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Maine: In search for Charley, Nervous Nellie and Art

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by westie, Oct 15, 2018.

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  1. westie

    westie VIP Whale

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    My Trip Report

    September 23-30, 2018



    When the Westies, Ann and I, last surfaced, they had just returned home after canceling the last 4 nights of their Colorado vacation because Ann had suffered an injury to her knee and was hobbling along on crutches. In the interim, the injury was diagnosed as a compound fracture of the tibia that we all know is the shinbone, that is connected to leg bone, that is connected to the ankle bone.



    All has not been peaches and cream for Westie, that’s me, who, in addition to my regular household responsibilities as chef de cuisine and travel planner extraordinaire, was required to assume the duties of chief bottle washer and chauffeur for far longer than he, that’s me, care to remember.



    We subsequently canceled our New Mexico vacation plans, substituting the trip to Maine that you are about to enjoy. Coincidentally, I had recently reread John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley: In Search of America” in which his itinerary passed through Connecticut on way to Deer Isle, Maine, a place we had never visited, so I figured why not follow in his tire tracks?

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    September 23 – the trip officially commenced when we dropped Brody off at Midge’s Home for Pampered Pups. We had traveled only so far as the Mass Pike before Ann spotted those all too familiar golden arches at a rest stop and proclaimed “me need caffeine”. A little over 60 miles further, while on Rte 495, I said “me need food” so we exited for Lowell, MA and pulled to a stop at the Corner Cafe which was busy with what we assume were locals. After reviewing the menu, we decided to share a turkey club that proved to be both large and very good. 3 Forks

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    Continuing onward, northward and eastward, eventually arriving at the outskirts of Portland where a reservation at the LaQunta Inn & Suites was held. An extensive renovation had been completed earlier this year, but what we belatedly discovered was train tracks run past the far end of the parking lot. The room was quite nice but I would not return without a set of earplugs and a train schedule. 3 Sheets

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    The happiest hour of the day was spent in the room with us sharing a bottle of Gnarly Head Authentic Black and a handful of cashews. 3 Sips



    Dinner was provided by the staff of Local 188 where we began by sharing an asparagus and grilled corn salad that included local feta, toasted hazelnuts, radishes and herb vinaigrette. This was soon followed by seared shrimp with arugula, heirloom tomatoes, bacon and avocado puree. Both dishes were delicious, but portion sizes were tiny in comparison to their respective prices.

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    Such was not the case with the house paella that included clams, mussels, chicken and chourico. We could not and did not finish though a Herculean effort was made. 4 Forks

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    September 24 – I awoke early as is my custom, the skies were clear, but the temperature was in the low 50’s so I wimped out by abandoning plans to visit Two Lights State Park and spent a couple of hours on the hotel’s computer before rousting Ann from a sound sleep. We were facing another longish drive so we settled on the hotel’s continental breakfast for this morning’s nourishment. Typical chain motel fare, best avoided. 2 Forks



    The course we charted included driving over the beautiful Penobscot Narrows Bridge where we paused to enjoy the view of both the bridge and river.

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    Our next stop was the scenic town of Castine on Blue Hill peninsula which served as the capital of Acadia for 4 years beginning in 1670. It is currently the home of the Maine Maritime Academy and its 900 students. The training ship, State of Maine, was in port and we saw several midshipmen walking around the beautiful and historic downtown district.

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    We made a short drive to the Wilson Museum, passing a number of beautiful homes on our way, that houses Dr. John Wilson’s eclectic collections of artifacts gathered from around the world. Its beautiful bay setting has been enhanced by the addition of an outdoor sculpture titled “Home and Away”, one of 34 sculptures created by artists from all over the world that make up the Maine Sculpture Trail. 3 Claps

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    Returning to downtown, we enjoyed cups of New England clam “chowdah” at the Castine Variety while seated at a table along with a lovely couple from Germany. I would give serious consideration to returning some morning just for the delicious looking breakfast pastries. 3 Spoons

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    Continuing down Blue Hill Peninsula, we eventually crossed the Deer Isle Bridge that spans Eggemoggin Reach and connects the mainland to Little Deer Isle. We pulled into the information center, but it was apparently closed for the season. A few minutes later we crossed a causeway bringing us to Deer Isle where we soon paused at the Caterpillar Hill rest area that overlooks blueberry barrens, distant rolling hills and Penobscot Bay.

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    On arriving in Stonington, we parked on the street and checked into the Inn on the Harbor, our temporary home for three nights. Jay, co-owner with wife Dana, warmly greeted us, offered dining suggestions and assisted in carrying our luggage to the room. The Inn offers 13 rooms spread over 4 Victorian buildings (formerly a grocery, shoe store, post office and barber shop) dating back to the 1880’s that were cobbled together by prior owners. All rooms are named after windjammers that have sailed into the harbor and most offer a spectacular view of a harbor active with lobster men departing in the morning and returning later in the day to offload their catch at a nearby landing. Our room, The Angelique, included a king bed, mini refrigerator, mini sized TV and a private deck overlooking the scenic harbor. 4.5 Sheets

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    The view from our room included Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

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    This evening we pulled up chairs on the expansive deck overlooking the harbor at low tide and enjoyed a bottle of Rioja wine from Rivallana. We would have been happy to remain there longer albeit the sun began to set, the bottle became empty and our reservation at Aragosta, a farm to table restaurant, was fast approaching. 3 Sips

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    On being seated at a table with a harbor view, we were provided an amuse bouche and shared a farmer salad (local mesclun dill, chevre, roasted beets, sliced pears, fried shallots and buttermilk dill dressing). Prior to entrees, a dollop of mint sorbet was brought to the table that brightened our palates. Haddock with local crab was Ann’s choice of entree while I settled on duck breast confit accompanied by house gnocchi, bok choy and a cranberry pear, white balsamic sauce. Both entrees proved to be excellent choices. 4.5 Forks

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    September 25 – I departed the room this morning under mostly cloudy skies so I decided to walk around a portion of the village, stopping first at the Stone Cutters monument followed by a visit to the Mini Village park. Each of the buildings in the park had been crafted by the late Everette Knowlton and donated to the town following his death in 1947. Year round residents now take home the small buildings each winter, making any needed repairs and then returning them in the spring.

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    Small cove shortly after sunrise

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    Breakfast at the Inn includes a wide variety of in-house baked goods that rotate daily. My plate was soon overflowing with a slice of artichoke & bacon quiche, apple cake, crostini (tomato, Parmesan and arugula) plus a small helping, or was it helpings, of French toast casserole. Each was delicious, but the French toast casserole embellished by maple syrup proved to be the standout. 4.5 Forks

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    We then drove to Lily Pond Park and made the short waddle to the pond which proved to be less than exciting since the water lilies were no longer in bloom.

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    Thanks to Google maps, we took an unscheduled trip down Old Ferry Road in search of Scot’s Landing. Fortunately I spotted a sign for said landing whee we enjoyed viewing another sculpture, titled “Deer Isle Project”, included in the Maine Sculpture trail.

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    Continuing on we drove over the Deer Isle bridge to the town of Brooklin to visit the beautiful and petite Friend Memorial Public Library. This library had been funded by E. B. White, author of such children’s books as Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, while living on a nearby 40 acre farm until his death in 1985.

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    Ann, ever on the lookout for interesting gift shops, spotted Leaf & Anna across the way so off she (we) went. Though she enjoyed herself and I was bored, it was I, not she, who acquired a “Brooklin – Boat Building Capital of the World” T-shirt.

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    Prior to returning to our room we made one last stop at the Red Barn Farm after seeing a sign for goat cheese, but the cooler was temporarily empty so the only purchase made was a bar of almond joy goat soap for a neighbor. Owner Donna Brewer, whose husband not only feeds the goats each morning, but also goes out lobstering and cultivates scallops using Japanese techniques, provided us with lots of interesting information and encouraged us to say hello to their herd of Anglo – Nubian goats.

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    A light rain confined us to the room until around 4PM when we departed for Deer Isle Village in order to take in the Tuesday night market. The produce looked wonderful as did the local oysters and other fare, but we confined our purchases to a few heirloom apples. We also visited the Deer Isle Artists Association gallery located just up the street. The gallery is quite nice, but none of the displayed works resonated with us.

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    This evening’s happy hour, held in the room, involved a bottle of Dark Horse Merlot and more cashews. Because of the weather we chose to cancel a reservation at a restaurant on the mainland in favor of dinner at the nearby Harbor Cafe. There was nothing fancy on the menu with most entrees involving fried seafood so we decided to not fight the tide and went with fish and chips which were oil free and pretty tasty as was the accompanying coleslaw. 2.5 Forks

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    September 26 – I woke up this morning and realized I must have tweaked my ankle yesterday so I abandoned plans to hike in the Shore Acres Preserve in favor of taking a long walk around a different section of the village, discovering another protected harbor and many more lobster boats.

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    Today’s breakfast featured a delicious broccoli quiche and a smidgen more of the French toast casserole.

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    First stop of the day was the local pharmacy for hearing aid batteries followed by a drive to Cockatoo Portuguese Restaurant to make sure we could locate it since we would likely be driving there after dark under foggy conditions.


    Next stop was Nervous Nellies Jams and Jellies and Peter Beerits folk art sculpture garden. Ann went directly to see Nellie, actually Anne, who seemed pretty calm, while I was attracted by several birds trying to compete with a red squirrel at a feeder.

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    I also toured a section of Peter’s Nellieville known as Tin Town that includes an old western saloon, Chinese laundry, jail and bank.

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    I then joined Ann and Anne to sample a few of the homemade jams and jellies. Though all of Peter’s sculptures remain available for sale, Anne has one less jar of blueberry preserves. Prior to our departure, we made a short trek through the woods into another section known as Grail Castle where we found Parsifal, Gawain, Lancelot and Galahad seated at a table that was rectangular rather than round. 2.5 Claps

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    On our way back to town we stopped at a pair of excellent galleries. The Turtle Gallery, perhaps the nicest on Deer Isle, showcased a number of talented local artists paintings as well as an interesting sculpture garden. Last stop was the gWatson gallery that was almost as impressive.

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    I took to the streets later that afternoon, passing a few lobstermen’s homes and happened on a sign for Pink Street walking trail that turned out to be only about 50 feet long, but led me to a section of town not previously visited.


    I eventually found myself at The Art of Evelyn Kok Gallery that houses work of the now deceased artist and enjoyed a brief conversation with Christina Shipps, the owner and Evelyn’s niece. Dear Evelyn reportedly lived in Bohemian fashion, never offering her art work for sale though the same cannot be said of her niece. I subsequently discovered she, Christina, owned the Inn on the Harbor from 1996 until late last year.

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    Print of the Ketch Angelique by Evelyn Kok that hung in our room.

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    Dinner was at the Cockatoo Portuguese Restaurant which is quite large and beautiful. We did not have reservations, but were seated at a table that would have provided an impressive view of Goose Cove had it not been for the dense fog.

    owner and cockatoo
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    We started off with strawberry mojitos followed by an order of Portuguese codfish balls, finding both to be delicious, but then we waited and waited some more. Tables coming in a half hour after us were receiving entrees so I finally called the waiter over and he presented our check. No, no good man, we have not received our entrees.

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    It took another 15 minutes before our entrees, both signature dishes, arrived. Ann’s mussels ha Donaldo included an abundance of sweet, tender mussels over linguine though the broth was tepid. My caldeirada (Portuguese fish stew with haddock, fennel, tomatoes, potato, shrimp and little necks) proved to be bountiful, particularly the haddock, but not quite as good as I have experienced elsewhere. 2.5 Forks

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    The weather had further deteriorated with strong gusts of wind and sheets of rain pummeling us as we crossed the deck to our room.



    September 27 – the storm that reached gale force winds had subsided overnight, but the skies remained ominous as I departed for Settlement Quarry, an abandoned granite quarry, for a short, but rewarding hike to a viewpoint atop the quarry that overlooks Webb Cove, Isle Au Haut and several lesser islands.

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    On waking, Ann was still tired having remained awake for much of the evening listening to the water slosh back and forth under our room which rests largely on pilings.


    We enjoyed one final breakfast at the Inn before checking out and heading off for Blue Hill. Our first stop was the Cynthia Winnings Gallery where we enjoyed both the displayed works of art and the conversation with Cynthia. We took her suggestion and stopped by the Mark Bell Pottery which housed several pieces that tempted me to extract a credit card from my billfold. 4 Brushes and 4.5 Kilns

    Painting by Tom Curry of Chatto Island
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    Pottery by Mark Bell
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    Next stop was the petite, 1/8th acre, Horton Emerson Park to view the “Window of the Sea Wind” sculpture, another piece included in the Maine Sculpture Trail. While my back was turned, Ann scurried off to a nearby gift shop. Another of our stops was the fourth generation Rackliffe Pottery, but the numerous pieces were in a style that held little interest for us so we beat a hasty retreat to the car.

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    Once again the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Stockton Springs was crossed as we continued south on Rt 1 to Camden where we picked up 2 used books at the Harbor Art & Book Fair on the lawn of the library. The library property and adjacent park are always a mandatory stop for the view of Camden Harbor, amphitheater, booklovers bench and children’s garden.

    Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Fort Knox

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    Booklovers bench

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    One last stop was made at Laugh Loud Smile Big for a pair of cupcakes, salted caramel and lemon curd, that were enjoyed on a picnic bench. 4 Forks

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    Our home for the last 3 nights of this vacation was Glen Cove Inn & Suites in Rockport. The inn is an older, well maintained property set on 3 acres with a minimalist view of Penobscot Bay. 2.5 Sheets

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    Tonight’s happy hour was held in the parlor of the Harstone Inn, circa 1835, in Camden where each $5 cocktail included a small, but tasty tapa.

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    We settled in on the couch with Ann requesting a rosemary mojito (light rum, fresh mint, lime, raspberries) and I a rosemary lemon drop martini (lemon vodka, rosemary syrup, lemon juice). Both cocktails were delicious, but variety is the spice of life so on the second round Ann sipped a cranberry lemon drop martini (citrus vodka, limoncello, cranberry puree, lemon juice) and I a Moscow mule (vodka, ginger beer and fresh lime juice) 4.5 Sips

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    Fortunately the dining room was but a few steps away. The small menu changes monthly with us ordering a cantaloupe and prosciutto salad with mozzarella, arugula, and red onion dressed with champagne vinaigrette to share. There were 4 entree choices with us each opting for the pan seared halibut topped with charred lemon over a rosemary, olive oil, sundried tomato cous cous that was accompanied by charred bell peppers and zucchini. Service throughout was excellent as was the food. 5 Forks

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    September 28 – the sky was dreary with intermittent drizzle so I just took a drive around Rockport, stopping for a short time at the marine park. The inn’s continental breakfast offerings proved to be disappointing in comparison to the fare we enjoyed the prior 3 mornings.
    2.5 Forks

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    We drove to Rockland to make a tour of the many art galleries only to discover most do not open until 11AM so we headed to Sandy Beach Park to view the “Ridin’ The Rails to Rockland” sculpture, another piece on the Maine Scultpure Trail.

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    On returning to downtown, we commenced our personal walking tour at the Periscope Shop then continued on in succession to the Dowling Walsh Gallery, Art Space, Landing Gallery, Archipelago – The Island Institute Store, Harbor Square Gallery and Muir Garden for Contemporary Sculpture. We also stopped in Fiore Artisian Olive Oils and Vinegars where we again purchased a bottle of Amarena cherry balsamic vinegar.

    Periscope Shop

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    Warren Seelig art hanging in the Dowling Walsh Gallery

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    Painting by Obrianna Cornelius in Art Space

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    Muir Garden for Contemporary Sculpture

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    By this time we were bushed, bothered and hungry so we made our way to the Brass Compass Cafe whose owner is most famously known for appearing on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and winning for a lobster club sandwich. We were not that hungry so each of us ordered clam chowder with Ann choosing a cup and me a bowl. The chowder included lots of potatoes and cream but offered little in the way of clam flavor. As I continued slurping, it went from being pretty good to just okay to “I may never eat New England clam chowder again for the rest of my life”. 2 Spoons


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    On our return to the room we discovered it had not been serviced so we took a short drive to Rockland Marine Park to visit Andre The Seal who has been immortalized in granite after spending 25 years as a summer resident. Andre had a local connection for us having wintered for 4 years at Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, CT.

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    The bar at 40 Paper in Camden was filled to near capacity on our arrival for happy hour. We were not tempted by any of the cocktails currently being offered so glasses of Restivo Malbec were chosen that proved to be quite good so a second round was mandated. 3 Sips



    Dinner reservations, call far in advance, were at Long Grain, our favorite restaurant in Camden. The restaurant has relocated to larger, brighter quarters since our last visit, but the food remains fresh, delicious and reasonably priced. I asked a gentlemen seated at the adjoining table what he was eating, but I guess we misunderstood because Ann requested Chinese yellow noodles with Chinese sausage and pork that turned out to be an entirely different dish. Meanwhile, I ordered pad ke mao, better known as drunken noodles, that included house made noodles with chicken and local (kale) greens. I enjoyed both dishes, though Ann was not overly pleased with hers. We concluded the meal with a terrific coconut crème brulee with black sticky rice. 4 Forks

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    September 29 – my ankle continued bothering me so I once again took to the steering wheel and drove to the Camden Harbor Park followed by stops at the Bay Road and Curtis Island overlooks. The latter provided an exceptional view of Curtis Island and its scenic lighthouse.

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    We had yogurt and fruit plus OJ at our inn before returning to Camden for breakfast at the Bagel Cafe, each ordering a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese that proved to be quite good though exceptionally pricey. 3 Forks



    We then spent an hour enjoying the many works of art and crafts on display at the Harbor Art & Book Fair. Ann discovered the H. Monique Designs booth and returned home with a beautiful pair of hand crafted earrings. Though we have been to countless art and craft shows over the years, this one proved to be one of the better ones based on both its scenic setting and the quality of the work. 4 Claps

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    Camden Harbor

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    A few galleries remained on my list to so we made the short drive to the Public Landing and found a vacant parking space. Maybe we were galleried out, but we found little of interest at either the Small Wonder or Camden Falls galleries.


    We then spent 20-30 minutes at the Curtis Island overlook sharing both a bench and view with a couple from western MA.

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    Later in the day we drove to Owls Head Lighthouse, dating back to 1825, with the current station built in 1852. At 30 feet, it is one of the shortest lighthouses in Maine though scenically located on a rocky promontory 100 feet above the glistening water.

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    Another short drive brought us to the entrance to Beach State Park, but it was closed to vehicular traffic so we hoofed it to the waters edge for another scenic view of the bay before making the 1/3rd mile trek back to the car.

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    The Harstone Inn again received the nod for happy hour libations with us occupying a table in the small bar. On the first round Ann again ordered the raspberry mojito while I covered new territory by requesting a coconut mango mojito (coconut rum, mango puree and fresh mint). Our last adult beverages of this trip were a peach martini (peach vodka, peach syrup and fresh lime juice) for Ann and a basil martini (basil infused vodka) for myself. The martini initially came close to taking my breath away, but it eventually brought a small smile to my face. Prior to departing we had the opportunity to meet owner, cookbook author and award-winning chef Michael Salmon. We told him we are looking forward to future visits both for dinner and drinks. 4.5 Sips

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    Dinner this evening was at Nina June overlooking Rockport harbor.

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    The restaurant is quite small with almost half devoted to an open kitchen. We shared an appetizer of black mussels (mussels, beer, roasted tomatillos, cilantro and grilled bread) that made my taste buds quiver. Ann chose La Parmigiana (roasted eggplant and cherry tomatoes that were baked in a cast iron skillet and topped with cheese and basil) while I requested pasta al limone (thin house made herb noodles topped with Maine crab meat, lemon butter and chervil). Hers was very good, mine a disappointment in because of the overwhelming flavor of lemon and far too little crab. 3 Forks


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    September 30 – today prior to heading home, we grabbed a quick bite at the continental breakfast. Travel this Sunday proved to be a disaster caused by a combination of too many vehicles and construction sites.



    We made just one short stop at a roadside rest stop on the Mass Pike, this time choosing slices of cheese pizza from Original Boston Pizza that turned out to be pretty dreadful. If these were representative of the original pizza from Boston, there would have been more than just tea tossed into the harbor back in December, 1773. 1.5 Forks


    We finally arrived home around 3PM, some 6.5 hours after departing Rockport, picking up Brody shortly thereafter. Hopefully everyone who reads this trip report will be inspired to spend a little of their vacation time and money in Maine.





    “This Isle is like Avalon; it must disappear when you are not there.”

    John Steinbeck writing of Deer Isle
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
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  2. nhcris

    nhcris VIP Whale

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    Fabulous report and pictures! Your report brought back fond memories of a 4 day Windjammer cruise on the Sylvina Beal that we took from Rockland around 1981. Maine really doesn't change as quickly as many other places, does it?
     
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  3. BlacklabberMike

    BlacklabberMike MIA

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    Great report...been to a few of those towns.
    I have a candlepin bowler friend that lives in Rockport. He holds the worlds record for a 3 string total.

    But? where's the LOBSTAH? you can't go to rockport/camden and not have lobster...or can you?
     
  4. westie

    westie VIP Whale

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    Thanks for reading the TR. We get our fill of lobstah at home each summer so we very rarely eat it out. We did
    have plans to have lunch (crab salad sandwich) on the deck of McLoons Lobster Shack, but the weather was not cooperative.
     
  5. BlacklabberMike

    BlacklabberMike MIA

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    too bad ..that place is great

    we didn't get that far north this year. Union and points down east

    try bar harbor some year. adirondack state forest is amazing. camelback moutain
     
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  6. westie

    westie VIP Whale

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    We love Acadia, last visiting 2 years ago, but I wanted to try something new (Stonington/Blue Hill) and something old (Rockland/Camden/Rockport) this year.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2018
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  7. VegasGroove

    VegasGroove VIP Whale

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    Westie, thank you for a great report and beautiful pics!
     
  8. wam

    wam Low-Roller

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    excellent trip report once again, westie a 5 star report. love the photos.
     
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  9. eliza

    eliza VIP Whale

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    Thank you so much for sharing - looks like a lovely trip all around - good scenery, good food, good drinks.
     
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  10. NYNYGirl

    NYNYGirl VIP Whale

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    Thanks for that report and those pics. Enjoyable!
     
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  11. luridludicloco

    luridludicloco High-Roller

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    Thanks for the Maine ride and beautiful scenery and pictures.
     
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  12. 93 Octane

    93 Octane Chief bottle washer

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    Bravo Bravo!!
    I give this TR five claps :clap::clap::clap::clap::clap:

    I have to say if I went to a place where the owner whipped flay I'd have to try that dish not something else.
     
    Said I wasnt going back this year but you know how that goes
  13. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Thanks for the great pics and report!
     
  14. La$Vega$

    La$Vega$ What happens in Vegas is put on VMB forever

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    Nice report and well written! Gorgeous scenery.
     
  15. hammie

    hammie VIP Whale

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    Thanks Westie, a great Maine trip report. A colleague has been trying to get me up to Swans Island, but it’s a hike.
     
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