Little Black Book...Weekending In Portland Maine
My sisters and I are always talking about going away together for a weekend and Portland, only a few hours north seemed the perfect choice. Though hipsters are perhaps the first thing that come to mind with Portland, with them comes all the perks they bring: good coffee shops, foodie restaurants, book and music stores and a thriving artist community. Add to that a picturesque harbor and proximity to the beach and you've got a perfect weekend getaway.
The old port with its beautiful brick buildings, cobblestone streets and sea air is my favorite area of Portland. It's a great place to spend a day wandering, shopping and people watching. Also, it contains some great restaurants (seem my places to eat list).
If you are more into art than food there are dozens of small galleries dotting the streets as well as the Portland Museum of Art which has a great collection of impressionist, modern and American Art; Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, Degas, Manet, Kandinski, Homer and Wyeth. Also, the first Friday of every month, museums and galleries are free from 5-8pm.
For those with a love of history (or poetry) Henry Wadwsworth Longfellow's home and garden, located at 489 Congress Street is a must see. The poets restored house was built in 1786 and is the oldest brick house in Portland.
And for the bibliophiles like myself there are the bookstores, my personal favorite being "Yes Books" located at 589 Congress Street. The quintessential bookstore; tiny on the outside and stuffed with books on the inside: a book lovers paradise.
Places To Eat
- Sapporo Japanese Restaurant (230 Commercial Street, Union Wharf): A nice little place on right near the water. My sisters enjoyed the sushi but I think the noodle dishes were even better.
- The Merry Table (43 Wharf Street): Tiny place with great french food. Since it is so small the line can be long, but it's worth the wait.
- Duckfat Restaurant (43 Middle Street): We didn't go to Duckfat on our girls weekend, but having discovered it on a previous trip I don't feel like it would be fair to leave it out. Don't miss it, the food is as delectable as it is unassuming.
Our parents always took us to Maine during summer vacations when we were kids. We stayed in the same place every year, packed our lunch every morning and made our way to Goose Rocks Beach to spend the day. So as we planned our weekend we all agreed that at least one day should be spent at Goose Rocks. Other than that we had no fixed plans except a trip out to Peak's Island by ferry.
We booked a place a little outside of the city and drove up after work so we could get to the beach early the next day. Going back to Goose Rocks made all of us feel like kids again, walking out to the island to collect stones and shells then sorting and trading them when we got back to our blanket. As we lay in the afternoon sun we agreed we should drive into Portland for dinner and scope out what we wanted to see the next day.
We ended up wandering the narrow streets of the old port for hours and went back the next morning to do the same. That afternoon we took the ferry over to Peaks Island, walking along Island Avenue with our melting ice cream then sitting on the rocky shore watching the sailboats float by. I couldn't help feeling a bit sad when we boarded the ferry back to the Portland but I was easily distracted by which restaurant we should to try out next. I'd forgotten how many good places there were to eat in the old port. In fact, on our ride home the next night we realized we had covered french, japanese, irish and italian on our gastronomic weekend.
It wasn't my first trip to Portland, but somehow experiencing it with my sisters made me look at it through fresh eyes and with an appreciative palate. It may be a small city but it's one with character and now, a few new memories.
Nearby Beaches and Walks
- Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport: Great family beach with an island you can walk out to at low tide. Parking is limited so get there early, you can get a parking permit at the local store. http://www.visitmaine.com/attractions/outdoor_recreation_sports_adventure/beaches/beaches_by_region/maine_beaches/goose_rocks/
- Peaks Island: Don't bother bringing the car, the island is a great place to wander. You can catch a Casco Bay Ferry at the pier for about $8. For schedules check out their website http://www.cascobaylines.com/schedules/
- Ocean Park, Old Orchard: Down past the boardwalk crowds of Old Orchard beach lies the little town of Ocean Park. Somehow that mile down the road makes all the difference. Less people, friendly locals and a lovely little ice cream place make it worth the walk.