In lieu of a honeymoon, we’re jetting to Mexico next week for another wedding – but we were definitely up for a little wandering in a [somewhat] foreign land, just the two of us, for a few days after our own wedding!
Neither of us had ever been to Portland, Maine, so that seemed like a logical place to take up residence and consume our body weights in seafood – but we couldn’t resist the urge to wander and check out a few more New England towns along the way.
Here are my typically inane impressions of each.
Laconia, New Hampshire
To break up the drive to Portland, we found a perfectly delightful bed and breakfast in adorable Laconia, New Hampshire. As a first bn’b experience for us both, it was highly successful – flowery wallpaper, bumbling but lovable innkeeper, fresh bran muffins in the morning. After checking in, we ventured out to the nearby town for a bedtime snack of chowder at a pub before turning in with a bottle of wine and the sound of driving rain against the windows (poetic, I know).
Laconia has a great old-school resort town feel, teeming with bowling alleys, mini-putt courses, drive-in theatres, clam shacks and ice cream parlours – none of which had opened for the season yet.
It’s been said that the three Ls of Portland are lighthouses, L.L. Bean and lobstah –the latter of the three being of particular interest to us. Actually, in my books, the seafood alone would have been enough to merit a trip here. I would have considered any meal that didn’t prominently feature piles of mussels, clams, fish, scallops, oysters or lobster to be a hopeless failure.
Non-culinary discoveries in Portland included quirky shops, a fiercely proud movement promoting independent local businesses, and friendly people with vaguely adorable accents.
We met a young cab driver named Abel who, incredibly, was more sarcastic than we are.
We brought a bottle of chardonnay and some paper cups on the ferry to Peaks Island.
We walked all over town with little regard for the constant drizzle – I even embraced the chilly air and bought a woolly tuque at a kooky store with a “Keep Portland Independent” sticker. I looked idiotic, but there was noone to impress as I’m married now.
The towns of Kennebunkport and Ogunquit (both in Maine) are pretty damn cute, and so is Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I had my best chowder of the trip at the Cape Chowder House in Cape Porpoise.
Side note: Somewhere along the drive, during a now-inevitable rainstorm, the driver’s-side windshield wiper gave out. Great. Then, the other one followed suit. We could see that the problem couldn’t easily be fixed. The relentless downpour made visibility impossible and we had no choice but to pull over and wait it out, figuring we’d have to head straight back to Montreal once the rain subsided. Amazingly, despite being on a fairly barren-looking stretch of rural road, we managed to locate first an auto body shop (they couldn’t help), and then an auto parts store where we purchased a magical substance that repels rain. This stuff is miraculous! We sprayed some on and found it worked like a charm. Just like that, we were back in business.
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence has stately, tree-lined avenues; majestic architecture and a bustling “Little Italy” (really just a regular neighbourhood with a lot of pasta restaurants). The Providence River runs through the centre, making the downtown feel a little Amsterdam-esque (but with fewer bicycles and brothels).
We couldn’t figure out decent accommodations after twenty minutes of googling in a McDonald’s parking lot (free wi-fi). Finally I got the Hilton to drop their absolutely retarded price. Why are hotels so expensive in this town? Who does Providence think it is?
Some other cool stuff we found in Providence: an old-school seafood restaurant for dinner, a fun “fresh, local, organic, etc etc etc” spot for brunch, a curiosity shop filled with useful items rather than the junk you expect to find in some places, and the best coffee shop of our travels so far.
To minimize driving time on the last day of our mini-moon, I thought it would be grand to find an adorable bn’b in the delightful southern Vermont ski town of West Dover. Unfortunately, the seemingly charming place I found online turned out to be the creepiest place I have ever set foot in – complete with haunting portraits of Victorian children over the mantleplaces. We went for dinner at a nearby pub and ended up closing the place, preferring to hang out and get toasted with total strangers than go back to haunted house.
Vermont could never be accused of failing to support its local artisans. It turned out that this was Open Studio Weekend – an Vermont-wide thing where artists, well, open up their studios to the public. We followed a couple of the ubiqitous yellow signs off the highway – one brought us to a really cool pottery studio, and the other to the home of a guy who prints his photographs on aluminum (guess who was excited about that?)