WARNING: Photo dump ahead.
TL;DR: I went to Maine last week for my friend Kim’s birthday bash, and I wanna go back.
This trip was a landmark, in that it was the first girls’ trip I’ve been on since I dragged my high school friends and my aging car to Williamsburg in 2019; it was the first time I’ve been on a plane since I went to LA for my grandmother’s 90th birthday, also in 2019; and, most importantly, I went out and didn’t die. I am a lifelong card-carrying introvert, and, though I was excited for the trip, I was also unsure if I would be able to deal with being in a new place for four days with three people I’d never met. I already knew Kim and Merbear from work, but we literally went from a group text thread to a group vacation with nothing in between. It was great. 😀
Day 0: Luggage
Look, I started with the best of intentions. The original plan was to bring as little as possible, to leave room for books in my suitcase. (And after all that plotting, we only went to two bookstores.) I only have so much control in a gift shop, however, and I ended up buying a whole new set of luggage at a Target near the hotel the night before we came home. Which is fine: every friendship needs an emergency Target run, even if ours happened a little bit sooner than we were expecting.
Randomly spotted at Target:
Nice to know Papyrus is still hanging in there.
Day 1: Portland
My brain does this annoying thing where it knows when I want to go to bed early, and it goes “Good luck with that, asshole” and then does everything in its power to keep me from sleeping. Thus I went through the day fueled by pure spite and about 90 minutes of sleep, which honestly is a generous estimate. I also had fewer concerns about taking up two seats at the gate, because it was 6:30 in the morning and fucked if I cared about hogging space. Yes, I am a menace when I haven’t slept. On the bright side, I had nothing to do for two hours, so I actually did use the sketchbook I packed in a burst of optimism.
One of the first things I saw upon arrival in Portland was, of course, a giant moose.
There was also this cool moose store, where I managed to hold out against the temptation to immediately buy a hoodie (only to succumb when I returned to the airport at the end of the trip – look, nobody’s perfect). The store had a Read & Return program, which I thought was a great idea, even if I didn’t take advantage of it.
A Room with a View
The hotel itself left a bit to be desired, but I can’t argue with this view.
I Took Obnoxious Food Pics and Now I Am Hungry
The highlight of the day – and possibly some of the best food we ate in Portland – was our lunch at Gilbert’s Chowder House. The fried clam cakes and the onion rings were okay, but the chowder was rich, creamy, and subtly spicy, and I could probably eat it by the bucket. Only one way to find out, right? It’s been a week and I am still kicking myself for not insisting we visit Gilbert’s a second time.
Obnoxious Food Pics Part II
Our first dinner was at DiMillo’s on the Water, where I promptly disgraced myself in a way that only two former coworkers who HAPPENED TO BE AT THE TABLE WITH ME could fully understand. At work we use a ticketing system called Workamajig, or JIG, to keep track of our projects. Every project is assigned its own unique accession code, called a JIG number, which is included in the margins of the project document. This lets us track down specific documents if we need to pull assets from older projects. This is relevant because, while I was handing one of the menus to Kim, I saw a little gray number at the bottom of the menu and said “I thought that was a JIG number” without thinking and then Kim spent the next three days laughing at me and I will never live down the shame and that’s why I now live in a convent. (Side note: if anybody needed absolute proof that I really needed a vacation, that was it.)
On a happier note, dinner was excellent. The best thing we ate on the trip, aside from Gilbert’s chowder, was hands down DiMillo’s lobster macaroni and cheese. Kim had the foresight to suggest that we all split one order of the lobster mac, which turned out to be a brilliant idea because (1) the lobster mac was $41 and (2) it was huge. I also ordered the crab cake appetizer but couldn’t finish it, because the lobster mac kept calling my name throughout dinner. I don’t even like lobster that much, but I wasn’t about to say no to something that was covered with garlic and butter and breadcrumbs and served with garlic bread, and all in all I think I ate about a quarter of that plate. And I know it doesn’t show in the photo, but there was almost a literal mountain of lobster meat under that pasta, so we really got our money’s worth.
Day 2: Portland
Portland was so much fun. Our hotel was handy to an entire street of shops and restaurants, and there was even some kind of gallery (I think?) with a giant Godzilla sculpture in the window.
One of the shops had this note by the register. I died.
Aside from shopping, we went on a two-hour schooner ride, then spent the afternoon at Soakology, the combo spa/tea parlor where I ended up buying a rabbit-themed tea set. I really want to learn to like tea. I’m going to try to replicate Soakology’s signature hot toddy (black tea with honey, lemon, and cinnamon), because it tasted like hot cider and it was wonderful.
I was thisclose to getting the owls, but in the end the rabbits won out. I was born in the Year of the Rabbit, and it just seemed perfect.
Obnoxious Food Pics Part III
Dinner was at a seafood restaurant two minutes down the street from our hotel. I liked the scallops and risotto overall, but wish there hadn’t been so much cilantro draped over them. After dinner, though, we went to The Bar of Chocolate, a dessert café, where they had a delicious chocolate peanut butter cake. We got lucky: BOC was so crowded our first night that we got ice cream instead, but on the second night we got there just in the nick of time.
Day 3: Freeport and Bar Harbor
We all agreed in retrospect that we should have spent three days in Bar Harbor and one in Portland, but that’s a lesson for another trip. Bar Harbor is about a three-hour drive from Portland, so we rented a car, which also allowed us to stop by the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport. “Store” might be an underexaggeration, because a more accurate word would be “shopping center.” The store we visited was specifically for clothes and camping gear, but they also had a whole separate store for home goods, and another that might have been for other outdoor activities besides camping. I had no idea L.L. Bean sold home goods.
I said I wouldn’t do it, but one of those hoodies absolutely came back with me. I couldn’t help it. I am a sucker for thick, cozy hoodies. (Fun story: I ran up to Kim wearing the hoodie that would eventually come home with me, and it looked so much like something I would wear that she didn’t realize it wasn’t actually mine. Yet.)
From Freeport we made our way to Bar Harbor, where our hotel had a no-joke kitchen complete with a dishwasher and a tiny stove.
Wandering Around Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is going to be my downfall the next time I go to Maine. This is exactly my vibe: a picturesque seaside town packed with interesting shops. Admittedly a lot of these shops had the same or very similar merchandise, but they were still a lot of fun to explore. The pictures only represent a fraction of everything we looked at.
This is especially funny because during the car ride up I was raving about Chapel Hart’s “You Can Have Him Jolene,” and also because we actually met a Jolene the following morning.
Obnoxious Food Pics Part IV
My favorite part of dinner was probably the crab-stuffed mushrooms. The lobster fettuccine tasted good, but unfortunately both lobster and pasta were way overcooked. I also tried the New England Indian pudding, which was……….interesting. The waitress did warn me that it was mostly molasses, but it was a lot soupier than I was expecting from a pudding, and, since I don’t really know what molasses is like, it was also a lot sharper-tasting than I thought.
At the end of the night, Kim and I fell prey to the hotel’s room service menu and ordered the most unique tiramisu I’ve ever seen. (It looked kinda weird, but did we devour it? Yes.)
Day 4: We Are All Mad Here
I didn’t take pictures of the shop for reasons now obscure to me, but my favorite stop in Bar Harbor was a shop/art gallery called A LITTLE MAD. They are currently the only North American art gallery authorized to feature the art of Hidden Eloise, whose prints take up an entire wall of the shop. They also recently launched an Airbnb, which is a tempting option for my next visit. Co-owner Jolene was super helpful and friendly, and the shop was such a pleasant surprise.
There were at least three Eloise prints that caught my eye, but I managed to limit myself to my favorite one, titled “I’ll make the ocean my home.” Fortunately I had just enough sense left to realize I would not be able to fit a framed print into my suitcase, so I had it shipped to me instead, and it arrived just in time to make it into this post. I love this print, and I can’t wait to find a good home for her. 😀
The Rest of Bar Harbor and A Little Bit of Acadia
I slept in because I am a grumpy old lady and I gave my friends very clear orders not to resuscitate me for any reason, so I missed out on both the sunrise walk and breakfast, but at least I was awake when we started poking around the shops we didn’t see the night before. (On the subject of self-control: the rhinos might have come home with me under other circumstances, but they were $950 so they got left right where I found them. PROGRESS.)
After saying we were going to spend all our time going to independent bookstores, we finally visited Sherman’s, which had this amazing display showcasing challenged books and the reasons people like to complain about them.
On our way out of town, we drove up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. The views we managed to catch were stunning, but we happened to be there on a particularly foggy, cloudy day, so we didn’t see much.
Obnoxious Food Pics Part V
For lunch we stopped at a Filipino-owned country store, which was a bit of a surprise considering we were in Ellsworth. Their lumpia was excellent, and they also had a fried haddock sandwich on a brioche bun, which quickly joined the list of the best things I ate in Maine.
Unfortunately, lunch was so good and I was so full that I had no room for anything other than an appetizer and a dessert at dinner. On the other hand, this was considerably more economical, so maybe it was for the best. I was definitely not disappointed with the lobster/scallop/salmon cakes, which were delicious and light. The cookies were a bit bigger than I was expecting, but they left me with an extra one for breakfast the next morning.
The Calm Before the Flight
After dinner and the aforementioned emergency Target run, we ended our trip in a hotel next door to the airport, which was mostly quiet aside from some frenzied last-minute repacking.
I wish I was joking when I said I had to buy all-new luggage, but I’m not. I literally had to get a bigger suitcase to fit my new books and souvenirs, and a backpack to fit the tea set that I bought on a whim because I am ridiculous. All of this means that my original carry-on was bundled into a suitcase to serve as a book protector, while my new backpack carried the tea set onto the plane. The tea set survived, so I regret nothing.
And I’ve gotta say, I’m actually pretty pleased with my purchases. I can always use a bigger suitcase – if anything, now I know which suitcase to bring along the next time I’m in Maine – and I really love the backpack, because I love top-opening backpacks. I was on the fence about the color, especially as there were no other options, but my friends talked me into it and now it’s mine. The object lesson here, of course, is that next time I will bring exactly one change of clothes and the rest of the space in the suitcase will be for souvenirs, and my fastidious Japanese ass will just have to deal with that.
Day 5: Home!
Okay I know I’ve just spent a whole post raving about Maine but I am so happy to be home and I never want to go anywhere ever again. (jk, but I won’t be going on any other trips for at least a year.) Of course, the minute I left BWI – and shortly after I thwarted my GPS before it could send me through downtown Baltimore, the way it did on our way to the airport four days earlier – I smacked into a good old-fashioned 695 traffic jam. Boy, it’s good to be back. =___=
Possibly the best thing I did for myself this whole trip was making sure I took off the whole week, because going back to work on a Thursday would have been too depressing to contemplate. It literally took me 1.5 days before I could bring myself to unpack, and I would most definitely not have been productive at work. I didn’t even have the energy to catch up on House of the Dragon or The Handmaid’s Tale, and you know what? That is a-okay. Both those shows stress the shit out of me, and I am so glad I gave myself time to still be on vacation. With that being said, I am now caught up on HotD and am completely weirded out by that Daemon/Rhaenyra scene, but I may not catch up to THT for a while because we’re starting a new season and I am very much not in the mood right now.
Depressing shows aside, I thought I’d wrap up my trip report with my loot! I didn’t quite capture everything, but this is definitely most of it. I might actually be most excited about the Luke’s Lobster cookbook, which I have two copies of because I got one for my parents. We went into Luke’s Lobster to pick up lunch for the schooner ride and were not expecting to find cookbooks, but I’m glad I spotted them. I’m also excited about Remarkably Bright Creatures, recommended to me by my mom. That was another surprise find: I happened to see it at Sherman’s, and the rest is now history.
Next time I’m taking my car with me and I won’t have to worry about carrying souvenirs back.