Road Trip Part Trois: Three things you must do in Portland, Maine
Our second major stop was at the “other” Portland. It might be a surprise for you to know that Portland, Oregon was actually named after Portland, Maine. Having been to Portland, Oregon first and seen it immortalized by Portlandia (put a bird on it!) as the ultimate hipster destination, it was definitely a huh? moment to know that Portland, Oregon was the older of the two cities. While there are any number of things you can do in Portland, I think you MUST do the following three:
1. Go lighthouse hopping (preferably at sunset or sunrise or both): Portland is a mecca for those who like lighthouses – there are six of them in Portland including the famous Portland Head Light that you will find scores of picture of, if you google Portland, Maine. As a photo enthusiast, I recognize that the times before sunset and early mornings are the golden hours for photography – however we are usually out for dinner or drinks at sunset and I am horribly lazy about getting out of bed in the mornings. So I am usually stuck with the mid-afternoon harsh shadows and ugly dappled pictures. This time however PG convinced me to wake up in the wee hours with the incentive that I could always come back and sleep. And it worked! The sky was a gorgeous red and orange before sunrise and the sunrise itself was magical.
2. Take a mail ferry to the islands that surround Portland: We took the ferry to the Peaks Island and then biked around the picturesque island. We rented our bikes from perhaps the only bike rental shop on the island – Brad and Wyatt’s – for $10/bike for two hours. The shack also had tandem bikes for $15. While there are several ferry services to Peaks Island and other islands in Casco Bay during the day, make sure to plan beforehand in case you have a tight itinerary or want to do lunch in Portland instead of on Peaks Island, which has some decent places (but not outstanding by Portland standards).
3. Eat and eat some more: Portland takes its food very seriously. In addition to the reams of New York Times newsprint on Portland’s numerous restaurants, conversations about eating local is a usual topic of conversation among Portlandians. I overheard a woman telling other women about an exchange student staying with her and how she wanted him to taste the best of Portland considering it was such a foodie city. So she was going to take him to the local grocery store (a local version of Whole Foods) and ask him to pick out things so she could cook those for him. I wanted to jump right in and say how I was a foreigner and could really benefit from a stay in her house! Ha!
Given the short time we had, we managed to go only to The Front Room that serves American cuisine. While the food was good, and the cocktails inventive (blackberry/ blackberry/earl gray infused cocktails), I found the food a tad too rich for my liking. The wait was over an hour on a week night without reservations. The plus however, was a walk down Congress road to the beach that had some great views and a cool breeze.