I tried, guys, I really tried to make this as entertaining and informative as my other travelogues, but it ain’t happening. St. Augustine is just not that interesting.
We elected to get a two-day pass for the trolley, which travels in a 22-stop circuit around the city all the way from the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH to RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT MUSEUM. You get the picture. It’s a good way to get an overview of where stuff is, but after the first round-trip one tires greatly of the driver’s patter. Plus the seats are uncomfortable.
The Castillo de San Marcos is wonderful. It is after all a National Monument. My main takeaway from the informational stations is that imperialism is both a hell of a drug and an absolute disease.
We went to the beach and that was nice.
Two great places to eat with phenomenal cocktails and amazing food: Odd Birds, out on Anastasia Island on the way to the beach, and Forgotten Tonic, in town.
But otherwise… it was good to get away.
ADDENDUM: I forgot—I was yelled at by a Trumpster loon. While we were eating lunch on Thursday on one of St. Augustine’s charming side streets, I was looking out the window when a full-size TRUMP WON flag went floating by. I was not too surprised; this is Florida, after all, and on the main drag there is a large home covered with banners saying things like LET’S GO BRANDON and LIBERALISM IS A DISEASE.
Then on Friday, as we were walking down the main drag, here she came: a middle-aged woman, fit and not unattractive, striding along with her flag, her face set and angry. As she passed us, I snorted audibly. She screamed GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH! and I may have said something like, “That can be arranged.” That’s when she went off the deep end and began screaming at me, a regular Gish Gallop of invective, ending up by yelling that I was a “transsexual freak in a dress.” (I was wearing my kilt.)
We’re on the road again, my Lovely First Wife and I, this time to St. Augustine.
Technically we’re on our way to Bainbridge, and from there we will go all the way across Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. Why such a circuitous route? The explanation is, well, circuitous.
We have wooden blinds in our 90-year-old home, and every once in a while they have to be refurbished. The sun, you see, dry rots the webbing. The company which used to service these blinds was conveniently in Decatur, but the family who ran it retired and sold the business to another family, this one in Bainbridge.
So off to Bainbridge it is, a four-hour drive. Another four-hour drive to St. Augustine is a natural extension of that; at least that’s what I was told.
We just stopped in Blakely for lunch, at Smitty’s Grill. We recommend it. The staff was friendly, the food was good, and no one made fun of my Utilikilt (that I could hear, although I’m sure I was the cause of more than a little chortling—spreading joy, that’s me all over.)
Hentown, Cuba, Colquitt. (One wonders about a rural south Georgia roadside bar called Moby Dick…)
We have actually been to Bainbridge before, to celebrate the retirement of famed GHP media specialist Paula Chambers, and that’s how I know that landlocked Bainbridge is actually a seaport—the Flint River joins the Chattahoochee hereabouts, and a series of locks allows barges to float back and forth to the Gulf of Mexico. (It is a weird coincidence that those two rivers are the southeast and northwest corners of Coweta County.)
Did you know there’s a town called Attapulgus? Or that, off Highway 27 at some point, there’s a Newnan Loop Road? It does not show up in Google Maps.
Eventually we reached DeVenco Suber, the company owned and run by Mitch and Jan, a lovely couple not that much younger than we are, who decided in 2018 to buy the wooden blinds business from the family in Decatur. According to our research and theirs, plus astonished testimonials from prominent customers, they are the only wooden blind company in the United States.
After a tour of their facility and some discussion about the color of webbing, etc., we hit the road and drove across the panhandle of Florida, which is exactly as exciting as you think it it.
Since we live in the space future, I booked our hotel on the way. We ended up at Villa 1565, a charming motel on San Marco Avenue.
It’s nicely located, with the tourist trolley stopping at the courtyard, so you know you’re going to get two more days of The Oldest This, That, and the Other, plus the Fountain of Youth (or as I shall refer to it for the rest of the trip, the Fountain of Yute.)
We dined at Raintree, and we recommend it even though the bartender shook my Manhattan instead of stirring it.
On our walk down there, the full moon rose over America’s oldest Marian shrine.
 The usual warning from said Lovely First Wife to all the readers of this blog who burgle homes for a living: Our house is not open for burgling. We have left nearly two wholly functioning adults there.
This past week my Lovely First Wife and I took off on a trip. Normally I blog our travels, but since this trip was mostly my Lovely First Wife’s pilgrimage and I didn’t anticipate anything actually exciting, I decided against it.
But now the truth can be told.
We were headed first to Wetumpka, AL, and then to Laurel, MS. The more discerning among you are nodding your heads sagely in recognition of the Lovely First Wife’s fangirling of Hometown and Hometown Makeover, HGTV’s charming shows hosted by Ben and Erin Napier, an adorable young couple who have made bank by first renovating homes in their hometown of Laurel and then the downtown area of Wetumpka, revitalizing tourism in both.
How can I put this? The real masters of those two shows are the cinematographer and editor: when you’re actually in those two lovely towns you realize how much was just off-camera. Like, a lot.
Laurel, for example, is not this quaint little town. It’s big, really big, and just out of shot of the quaint main street area on the show are concrete and glass office buildings. Wetumpka has a lot going for it and really does seem to be leaning in on its artsy persona, but again, there’s a lot you didn’t see on the teevee.
(Fun fact: the Chamber of Commerce lady featured in Hometown Makeover is a bundle of energy and used to teach art at Poplar Road Elementary here in Coweta County. Also, in both towns, the food was very good, so if you decide to go we have recommendations.)
For its part, Laurel has a whole district of stunning 19th-century homes that are not in need of Ben and Erin’s help.
And both have torn up the very streets we were there to see.
To be clear, I am denigrating neither the towns nor HGTV’s artful presentation of them, but I would advise anyone thinking it would be fun to make the pilgrimage to consider that — perhaps since the reality has been transmogrified into entertainment — being content with the entertainment rather than the reality is a choice they might want to make.
Particularly since the drive is mind-numbingly, butt-numbingly boring. We’re talking two of the poorest states in the nation, and some of the poorest areas in each, so the charms of Wetumpka/Laurel are more than counterbalanced by the shuttered main streets we passed. I was angrier than I needed to be on a pleasure jaunt.
But let that pass. Part of the plan was that once we got to Laurel we would decide whether or not we would press on to New Orleans, which we did. Here’s where the hilarity ensues.
My brain was fried from driving through Alabama and Mississippi, folks, so it should not have been a surprise when we arrived at Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery on Tchoupitoulas St. in New Orleans on Wednesday that I had made reservations via Hotel Tonight for Thursday. It took a while, but Roberto at Hotel Tonight finally straightened it out. (It just now occurs to me that all I had to do was make an additional reservation on the spot for Wednesday night. As I said, my brain was fried.)
How fried was my brain? At 4:30 in the morning, I awoke, suddenly concerned that I had misremembered my license plate number on the parking form. Was it 3441 or 1134? Even more suddenly I realized that it didn’t matter because we weren’t in my car. I had filled out the form for the wrong vehicle.
I slipped on my kilt and some shoes and went down to the front desk, where the desk clerk actually giggled at my dilemma. I didn’t blame her.
Needless to say, my Lovely First Wife’s car was already booted.
The desk clerk sent emails to correct my mistake, and I returned to the room, where my Lovely First Wife also giggled at me. ::sigh::
Here’s the point. We had a great time in New Orleans: fantastic food, phenomenal cocktails, and I bought a new hat that does not make me look like Kid Rock.
I also bought a Picasso.
It’s Woman and Clown, a lithograph, about 12”x9”, and so enamored was I that this is all I know about it. (It’s being shipped, so I’ll have more details once I can really give it my full attention.) I bought it because the figure of the old man resonates with my whole 3 Old Men burn theme camp thing, and that is dear to me.
But first I bought this:
We were on Royal Street, stopping in galleries that had stuff that appealed to us, and inside the Elliott Gallery there was a stairway over on the side, kind of hidden around a corner, and on the wall of the stairway was this piece, about 3’ x 2’, unlabeled and unpriced. I had been looking at a Miró lithograph, but this piece struck me. I inquired the price, and — this was before I had bought the Picasso — it was affordable. I bought it.
Here’s the brilliant part. I had assumed the scrawl in the lower left was the artist’s signature, but his name is actually Thomas Hamann. The title of the work I had just bought was IKARUS: Icarus.
And yes, I decided on the spot to splurge and return to Windsor Fine Art Gallery to buy the Picasso as well.
So this has been a very exciting trip after all. Now we’re heading home. Via interstate, thank you.
Random postscript: I have received more compliments on my kilt everywhere we’ve been than ever in my fifteen years of wearing one. Thanks, Utilikilt!
Now its secrets will be revealed. This is a lighting fixture that I bought at Rare & Different, the fun store next to the CHRISTMAS BOUTIQUE, KENNETH, on rue De Buade. It’s full of these bizarre lamps, all different shapes and colors, and all inexplicably beautiful and fascinating, and all made from the vinyl pieces you see above. If you’re from the area they will build your selection for you while you wait or shop, but if you’re from away you have to take the pieces home and build it yourself.
Here’s how it works: when you’re home and ready to assemble your lamp you email the address on the business card, including the receipt number of your purchase. They then send you the link to two videos: the first one explains the vocabulary they’ll be using (“right/left-leaning,” “rosettes,” etc.) and the mechanical strategies of assembly; the second is specific to the model you picked out. Both are very well done, narrated by Marie-Josée (MJ) Bouchard in a careful yet firm manner.
The concept is enough to make a math major drool: each piece slides into another, like so:
As you can imagine, the lamp is built in layers. My model is the “Saucer,” which MJ pronounces charmingly as “sow-ser.” Here’s the first layer of five pieces:
And flipped, ready for Step 2:
Here we are after Step 2:
You can see how fascinating the concept is. Imagine a store full of these things, all sizes and shapes—your brain really cannot distinguish which pattern is which or which one is going to be the most fascinating when you get it home.
In the video, MJ is working with alternating colors on each step so that you can see what goes where. This does not help those of us assembling a pure white Saucer; at Step 6 I got lost every single time. Step 5 was made up of alternating left- and right-leaning pieces, and Step 6 involved adding two pieces to every left-leaning piece. After starting over for the fourth time, I had a scathingly brilliant idea: add a colored paperclip to the left-leaning pieces. That way, I could tell a) which were the left-leaning pieces without peering intently at the things; and b) which piece I started with as I worked my way around.
I still got lost a couple more times before I got it right. Part of the problem is that as you start closing the top, the tension between pieces becomes greater and unfinished rosettes will come undone. That presents difficulties in recognizing where the next piece goes: does it just hook up with its neighbor, or were there supposed to be two “petals” already there?
Finally, though, I triumphed: Step 6, and the ultra-difficult Step 7 to close the top and install the lighting fixture.
In its natural habitat:
And a video:
No, I’m not leaving it out in the weather (although the shop maintains that the lamps are good for outside). I will store it inside and take it out to install it over the worktable whenever we’re out there of an evening.
So: great lamp, interesting assembly, 10/10 would do it again.
So one of us decided that we needed to visit Quebec City in December. The official excuse was that there was a German-style Christmas Market, but I’m pretty sure it was to make me freeze.
Normally I blog about each day of our travel, but this was just a long weekend, plus I was out of commission for about a third of it, what with an injured ankle and some sleep issues. You are therefore getting just a summary of the adventure.
This was definitely one of those trips where I just packed my suitcase and got in the car; my Lovely First Wife made all the arrangements. I didn’t even research cocktail bars this time. So it was a great delight when we arrived at our lodgings, the Auberge du Trésor on Rue St-Anne, on the Place Armé right across from the Chateau Frontenac.
The hotel is located on the top floors; the bottom is the Bistro 1640, a really really good restaurant and bar. It is entirely possible to eat nowhere else your entire trip. Its name derives from the fact that the original building was built in 1640; parts of the foundation wall are still visible in the bar.
Here’s the view from our room:
If you’ve ever wanted to feel as if you’re in a Hallmark Christmas movie, Quebec at Christmas is where you want to be. (You would be responsible for your own idiotic plot, and if you’re not a single woman with a successful career that you’re willing to abandon after a week, you’re probably out of luck.)
Besides the glorious holiday decorations everywhere, the highlight of the trip was our visit to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.
Dear reader, we walked there through the tundra.
The first thing you should understand is that one of the primary rules of my marriage is never, never, ever set out for any destination with my Lovely First Wife without an exact address. When we finally arrived at the spot she had circled on her Top Ten book’s map, there was no fine arts museum anywhere. If only we had a computer in our pocket oh wait… it was another fifteen minutes of walking away. Off we went.
Sculpture outside, the title of which I failed to record, but it was something like Event Horizon:
The highlight of the MNBAQ was the main exhibit, COZIC Over To You / From 1967 to Now. COZIC is an artistic collective, and their art has been consistently fun, interactive, and beautiful all at the same time.
In the entrance lobby, there was this piece:
You were encouraged/permitted to explore.
The entire exhibit was exhilarating—I’ll be blogging in more depth over at Lichtenbergianism.com in a few days.
After all that walking, my ankle had taken a beating, so we Ubered back to the hotel and I went to the bar to sample the local gins while everyone else went out to explore the Christmas market. The bartender was great: he explained the tenor of each of the five gins he had; I selected two, and he poured a shot into a glass so I could savor the gin’s flavor profile. He also provided me with ice and tonic water so I could then finish with a proper gin and tonic. The two I sampled were St.-Lawrent (flavored with seaweed from the St. Lawrence Seaway), very briny; and Menaud, reminiscent of the Desert Sage gin from Arizona.
While sitting at the bar, I was joined by a couple from New York, very chatty and friendly. Talk turned to Christmas decorations, and I commented that my Lovely First Wife had twenty-six (26 tubs, Kenneth!) of decorations. I said she was no longer allowed to mock me for my 12 tubs of camping equipment. They laughed and said they had whittled their camping equipment down to a manageable size because they go to Burning Man.
That’s right, a thousand miles from Alchemy I randomly meet burners while sitting in a bar. They were super-interested in the Georgia burn, so I gave them my 3 Old Men business card.
When the gang returned from the Christmas Market, we set out via Uber to L’Oncle Antoine, the oldest bar in North America, for dinner. Alas, on a Saturday night it was not possible to get in, so we set off on footback up the mountain, Kenneth, to find sustenance.
At least the walk was lovely:
But it was all uphill. Back at the summit, we popped into Chateau Frontenac to try to get into 1608 Wine & Cheese bar, but the “music was too loud,” so back we went across the square to Auberge du Trésor for dinner at 1640 Bistro.
The main hallway leading to 1608 at the Frontenac:
At least I got a great meal and a fabulous dessert (and more cocktails):
On Sunday, we set out to revisit parts of the Market and the Christmas Boutique—my Lovely First Wife needed more decorations, apparently. I found a SAQ store to buy my gin; after I left the store I realized that although Marie Brizard Parfait Amour (a floral liqueur used in classic cocktails) is very rare in the U.S., it was quite available in Canada. When we retraced our steps, I popped back into the store; they didn’t have it, but another store did. Everyone else headed back to the hotel while I trekked all the way down the mountain to the store that stocked it. (We will not speak of my ankle.)
When I finally rejoined the gang, they were seated at a table by the window in 1640, enjoying Caribou, a Canadian hot spiced wine concoction. They were waiting for the appearance of St. Nicholas, who would be visiting the Market that afternoon. Finally he appeared from the Frontenac, accompanied by three Krampuses, a couple of musicians, and an angel.
The photo does not convey the absolute delightfulness of this. Have a video:
Everyone had settled in for cocktails and dinner, but I went up the hill to the Frontenac to get a cocktail from 1608, a highly ranked cocktail bar. Here is the Genie in a Bottle, a sweeter variation on the Aviation:
The bartender said he preferred the original, and he was right. Still, a great little bar.
The hotel from the square:
The next morning, we made it to the airport.
So unlike our dear Hartsfield International. The ticketing desk didn’t even open until 10:30.
However, due to the storms pounding the rest of the continent, our flight — originally scheduled to depart at 12:25 — didn’t even arrive at the gate until after 2:00. We barely had time in Toronto to make through security and then customs before our flight to Atlanta boarded.
Still, it was a fun trip. Quebec is lovely, and we will go back. Perhaps in warmer weather.
Here’s my booze haul:
I got the Menaud gin, of course. The Madison Park, with its label of “Breakfast Gin,” amused and intrigued me, so I bought it. (It is distinctly floral with its use of bergamot—think Earl Grey tea—and makes a perfect Aviation.) And of course, the Parfait Amour, which had been on my shopping list for six months.
Also purchased, while my Lovely First Wife was in the Christmas Boutique:
I’m not going to tell you what this is. I’ll do another post when it’s ready to go in the labyrinth.
 No one seems sure what the plural of Krampus is; Wikipedia carefully avoids having to say.
We have decamped to Fernandina Beach for the weekend with some dear friends and are having a great time so far.
Last night, I and two others strolled out the boardwalk to see the ocean. You know how some boardwalks have little benches built into them for some unknown reason?
Here’s a photo of one:
And here’s a photo of the one we sat in:
Yep, there was a creak and a groan, and we found ourselves flat on our backs. It’s pretty miraculous that none of us sustained even the least injury; I think it was because it gave way slowly at first and so we were already mostly down when it failed completely.
So other than a little spilled prosecco and a spell of hysterical laughter, no harm done. (We have alerted the property agent that they might want to do a structural integrity check.)
This post is late, because our Friday was a late night with many fabulous cocktails, so it might have been a little too hard to get it done on Saturday morning, what with travel and flight and stuff.
On Friday, we began by going across the road to the College of the Atlantic to snag breakfast at their café, which was not open because they’re not in session yet. This campus focuses on human ecology, and it’s lovely.
I made some notes for when I win the lottery and build the Lichtenbergian Retreat Complex.
Acadia is the only National Park in the northeast, which is odd I think. It sprawls across several islands and contains multiple features of interest. There are shuttles there, just like at Grand Canyon, so we hopped the Loop and rode it straight around. Because we were on a tight time schedule, we didn’t hop on and off. Instead, we noted where we’d like to visit, then drove back there.
One of those points was the Wild Garden, where volunteers have created a small garden with different areas representing the differing biomes in the park: conifer forest, bog, pond, roadside, etc.
I was there for the ferns. I will now bore you with multiple photos of ferns.
There were other plants, of course.
One of the attractions of the park is Sand Beach. “Sand” Beach, I hear you ask? Yes, of course: New England is not known for its pristine white beaches, and this place is an anomaly. In fact, it’s the only one. Its cove has a rocky island blocking the ocean’s full access, and so the surf has pounded shells into sand which has accumulated like it does normally elsewhere in the world.
Not pictured: a group of children in bathing suits frolicking in the freezing water. Mainers, amirite?
(In creating this post, I found on the official park website that Sand Beach and Thunder Hole (a tidal thing) were closed that very afternoon because of the storm surge from Hurricane Dorian. We escaped just in time, apparently.)
Have some seaweed.
We then drove to the peak of Mount Cadillac, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi.
It was stunning. Like Grand Canyon, there’s nothing to keep you from plunging to your death if you’re an idiot. The views are spectacular: rocky coast, islands, Bar Harbor.
The plants are already getting ready to go for fall.
Maine is not called the Granite State for nothing. I liked the lichens.
Finally it was time to head back south. Normally we would have snagged a hotel room online during lunch, but we skipped lunch while we clambered around Mt. Cadillac—snacks only—and so we found that it was harder to find an affordable room on the road mid-afternoon. We had planned to return to Portland (there was a distillery I wanted to visit), but we ended up in Augusta, the capitol, at the comfortable—if kitschy—Senator Inn.
A capitol city, bustling with attractions and nightlife, right? You are thinking of Atlanta. Augusta is not that.
We did our research on where to eat and ended up in Hallowell, a small community right on the other side of Augusta. The Liberal Cup is a foodie place posing as a brewpub, and the meal was delicious. I especially appreciated their cocktail menu:
We asked our waitress where she would recommend for music and cocktails, and she immediately said, “The Maine House: Leah makes the best cocktails in town.”
First of all, it was tiny, it was crowded, and it was fabulous. There was a duo up front playing all the top 40 covers—my Lovely First Wife sang along to all of them—and the cocktails… Leah is a genius.
The Plaid Shirt is one of the best cocktails I have ever had, and everyone else was in heaven with their choices as well.
The duo up front took a break, and we strolled around Hallowell (it’s only a couple of blocks long) looking for our next good time.
Hallowell is our kind of place. This was on the wall on one of the buildings:
And this is what they do for fun:
If you don’t know what contra dance is, think Jane Austen movies. As I said, my kind of people.
By some schedule unknown to us the musicians at every single place were on break, and we decided we would head back to downtown Augusta and check out the night life there.
There we encountered Kyle, another genius. Tall, still athletic—he was ranked 37th in the nation as a lacrosse player in high school—and voluble, he made fabulous cocktails while we grilled him on how he got to where he is. Cool story: in the service, his buddies paid for him to go to bartending school because of his skillz. Out of the service, he was considering a 6-figure career in security consulting, but then had a son, now three years old, and he made the decision to stay home instead. We loved him.
By the time we emerged, Augusta had turned out the lights. We were literally the only car parked on the street.
We slept, we rose, we breakfasted, we drove to Portland, and we flew home. The end.
We headed north out of Freeport, determined to stick to U.S. Hwy 1 as we drove towards Bar Harbor, thinking perhaps it would be like California’s Hwy 1: we’d whoosh up the coast like in a car commercial, zooming along the rocky coast towards lobster nirvana.
It seems we were misinformed. Hwy 1 will sometimes hug the coast, but it more often resembles a drive through north Georgia. However, the towns are much quainter, New England having invented the concept. (I was driving today, so unfortunately I don’t have any photos of all the quaintness.)
You do come across things:
Our immediate goal was the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. This collection was started by the Farnsworth family and is now a city block of buildings and exhibits. Its main claim on our attention was the repository of Wyeth family work: N.C. Wyeth, Andrew, currently living Jamie, and a small flock of other relatives.
But the first exhibit to catch our eye was a small gallery of screens. It was lovely:
This was a fascinating piece of woodwork, and then you walked around to the other side…
…and found this dazzling, gold-leafed version. If I have time when I get back, I’ll share a video of how the surfaces reflected each other as you moved around.
There were a couple of others, all beautifully crafted.
The actual first exhibit we saw was an exhibit of Jamie Wyeth’s portraits of his wife Phyllis, who died this past January. She was an avid horsewoman—her horse Union Rags won the Belmont Stakes in 2012—and was known for her independent spirit, despite having been injured in an auto accident in her early 20s. She was a lover of animals, and Jamie painted this “tapestry,” as he called it, to celebrate that.
Phyllis is the figure on the right in the red hat, zipping through her farm on her motorized scooter.
Outside the main museum is the Farnsworth complex, including the original Farnsworth homestead…
…and the Wyeth Center, housed in a converted Methodist church.
There we found an exhibit of Jamie Wyeth’s work, Untoward Occurrences and Other Things. Jamie is, for lack of a better word, a deeply weird artist. We decided that he either consciously or unconsciously decided to be the weird kid, playing off his father and grandfather’s reputations as calm, rational, organized, and beloved. He paints with bravura, but the paintings in this exhibit at least present you with some very disturbing narratives.
For example, one of the paintings is of the artist Rockwell Kent, whom Jamie apparently had a big old man-crush on. Kent is standing on a beach, with a fogbound cliff behind him. You don’t even notice the vague dark figure plummeting headfirst off the cliff. At first. The fact that this may reference a lover of Kent’s who was found dead beneath the cliff is just part of the weirdness.
We found a chocolate place, a “beans-to-bar” establishment. The chocolate is good, but on the whole just buy locally: the owner’s presentation on how they do it is not as interesting as he thinks it is, and his pronunciation of ‘cacao’ is odd for one whose business is all pods and nibs.
Here’s a fun thing:
“Collins” is Maine’s “moderate” Republican senator Susan Collins, who is renowned for being awfully concerned about her party’s shenanigans. She will wring her hands, issue sternly worded statements—and then still vote for the president (who imprisons children)’s agenda. The final straw seems to have been her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. At any rate, the voters of Maine are out to get her. Good for them.
Onward. We stopped in Camden for lunch at the Waterfront Market.
Food was great, and the view couldn’t be beat. Traffic was heavy, though, what with one yacht or another heading out to sea.
On up the road to Bar Harbor. We had to swerve off into the overlook area when this appeared:
Hard to see, but it’s the tallest inhabited structure in Maine: the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, with a 40-story observation deck in the left-hand tower. It’s part of the Fort Knox state park. It was about to close, so we passed it by. Perhaps on our way back?
At lunch, we all whipped out our phones looking for lodging in Bar Harbor. Pricewise, the Edenbrook Motel was acceptable, and it looked charming in the photos. When we got to Bar Harbor, my phone got confused and took us up into the hills to a golf course. When I corrected it, we were led through neighborhoods until we came across what looked to be a seedy, rundown establishment.
I was excoriated for my choice in motels.
However, the rooms are huge, modern, and clean, and the view:
…well, let’s just say I was vindicated.
The sunset was nice:
We headed into Bar Harbor proper, found a parking place—which even in the off season is a feat; I cannot imagine trying to park during the season—and looked for a restaurant. We settled on Salt & Steel, and it was the best meal we’ve had so far. Great bar as well: they not only had green Chartreuse, they had Tom Cat barrel-aged gin as well—I could get a Bijou, and did.
Tomorrow, our last full day, we will spend in Acadia National Park, and then return to Portland.
Well, I awoke. Everyone else slept in while I worked.
What am I working on?
The placement map for Alchemy. Why? BECAUSE HIPPIES CANNOT FOLLOW DIRECTIONS AND ARE JUST NOW REALIZING THEY NEED TO ASK FOR CHANGES IN THEIR PLACEMENT.
DESPITE THE FACT THAT I FINISHED THE MAIN DRAFT OF THE MAP ON SATURDAY BEFORE WE LEFT JUST SO I WOULDN’T HAVE TO WORK ON THIS STUFF.
Even now, the hippies are squinting and poring and telling their computers to Enhance just to get a sneak peek of where their camp is and who their neighbors are.
Tough noogies, hippies.
My Lovely First Wife took off for a bicycle ride around the island and had a great time. But then she’s adventurous like that.
After a late breakfast, it was time to pack and head to the ferry. More about that in a moment. First, here are the treats we found in our room.
Shame on you! Those are lobsters.
We got to the ferry and waited while all these people poured off and started walking up the hill.
The crew unloaded all the Amazon packages, and then all those people poured back down the hill and back on the boat. Odd, we thought.
Not so odd as we set sail and the captain began murmuring indistinctly over the fuzzy speakers about this island or that: “murmur murmur WWII murmur murmur residents…” It transpired that the ferry is not mainly a transport between Portland and the islands, it is also a tour of Casco Bay—hence the debarking and embarking of all these people at each stop: we were taking the long way back to the city.
It’s always colder on the water, and today was actually nippy, which for me means FREEZING COLD. I was wearing a sweater, a lined coat, a scarf, a woolen hat, and gloves, and I was miserable.
The Lovely First Wife, on the other hand:
She gave free rein to her inner Golden Labrador and stood on the bouncing prow in the freezing seaspray for the entire ride.
Once back on shore, we retrieved the car and set off for Cape Elizabeth. We needed to see the lighthouses, because that is what one does in Maine.
Here, have a lighthouse:
It is indeed picturesque, as is the rocky coast of Maine. (Like the “mighty Colorado,” you have to say “rocky coast of Maine,” or they look askance at you as if you’re not entering into the proper spirit of the thing.)
The place is not barren. Just of out camera range, there’s a wide variety of plants and shrubs.
See the little bee? She was just wallowing in the flower, having a great time.
Also there at Cape Elizabeth is a well-known lobster roll establishment. We had been told that these were the best, for a multitude of reasons, by people who know these things.
However, we are heathens and were not at all impressed with the concept or the execution. The blueberry pie, on the other hand, was primo.
Then it was back in the car and back up the coast to Freeport. (We did take a quick detour through Fort Williams Park to see another lighthouse, but didn’t stop.)
As we pulled into Freeport, we did a hard U-turn to go back and stop at the Cold River Distillery, where we sampled some gin and vodka. I bought the gin, of course. (No photo yet.) I was hoping it was the gin I had back at the Inn, and that I had misheard the name of it: Cold Shore, I thought. As it turns out, I had misheard it, but it’s actually Hard Shore, not Cold River. This is what gin will do to you, boys and girls.
We dropped our stuff off at the hotel, then headed back out. One of our company wanted to buy a pillow from CuddleDown, a local concern, because the pillows at the Inn were simply delightful.
Then we headed to the Maine Beer Company, which is a very nice establishment: they pay their workers an extravagant wage, plus three weeks of vacation, plus full healthcare, plus retirement. They donate to all kinds of ecological causes. They support local charities.
And their building is gorgeous:
Out of frame to the right is a pizza parlor. Great place for a date or a get-together.
We moved on to dinner at Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro. When you stop to taste the gin or the beer, ask where the best restaurants are.
And finally, late at night…
Can you guess where we are?
That’s right, we’re at L.L. Bean.
It was great fun to ramble through the enormous flagship store. However, I was really impressed to find that I needed nothing there. After five years of burning, I have everything I need for comfort and safety, although I did buy a “tick nipper” to keep in the first aid kit. Nasty little bloodsuckers—keep your mandibles off my bacon.
Yes, we’re off again, this time to Maine. Don’t ask me why. Somehow going to Prague for the week was deemed impractical, and so (naturally??) the coast of Maine presented itself as the obvious option.
At any rate, we boarded a plane in Atlanta and landed in Portland a couple hours later. We snagged our rental car and headed into town.
Portland is charming, as advertised, and we had a long lunch at Dimillo’s, mainly because it took forever to fill our orders. The food was tasty.
Then we wandered a bit in Old Port, one of those great formerly dilapidated areas now booming with bougie tourist shops targeting the likes of us. My favorite stop was Vena’s Fizz House, a craft cocktail bar with a twist: they have an astounding collection of bitters, antique glassware, and almost every other cocktail accoutrement that you can imagine.
Their especial trick, though, is to serve you a fabulous cocktail, made with hard-to-find bitters and house-invented ingredients— then sell you all those ingredients.
Thus, the Campfire, with bourbon, lemon juice, smoky hops, Vena’s Bitter Armand. Here you see the drink with materials I had already selected for purchase:
And here you see the additional materials I purchased after finally tumbling to the shtick:
This trip is remarkable in that my Lovely First Wife, who is known for her rigorous planning of these things, decided that on this trip all we are going to do is fly to Portland, then drive Hwy 1 to Bar Harbor. It takes three hours to do that, and we’re here for four days. We have no reservations and no plans.
So at lunch, I whip out the phone and open up Hotel Tonight, and find a great deal for the Chebeaugue Island Inn, which is only 1.9 miles away from where we were lunching.
Here’s the thing: that’s 1.9 miles as the crow flies. After I had booked the place, I noticed in their blurb that I should call for the “ferry schedule.”
Yes, that’s right, there is no bridge to these islands. It’s ferry service only, and the last one of the day was at 5:45. Not a problem. I went to book our transport online, then rather than wait for their call to confirm, I called them.
That’s when I learned that ferrying a car was abnormal, usually done weeks in advance. And then it dawned on me: we park the car and just take our luggage on the ferry. Doh.
It also dawned on me that an hour-long 5:45 ferry ride meant we were on Chebeaugue Island for the evening. No prowling around the Old Port neighborhood for cocktails and funsies. No, our destiny was going to be a bit more… sedate.
And it has been fabulous. We were met at the ferry by the Inn’s van and driver (a charming young man from South Africa, whom we advised to look into winter employment at Grand Canyon or Lake Louise in Canada), and were whisked away to the Inn, the only such establishment on the island (pop. 350).
We had cocktails from the bar, watched the sunset from the lawn, and finally settled in for dinner, which was phenomenal.
We also decided that rather than brutalize ourselves to get up early enough to catch the 6:20 ferry, we’d just sleep in and catch the 11:35 ferry. I mean, what else do we have to do?