies Guild or something like that. It was one dollar, but I didn’t buy it, because I’m not an impulse buyer. But man, did I want Zap It!
We headed to the harbor and there, indeed, was LobsterFest. Sunday is a free day, and I had been right, it really was like the Gilroy Garlic Fest. Take pretty much everything I said in that description above and change the word “garlic” to “lobster” and you’ve got the idea, although blessedly there was no lobster ice cream or lobster wine in Rockland. Now I had told Steve that the one thing I didn’t want to miss was the Cod Carrying Contest, in which little kids had to schlep a big cod around, because how adorable does that sound? But there were all these incredibly complicated rules that went with Cod Carrying. The kids had to open a chest and put on a slicker and snap two snaps, then put on a rain hat and boots, then run over, grab a gigantic cod with its head half decapitated, out of a net hammock, run over and sit in a boat with cod on their lap. Now even typing all that, I’m thinking, well that sounds Absolutely Hilarious! But it was just the slowest thing ever. I mean, some kids would struggle for like a minute to get the coat on. Then one little girl wouldn’t touch the cod, which is sort of cute for about 10 seconds, but then you’re all, ok, kid, sit down, because that cod ain’t going anywhere and neither are you. So we didn’t make it through the bitter end of that one. I mean, we tried. And one kid sort of kicked Cod Carrying butt a little bit, but even then it wasn’t that fun to watch. I mean, you can see that even the official photographer is kind of going, just pick up the damn fish already, kid.
We headed over to the lobster tent and got a creature and found out that, contrary to what our New Brunswick server had told us, bigger lobsters ARE tougher. I mean, she was a lovely person, but she obviously knew a couple of lobster rubes when she saw them because this small and delicious lobster was very delicious. Also, Steve and I had become much better at breaking lobsters apart just from that one first lesson, and one reason was because that first lobster was a little long in the tooth, as I believe they say, and demanded some major crackin’. Oh, also, they don’t give you crackers at LobsterFest, so you’d better know your way around a lobster.
We kind of wanted to see some guys race across lobster traps, because that water is cold and it would be fun to watch people fall in it and gasp, although frankly these Mainers are truly hardy and probably just wouldn’t even flinch other than looking mildly pissed off that they were in 50 degree water as opposed to bounding across the lobster trap course. So we walked around on the docks, and some of those boats were gorgeous. We ended up striking up a conversation with a boatbuilder, and I really wish we had gotten his name and taken a picture of his beautiful boat. Sometimes, though, I’m just afraid I’m coming off too reporter-y, because I tend to ask people a gazillion questions once I get going. But really, I have to get over the “I’m invading your privacy” thing because other than that restaurant guy this morning, I have found everyone on this trip to be incredibly friendly and not averse to having their pictures taken and displayed on this here blog. Even though the woman who sold us that slightly tough lobster kind of took advantage of our rubeness, but you can hardly blame her, because I would want to sell giant, past-their-prime lobsters Any Way I Could if that were my job.
Well, by the time we’d sauntered around the truly beautiful ships in Rockland Harbor, they were no closer to running across those lobster traps. And we really wanted to go to the Rockland Breakwater, which is this huge stone pier that leads to the lighthouse…
Up at the top of the lighthouse, you look down and see people doing this…
And we felt that we had done a good day’s work. We drove on home kind of meandering along and at one point we got sort of aimless and lost looking for yet another fabulous little harbor because Steve likes them and right when I was beginning to be a bit short-tempered about all this meandering, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye and made Steve drive back and it was this amazing little garden that someone had planted. It seemed public, as it was beyond the two houses on either side of it, but it also seemed so private because really no one would ever know it was there unless they lived there or, like us, got kind of lost, and it was just beautiful, kind of nestled into what had maybe once been a ditch off the road.
And I really love that about Steve, where I’ll go, “Whoa,” and he’ll just sort of stop and reverse and we get out and take pictures. A lot of people would sigh and make a fuss or just not go back. But never him.
And then we stopped in Friendship again, which has this adorable little store….
….and this fabulous rocker made from old lobster traps! I so wish I could take a couple of these to Roatan.
And in the back of the store….
….they made lobster rolls, and since we had split one lobster, we were a mite peckish and so each got a lobster roll, which was decent but not nearly as awesome as the one I got at Moody’s, which still holds the record for being the best one on the trip. See, Moody’s gives you a nice bit of lettuce and you really need that for the sweet tasty crunchy contrast it provides.
We headed home and played Trivial Pursuit, which smelled like mothballs, and man, those questions are hard, and it was SO unfair that Steve’s orange question was “What tools do you need to do embroidery?” when my orange question was something along the lines of “Name the assistant coach who helped lead a team to victory in Superbowl XIV” or something Equally Difficult.
August 6, 2014
After breakfast—the Alden House makes excellent scrambled eggs and their own bread—we walked through Belfast again. It’s just a lovely little town. Could I stay there a bunch of days? Yeah, I think about three would work. It would be nice to find our favorite coffee place, and to try Chase’s again. But on we marched.
We first stopped at Bayside. Both Susan of the Gallery and Larry of the B&B had said that we had to take this side trip. Bayside was started by Methodists, and it’s this absolutely lovely little village kind of way off the road. The houses are more crazy cool Victorians.
I love two plants with an ardor that many people find bizarre: mushrooms and seaweed. I dunno if this is the stuff they made the beer with, but I think it’s so cool looking.
Also, I like rust.
All this wandering and meandering took a while, so we were starting to get hungry. But we thought there was going to be a farmers market in Camden. There was, and it closed right before we got there. Skunked again! Camden, however, is very cute. Here is homegirl Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Did you know she was the “candle burns at both ends” poet? I didn’t. I always thought that was Emily Dickenson. Anyway, the best part was finding the classic Bert Greene cookbook Greene on Greens; I lost my copy in one of my 42,000 moves, so I was tickled to find one.
We did stop into one restaurant that had this on the menu.
Snort. But it was crazy noisy and we both looked at each other after we sat down, then got up and walked out. I doubt they noticed, they were busy as hell.
Oh, now here’s something to know that goes with one of my other big food writing influences (besides Bert Greeene), Jane and Michael Stern. The Sterns wrote the amazing book Square Meals, one of the greatest homages to American “plain” cooking ever, and before that they wrote Roadfood, which was considered the Bible for finding the best diners and malt shops and pie sellers across America for years. Well, the B&B in Belfast had a copy—it dates back to the late 60s or early 70s—and low and behold it opened right to Waldeboro, our destination for the night. And it talked about this place Moody’s as if our Savior and all of his apostles had stepped down out of heaven to personally bless it and encircle it in a cloud of divine certification that truly, this is food that will feed your soul. Well, I thought there’s NO way this amazing place will still be there, but it was.
So Steve and I left Camden and there were still approximately one million adorable little towns to see, but it was getting to be about 2:30 by this time and we were just starving. And also we knew we had to stock up for the next few days, and we pulled over a couple of miles of the road at Beth’s Produce, and it was so amazing. We got these carrots…
….and wild blueberries and the best jam and cheddar cheese I’ve ever tasted in my life. But I was still starving and too tired to cook, and then Steve just said, “Moody’s?” And we were off.
Well, Moody’s looks like this on the outside….
….and this on the inside.
And they have this amazing menu and I was so ready to try my first lobster roll, and it was absolutely perfect.
And then we got pie. This is coconut cream.
And Steve had like two bites and then didn’t act interested, so I ate it because wasting it would be a pity and then he looked at me all astonished and said, “You ate all that pie?” And I just sort of did that stuttering thing you do when you are so, so busted.
Well there was nothing left to do but go to our rental for the next three nights. It was down a very long road in Waldeboro, and this was it.
And right out the back was this view.
If you’ve ever been living out of a suitcase and going to a new hotel every single night, you will imagine how absolutely luxurious it felt to actually unpack the suitcase and hang things up. And that is what I did.
And then we laid on the bed and looked out the window.
Goodbye, Peaceful Maple Leaf. Hello, Unlimited Data.
August 5, 2014
What Alma has is interesting tides and good lobster, especially when you get an insider tip and know where to go. What it didn’t have was high tide, so morning looked like night, with boats in the mud. But the light was gorgeous.
However, what would have been even MORE beautiful would have been the crazy tornado sound that is an espresso machine in the morning. And the one place in town that had one, Octopus’s Garden, told us the day before that theirs had broken. So goodbye, Alma, and off we went to St. John’s, which seemed big enough to satisfy our coffee jones.
More Canadian freeways, but this part, in southern New Brunswick, is very pretty; Steve said that it reminded him of the Black Forest where he’s spent a lot of time. We got off the freeway to St. John’s and all this driving GPS-free was a little weird because we actually had to use these things called maps. So we kind of snaked our way around St. John and ended up on Charlotte Street and frankly it looked a little like parts of Spanish Harlem used to back in the 80s, not Terrible with a capital T but maybe borderline sketchy. But Steve said, no, darling, it is not sketchy, and did an exceptional parallel parking job, and it would have been a shame to waste that, because parallel parking is one of those things that I find Quite a Challenge. So we got out and walked up Charlotte to the City Market. On the way, we talked to a nice man who said, “Isn’t New Brunswick a nice little province?” And I kind of fell in love with that statement, because it’s very hard to imagine an American saying that his or her state was “a nice little state” even when it’s true, like in Vermont.
And then we were in City Market.
Isn’t that pretty? We found some espresso, and Steve wanted to buy some vegetables, and I said, no, let’s wait, and it turned out that was a good move.
We walked down to the harbor and I became rather attached to this moose. Don’t worry! It’s a statue!!
Then we found a really great little place to eat, Magnolia. All over New Brunswick and Nova Scotia you see signs about Acadian this and Acadian that, and then you get to Magnolia and the menu is straight out of New Orleans, and then of course, you remember all over New Orleans you see Acadian this and that. I had eggs Benedict on cornbread, and there was avocado on there, which I’d kind of been dying for. It was a great breakfast. I also wanted pastry for the road, but Steve wisely said no because that croissant will be with me for a while, I fear.
Like Halifax, St. John’s has some great Victorians, but it’s a lot smaller. This adorable waitress at Magnolia said, “You were in Halifax? I just love it there! It’s so big!” I mean, I don’t think it is that big, so that just tells you that St. John’s is pretty wee, but it still feels substantial enough. That building is crooked because everything is on a hill.
Anyway, soon enough we crossed the border into America, and what did they ask us? “Do you have any fruits and vegetables?” So boy, was I glad that for once my wisdom had prevailed. That doesn’t happen often, because my wisdom is a bit quirky, I think. I could turn on data roaming and I felt like when Homer Simpson starts to cry in Australia because he sees that special toilet that flushes counterclockwise Just Like Home. There is no awesome welcome booth in Calais, Maine. We just got on a road and started driving south. We were headed for Belfast and did not want to meander. I mean, we were on our third straight day of four hours of driving and even when with someone that you really like, that is too much time in the car.
We got to Belfast without much ado. This is the mid-coast of Maine and it is beautiful. It’s super hilly here, which you notice as you’re driving, and all these little towns sort of scramble down granite hills into Penobscot Bay. We parked at our B&B, the Alden House…
…then started walking downtown figuring out where we wanted to eat. I had wanted to come to Belfast b/c the whole area in Maine is noted for all this farm to table goodness, but the restaurant that I had heard about, Lost Kitchen, was owned by a couple who divorced and she took off and opened a place someplace else and the new restaurant didn’t sound so interesting. They were doing things like roasting turnips and charging 55 bucks for it, and by heck the salt was in the air and I wanted fish. So we walked down to the harbor, and it looked like this….
Then we walked along the harbor to this amazing brewery, Marshall Wharf.
Now here is an interesting fact: I have never drunk a beer in my life. I hate the taste, and I do not want to learn to like it, because it’s fattening as hell and I can just see myself pounding them back and being drunk and bloated and burping like a large hog, which is not a lovely combination on anyone. But Steve loves beer, which is a good thing because he needs the calories, and also, he can hold his liquor despite being thin as a whip. So they poured him some shots and one of them was made with seaweed, dried Maine sugar kelp to be exact, and they are the first US brewery to make a seaweed beer, which they learned from a brewery in Scotland. Steve said it was great, and then he bought two growlers, which are giant jugs and I didn’t get a picture of them but you can find out all about the brewery here.
Growlers are big and heavy, and now we had to lug growlers through downtown, which is pretty small. We did not worry that we looked like big drinkers, because everyone seems to understand the Need to Bring Your Friends a Growler or Two around here. This adorable building is where you get information in Belfast. Well, other than just talking to people, because everyone is pretty nice.
We dumped the growlers at home and then walked back to town, which is not such a big deal because Belfast is only a few blocks. We went into this gallery, and I fell in love with this piece, part of a series inspired by dolls. It’s by Maryjean Viano Crow, and I really wanted it but it was too big to take back.
The gallery owner, Susan Tobey White, does these beautiful paintings that have about a zillion layers of color.
We talked with her for a while, including about our dinner conundrum. She said, “You have to go make a reservation at Chase’s Daily right now, because the only night that they serve dinner is Friday.” She was very firm about this, which we have realized is kind of a Maine thing; she really thought we should eat there. And I hemmed and hawed and said, but I really want fish while I’m in Maine, and Chase’s is vegetarian, but it is so farm to table that the farm is actually a garden in back of the restaurant and it was obvious that Steve REALLY wanted to eat there, so I bravely said, OK.
When we got there, it was about 5 and they were just opening. Completely empty, so we thought, well, no problem. But then these two guys came in behind us and they stood quietly for about a minute and when it was clear that we weren’t moving, they said, do you have reservations? And we said, no. And they said, well, in that case, the only seats left are going to be those two at the bar and if you don’t take them, we will. Which was incredibly gallant of them. And so we grabbed the seats and it turned out that the other people at the bar were wait staff, so the guys got seats, too, which they deserved. And I actually really wanted to talk to those guys, but they seemed pretty engaged and probably just wanted to have dinner out together, but maybe they thought the same thing about me and Steve, but I think next time that happens I will just take the plunge and say, hey, mind if we interrupt your night out?
I absolutely loved the way they put votives in the bottom of these random glasses. I am going to start collecting random glasses to do this very thing because it is so pretty.
Chase’s is a big clean open space and you can see pretty much everything from the bar.
We were DYING for a salad, because we had not had roughage in quite some time, and this was amazing.
Steve got a Middle Eastern plate with hummus and tabbouleh and felafel, which was all super fresh so it wasn’t like going to the felafel joint in Michigan, which we do a fair amount.
I got these amazing homemade tortillas—everything here is homemade—filled with roasted squash and that cilantro was so incredibly fresh I just ate it like candy, I tell ya.
Then we asked the waitress what to get and she said, “Well, we’re famous for our blueberries. Everybody gets the chocolate cake, and it’s great, but you really need to get the blueberries.” See, that’s what I like about Maine. People kind of figuratively put their hands on your shoulders and say, you need to do this, and they’re so nice about it but they also seem kind of concerned for your welfare and want to help you not make stupid non-Maine choices. So we got the blueberry tart, and were very glad indeed.
Then we walked back along the harbor. Here is my best impression of a figurehead. Despite my noble mien, I am really contemplating how I can sneak back to get more pie.
It’s a beautiful little harbor, and people are really fishing here, it’s not just all cute and picturesque.
I wish I hadn’t jiggled my hand when I took this, because it would have been an amazing shot. I share it with you so you can see What Might Have Been.
In Maine, kids play in gigantic lobster traps. This kid’s dad said it was ok for me to take this, btw.
Then I had a good chinwag with Mom on the porch of the B&B because chins could not be wagged with those we left behind while we were in the great north.
Halifax to Bay of Fundy with Another Big Giant Drive In Between
August 3, 2014
One of the things we were kind of stoked about is that the Busker Festival had started in Halifax the day we arrived. And when I think buskers I think this:
And in my mind, that’s people making jokes about their significant others and then getting whacked on the head with a tambourine by that same significant other, who is not amused, and that of course means No End of Fun.
But it rained even harder in Nova Scotia than it did in Vermont, so no Buskers. We had yet another long drive today, to the Bay of Fundy, which meant we had to head back west, get out of Nova Scotia, get into New Brunswick and head down the coast. High tide was at 4 p.m., so we just needed to get to Alma by then, which gave us 3 hours to walk around Nova Scotia. We would have had longer if Steve had his way because that guy is kind of an early riser, much to my chagrin, but I managed to pretend I didn’t know he was awake and we left the hotel at about 8, which was really 7, so honestly I should be commended.
The night before I had seen a place called The Wired Monk.
Now with a sign like that, I was thinking the place had to be awesome. So we passed half a dozen perfectly delicious-smelling coffee places and I said, no, no, it’s got to be The Wired Monk, and it turns out we were on the wrong street. And when we got to it, the coffee was fine, but you know, that will teach me to be set in my ways, because it wasn’t that fine. But Nova Scotia really is wonderful. It has lots of cool buildings….
…and a sense of humor.
….and the Henry House! Anyplace with a Henry House gets many a star from me.
Down at the harbor, I found this….
And I love any place that names a restaurant after a fine Italian neorealist movie.
Now we were getting near Busker territory. A Midway! What fun.
I began to be quite enamored of all the signs on the Midway. Also, pigs crack me up.
Poutine, I found out later, is this weird Canadian thing, which I’m sure means that they have it in Michigan: fries, gravy, cheese. It sounds rather awful. But the sign is cool.
This one was the winner for me that day.
I really hope the stoned kids from Mass MoCA didn’t come east and run into this bus, because, whoa. That is one wildass bus.
I think that the “Historic Properties” as a name is right up with New Hampshire calling itself “The Land of Many Uses.” Bring your B game, people! Especially because the Historic Properties are pretty cool-looking.
We saw these and wandered away with tremendous discipline.
Then we went to the Maritime Museum. Now the Titanic was supposed to make a stop in Halifax, and they were all ready for them, but it turned out that the survivors of the Titanic went straight to NYC, and Halifax had to deal with the bodies. So the Titanic stuff is very somber, much more A Night to Remember, which is THE Titanic movie as fas as I’m concerned, and not all Hollywood. These were the shoes on the child in the “Unknown Child” grave.
The museum is really great. You also learn about this terrible disaster where a ship with tons of tons of munitions on it blew up in the harbor, and nobody knows about this but it’s a pretty amazing story. There are a couple of rooms on the African-American community, which goes way back in Halifax, and I loved this letter an escaped slave wrote to his former “master.” It’s really hard to read in this photo, but basically he closes with “may God bless you.” The grace of that was as moving as those little shoes.
Then, just to make sure you don’t walk out of there weeping, they show you this awesome Pants Buoy.
Then do you know what we did? Lost our nerve completely and went back and got those croissants. It was kind of a fat day.
Well, time to get in the car, God ‘elp us. But we made it. Driving in Canada is pleasant when you’re not expecting Highway 1, because people are good drivers and don’t tailgate, and the roads are mostly in fantastic shape. Also, we suddenly realized that our car had XM Radio and that was a huge help because if we had to listen to the mix CD that I made Steve when we first met, I think we would have gotten a tad bit irritable. And loyal readers will know what “irritable” is shorthand for. Instead, we wore out the decades numbers, but mostly channels 6 and 7 and an occasional 80s on 8, because the 90s are a blur.
Into New Brunswick, where everyone says, “Hello! Bonjour!” It’s one greeting short of Lili von Stupp. Another monster load of information that made us feel guilty yet again for not planning our trip better, and then down the province to the Bay of Fundy. Here is our cute little motel….
…complete with an awesomely tacky gift shop. But since no animals were holding toilet paper and I had turned my phone off so as not to rack up 300,000 dollars in data charges, I do not have a picture. You shall have to imagine it. Close your eyes….
…now you may return. Otherwise, Alma has nothing but some things for tourists and some gruff lobstermen. We got there right at high tide. Now the tides do not race into the Bay of Fundy at this point, so we looked out and saw a lot of water, and basically said, “Well, that is a high tide.” Similar to when Winston Churchill, I am told, met a particularly homely child and the mother said, “what do you think?” and he said, “That, my dear lady, is a baby.” However, I love these shots that Steve got, and you can see that the boats are right next to the docks. Keep that in mind, dear ones.
Also, lobster cages!!
We started walking around, and then we drove to a place with a crazy cool name, Cape Enrage. It had this lighthouse…
…and this view.
The fog really rolls in here in a beautiful way.
Then we started looking for dinner. Now there is a place in Alma with a BUNCH of signs. Basically, they say, Eat Lobster Here!! And they have big arrows. So we walked over to one and oh oh oh Zowie it was incredibly stinky. And Steve said, well, I think it’s sposed to be like that. And I said, no no no. But this very nice lady had recommend this place called Collins and they had maybe one sign.
It did not stink at all. She said, “They cook their lobster in salt water, and it makes a difference.” Also, I read that the colder water makes the lobster taste better. We decided on this guy.
Then we dug in and it was messy, messy, messy. But very tasty.
My day of eating was a latte at that Monk place, a croissant with like 9000 calories, and this lobster, because this place was a real true lobster pound, they just give you the lobster and some butter and that was that, Jack. So I was like hell with Weight Watchers, and I ate some ice cream, because it is, like, everywhere.
And during all of this debauchery, the tide had gone way, way out.
And then we went to bed and conked right out.
In Which We Choose Our Own Wes Anderson Adventure
August 3, 2014
Ok, so first off, my friend Andy Tanguay, who is also a biz partner and is one of the most creative people I know, spiffed up my picture from yesterday. How awesome is that?
I’ve never been on a cruise ship. The idea of a cruise ship sort of freaks me out. You’re on this big freaking thing with a gazillion people who ENJOY shuffleboard and buffets, and You Can’t Leave. But I will say that standing on a deck eight floors above the sea and the shore gets smaller and smaller and the salt air kind of washes over your face—well, that’s a bit of all right. But then we went inside, and granted, this was just a ferry with a casino on it, but I thought I would at least be able to eat a cup of tasty chowder. But no. My choices were go to this fancy schmancy restaurant that probably still wasn’t very good, and also I was all sore from the fall and I didn’t want to change my clothes, or I could go to the buffet and that would be dumb because I really just wanted some soup b/c the womlette was almost filling enough for a whole day but not quite. Then Steve said, well, I have some pistachios. So they were dinner.
I completely loved feeling the motion of the boat while we slept. At one point, I felt like we were going over some pretty big waves, but I could have dreamed it. But that was what was cool, it felt very dreamy.
Except when this woman started to tell us at 6 in the morning that we had to be out of bed in half an hour, that would not be part of a dream that I would really enjoy, because my idea of a good dream is to sleep for a really long time, which has mystified many people who know me, including my current man. I mean, I just LOVE to sleep. I find it to be so pleasurable. Also, the hospital corners on this little bed—they’re singles—were really tight, so I had to sort of sklathe myself between the sheets, as Eloise used to say, and I was not fond of un-sklathing.
Steve said, “Don’t worry, they’re not serious. They said an hour and a half.”
Then, knock knock knock at exactly 31 minutes after the announcement, when our very kind but very concerned-looking attendant politely inquired, “Are you having some difficulties? Can we help you vacate your room?” Which was kind of the classiest way to say “Scram” ever. So we vacated without undue amounts of help. Then we got in the line to go through customs and that took about an hour and there was an hour time change because we were in the Maritimes! Isn’t that exciting?
Well, this was to be a day where “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” played on the soundtrack in our heads. Now here is something awesome about Canada. All over New England, we had found these swell little welcome centers, where they load you down with free maps and brochures and tempting proposals to get your picture taken with a moose and things like that. Well, in Canada, the welcome centers are HUGE and they give you these GIGANTIC color-coordinated books about the province. Steve and I had kind of thrown on the Canada leg of the journey at the last second, and we just knew we were going to Halifax, but had otherwise not done a lick of research. So we looked at the map and I said—naive little me, so adorable—”Hey, I bet this highway to Halifax is like Highway 1 in California and we can just meander and stop here and there.”
Now I adore Steve. One of the things I really like about him is that he is Mr. Take Charge. However, this was not going to be a day where the tide was favoring a Take Charge Attitude. He was already a little annoyed that we had a time change and had lost an hour. And then he was a little surprised that we had to wait so long in the customs line. And he did point out that we had about a three hour trip to Halifax even without all the charming meandering and such. So first I said, hey, let’s go to this fish catching day in some little town just outside of Yarmouth, and then he said, no. So then I said, well there’s this Acadian thing, and then he also said, no. And then about half an hour out of Yarmouth, we realized that the freeway to Halifax is NOT ANYTHING like Highway 1. It is Dead Fucking Boring. So he got all crazy (for him) and said, let’s go to this little port.
So we got off the freeway and there were some vague signs for lighthouses, and we kind of followed them. Now there was a point where we could have gone left or right. Left was east, where we wanted to eventually be, but if we had turned right, we may have ended, after a Good Amount more driving, at this place called Cape Sable, and that seemed kind of cool. But I figured, well, a lighthouse is a lighthouse, about which I soon realized, to my everlasting regret, that I was DEAD WRONG. But I said:
We drove and drove and drove. It was unremittingly dreary, and Steve was getting downright cranky, which is not really a way he gets, but honestly it’s sort of cute for a while. Also, when people get cranky when they are lost, it brings out this really awful side of me that just starts laughing hysterically but I have to hide it like church giggles because it understandably is very maddening to the cranky lost one. We keep seeing signs for “Port La Tour” which sounds all idyllic and French, and occasionally see sort of a half-assed lighthouse sign.
We FINALLY get to the freaking lighthouse and it’s way behind a “No Entrance” chain link fence, because it’s a working lighthouse, and they clearly could give a rat’s ass about tourists because They’re Trying to Work Here, Dammit. We turned around and then Steve turns kind of adamantly down Commercial Street, and we saw these boats.
And the fact that this boat had this name was pretty funny. Well. To some people.
But not, alas, to all. I’ve gotten through my mirth-y phase since Steve didn’t agree about the “Don’t Panic” thing, and I’m being a little bit of a bitch, or just irritable, which is a nice way to say “a little bit of a bitch.” Steve obviously really wants to make up for that crappy expedition by picking a good exit. But I say, Look. There’s this Unesco site and it’s not for a long time and we really don’t have time for anything else. So we would see a sign and he’d say with increasing sadness, what do you think, and I’d be all, NO, GO EAST.
Also, we had run out of CDs and we were sick of everything we had brought, and all the radio stations were playing all these dumb people like Ke$ha or someone I’ve never heard of. And then, we landed in….Lunenberg!
Lunenberg is beautiful. It was established by Brits in the 19th century and Unesco came in and designated it historic and so it’s perfectly preserved and we absolutely loved it. And unfortunately, these photos don’t do it justice.
They are way proud of this boat, the Bluenose. It’s gorgeous.
The guy kept calling the boat “she,” and first I felt weird because, well, it’s a boat and it’s not like I know her, but then I thought he was really wanting me to call the boat she. So i did, and I felt very seaworthy.
Also, I had this yummy meal.
I had to be very brave, but seriously, slurping down an oyster is Fairly Awesome, like drinking the ocean but with texture. And that scallop was divoon. And there was a little lobster, and a shrimp cake and salmon with rhubarb sauce, which was yum, but on top of duck, and that was just weird after all that fish. But the dish was called “Taste of Nova Scotia,” and I guess they’re pretty stoked about their ducks. So Steve ate it.
Well, now we felt much better. So we figured we could stop at this place our friends Pam and Reinholdt had recommended, Peggy’s Cove. But then it started to rain. Really, really hard. Also, the only CD we had was a Mozart clarinet concerto and we were yawning like crazy and also dodging Canadian roadsters in the rain and we said, Peggy, we’d love to see you and your fantastic cove, but you will have to wait.
Then the freeways going into Halifax are SO confusing, and Steve finally figured it out, no thanks to my extremely befuddled navigation and seriously, I should have just called “uncle” and gotten out the damn reading glasses. Anyway, after approximately one million hours, there was our Westin hotel, and seriously, a moderate luxury chain has never looked so good. Ever.
When the rain let up, we walked to this amazing restaurant, Two Doors Down. Now how ingenious is this little wine cork silver ware holder? See, Steve has this thing about not putting your silverware on the table, so I can’t put the napkin in my lap until I have something to put the silverware on because, seriously, tables without cloths do pick up some bizarre pollutants, I have no doubt. So this was really a great thing. Also, absolutely everything is in English and French. And the milk bottle had water in it, and that is just ultimate cool in my book.
Then I had this pot pie, which had seafood and corn and it was so so so delish….
….and Steve had a kale Caesar.
And before you think he’s like Mr. Austere, please note that he plunged into this chocolate coconut mousse with TREMENDOUS abandon.
We walked through Halifax in the twilight, which is nice and late there.
It is a lovely city.
Then it started to pour.