Day 2 – 9/16
So, Friday was to include a whale-watching trip. Now, for those folks who remember all the hurricanes milling about at that time, Irene had swept to the west of Maine and was long-gone, but Katia was brewing about well-off the coast. However, the seas were a bit stirred up, and when we got to the dock at 8:00 (yes, this means we missed a lovely breakfast at the inn), we were informed the 8:30 trip had been canceled. I confess, I suspected they had canceled it because we were pretty much the only people there. When we were in Boston whale-watching, we had 8-foot seas, so I didn’t think the seas looked any rougher than they were then (sez the girl with absolutely no marine knowledge). We were rescheduled for the 1:00pm trip and set out to explore more of Bar Harbor.
When Ramblin had looked into Bar Harbor, he found mention of a sand bar that people could walk across two hours before and after low tide (four hours of access total). Yet another aside: Ramblin did most of the planning on this trip. I had researched Alaska until my brain went noodlely, and my entire contribution was finding the inn we stayed at – Saltair Inn. Lovely people, lovely place, top-rated on Tripadvisor – stay there, you won’t regret it. Anyway, this sand bar was a block from our inn and visible from the back yard of the inn. So, with time to kill, we decided to wander along the bar.
First of all, when I heard ‘sand bar’, I thought that’s what it would be – sand. Well yes, but more. When the tide recedes, all these wonderful shells, rocks, and bits of sea life are uncovered.
You could spend hours taking pictures there. (not that a household of Canon-lovers would do something like that) This was the best unexpected surprise of the trip. A cool phenomenon was the seagulls scooping up mussels, flying 10-15 feet into the air, then dropping the shells on the rocks below. Repeat as necessary to get to the good stuff. Ramblin described the sound like light bulbs busting all around you.
After the tide started to come back in, we decided to hop in the car and drive through Acadia National Park. There is a rock formation in Acadia called ‘Thunderhole’. Basically, it is a ledge of rock in a channel that when a large enough wave comes in, it makes a loud crash.
The optimum time is 1 1/2 hours before high tide. Of course, sea conditions play a big part. We were there earlier because the optimum time was going to coincide with our whale-watching (spoiler alert: it didn’t). But, it was still neat to see. We drove around a bit more, then took a cut-off from the Park Loop Road so that we could get back for the whale trip.
As I’ve already spoiled it, you know the results. But it looked very promising. We called before we headed down to the dock to check on the status and was told to call back in 5-10 minutes because the captain was doing a final conditions check. The next phone call indicated it was a go. We hiked back into town where was already a huge line; people with the cruise ship were getting their souvenir pictures taken. Then, about 15 minutes before sailing, we see people walking up from the dock. “It’s been canceled.” Wha? But, but, but . . . nope. Ramblin stood in line to reschedule once again (this time for Sunday morning), and we headed off to find lunch.
There was a spot Ramblin had found when he was keeping tabs on Irene, in case she decided to spoil our vacation altogether. Geddy’s has a webcam that you can actually take control of for two minutes at a time. As it overlooks Frenchman Bay, that was a good indicator of what the weather was like. Because of the familiarity with the restaurant, we opted to go there. Very good fish and chips, and sadly, I could not finish all of it. Ramblin had the crab meat roll.
Disclaimer: since I’m doing this from memory, I can’t keep straight which day we did what thing, primarily in the afternoons. So, it may be all confused, but I guarantee we did all of this stuff at some point.
I had read about a shop in Bar Harbor that sold yarn and candy – Bee’s. Unfortunately, the last reference to it was 2008. Surely it had since closed its doors. Nope! I was able to pick up the first locally-dyed yarn, Done Roving yarns Frolicking Feet in “Starry, Starry Sky”.
Since we were downtown, we decided to wander along the Shore Path. I had read about this and remembered how much we enjoyed the Marginal Way in Ogunquit. The Shore Path is not very long, but you do get some beautiful scenery of rocky shores on one side, and the back yard expanses of the picturesque houses and inns on the other.
Coincidentally, the Shore Path ends at a street that brings you to Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. Why is this notable, in a town with lots and lots of ice cream places? Oh, I dunno. Yeah, you could probably tell from the first page where I was going with this. Note to Republican readers – in Alaska, I saw Sarah Palin’s face everywhere. This was a nice change for me. You would be thrilled at a place where Mitt Romney (small regard for him only because is last name coincides with a sheep breed – not one of my favorite wools, but still spinning-related enough) or whoever had ice cream. Even if you don’t like the man, just be happy for me.
We were still a little worn from the travel day before, so we went back to the inn to rest a bit. Low tide was at 8pm that evening, so a little after 6pm, we wandered back to the sand bar. It was starting to get dark, so we didn’t stay very long. Pizza was calling our names, and the best pizza place in Bah-Hahbah (say it like a Maine-ah) is Rosalie’s. As soon as you walk in the door, you see pizza crusts being hand-tossed. We sat upstairs and ordered calzones. So good. Like you made them at home. Yum.
That evening on our way back through town, we stopped off for some coffee at The Opera House. We got our caffeines and wandered on down Cottage Street to Main St. I was absent-mindedly looking in the shop windows when I saw a sign “YARN!” Well, that certainly got my attention. It was the Bayside Trading Company. There was mostly typical tourist fare, but it turns out, the owner is an enthusiastic knitter and carried String Theory yarns, another Maine dyer. I picked up some Caper in Blue Hill. I was sorry I did not get to meet the owner, as we could have swapped yarn tales.
Day 3 – 9/17
We did not try to schedule the whale-watch for today because we had a nature cruise scheduled with the company, Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. Since it was not until 9:30, we had time to enjoy breakfast that morning. Quiche, potatoes, and homemade muffins with Maine Blueberries. Then we headed downtown to board our boat. The cruise took us down the coast, then on to Egg Rock where we saw lots of birds and a few seals bobbing in the water. They said if you saw something that looks like a grey lobster buoy with whiskers, it’s a seal. I haven’t mentioned the lobster buoys yet. There were thousands of them. The sea was dotted with bright colors that were unique to each lobster boat.
We navigated through more of the Porcupine Islands (Burnt Porcupine, Long Porcupine, Sheep Porcupine, and Bald Porcupine) and saw a bald eagle. We also saw some exclusive seven-figure summer homes.
Lunch that day was at the West Street Cafe. I had salmon, and Ramblin had crab cakes with a horseradish sauce. After our bellies were full, it was back to pick up the car and do some more exploring of Acadia. We traveled to Cadillac Mountain, a point where some times during the year is the first place the sun hits the US. We were not there for sunrise or sunset because those roads would be wicked to drive in the dark.
We later drove to another area of Mount Desert Island, Southwest Harbor. We were there to see the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. To get the best view of it, you need to climb on some rocks. Ramblin went into billy-goat mode and got a great vantage point.
Then we drove back to Bar Harbor and engaged in another vacation tradition – Chinese food. There is exactly one Chinese restaurant in Bar Harbor and fortunately, it’s a good one. We usually have it delivered but decided that walking would be a good idea.
Day 4 – 9/18
Sunday – bring on the whales! And they did. But first, we had a breakfast of scrambled eggs with brie and chives, sausage links, and baked pears. There was also time to make another visit to the sand bar. The gulls were not doing their bombing runs with mussels that morning. Maybe it’s just something they do on breezy days. Anyway, we headed to the dock and were in line quickly. We took the big boat, the Atlanticat. I don’t know the total capacity, but the top deck where we were held 124, the mid-deck held 238, and there was a lower deck beyond that. It was probably about an hour before we reached the prime viewing ground and spotted the first whales. It was a mother and calf, and the calf was feeling his/her oats. Breaching, flipping upside down and having both flippers in the air, waving flippers at the boat. (since there’s no way to prove it wasn’t us that it was waving at, I can say that) Ramblin got tons of great shots. I got some great shots of a brown shoulder, but a few others were passable.
Lunch that day was at Stewman’s Downtown. And guess what? That was the second best salmon I had on the trip. Oh yes, salmon for me again, with crispy red potatoes and jumbo (not really – my uncle grows the stuff bigger diameter than your thumb) grilled asparagus. Ramblin had The Pier House Catch, a little bit of every kind of seafood – clams, shrimp, scallops, and haddock.
That afternoon’s sightseeing included Schooner Head Overlook and views of a sea cave we saw on the nature cruise. The tide was not favorable for us to explore the cave, but Ramblin managed to get as close as possible.
For our evening meal (are you getting the idea food is 50% of the focus?), we walked to the Poor Boy Gourment. I had the special (yes, it was salmon) with garlic mashed potatoes and Ramblin had the Lobster Poor Boy. And after stuffing ourselves, ice cream makes perfect sense. CJ’s Dipper supplied us with blueberry cheescake and wild Maine blueberry for me, and Maine Deer Sign and Maine Survivor for Ramblin.
Day 5 – 9/19
As today was our last full day in Bah Hah-bah, we decided to really make it count. Breakfast was french toast, chicken-apple sausage, and fruit salad. The tides had been getting progressively later, so that morning we had nearly the full four hours to explore the sand bar. It leads to Bar Island, and there is a short trail you can walk to the summit. Walk we did and got very nice views of Bar Harbor.
We walked back to the inn, got in the car, and drove to Otter point. This was an area we visited earlier in the week and the end point of the Ocean Path. The Ocean Path is a two-mile hike one way, and we planned to walk along the trail to the trail head, and then ride the free Island Explorer bus back to the parking area. It soon became clear that we would be walking it back as well, because we wanted to see Thunderhole at its peak, and that was going to require us being on foot. At the trail head was Sand Beach, one of the few natural sand beaches in Maine.
We made our way back to Thunderhole which was just about mid-point on the trail. We were a bit early, so we found a shady spot to sit and enjoy the ocean. It was not a very dramatic day for Thunderhole, but it was still nice to see.
We made our way back to Otter Cliffs and again sat for a bit, drinking in that beautiful rocky coast.
By this time, it was well after 3pm. You see, we planned this day on purpose, so that we would only eat one time after breakfast. Those late evening meals were starting to catch up to us. Our dining selection for the evening was Testa’s. Do you even need to be told what I had? It was the salmon salad, and this was easily my favorite meal of the trip. Ramblin had the Lobster Newburgh. Since it was a relatively early evening, we did some last minute shopping, then headed back to the inn, grabbed two mugs of cocoa, and watched the sun set from the Adirondack chairs overlooking the bay. Perfect end to a perfect day.
Day 6 – 9/20
Nooooo! I don’t want to leave Bah Hah-bah! But we must. After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, sausage, and biscuits with blueberry jelly, we gathered our things, bid farewell to our hosts, and went in search of lighthouses.
I’ve not yet mentioned the weather which was fabulous. We had the best luck that the only rainy/overcast days were our travel days. And lighthouses look rather dramatic against a cloudy sky.
As we made our way back to Portland, we fit in one of the stops we had planned originally – L.L. Bean. Unfortunately, with the rental return pressing, we had little more time than to make a quick loop and take each other’s picture in front of the Big Boot.
Making the return time with 20 minutes to spare, we were shuttled to our hotel. We had a room on the 10th floor, with a view of Casco Bay. That evening we opted to have angus burgers and fries from the hotel restaurant instead of seeking out food. After our meal, we thought we would take advantage of the pool. The pool was supposed to be maintained at 82 degrees, and the air felt very warm when we entered the pool area. Getting in the pool was another story. Aiyeee!!! Let me tell you, Mainers are made of sturdier stuff than me. Eventually, hypothermia overtook my better sense, and I was able to swim the length of the pool three times, (remember, I just learned how this summer). This was the first time water was over my head, so it was quite the accomplishment.
Day 7 – 9/21
To help us get a lay of the land in Portland, Ramblin had booked us a land and sea tour. The land portion was first up, and we saw several of the highlights of the city. I also used this time to scope out the knitting and spinning shops. One of the best things was when we went to Portland Head Lighthouse.
During our previous trip to Maine, there was an artist at the Cape Neddick Lighthouse who was selling personalized prints. Ramblin later kicked himself for not buying one. Lo and behold, who should be at the lighthouse but that very artist! He said that when the cruise ships are in, he comes to Portland. The money from the prints he sells goes to restoration of the lighthouses. So Ramblin is now the proud owner of a Bill Thompson print.
Then we boarded a boat for the second part of our tour. We saw more lighthouses and scenes of Casco Bay. After our boat tour, we went in search of lunch. Andy’s Old Port Pub fit the bill. I had (no, not salmon – only because they didn’t offer it) fish and chips and Ramblin had a lobster melt. Then we began the somewhat long hike to the Portland Observatory.
Ramblin had told me that there were 103 steps to the top. My failure at the Bunker Hill Memorial still burns in my mind, but I thought I had made it up at least that many steps there, so this shouldn’t be a problem. When we got there, we were told we could join a group already in progress. They had made it to the second landing when we caught up with them. Yes, landings! I can do this! (I sound terribly old, don’t I?) We had a very entertaining tour guide and learned that the observatory served as a relay for ships and the dock crews to allow crews to be ready and waiting when a ship came in. The day was gorgeous, and we had a panoramic view of the city, bay, and surrounding countryside.
We then made our way back down and headed along Congress Street to the yarn and fiber. I got my fiber fix, stopped but didn’t buy at the yarn shops, then visited a Cryptozoology museum. As in bigfoot, nessie, and the like. We’re Sci-Fi (I refuse to acknowledge its current incarnation of Sy-Fy – I call that ‘sifee’) buffs, so it made sense. Not quite what we were bargaining for, but I can’t spoil it for you. You’ll just have to go there.
By that time, we had walked a long way. I should mention that my favorite poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, lived in Portland, and we were able to get pictures of several landmarks.
We swung by the Victoria Mansion, which looked like it was carved from chocolate, and then headed back to the hotel. We had noticed a restaurant in the block behind our hotel, and once we confirmed we would not need brass knuckles, we made our way to The Dogfish Cafe. This would be Ramblin’s favorite meal of the trip – Seafood Sliders with chipotle dipping sauce. There was a salmon salad on the menu, but it was full of fruit. I love fruit but not with meat. So, I went with the Grilled Turkey Cobb Salad. If there would have been a coffee joint somewhere in the straight line from there to our hotel, we would have grabbed some, but no dice.
It was time to pack anyway. That went fairly smooth, and we were set by 8pm. We needed an early evening, because the crazy travel agent had booked another early flight.
Day 8 – 9/22
What can I tell you about this day? It was the day we left Maine. :( Although, Portland did kind of suffer the Seattle Syndrome (visit a breathtaking area, then go to a city – no way to measure up). We got breakfast at the airport, flew to Philly, then on to Indy. We made the drive home and saw our fuzzy people. As I told Jennifer, they were glad/freaked out to see us and clingier/spazzier than normal. That’s not an easy dichotomy to pull off.
Until we meet again, Maine. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
(Yeah, I know that’s Shakespeare and not Longfellow; it was the best I could do)