Philadelphia in May – Our Impressions

 

Philadelphia is actually not too bad in the springtime.  I found out when I stopped by in May.

Oddly enough, I was invited back for a school reunion (let’s just say somewhere on or near or perhaps somehow affiliated with the U of P).  Megan and I arrived in the evening, threw our stuff into a hotel room (got there by car), flagged a hack, and sped to campus.  It was about dusk when we wandered around among the stone buildings and tall trees.  With keen foresight, I suggested that we head to a bar, because I sensed a bit of tippling coming on.

Things We’ve Done During Our Journey

Needless to say, that evening wrapped up with a well-lubricated jaunt through the city after hours of raucous catch up work with schoolmates.  The city is quite alive after dark (hooray), as both of our two nights in Philly were spent doing this type of research.  Incidentally, I conducted a similar bit of research in pursuing my degree ten years prior.

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Enjoying the River Enjoying the River? Watching the Finish Line

We ended or run at the regatta grandstand, watched a few heats, then decided it was time for lunch.  Fortunately, there was a great big tent nearby making authentic Philly cheesesteaks!  So naturally I introduced Megan to this delectable morsel of healthy nourishment.  And good reader, there was a BEER tent a few feet away.  I must admit shedding a few patriotic tears at the sight.

Afterwards, we walked back past the Art Museum and on back over to the center of campus for a last quick look (and some registration for something or other – I wasn’t  paying attention and they weren’t exactly clear).

Next – on the way back to the hotel, a quick stop at the Rodin Museum.

Rodin Museum

The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia is quite good.  It has many large pieces, including two favorites – The Gates of Hell and The Burghers of Calais. 

We next dashed back to the hotel, but made a quick stop at the Liberty Bell, which now hides behind layers of glass, cops, and metal detectors.  A slice of Americana to be sure.

Later that night, we met up with our chums from school for a relatively sedate evening at the Seaport Museum on the Delaware River . . . followed by a more urban convivial.

 

Finally, on the last morning in Philadelphia, Megan and I went to South Street for a brunch and a walkabout – to round out Megan’s brief introduction to the place. We could have spent hours here, but we had to dash off to the airport.

The Final Word

All in all, it was a good trip.  The sun was out, the leaves were green, the air was clear.  My memories of Philadelphia were not so flattering, but in the eight years since I had been there, they spruced the place up pretty well.

 

Maine: A Journey to “Vacationland”

If you are old school you probably fancy Maine as “Vacationland” If you are a recent aficionado, then “The Way Life Should Be” is entirely appropriate. Either way, Maine will win you over with tons of lobster and a plethora of outdoor sights and activities for the visitor.

Jimmy’s Crib

So, here’s our version of the story.

Since the Doc lives on Long Lake (about an hour northwest of Portland), we tend to spend a good deal of time here.  Jimmy’s “house” is in the small town of Bridgton, and the property has a terrific view of the lake. He gets a lot of attention for the castle-style architecture of the house that he helped design and build. Jimmy’s brother’s family has a beautiful camp sitting on the lakefront less than a mile away.

There’s plenty of stuff to do there – mostly centered around water sports, or hiking, or uh, drinking.  On hot days, the lake provides excellent refreshment from 90 degree weather.  Sailboats, canoes, and motorboats abound.  We’ve whiled away several afternoons tooling up and down the lake in somebody’s craft. If you don’t feel like navigating, the Songo River Queen, an ersatz steamboat, will take you on a lake tour starting in nearby Naples.

Who would go to Maine without dining on the local delicacy?  We’ve tried many places for good lobster, but the Naples Lobster Pound is a local favorite. They’ll even serve you beer from their gift shop next door. If you show up on the last day of Labor Day weekend don’t be surprised when they board up the place as you are finishing your dinner. When it’s the end of the season, it’s the end of the season.

A View of Naples from Jimmy’s Place

We are especially fond of Rick’s Café in Naples, since you can watch sunsets from the patio while drinking cool beers. Naples bridges Sebago Lake and Long Lake and hence, the views are terrific.  Also in Naples, Bray’s Brew Pub will serve you a frothy, locally-brewed ale and the crowd is full of friendly locals.

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Hangin’ at Bray’s Munchin’ at the Pound

Bridgton is home to the Black Horse Tavern, a local hangout. If you want a quick bite to eat, the House of Pizza on the main drag will serve up everything from lobster rolls to cheeseburgers to gyros to pizza.

Farther down the road is Harrison that sits between Long Lake and Crystal Lake. We had some gargantuan lobsters at Willie Dee’s, and since we all ordered twins, we took home about ten pounds of lobster that we couldn’t finish. The Old Mill Tavern will serve you a cold beer to wash down your woes.

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Ahhh . . . This is the Life!

Some of the roads in Maine can be so steep and dangerous that only well-lubricated rented autos and out of town drivers dare make the trek.  For illustration purposes only, one irresponsible motorist was caught on film.  We at Travelgrotto can not even imagine who could be so senseless.

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Nice car . . . Maniacs! What the . . . ?!

Casco Bay/Greater Portland Area

Portland is a fun town, especially the historic area, that has a great maritime flavor. It smells briny and it has rough-hewn cobblestone streets with steamy, downstairs pubs. The bars are lively – they usually play classic rock or have live bands that thrash out something a little harder. And the restaurants will fill you up with lobsters, clams, mussels and any other local seafood that you can imagine.

Also in the area is Yarmouth, which boasts the largest globe in the world at the DeLorme map publishing headquarters. “Eartha,” over 41 feet in diameter and rotation, is housed in a three-story glass atrium – and it rotates too!

Farther up the road, Freeport offers a bevy of outlet stores for the shopper’s delight. We joined the frenzy for a couple of hours, but had to disengage from the melee and catch a breath. This kind of shopping is only for the strong willed. Tour buses drop off scads of people who fan out in search of the best possible deal. Is it really a deal if it’s advertised so well?

Mid-Coast

We got a beer and stretched our legs in Boothbay Harbor – the largest boating harbor northeast of Boston, Massachusetts. The harbor didn’t knock our socks off.

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Booth Bay Harbor and Megan Jake

Driving through Wiscasset you’ll see grand summer homes that are a part of Maine’s coastal community. Camden is also a pleasant town with brick buildings lining the downtown area. In Thomaston, the Maine State Prison shop awaits where you can buy inmate-made wood products (boats, signs, knickknacks).

In Rockland, we hustled onto the ferry for an hour and 15 minute ride to Vinalhaven. Vinalhaven is Maine’s third biggest island, 14 miles long and nine miles wide. The island is home to two abandoned rock quarries that now provide natural swimming holes. The quarry pools are a must see if you are on the island.

Services are limited on the island, but you will find hospitality at the Tidewater Motel on Main Street. It overlooks Carver’s Harbor and it’s only 3/8’s of a mile from the ferry, so a car is not necessary. A couple of restaurants dot Main Street – the Harbor Gawker for takeout, the Islander Restaurant, The Haven Restaurant, Tib’s Pool Hall – and are (sometimes) open until about 8:00 P.M. during the week and slightly later on the weekend.

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A Drive through Camden Through the Fog near Vinalhaven A Boat in the Rain

Downeast/Acadia

Our first glimpse of the region was a rearview-mirror view of Fort Knox in Prospect. We were driving a Mustang convertible over the crusty bridge from Prospect to Verona Island to Bucksport. The fort was built in 1844 to protect the Penobscot River Valley from British naval attack. Very utilitarian.

Bar Harbor is the largest town on the island and it is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides. We pulled in and secured a room at the Ivy Manor Inn – an upscale bed and breakfast with a French restaurant, Michelle’s, on the ground floor. Our room was terrific. It was quiet, large (the bed was splendidly big) and graceful. Although, we did have trouble getting the fireplace to flame. Apparently, there is a well-hidden switch behind the mirror that we were unaware of.

Across the street from the inn is a yummy Italian restaurant, Anthony’s. The staff is friendly and if you are lucky, Chris, the proprietor, might pack up the remainder of your wine for later enjoyment while fireside.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, Bar Harbor’s nightlife will keep you entertained for a couple of days. The college crowd heads to Carmen Verandah on Main Street for dance tunes spun by a DJ. The outdoorsy locals seem to congregate at the Lompoc Café on Rodick Street for live music, bocce ball and erudite conversations aided by the dictionary and the encyclopedia found on the bar.

We also stayed at the rustic Bass Cottage in the field behind the banks on Main Street. I’m not kidding – they’re address is literally 14 The Field. The place is eerie with cracks in the walls, a hodge-podge of antiques, claw-foot tubs and no televisions or telephones. But it is authentically Northeastern in flavor, it’s cheap and it is within walking distance of the heart of town.

So the town is a little tourist-y, but the folks flock for good reason.

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Right in the Center of Town! Right in the Center of a Field (in Town)!

A drive along the Park Loop Road is rewarding – on one side the granite cliffs tumble into the inky sea, and on the other, trees hug the shoulder and mountains crop through the pine blanket. There are also 57 miles of carriage roads developed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. throughout the park that accommodate horses and, you guessed it, horse-drawn carriages. There was a devastating fire in 1947 in which most historic buildings were destroyed. But the park seems to be doing okay today – it draws more visitors per acre than any other national park in the United States.

We braved the Beehive Trail during our visit. The 0.8 mile hike rises 520 feet high and consists of exposed cliffs with iron rungs on ledges to help you up to the top. The ascent is creepy, especially since the trail isn’t well marked (we accidentally strayed into more dangerous areas, as did others after us), but the views are spectacular. We especially liked the vista overlooking Sand Beach. Plus, a small lake called the Bowl awaits at the top and the descent loops around the back of the Beehive and gradually slopes down to the trailhead.

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Touring Bar Harbor On the Rocks How’d I Get up Here?

Well, we got a little crazy and decided to drive up the rest of the coast one afternoon.  So we found ourselves in Machias after a couple of hours.  We stopped in at Helen’s for a Coke and then were back on our way.  When we arrived in Lubec – the easternmost town in the United States – we were a little dazed by the scarcity of people.  Then we crossed over into Canada (New Brunswick) to briefly visit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s summer home on Campobello Island.  Besides the house, there’s nothin’ much to do.  And it’s foggy as hell up there.

We finally made it back to Long Lake for an evening of eating and drinking.  The next day, as we were flying out, we got an excellent view of Long Lake and Sebago Lake.  Au revoir.