Nothing like New England in the autumn! Hailing from the West Coast, I decided that fall was the best time to go because on the West Coast there are two seasons; warm and chilly. So I was excited to see a real fall, who wouldn’t be?
Chip has been really great at helping me see the states within the East Coast region as he is from New York City, born and bred, so he is very familiar with the New England Area. Sometimes more than he would like to admit. Because of this knowledge, he has decided to be my chaperone in many of the states surrounding New York.
Chip’s family has a place in New Hampshire, so we decided to make their house our hub during our trip and spend much of Saturday in Maine.
So on Friday after work, we hopped into his car and we were on our way. It’s a long drive to New Hampshire and it was very dark so there wasn’t a lot for us to see. So unfortunately we had to rely on the radio for entertainment. It was interesting because I tend to like deep mellow music and he likes death metal; a match made in heaven. The whole trip we would flip to a certain song and wait for the other person’s reaction. It was a lesson on give and take. Luckily dinner was easier; we both agreed on Wendy’s so we pulled into the parking lot in Camwell, Connecticut for a late supper.
The Bridge That Leads to Maine!
The only word to describe this particular Wendy’s is the word unbelievable. The cashier was around 16 and pregnant and shouting how she had to go home because she could feel the baby coming and she needed to leave, NOW. Interesting, because that is exactly what you want to hear when you are ordering your grilled chicken sandwich.
Yum! During the course of the meal I peeked back over to the front counter to see the manager picking fries out of the bin with his fingers (after handling money) and popping them into his mouth. Cleanly…It was time to go!
The Leaves of New England
So off we headed back into the brisk night. We arrived in Hampton Beach in record time. One thing I noticed immediately; it was freezing! I was wearing a flimsy leather coat and a tee shirt with jeans. Apparently I was not ready for fall in New England. But the house was warm, cozy and inviting.
The next morning we got up early and jumped into the car ready to head into Maine, but not before I grabbed a pumpkin latte just in time for fall at Dunkin Donuts.
We had a tentative schedule of places we wanted to go to on our way to Portland and hoped to meet them all before it got too dark.
I Can't Believe I found a Dunkin Donuts!
Two things to consider when traveling in New England; you will see a lot of trees and a lot of Dunkin Donuts. I could not believe how many Dunkin Donuts there were. I am not kidding. It was almost as if they were multiplying right before our eyes. I had no idea they were that popular! It was insanity!
On our way to Maine we briefly came upon Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It really seemed like a wonderful little town, though everyone kept saying PortSMITH rather than PortsMOUTH.
Huh? I had a lot to learn, but I didn’t understand the rules. It was explained that many of the places in New England were Indian names with a British flair. Uh…huh…Still, it was a cute town. It was probably the most trendy of the places we visited during the weekend, but it still kept its small town charm. Thumbs up Portsmouth!
Chilling at York's Visitor Center. If Only There Were Ox Burgers...
After a while on the road, we came to our first stop; York, Maine which was celebrating Harvestfest. The ad had said there would be hayrides, arts and crafts and barbequed Ox. Yes, Ox was on the menu. I was giddy! We stopped at the visitor center to see where it was, but it turns out you had to be shuttled down to the area. We couldn’t do that, it would have taken too much time in our schedule and our goal was Portland.
I would have to save ox tasting for another day.
I Was Not Dressed For Adventure, But Adventure Was Dressed for Me!
So dejectedly we headed back into the car and headed towards Ogunquit to walk along Marginal Way. I still can’t figure out how to say Ogunquit. I desecrated the name at least 20 times while on the trip, but it brought Chip a lot of joy! Isn’t that what Ogunquit is really about?
Marginal Way was very pretty. It is an expanse of coastline that you can walk along for 1 ¼ miles. It truly was lovely, but after hitting the ¼ mile mark, we needed more adventure, so we hopped off the trail that led to a bunch of rocks and headed down towards the water. I was wearing city clothes, but the years of being brought up in Oregon kicked in.
I was climbing across those rocks like nobody’s business. When I made it to the waters edge far away from the path, there was a moment of silent victory, until I looked back and realized I had to get back on the trail. That took a little bit longer as my shoes weren’t much made for climbing.
Chip Celebrating His Own Victory!
After the rock excursion we decided we had spent a decent amount of time at Marginal Way and made our way back to the car to start heading back up to Portland. But not before we made a stop in Kennebunk. A few years back I had been in a musical that mentioned Kennebunk, Maine. At first I had no idea what a Kennebunk was. Until I saw it on the map and realized it was a real place, not some random line in a wacky script. How could I pass this up? The answer is I couldn’t, so on to Kennebunk we continued!
Kennebunk was a tiny coastal town much like the other ones we had passed along the way.
For some reason I had this idea that Maine was a lot more populated than it really is. Maybe it was just our geography in Maine. Either way, most of the cities we passed or stopped at consisted of a small downtown with restaurants serving lobster rolls and little knickknack shops. But surely Portland would rise above! So onward we continued…
45 minutes later we started to see the signs for Portland. The dream was coming true! I know most people can’t understand my obsession for Portland. But I will try to explain it. I was born in California but moved to Oregon later on in my childhood.
As soon as I could, I moved to NYC. Many people in NYC have asked me where I am from as my accent is not an east coast one. I tell them California but I was raised in Portland. They would ask, “Maine?” My answer was, “no.” After about 200 times of being asked this, I wanted to look the rival of Portland, Oregon in the eye. It must be really cool place for it to be thought of before Portland, Oregon. But I was naïve then…
Lovely Marginal Way
We passed the freeway signs for Portland and became more and more excited! It was going to be the Mecca of culture.
They even had a waterfront sign just like Oregon (Duh, it is PORTland)! So we got off the exit and prepared ourselves. At first we were confused because we had taken the city center exit, yet we couldn’t find it. How could that be? So we drove around for 5 minutes looking for it. After that didn’t pan out, we decided it had to be around the shopping center and followed the signs leading to that area. Nope, couldn’t find it. We decided to head back to where the ships and fisherman were near what appeared to be the main rode. Bingo! We found both the city center AND the shopping district.
Lost in Ogunquit
My jaw hit the ground! I had no idea. It was a fishing town, seriously. People used to make fun of Portland, Oregon for being small so I figured Portland, Maine must be incredible since nobody ever made fun of it that I had heard of.
A Church in Maine
Though we were a little shocked, we had to venture forth and experience Portland; we didn’t come out here just to go home. We parked the car and went shopping. Not a lot screamed out to us in the shopping area until we stumbled upon a store called Condom Sense. Now that is what I am talking about! This store has been around since 1992 which surprised me because the rest of the stores were so quaint. I think this store was put up for people like us who somehow find themselves stuck in an environment they weren’t expecting. We spent 20 minutes laughing at what many people would find offensive and questioned if we really needed pasta in the shape of genitalia. A good time was had by all!
Next we went into the local candy shop. If you go to a coastal town and skip the candy store, you better have a good reason, because that is just wrong.
Yes it is overpriced, and has what any regular candy store would have, but you would still be wrong! When you go to the coast it is required that you go to the candy shop, so to the candy shop we went. I bought some Jelly Bellies, different flavored Whoppers and the 4 piece fudge deal. My life was complete and so was my trip to Portland.
Keeping People Occupied Since 1992!
But we realized we couldn’t leave until we had dinner, we had barely eaten all day and we were here, so why not? We crossed the street as there seemed to be more restaurants by the water and they had both seafood and regular pub food. Chip is allergic to seafood so we had to go with something that had both, though I wanted to go to the seafood restaurant next to the Pub because it had a guy dressed up as a lobster but I didn’t want to kill Chip, so to the pub we went!
Chip ordered the French onion soup and a half sandwich, while I had a veggie burger and clam chowder.
I had to have seafood of some sort, I was in New England! The soup was quite good and I was shocked to find out that clams are actually soft. You have to understand my experience with clam chowder comes in a can and goes by the name of Campbell’s. Not to diss Campbell’s but it will be hard going back knowing that clams are not supposed to be chewy, rubbery erasers that stick in your teeth, but rather soft, moist, delicious morsels.
Don't Mess With the Lobester Man!
I shared my discovery and joy with Chip. He told me that is how clams are supposed to be and that my meal was probably alive earlier that morning. That slightly killed my joy.
After dinner we walked around a little bit more trying to figure out what to do next, but there wasn’t much unless we were big into fishing; which we am not.
The idea of going to the Kittery Outlet stores popped into my head so I suggested it to Chip. Before the full sentence was out of my mouth he was heading to the car. I guess he was ready to leave as well.
Hankerin' For That New England Clam Chowder!
I will say this about Maine and New Hampshire; the people are incredibly friendly and helpful. Whenever we were lost, people were right there to assist us with a smile. It was nice to be around pleasant people again who aren’t always in a rush or jaded by life. It really was refreshing and made me miss the West Coast (minus LA) a bit.
Maine wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I blame Portland, Oregon for poisoning my mind. The whole Portland connection threw me off kilter and skewed my vision.
No more, for now I know the truth. Anything called Portland may not be what it seems.
Street Scene in Portland, Maine