Saturday, October 26, 2013

Leaf Peeping Tour: Montreal to White River Junction, VT to Home

Waking up for the last full day of our trip was bittersweet.  It was a gray day in Montreal and even raining a bit.  We went for a run through Mount Royal Park where the fall colors were gorgeous against the gray sky. I always think of my mom when the weather is like that.  She says its her favorite: a cool, even chilly gray day when the leaves are all at peak color.

We packed up and then headed to a Bagel Cafe to get some authentic Montreal Bagels.  They were DELICIOUS. So after carb-loading and a hot drink, we drove out of Montreal, across the bridge, and into the U.S. of A.  Burlington, VT is very close to Montreal and so we were there before much had happened.  Didn't stop us from going to a local brew pub, getting some craft beer, ordering more food, and then walking through the town in search of souvenirs and local charm.  Burlington is even more college-y than most college towns, and even though there were gray skies and a chilly wind, we had a great time walking through it.  Our next stop was Waterbury, VT to see the Ben & Jerry's factory.

Except for the free ice cream at the end, this is like any other factory tour - one long commercial.  It's also a lesson in sustainability and responsible product-sourcing.  I appreciated learning how Ben and Jerry's makes a concerted effort to get milk from Vermont farmers, and their heavy emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility.  Lots of MNCs could take a page from their book.  And I didn't know that Unilever had purchased B&J.  But all that was nothing compared to the absolute best part of the tour, and one of the funniest parts of the whole trip - our Ben and Jerry's tour guide.

We saw one other tour group be corralled and leave before our tour was called.  The tour guide was kind, an older gentleman, and gave an energetic and friendly welcome to his tour group.  Then we met our tour guide.  She started her cattle call with a something like this:

She made terrible jokes without a second thought and seemed to love them more because they were terrible.  She wanted to share her love of Ben and Jerry's with everyone lucky enough to be on her tour.  She told this joke when we were overlooking the production floor through glass windows:
A woman had heard that taking a bath in milk is very good for your skin. She obediently called her local dairy farmer and asked for a bathtub full of milk.  On the other end of the line, the somewhat shocked dairy farmer responded kindly to her request.  "Well, sure...we can do that.  Do you know how many gallons your bathtub holds?" The lady didn't know exactly but asked for 60 gallons.  Then the dairy farmer considerately asked, "Would you like that milk pasteurized?" And the lady, somewhat miffed at being interrogated, sighed, "Look, I just need a bathtub full of milk, have you ever heard of a bathtub that goes past your eyes? Sheesh."
So after our tour guide told that joke there was complete silence.  It took me a minute to get it and then I started laughing, first at the joke and then at the utter silence and the tour guide's undaunted continuance of the tour.  She was a little disappointed that no one got it.  But she pressed on! Clearly this wasn't the first time she tried this joke.  After the production room, we went to the TASTING ROOM.  They do this very well, and the sample flavor of the day was Strawberry Cheesecake.  When we asked our amazing tour guide to take a photo of us, she photobombed us first and took this picture:

This picture kills me every time.  And then after her little prank, she took this picture of Christi and I together. Which we tried to set up like the one we had taken in Venice 10 years earlier.

(Then in Venice)  
(Now in USA)

Later I tried the Liz Lemon flavor which has blueberry, lemon and lavender flavors.  Ben and Jerry have really outdone themselves.

After the factory we decided to head to Woodstock, VT, a quintessential Vermont village.  We got there after dark and all the general stores and cute towny things were closed.  We drove through, admired the quaintness and then decided to head to White River Junction where we were staying so that we could prepare for our final dinner together.   We booked a very late dinner, 9pm, so we had time to check in to our hotel, rest, and pack everything for the next day.

It was very warm in our hotel room so as we started to lay things out and get ready, we opened the window and a short time later, we heard awesome bluegrass music drifting in on the cool night air. We abandoned our packing and repacking and headed downstairs to check it out.  Turns out, it was First Friday in White River Junction, meaning the local art galleries and shops stay open late and people meander from one to another for special showings and after-hours events.  There is usually outdoor music and other fun things.  So we struck upon a wine tasting and they offered very generous pours since it was the end of the event and they had a lot left over.  We took to the streets to get a better listen to the music being played.  There was a group of middle aged men with two guitars, a banjo, an upright bass, a harmonica and a mandolin and they sounded absolutely lovely.  They played "Long Black Veil" and "Gently on my Mind".  It was cold and smelled like fall and rocking back and forth to the sweet country music put me in a great mood.

We drove to Quechee to have dinner at Simon Pearce which is an artisan glassblowing workshop/gourmet restaurant.  We got to the reservation a little early to have time to shop around and see the glassblowers at work.  It's pretty amazing to see the sparkling and elegantly shaped finished products in the showroom upstairs and then to descend into the fiery basement to see two unkempt guys wearing metallica t-shirts with earbuds in, reaching in to furnaces and skillfully working with molten glass and shaping it into goblets, platters, glasses and bowls.

Our dinner was the second best of the trip.  We both ordered the same thing, the acorn squash special with root vegetables, ancient grains, and dried cranberries.  We sat at a table overlooking the dark, peaceful creek, and tried to find the new moon.  I was sad to be leaving such gorgeous surroundings and my excellent companion.

The next morning I woke up early and we headed to Lebanon, N.H. a mere two miles away but in another state.  The Lebanon, NH airport is an amazingly small airport with crazy friendly people.  Security screening made me laugh- there were as many guards as there were passengers on my plane.  And then my plane looked like this:

It reminded me of the Caribbean and all those single prop planes I flew between islands.  My flight from Lebanon to Boston was beautiful. The fog and low clouds inhibited my view of the foliage but at the beginning and the end of the flight I got sweeping views of the countryside and it made me even more regretful of departing.

It was very nice to get home though, even to a balmy 80 degree day.  I left autumn behind me when I got home from the Northeast.  I think I will need to return, however.  If for nothing else to replenish my maple syrup stash.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Leaf Peeping Tour - Montreal

And sample it we did!

We arrived in Montreal around 6:30pm on Wednesday night. After we got settled, we decided to go out to dinner. The front desk clerk recommended a place, and after checking it out we found it dead and uninspired.  Of course, it's a Wednesday night, but we had hoped for a more fun atmosphere.  So we hopped in a cab and went to a cocktail bar called Lab where, again, we were pretty much the only people there, but we had a great chat with the bartender.  Lab is like the Montreal version of my favorite cocktail place, PX, which is in Old Town and never fails to make me feel fancy and serve me delicious alcoholic treats.  After we had both had some cocktails, and chatted a good bit, Gabrielle sent us to the place where we had the best meal of the entire trip.

(This isn't where we ate but the sign was too funny.) 

We walked a few blocks through a bougie neighborhood and found Le Chien Fumant to be warm, intimate, delicious-smelling, and packed with people.  We had a GREAT meal.  We had foie-gras stuffed ravioli, skate à la Grenobloise, and I'm having a hard time remembering what I had, but I was more focused on the atmosphere. We sat at the bar which is right in front of their open kitchen so I was already distracted watching all the action. The owner was there and he was pretty easy on the eyes.   We told him Gabrielle said hi and tried to charm him, but he seemed introverted and quiet, a sort of solemn restaurant genius.  We also met a Quebecois country bumpkin who had the singular strangest accent when he spoke French that I have ever heard.  It was awesome though.  He's also a chef and came there to eat and hang with his buddies who work there and he asked us all kinds of questions. He also helped translate most of the menu for us.  C'est quoi P.D.T.? (pommes de terre - potatoes) Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire "aneth"? (Dill) Comment preparer quelque chose à la grenobloise? (Avec du beurre brulé, câpres, et citron - brown butter, capers, and lemon).

 I had the strangest feeling from the time I entered Montreal that it didn't feel like a place to visit. It felt more like a place to live. It's comfortable and easy getting around, not too big, multicultural, just a good fit for life.  I fell right into a routine there. So much so that I almost felt weird visiting there and being in a hotel with touristic purposes.  I felt like I should be going to school or going to work.

We finished our dinner and caught a cab, reluctantly and not without a stumble or two.  We cabbed back to the hotel and planned the next day.  Christi tried to talk me into doing a bikram class with her.  I wanted to go to the Biodome and Parc Olympique, so I chose that instead.  I spent my morning riding the Montreal metro, surveying the highly international, beautifully varied inhabitants of this town.  I saw businessmen, lots of students (there are more than 5 well-known universities in Montreal), moms, kids.  It certainly didn't look like the DC metro on a morning commute in.

I started at the Biodome. It's one of the largest features in the city which is not known for beautiful architecture.  Most of what remains in the park are remnants of the 1976 Olympic Games and the buildings, as you can imagine, reflect that dark age of architecture where everything was concrete and bad looking.  The part of W&M's campus that was built during the 70s is largely regarded as a blight, especially as compared to the loveliness of Old Campus.  Anyway, the Biodome is really cool.  You walk through areas that each reflect different climates and in them you find different animals.  You'll find penguins and puffins, porcupines and otters, and lots of beautiful trees and flowers.

I had hoped to see an otter in Acadia but one in captivity is okay too.  They're such fun, cute animals.  I watched him swim skillfully for a while, and then continued on my tour of world climates.  After finishing at the biodome I went to the Botanical Gardens. They are located a short walk away in the same general area as the Biodome.  After seeing the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis and now Montreal, I have decided that in many cases, Botanical Gardens are a worthwhile stop.  You can count on abundant natural things, beautiful walks, and a quieter atmosphere.   It was a warm, sunny day and I had a fantastic time exploring the artistic botanical sculptures on display.  

When I got back to the hotel, there was much rejoicing, because, on the second-to-last day of our trip, Christi's bag had arrived.  We ate lunch at a vegetarian place next door to our hotel which was really delicious, and then we headed into the Old Port region for some touristy highlights.  I was disappointed with the Old Town.  Christi bought a beautiful necklace and they did have some very good shopping.  But I felt like it was the same as Quebec City, and didn't have much to offer except pretty things for purchase.  I think cruise ships stop here too and I think other parts of Montreal were more authentic than this part, even though it was pretty with all the stone buildings and cobblestone streets.  We didn't go to any of the museums and that probably would have been a good idea.  

After we were done strolling through the Old Port, we went back to the hotel area and drove up to the top of Mont Royal.  We watched the sun set (indirectly) and took in the view of the city from a lookout point right near the cross.  

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel, got ready for our dinner out and headed to our restaurant.  We had a really nice dinner there in the chic, lively area of downtown.  Our table seemed like a sweetheart table, as the chairs were beside one other, and in a very prominent area of the restaurant with no other tables around it.  Jokes were made about proposals, etc.  It didn't compare to the previous evening's dinner but it was a nice evening out.  We headed back to the hotel after and started packing up in preparation for the trip's final day and our exit from Canada.  


Monday, October 21, 2013

Leaf Peeping Day 5: Quebec City to Montreal

Our only morning in Quebec City started with a run along the Old Port, outside the city walls, and down along the highway.  The city is dominated by the huge chateau, fortress and fortified walls that protected Quebec from foes such as those nasty Americans, and date back to the 17th century.

We walked through the city and up to the fortress to get a closer look, and then we split off for a while.  I went to the Champs D'Abraham and Christi went to a cafe and to do some shopping since she still hadn't gotten her baggage.  I took a long walk and hit upon this nature trail which was calming and very relaxing to do.  Just to my left out of frame in this photo, you could see the river down a very steep and long embankment.

Then I walked back through the fields slowly working my way back to town to meet Christi for lunch and I saw this hilarious park bench, which perhaps had seen better days.  The other thing about seeing something like this in pseudo-France is that sometimes you're not sure whether it's a modern art sculpture/social commentary piece or just a broken park bench.  

This a central square in the middle of the Old Town part of Quebec City.  It was a beautiful, cool morning as I walked towards the business district after the park in search of crêpes and Christi. 

I sat down in a crowded crêperie, waiting for Christi to arrive and then we enjoyed a delicious lunch of warm, savory crepes.  We finished up buying some of the things Christi had seen, then headed back to the hotel to press on towards Montreal.   I think in my mind I had been the most excited about Montreal portion of our agenda.  But now my excitement waned a little.  I found myself missing the quiet and natural beauty of Acadia and Tadoussac a little.  But I was eager to sample the French-Canadian cosmopolitan lifestyle.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Leaf Peeping Day 3 &4 - Bar Harbor to Tadoussac to Québec City

Once again our day began very early.  We had a solid 6 hours in the car to get to the ferry that would take us to that night's destination.  If we missed the ferry, we'd be stuck on one side of the St. Lawrence and miss whale watching the next morning.  We wanted a good cushion of time to ensure we had no issues.

Driving out of Bar Harbor in the wee morning hours, we encountered fog and it was rough going for a while on the country roads.  But the farmlands, the fog settling in the valleys, and the beautiful autumn colors made for dramatic scenery.  We stopped just before the Canadian border to get some gas and some coffee and then crossed into New Brunswick.  We weren't there very long and then we crossed into Québec.  There was a lot of car time that day but arriving in the little village of Tadoussac was worth it.

On the ferry ride across the St. Lawrence river we saw three blue whales.  We had lots of attention from the Québecois boathands and enjoyed our crossing with their narrations and recommendations for things to do in Tadoussac.  We stayed at the lovely Hotel Tadoussac which is the prominent fixture of the town.

As soon as we arrived Christi went to do laundry and I went for a run/hike around a point and up to a scenic viewpoint overlooking the Saguenay Fjord.  Later, we enjoyed a nice dinner at Cafe Bohème.  It was cold at night and the next morning we went for a chilly but beautiful run along a road out to the massive Tadoussac Sand Dunes, created a long time ago by glacial friction along the rocky coast.

The only thing on our agenda that day was to go whale watching and we were scheduled to go at 9am.  We departed and got on our boat and took to the river in search of large marine life.  It didn't take long before we spotted our first whale, a fin whale, and progressively saw one other fin whale, three humpback whales, and lots of harbor seals and minke whales.  (Sidenote: all the French-Canadians kept saying the word "minky", referring to the minke whale, and all I could think of was Inspector Clouseau.)

My pictures are not awesome because I wanted to stop trying to take good pictures and just enjoy watching in person. The captain and officers on the ship invited Christi and I into the wheelhouse and showed us all the books of the different whales that hang out around Tadoussac.  They let us sit in the chairs and steer the boat.  One of them invited us out to his house in the country "to see his herd of horses".  

Funny story: they were asking us about our travels and they asked us how we had arrived at Tadoussac.  I said that we had taken the ferry over from Trois-Pistolets.  The town is actually called Trois-Pistoles, meaning three coins.  I had called it Three Pistols, as in, guns.  The captain laughed and laughed.  He kept telling all the officers to watch out for me because I was packing heat.  I loved that he was making fun of me in french.  When I disembarked he and I both made guns out of our hands like so...

at each other when we said our goodbyes.  Then we put our respective weapons back in their imaginary holsters and shook hands.  A worthy adversary, I'd say.  I'm still laughing thinking about it.  

While in the wheelhouse, chatting it up with the crew and being invited to their country manors, we learned a lot about the whale population in Tadoussac.  Specifically, we learned that there are several that are well known and they have names: Snow White, Blizzard, and one of them is even called Casper.  These are just the humpbacks because their various tail markings are easy to identify.  It was a really great morning out on the water.  But in my life, whenever water is involved, things are pretty great.  

The naturalist guide who went with us on the tour and narrated and told us all about the environment and the whale life common in the St. Lawrence River was also funny in that socially awkward, dorky way that absolutely kills me.  When Christi and I were in the wheelhouse with the other crew, he came in to radio another boat about which humpback we had just seen and he just randomly sang the beginning of the song "Tequila" but instead of the title, he said "BELUGA!" and then kept singing the song.  I could not have asked for a more fantastic group of crazy Canucks to hang out with for three hours. 

After the whale watching, we docked, took a quick trip around the town and around a scenic path to look at the fjord.  Then we hopped in the car to head to Québec City.  We arrived late afternoon into our tiny hotel room in the Old City, right on the walls overlooking the port.  We went out to dinner at a Provençale restaurant and after a good meal, went to bed pretty quickly.  The next day we would finish up in Québec City and head to Montreal.   

Friday, October 11, 2013

Leaf Peeping - Day 2 - Bar Harbor and Acadia NP

5am wake up calls are not a welcome thing on vacation.  I happened to have already been awake because a squirrel was scurrying around on the roof of the cabin at our campsite in the middle of the night and I freaked myself out.  Instead of a squirrel running around and gathering food, the sound, in my mind was The Bar Harbor KOA Campground Killer.  He slowly stalks campsites with unsuspecting female guests, scraping his knife up and down the cabin walls around and around again, so that they wake up and are able to fully realize the terror of their situation before they meet their gruesome end.

That is literally the place I went to in my head when I first heard the squirrel.  Then after I had listened long enough to know that it was definitely a squirrel (or mice or bats. My time in Martinique came in surprisingly handy here...) I had scared myself and my heart was racing so fast I couldn't go back to sleep.  I just tried to read but I couldn't even do that.  So when jet-lagged Christi starred stirring around 4:50 in the other part of the cabin, it was a relief.  She had had weird dreams and I had imagined a serial killer, so we were both starting the day in a bizarre headspace.

We were going to get up at 5am anyway to partake in the quintessential Acadia National Park event: watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain.  It is one of the first places in the US that the sun peeks over the horizon and we wanted to be there to greet it.  We got ready for a day in the park, grabbed water, food and blankets (sounds like we were retreating to a bomb shelter!) and got in the car in the pitch dark of the campground to go into the park and up the mountain.  We got there as the sky was turning from inky indigo to cerulean, to cyan, to a yellowish line right on the horizon.  There were also at least 70 other people there with professional cameras and telescopes already at 5:30am.  Christi and I split off to have a little quiet time to ourselves.  I decided that watching this sunrise would be church for me - it was a Sunday morning after all.  I found a little rocky outcropping on the downward slope of the mountain and climbed down to it.  I felt myself sufficiently tucked away, wrapped myself in the blanket, and put my headphones in.

I had made a special playlist for this event.  I had songs for pre-dawn, the breaking of the sun over the horizon, and the gradual rise.  There was one that I would play specially at the moment of the sunrise (6:28am that day).  In a small attempt to recreate this a little bit for my readers, I will ask that you play this song...

while you look at my small reaches towards a Glory so great as what I witnessed that morning:

It was a very beautiful moment up there on that mountain.  I will treasure everything about it for as long as my mind can hold on to it.  It pointed me upwards and wiped away any residual fear or bad feelings from the night before.

So after the sun rose, we had about two hours to kill until we could start our plans for the rest of the day.  We wanted to rent bikes and the shop didn't open until 9.  So we left the park, went into town, bought some hot drinks, and sat on a little cliff overlooking the harbor.  There was a cruise ship in port and we watched as the first shuttle boats brought passengers into the town.  We talked for a little while, then went to a cafe recommended to us.  In a gesture of Divine Providence, we were seated at the 70's rock trivia table.  There were lots of tables in the cafe, only about 4 had photos and trivia questions embedded into the surface, and only ONE had a music theme.  You really do go before us in all things, don't You.  Christi had to put up with me quizzing myself for at least 20 minutes until our food came and sufficiently distracted me.  A gesture of Divine Providence for her, perhaps.

After a warming and hearty breakfast (Christi had eggs benedict with Lobster claws, WHAT?), we went to the bike store and took off to bike as much of Acadia as our legs would allow.  We biked from the store into the Park and into a network of Carriage Roads that don't allow cars or any motorized vehicles.  The fall colors were just starting to show.  We did a few loops around ponds and smaller bodies of water, no significant climbs except one, which left me in serious doubt of my physical prowess.  Next, we were going down a gentle slope and looked to see Jordan Pond to our left.  The beautiful blue-green water beckoned to us. We yelled down to some people walking along its edge and asked where we could find the trail.  We decided to ditch the bikes for a while and do the three mile hike around the pond.  We decided we should jump in despite the chilly 50 degree water temperature.  

Sadly, when we descended and found the trailhead we also found signs prohibiting swimming because the pond is part of the public water supply.  It took everything we had not to jump in anyway. You're welcome, Maine tap water drinkers.  It was a great hike and a good break from the bike seat for my bum.

We were at the very southern tip of the bike paths and near the southernmost part of Mt. Desert Island, so we headed back north and decided to get the car to come back and see a few other parts of the park that the carriage roads didn't link to.  P.S. A big thank you to John D. Rockefeller for building these roads.  He built them for his wife and banned cars from them so that she could take out her carriage undisturbed on them.  Your foresight and consideration and excellent use of that endless stream of money you lived on continually pay dividends in my life in so many places.  Williamsburg, DC, and now Maine!

We had a great bike ride back to the store.  By early afternoon, Bar Harbor was completely overrun with people from the cruise ship and other vacationers.  We got in the car, smiling and sunburnt, and headed out to drive the Park Loop road.   Our first stop was Sandy Beach.  Now, I know what you're thinking: that's kind of a lame name.  Other East Coast beaches have names like Hilton Head, Corolla, Kitty Hawk, Singing Beach, Point Pleasant, etc.  But I think that after all these rocks the settlers were so excited to have this nice sand, they probably thought it was a great name so that people could know they could have a soft landing here.  It's a small, beautiful cove with a swimming beach, and I waded into the cold water up to my waist.  I almost did the full plunge but I had no way to dry off or change clothes and we still had quite a few things left to do, so plunge I did not.  Logistically, that was the right decision but my heart wasn't in it.  The warm sun on my legs felt amazing as my heart pumped worriedly to bring them back up to a normal temperature after the wading.  

Next stop was Thunder Hole.  This is a particular rock formation where you can sometimes hear a loud thunderous (duh!) boom as the waves crash in if you hit the tide right.  We did not, but it was lovely all the same.  

After we finished at Thunder Hole, we drove the rest of the Park Loop, marveling at the beautiful scenery and enjoying the salty air wafting into the car.  We parked again in Bar Harbor when we finished the loop and browsed in some of the stores.  I got blueberry soft serve ice cream which was a complete game changer in my quest to avoid all fruit flavored ice creams.  I figured, Maine is obsessed with its blueberries since all their artisan food products, needlepoints, sweatshirts and even jewelry sport a blueberry theme, so I should probably sample something blueberry, to pay homage.  I have a fairly strict rule that ice cream and fruit should not be incorporated homogeneously, but I make exceptions for this in cases of small batch production.  A few examples: coconut ice cream on Grand Anse des Salines, Martinique by a little lady who serves you the ice cream DIRECTLY FROM HER HAND CRANK ICE CREAM MAKER.  You don't say no to that.  Ever.  My cousin Laura's peach ice cream she makes at the family beach week sometimes.  The strawberry ice cream from the strawberry fields of Gloucester, VA at a farm with big chunks of fresh strawberries in it.  Oh yes, there are exceptions to every rule.  

So then after getting ice cream and shopping a little, I accidentally stole a postcard.  I was so distracted by how good my ice cream was that I had picked one up to buy and then just walked right out of the store with it when Christi said she was ready to go.  I realized what I had done in the next store and just looked at it and said "Oh no!" and walked back to the store to explain what happened.  They were very nice about it.  There was a young girl who was manning the shop and I told her what happened and she said, "Dude, it's totally cool.  Thanks for coming back. Righteous."  Then we talked for a while about the weird crystals she sells in the store and then I left with my almost-illegally obtained postcard.  

We decided to get back to the campsite for sunset.  We made it in plenty of time and I finally realized that our campsite was the PERFECT location to do a polar plunge.  I ran to the cabin, grabbed a towel and got back in the water up to my waist. It did take a moment of searching the waters and steeling myself to the iciness that awaited me.  I had been told that finding lobsters in the rocks was not uncommon.  Finally I went all the way under and that gorgeous cold salty water enveloped me.  Only for a brief moment, it was too cold to stay in. Then I ran and took a warm shower.  

I came back outside to have a picnic dinner with Christi beside the fire that we built.  It started off VERY humbly.  I was convinced that we were going to fail and not get our fire-building merit badge.  But after a little TLC, some fretting, and the addition of handfuls and handfuls of pine needles and paper napkins, we got a good blaze going.  

I took this photo and in my head called it "The Last Pale Light in the West" after a Ben Nichols record I came across years ago, which Wikipedia tells me was inspired by Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian or Evening Redness in the West

A beautiful end to our time in Acadia.

Leaf Peeping - Day 1 - Boston to Bar Harbor

On this rainy fall day, D.C. is doing it's best to bring gloom, but the memories of my recent trip to the Northeast US and Québec will not be denied their day in the sun.

I realize that probably not a lot of people would find someone else's vacation interesting.  But I mostly just write about it to process it and to capture the little details that will filter through the sieve of my ever-aging mind after too long.  At least there are pictures.  

So it all started on a beautiful Saturday morning in DC.  My favorite thing about living in Old Town is going for a run along the Potomac River and through the cobblestone alleys of my little corner of the metropolitan sprawl.  After that I threw the rest of my stuff together and booked it to the airport.  I arrived in Boston around 10:30am.  I met up with Christi (of Grenoble fame) with whom this whole trip was planned, and we began our tour.  Christi had just returned from a week in France and the airline had lost her baggage, the saga of this lost baggage would continue for almost the entire week. We rented a car and made our way up the coast of Boston to Maine.  We had thought about stopping in Portland for lunch but after seeing signs for Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, we had to detour.  Arriving was like seeing an LL Bean and Vineyard Vines catalogue explode into real life.  Everyone had beautiful golden retrievers, drove Subaru Outbacks and Limited Edition Ford Explorers in hunter green with tan leather interiors.  

I knew that Kennebunkport sounded familiar to me, not just for being a cute, touristy town  but for some other reason.  Ah yes, right, its BEER.  So we went straight to Federal Jack's Brew Pub which is in Kennebunk and welcomed ourselves to vacation by trying a sampler of their beers.  Then we ate lunch overlooking a little cove of sailboats with the sea breeze blowing our hair in just the right direction.  We walked around the town for a little bit then headed to Kennebunkport.  We just stopped at the rocky beach for a moment and soaked in the first of many beautiful seascapes along this craggy coast.

Our next stop was the Port Clyde lighthouse.  Friday night as I was doing last minute Googling about the vacation, I got it in my head that Forrest Gump had run to a lighthouse in the movie (1:29 mark) when he's running all over America.  It occured to me that this lighthouse was very possibly in Maine.  Sure enough, it is!  It became oddly important to me to stop at this lighthouse.  I decided to broach the subject with Christi and see if I could convince her to stop there. It was slightly out of the way but it had a strange hold on me.  

Fortunately, Christi was all for it and so we drove to Port Clyde, ME and the Marshall Point lighthouse.  It was one of the most picturesque spots on the trip.  So peaceful and beautiful.  

We finally pulled in to Bar Harbor, ME around 7pm that night.  It had been a long drive but we stopped at a great place for dinner and had good food accompanied by a jazz combo.  Our waiter had lived all over and, in the first of many encounters that further solidified this point, older gentlemen are very interested in two single ladies traveling together.  He asked us all kinds of questions and spent too much time at our table to be considered a very good waiter for anyone who wasn't us.  Either way, the food was excellent and it was a warm atmosphere.  Christi and I had an early morning the next day but we had to squeeze in a late night run to Walmart to get picnic supplies for the next day as well as a few necessities for the baggage-challenged traveler.  We were the only people in the store and they were just about to close. I learned that Walmart acts sort of like a control in any experiment.  One of my favorite things about going to grocery stores in different places is to use the grocery store and products that they stock as a sort of experiment in culture.  What is different? How is that a reflection of the place and the people it serves? 

Walmart doesn't deviate too much from the standard, as you can imagine. But you know what you'll find.  And it came up huge for our needs that evening, offering one-stop shopping for clothes and food late at night in a small town where otherwise we would have had to disrupt our travel plans the next day to go shopping when we should be exploring Acadia NP.  

So, I guess, thanks Walmart? File under, things I never thought I'd have occasion to write.  

Past Entries