Friday, June 4, 2010

Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Day 3 (Portland, ME)

We spent the entirety of today enjoying more of Portland, this time in warm, sunny weather, which made it much more appealing. Though we're leaving tomorrow morning, this is definitely a city I'd like to keep exploring. It has all the appeal of a large city with small town charm, and without the overwhelming masses (though I can imagine this changes in the high tourist season). It seems to be a really young, conscious place, and I could really see myself living here one day.

We woke up fairly early, but spent some time getting the tent in order before heading out around 9:45am. Our first stop was the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow childhood home, an amazing 18th century brick house on Congress Street. Our docent was Darlene, and since it was just the two of us with her, we were able to ask a lot of questions and have a really detailed tour. The house is fantastic, and if you're at all interested in historic homes, you should definitely check it out. I'm used to seeing Victorian-era homes, but this one, decorated as it would have been in the early 19th century, was really startling in its use of pattern and texture. The wallpaper, carpeting (and floor-cloth, a painted canvas floor covering I'd never seen before today) and trimming all clash in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. Tickets are $8 for adults, and you can get 2-for-1 admission using the coupon here.

After the tour, we headed down to the Eastern Promenade. We strolled along a tiny bit of the two-mile path, and then settled down on the harbor to watch the water, which was surprisingly blue for being on the New England coast. We headed over to Shipyard Brewery for a tasting and tour of the brewery. On Tuesday nights, they run a full brewery tour, but during the week, you can stop in for a quick look at the bottling process before tasting all of their current beers. I think if you're interested in beer, the full tour would probably be really great, but the short one was a nice enough way to spend a half-hour, and the tasting was a lot of fun.

We enjoyed a late lunch at Gilbert's Chowder House. Their chowder (I had the clam and Roger had the seafood) was pretty good and came in enormous portions. My only real complaint is that the bread-bowls were made of pretty low-quality bread. They stayed together fine, but I like a really sturdy sourdough, and this wasn't it. I should note, though, that their lobster rolls looked incredibly good, and much better than Portland Lobster Company's. They were a little cheaper, too.

After lunch and some souvenir shopping (Christmas ornament of this trip: Santa Claus and a puffin riding on a humpback whale. Roger picked it.), we walked around town enjoying the Portland Art Walk. The first Friday of every month, galleries and studios host open houses, and this one drew a really big crowd, which was fantastic to see and experience. We stopped in at a ton of little galleries, but some of the highlights were the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies (an interesting photography show on average people), the Maine Historical Society (another interesting photography show on average people, this time mostly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a great opening that included hipster mustaches), and the Maine College of Art (the MFA thesis show).

We also stopped in at the Green Hand Bookshop, which was amazing and completely revitalized my belief in not only independent bookstores but also in literary community, and the Portland Museum of Art, which has an interesting and interdisciplinary show on Objects of Wonder and also the McLellen House, which is from around the same time as the Longfellow House, but isn't furnished. On our way back to the campsite (the Wild Duck Adult Campground, if you're interested), we stopped at Happy Garden, a Chinese take-out place in Scarborough. We ordered just fried rice and egg rolls, and we were absolutely surprised by the amazing quality of the egg rolls. With fresh vegetables and homemade duck sauce, the egg rolls were perfectly crisp and a joy to eat. Not the most traditional of Maine foods, I suspect, but if you're in the mood for a really good egg roll, definitely stop by this little gem on Route 1.

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