Traveling to and from Mexico, I take advantage of having my bags already packed and visit my daughter and family. This year that meant a trip to Portland — Maine, not Oregon.
Portland is a beautiful, historic, sea faring city, “Down East” as the natives call it, which means it is in the southern part of the state on the East Coast of the US, yet still just about as far north as one can get without being in Canada.
If you have never visited the East Coast of the US, especially in these northern climes, it is a rugged landscape, and the people are a rugged lot. They have an independent streak and are passionate about the environment. Many of the original “organic” or “all natural” companies had their origins in Maine.
It is a land of outdoor beauty and adventures — rocky shorelines with views of sailboats and fishing trawlers; rolling hills covered in maple trees that give up their sweet nectar in the spring and go out in a blaze of color in the fall; snowy winters for skiing, skating, sledding, ice fishing, or sitting around a warm fire.
Portland itself is quaint as only towns with 200+ years of history can be. Everything is historic from the wharf along the Fore River that leads to the sea, to the fishing boats, the brick streets, and the grand Customs House. Stroll along the waterfront or wander around downtown and you will find quaint shops, filled with souvenirs, antiques, handmade pottery, clothing, but also the necessities. It’s a small town, boutique atmosphere. If you want a shopping mall though, you will not find one; you will have to drive 20 minutes to the next town.
There is plenty to do in Portland. Visit the Children’s Museum with your favorite little ones; they never run out of things to experience. Head to the Railroad Museum and ride the train along Casco Bay. Go whale watching. Walk the historic wharf area and purchase the catch of the day right from the boat. Or indulge in killer dark chocolate sorbet from Gorgeous Gelato, one of many ice cream and gelato shops competing for your taste buds.
Speaking of taste buds, Portland is a foodie’s heaven. Though chain restaurants can be found, local restaurants offering delicacies from cultures around the world, creatively transform the tiny spaces of the historic buildings into a feast for the eyes and palate.
The arts are alive and well in Portland, with dance, theater, puppet shows, and groups centered around activities like swing dancing. The library is not just a quiet repository for books but a center of community activities with concerts and visiting performers.
I wish I had more time to spend in Portland, and I especially wish I could have been there during the summer when the whale boats are running, the water is warm, and the town is humming. Perhaps I will visit again and have a chance to explore more.