“You guys are going to Maine?” said the tall, blonde guy at the Chicago O’Hare customs while he checked our boarding passes. He gave it back to us and while we were on our way to deliver our bags for the connecting flight, I looked behind us and he was still looking at us in incredulity. The look on his face was like he was watching three Venusians going to Saturn.
I can’t say I was surprised with his reaction as people often frown when you tell them you’re going to some more underrated places like Minneapolis, Kansas City, Portland (OR) and so many others. In this case it was Portland, Maine.
And right off the bat let me tell you something: in all other times, they showed some groundless incredulity as the places I went proved to be great, but this time they were absolutely, totally and completely wrong.
Portland, Maine proved to be one of the greatest places I’ve been and one I’m already planning to return in a near future.
Of course, I’m a rather easy to please guy: give me a town with a good record store, good bookstores, good beer, beautiful women, some cultural activity, beautiful places, nice people and great food, and I’m sold.
Portland, Maine has all of the above.
First of all, of course, are the cheap lobsters. Not only they are cheap, they taste great. And you can have them in all forms: steamed, baked, fried, you name it. And you can accompany it with some marvelous local beer. Shipyard, Geary’s and Sebago are wonderful choices.
I really enjoyed eating at Sebago Brewpub, Dry Dock, J’s Oyster House, White Cap Grill (those lobster cakes are to die for) and $3 Dewey’s Ale and Restaurant. And for some head over heels gelato you can do a lot worse than going to Gorgeous Gelato and trying the Gorgeous flavor: a cream of vanilla, caramel and chocolate.
Another great experience I had on this trip was the 4th of July. 15.000 people (according to the official numbers on the day after) gathered in a wonderful hill overlooking Casco Bay. It was a sight to behold. The hill was on a higher ground and at its foot there was the Portland Symphony Orchestra. They started playing the National Anthem and then followed it with a lot of movie soundtracks, closing the first part of the concert with the Star Wars theme! Singer Melissa Manchester also participated. In the second half, while everybody was on the countdown for the fireworks the orchestra played the whole Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. And when the cannonballs from the opus began, the fireworks started! Exactly at the same time! It was really, really cool. Then they closed the ceremony (while fireworks were still cracking) with “America, the Beautiful” and “God Bless America”.
The streetcar City Tour is also a must do. You get to see the whole town and visit the main Portland lighthouse. Maine is second only to Michigan in lighthouses. This one is said to be the one that inspired Longfellow.
The Art Museum is rather good and I would like to highlight the works of famous local artist (and here I confess my utter ignorance of never hearing about him) called Winslow Homer. His paintings are cool, but his drawings are spectacular!
Last, but most certain not least, Bull Moose Records and the bookstores. Bull Moose is right up there with Newbury Comics in Boston, Twist and Shout in Denver, Silver Platters in Seattle, Waterloo in Austin and Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. Great record store! Longfellow Books and Sherman’s Bookstore are also great places to spend a good amount of time. Yes Books, a used bookstore at the end of Congress Street, is a great place to find cheap and rare issues and Books-a-Million is always great and is located on Maine Mall.
And we didn’t do the boat tour, the train ride and didn’t visit the Longfellow house, which are enough reasons to come back as soon as we can!
All in all, Portland is a great place to visit. Therefore, don’t be fool by anyone, is really worth your time and money.
11/22/63 – Stephen King
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