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Published: August 22nd 2012
The title of this blog is in honour of ALL the businesses in Maine that have this terrible pun in their name (e.g. Maine-ly Quilts, Maine-ly Vinyl, Maine-ly Meat etc etc!). Believe me, there were many, many of them. Carla:
Two Fridays ago we made our way from Vermont to New Hampshire and picked a spot in the White Mountains to camp overnight. The White Mountains have slightly higher peaks than the Adirondacks but we weren't to get any beautiful views from the top as our visit was drenched in rain, low cloud and drizzle. A brief break in the weather on Friday afternoon encouraged us to set out for a walk on a part of the Appalachian Way (a long distance East Coast walking trail) up into the hills to take in a water fall. Looking out for bears (who were obviously more sensible than us and stayed away) we made our way up a rocky forest path and found an impressive and scenic waterfall, but on the way back the heavens opened and we got superbly drenched. Unfortunately I had neglected to wash some new black jeans before I had worn them that day. The black dye
from the jeans was washed out by the rain, all over my legs, the floor of the van and the cream towels provided by the RV company. Oops. A visit to the laundrette ensued. The rain lifted the following day for our journey into Maine. We were very excited as we were going to stay with my cousin Sasha and her family in Cape Elizabeth on the outskirts of Portland. We'd be able to park the van and stay in a proper house for a few days and spend some time with Sasha and David and their daughters Olive and Piper. Sasha and Dave kindly let us park our van in their beautiful little cul-de-sac in their leafy suburb despite it lending an air of the Clampetts to the neighbourhood. Their street is the kind of place where all the neighbours leave their doors open and the kids play in the street and are in and out of each others' houses and everyone was very friendly and welcoming to us, it was really nice. That afternoon we visited Portland Head Lighthouse and saw our first view of the Atlantic Ocean on the trip; we were very excited and cheered that
we had made it from west to east coast in our trusty (?) RV. Portland Head is where Henry Longfellow (the poet who wrote Hiawatha) used to hang out; its a rocky headland with a very attractive lighthouse and small museum and all within a pleasant stroll from Dave 'n' Sasha's place. Back at the house George got down to some serious basketball practice in the street with the local kids and Ruby played with Olive and Piper on the bikes and skateboards. Perfect for us, as Sasha has a '6 o'clock is wine time'
rule which we didn't want to disobey. We sampled some of her fantabulous home-made elderflower wine and relaxed! On Sunday we drove a few minutes down the road to a state park called Stanley Park Beach and Sasha, Dave and Alex braved the rather choppy (but warm) water and the incoming fog to go Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Alex seemed to be off the board more than on initially but as the fog rolled in those of us on the beach lost sight of him and he assures us that he became pretty competent at that point. For my part, I stayed on the
beach supervising the sandcastle building and helping Sasha run madly after Piper who is nearly 2, cute, bubbly and super energetic. The next few days we had a great time exploring the Portland area with Sasha and the kids. Sasha mentioned that her kids really enjoyed visiting the nearby seaside town of Old Orchard Beach as it was a 'kiss-me-quick' sort of place and perfect for the whole fish-and-chips and funfair experience. As luck would have it I had already planned to visit OOB (as I will call it from now on) as my great friends from Sussex Uni, Sarah, Sarah & Niki and their friend Peel, had stayed there one summer when undertaking the Work America scheme when we were students. They had been looked after by a lovely lady called Mrs Beland who let them stay in her spacious house for free in return for painting the outside from top to bottom. Sarah had asked me to pop in and see if Mrs Beland still lived there and send her regards. We duly swung by the house and knocked on the door to investigate. After a long pause a young, gothy looking woman answered the door who had
clearly had to get out of bed at my knock, she told me that Sarah's landlady had moved away. So I said sorry for bothering her but took some pictures of the house and the inn across the road where the gang had worked before setting off on their travels across the US, 25 years before our similar journey in the other direction. The children did indeed love OOB with its Blackpool-vibe, long sandy beach (rammed with vacationers), wooden pier and old-fashioned funfair. Alex took them on some rides including the log flume, the haunted house and the carousel which, following a fish and chip lunch, wrapped up a perfect day at the beach. Alex:
The next day we went into Portland. The first challenge was finding a place to park an RV! Eventually we found somewhere and walked into the town centre. Strolling along the waterfront we stopped to investigate some of the wharfs, and saw lots of lobster pots lined up along the docks. Maine is famous for lobsters and the lobster image is seen all over the state. Later in the small harbour alongside the docks we saw a seal swimming hopefully in search of scraps
from the fishermen. We met up with Sasha, Olive and Piper for lunch, before heading out on the ferry to Peak's Island (after a long wait while I went to move the RV to the dodgy side of town, but at least we could park it there all day). The ferry ride was fun and we arrived on Peak's Island, which felt very English, sort of like Devon or Cornwall. So English that Carla actually forgot we were in America. We stopped for ice cream at a little shop at the top of the hill from the ferry and then walked to a beach with a view across the bay back to Portland. This beautiful little island is in Casco Bay, the bay on which Portland sits, it's dotted with islands and is where Portlanders play in boats in the summer months. Back in Portland we stopped at an Irish pub on the waterfront for a quick local beer as the sun went down before heading back to the house. In the evening, Dave barbecued scallops, stuffed clams and haddock – yum! On Thursday we left Sasha and Dave's house for a couple of days, heading towards Acadia National Park
in what's known as Down East Maine (despite the fact that it's in the North East). It absolutely bucketed it down all the way – just the worst, most consistent, downpour for hours and hours - so we didn't stop along the way. We had arranged to meet up with our friends Fiona and Alex and their son Alexander – Carla went to Uni with Fiona and her husband Alex grew up in New England (in Connecticut) so he was on home turf (ish!). They had just arrived at the start of their
USA / Canada road trip holiday and we met up with them in Ellsworth and went to the Union River Lobster Pot restaurant. I had a lobster – it was lovely and very, very messy! The next morning we had to call the school admissions, and got the bad news that George has not got a place back in St Luke’s. Ruby has got a place, and George is on the waiting list, but will have to go to Queen's Park School down the road, at least until a place comes free again at St Luke’s. George has been very positive about it and put on a
brave show, but it's gutting really. We've got our fingers crossed, hoping someone has moved away over the summer and isn't coming back. In the meantime, when we get back, we're going to make sure he keeps in touch with all his old mates who he's been missing lots on the trip. After this slightly traumatic morning we drove on to Acadia National Park a few miles up the road. We drove the RV around Mount Desert Island, along the scenic route. It is a very pretty place, driving through forest, looking out over the sea to the many islands scattered around. It is very busy, there is a one-way loop road around the national park area, and the traffic is heavy at this time of year. The island is criss-crossed with carriage-roads, that are now used for mountain biking and hiking, but there are only a few paved roads for cars, which is good of course. We decided not to go for a walk and instead we stopped at the aptly named Sand Beach, spread out a picnic and went in for a swim. We spent the afternoon playing in the sea (quite cold up here), and George and
Ruby explored the beach and the dunes.
On Saturday we went to visit Bar Harbour, the picturesque little town on Mount Desert Island. Ruby was feeling a little unwell, so we had to take things easy. We had a look around the shops and the harbour and had lunch before getting on one of the free buses that take you all over the island. We went to Jordan's Pond, and went for a short hike around the lake. The Bubbles are a pair of rounded hills – 230m and 260m at the north end of the lake. From there we got back on the bus to a small cove called Seal Harbour, hoping to see some seals. But no luck – no seals out today. Still the view was gentle and rather pretty. On Sunday, we headed back to Cape Elizabeth. The weather was much, much better than on the way out, so we stopped at the Penobscot Bridge which has the highest bridge observatory in the world. It's at the top of one of the towers of a suspension bridge; about 150m high. You could see all the way back to Acadia National Park. We then drove the
scenic route back to Cape Elizabeth, through all the little coastal towns like Wiscasset and Camden. The houses along this route are amazing. They are large, wooden, old-style houses within spitting distance of some beautiful beaches. There is clearly a lot of money in these towns; Dave later told us that he knew of one on the market for $4.7m, so we snapped it right up! We arrived back at Sasha's house late in the afternoon, and in the evening we discovered that they can get 30 Rock on NetFlix and watched five episodes on the trot; such wonderful guests we are. Ruby:
The next day we went to Aquaboggan (near OOB, Ed) with Olive, Piper and Sasha. It was a super cool water park. First we went in the wave pool. The wave pool is a pool with a thing that made waves. Then we went on a ride called the Water Saucer. It was called that because if looked like a flying saucer. This is what you do: First you line up in the queue, then you climb up a rope, then there is a blue bench thing that you can sit on. Then there is the
fun part – you jump at the top, you land on your bum and you slide down. It was really fun. Then we went on the slides, they went really fast and my favourite one had a mat. Dad went on a ride that he was scared of. George:
At Aquaboggan there's lots of water slides and extremely wet attractions. As Ruby said, first of all we go on the Water Saucer. It's a bit bouncy dome, with water spraying out of it. You have to try and climb to the top using plastic ropes. Dad goes on a very scary ride where you sit in a rubber ring and get sent down a very steep slope and then up the other side several times until eventually you land in a shallow pool. My favourite ride is the Sui-slides, they are a pair of slides that go so fast you have to close your eyes and hold your breath to stop yourself getting sprayed. Alex:
Monday was also notable because Sasha and I proudly finished the 1000 piece Map of Maine jigsaw puzzle that Sasha had given to George as a present. I don't think George minded that
grown-ups had finished the thing for him – hopefully not anyway. In the evening we went out to the 'Lobster Shack' restaurant on the Cape of Cape Elizabeth. There were twin lighthouses overlooking us, and all the tables were on the edge of the rocks, looking out over the Atlantic. The kids went climbing on the rocks, whilst the grown ups had a drink and a chat (what could possibly go wrong with that?) We have lobster rolls and chips and drink our own wine & beer. The weather was great and it's was a gorgeous evening, and our last one with Sasha and David as the next day we set off for Cape Cod. It's was just brilliant staying with them and their lovely children, and I can't thank them enough for all their kindness. What fantastic cousins Carla has!
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