Maine: Rugged and Friendly
by Herb Chase
is perhaps the most unique, rugged, American state in the union. Maine
natives often appear to be more independent, more determined and more
generous than many Americans. In most cases they are friendly, hugely
proud of their state and curious enough to welcome visitors with open
Our recent summer excursion through much of Maine confirmed
these opinions which are shared by many people who love the state and
enjoy the rugged coast, the brisk weather, beautiful countryside and
the plentiful supply of fresh lobsters.
The cold waters off Maine are perfect for growing lobsters
but the states ideal oysters cannot be ignored. The same frigid
waters are great for raising oysters and Maine oysters rank high on
the tables of Eastern gourmets and summer visitors.
I used to teach horseback riding at a boys camp
in East Waterford, Maine, some 60 miles northwest of Portland, so our
five day visit was sort of a reunion for me.
Soon after we crossed the Maine border at Portsmouth,
New Hampshire, we arrived at Kennebunkport which is a charming country
town featuring, for better or for worse, the unusually large and handsome
estate of former President George Walker Bush.
We arrived at the Bush property shortly after the ex-president
made a celebration parachute jump marking his 85th birthday.
The estate with flags flying is located on a peninsula with low key
guards preventing curious visitors from getting near the main buildings.
"Kennebunkport Bush was relatively popular compared
to his son who may, in the opinion of many, rank as one of the nations
Portland is Maines major city, made up largely
of old-fashioned brick buildings. But downtown Portland has morphed
from old-fashioned to hip and is now the popular center
for youthful exuberance and vibrating entertainment.
Some 30 miles North of Portland visitors are tempted
to stop in Freeport to roam through the huge L.L. Bean mail order showplace
factory which is open to the public...featuring, of course, special
factory sale items. The area around what was once an isolated Bean center
has flourished and is now crowded with all the usual discount outlets
offering many sophisticated fashionable bargains. Almost everyone has
been on the L.L. Bean mailing list at one time or another. Visiting
the home base of one of the nations original mail order giants
is an experience worth having. Freeport is just a few miles south of
Bowdoin College, one of the nations top small colleges.
It took seven and a half hours to drive from North Salem,
New York, to Blue Hill, Maine, where we stayed in a typical Maine summer
cabin located in deep woods with only a slim view of the nearby lake.
It would have been faster had we not made several stops including time-outs
for delightful lobster rolls, a specialty of Maine fast food restaurants.
Speaking of food, Blue Hill may have little else to
offer but we discovered two great restaurants which would match quality
and ambiance with the best in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York.
If you ever get to remote Blue Hill, the location of proud summer homes
of old Eastern money, be sure and visit Arborvine
and/or Table, a new farmhouse bistro. Almost every restaurant
in Maine features lobsters but they were not on the menu at Arborvine
and we got along famously without them. Both of these restaurants have
earned topnotch ratings which they richly deserve.
Almost every other food stop we made in five days in
Maine found us gobbling up oysters, crabs and lobsters.
Friends invited us to private club co-founded by John
D. Rockefeller Jr. where we were welcomed and fed still another tasty
lobster roll and some great fish chowder. The simple but stately club
is not far from Northeast Harbor and the popular Bar Harbor summer showplace.
One highlight of our trip was a last day stop at the
dramatic Acadia National Park which has reserved some of Maines
choicest real estate for visitors and future generations.
It took us ten hours to drive back to New York because,
as you might guess, we stopped twice for lobster: once on a deck overlooking
a beautiful bay and for a final farewell dinner at dusk just before
we crossed back into New Hampshire.