Never have I ever heard so many great New England accents talkin’ about lobstah and havin’ a wondahful stay than on my 7 hour adventure to Portland, Maine! As the weekends come up, I get ready to get out of Boston and out to another landmark city close by. This Sunday, Paola and I took the Amtrak Downeaster (side note: awesome sale going on right now, where you buy one ticket and get to bring a friend for free!) ironically North to Portland. Luckily, we made it up right after Memorial Day Weekend, so the city was completely open for the summer.
Second point of luck – the weather. New England is a beautiful place made even prettier on a good sunny day, with only a little overcast and no rain. Boston has been the exact opposite of that this month, with weird rainy days [read: no seriously guys, I’m looking outside the library and it looks like I am not prepared, yet again, to step out into a rain surprise, ugh] and cold in the middle of the summer. We expected to have the same chance of rain in Portland as we have had in Boston and were outrageously excited when we saw there was no chance of rain for our day trip.
So, after a 2.5 hour ride on the Amtrak, we went directly from the transportation center to brunch at The Front Room. Part of the “Rooms” of Portland restaurants, the one of the Front brings out the best of brunch with a wide selection of poached eggs over potatoes, in any shape or form. In our 15-minute wait for seating (the restaurant keeps it simple, just put your name on a list, no reservations) we wandered up to the East End of Portland, or the Back Cove, something like that, to check out the greens and the ships. Within our first hour in Portland, I’d say we got the best view of the bay we could’ve gotten.
But then the food. Man, the food at The Front Room lived up to expectations! My sister-in-law visited Portland last week, so I was going off of her posts to find new food recommendations and this was spot on. I ordered the Veggie Gnocchi (that’s right, gnocchi for brunch, I really meant it on the potatoes in any form logic) with a big ol’ mimosa and Paola got the Sweet Potato Hash with poached eggs and whole wheat toast and raspberry jam. The toast really stole the show, and a rule of mine is to always order jam, so the pairing was a fine choice that I will always remember as a Maine thing. They just do it better.
Right down the street was the Portland Observatory. Fact: It is not a lighthouse. Maine is known for its many picturesque lighthouses and so you may expect this large red monument in the shape of a lighthouse to be a lighthouse but you’d be false in that expectation. It’s an observatory from which you can observe the entire city of Portland. On clear days like this one, you could even see Mount Washington! That’s probably the closest I’ll get to hiking Mount Washington, so it was a nice moment. Also, at this point we realized that we were either on time or ahead of schedule for each part of our rough itinerary, which is always reassuring for daytime travelers. Travel was cheap, easy, and convenient getting into Portland and around the city.
Our next stop was The Holy Donut, recommended to me by many friends and Portland-goers alike. On the way, we stopped at one of Portland’s bookstores (so many of them are local, it’s a book lover’s dream!) and picked up some postcards and a vintage guide to eating and drinking in Washington D.C. in the 1960s. I chuckled at the recommendation of the Water Gate Inn. Like, out loud.
Sadly, we were only able to get dark chocolate sea salt donuts as they were the last ones left of the day. But also… not sadly? They were delicious?! If those are the last donuts at a donut shop, then you know it’s an out-of-this-world donut shop. That’s also logic for you. I’ve been studying too much. We took our donuts out to the nearest marina and found some parts of the Berlin Wall left to Portland, a nice coastal spot for lobster and drinks, and a picture of my friend Anahis’ grandfather as a veteran. It was all very surreal. Anahis was especially surprised I was able to find him, so I’d say it was worth it.
From here, we went over to Cape Elizabeth to find Portland Head Lighthouse. The name ring a bell? If not, then just check out any postcard from Maine and you’ll know. Right in front of the lighthouse is one of New England’s finest lobster roll stands, Bite Into Maine. I had my first lobster roll! It was truly delicious; picnic style was my preference with cole slaw, celery, lemon, and a whole lot of butter. Lobster roll devoured, we walked up to see the lighthouse, walk by the cliffs, check out the rock beach, and just enjoy the end of the day.
To finish off our trip before getting on the train, Paola and I thought a nice pot of tea would help us grandmas at about 6 PM. Back downtown, we found Dobra, tea rooms and take-away teas alike. She had a Sailor’s Cure-All (which I probably needed, the sea works up your sinuses like no other) and I got the Kashmir tea (a blend of spices and teas, the shop was only mildly appropriative in its decor, its tea was on point) and we headed back to the transportation center. Before we knew it, we were asleep. Full, tired, sleepy, we headed back to Boston. If you’ve got seven hours to spare, I’d say you have no choice now but to spend them in Portland.