Northern journey, leg 1: Portland and the Maine coast

I’ve waited a bit to write about our most recent trip. It was so fabulous, in every possible way, that any reasonable attempt at cataloguing required some distance. Now that we are into the new year, I thought it would be a good time to recall it with you, leg by leg, over the course of several posts.

For decades, I daydreamed about seeing Canada’s Maritimes—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island. About ten years ago, while vacationing in St. Martin, we met a young couple from PEI on a day trip to St. Barth. I asked question after question on the boat trip back and forth and later that week when we had dinner together. “Come!” they said. “You’ll love PEI!” We kept up an email correspondence for a few years but over time lost track of each other, as often happens with a vacation acquaintance. My near obsession with the Maritimes, however, never faltered. 

Last August, we had dinner with friends who’d just had been to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They dispelled our concern that the driving was unmanageable and raved about the places they’d visited. Hubby took it all in. Then one day, not long after we lost Miss Pup, he said, “Let’s just go. Soon.” I was, as you can imagine, over the moon

We’d been hoping to go to New England in the fall anyway, so we sat down and plotted out a longer trip, breaking up the driving into three-to-five hour increments and adding visits with our “northern” family along the way. PEI had not been on our friends’ itinerary, but it was definitely on ours. 


The market at the Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, NH. Our dinner at the adjacent restaurant was wonderful and definitely “the real thing.”

After an overnight in Haverhill MA and dinner with my cousin Dorothy and her husband Frank (you read about them a post or two ago) at the fabulous Tuscan Kitchen in Salem NH, we headed for Portland ME and the first leg of our trip. Portland was one of those places we’d driven around for years but never stopped to actually appreciate.

We logged plenty of steps exploring Portland. While it’s impossible to see everything in two days, we did manage to enjoy the waterfront, have luscious made-on-the-spot pasta at Paciarino and croissants at the city’s famous Standard Baking Company, visit Longfellow’s home, and tour the Portland Museum of Art. Hubby indulged my insistence on trying a potato donut at  The Holy Donut. Suffice it to say that I was not disappointed. The city had a lively, upbeat aspect, with lots of good food, historic interest, a wonderful arts district, and, as luck would have it, even the world’s longest Italian sandwich.


If you look closely, you can see a crew preparing to build the “unofficial” world’s longest Italian sandwich. 


Standard Baking is a must.


The Holy Donut did not disappoint.

After we left Portland, we lollygagged up the coast, stopping in Freeport for breakfast at Isabella’s Cafe and a walk through the L. L. Bean flagship store, in Damariscotta at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Store,and in Wiscasset at Sprague’s for lobster and clam rolls. 


We always manage to spend a few dollars at L. L. Bean.


We’ve been shopping  at this bookstore for years. It’s one of my favorites.


Sprague’s in Wiscasset, across the street from better known Red’s Eats, where we would normally stop. No patience for the Red’s line there that day.

First leg complete, we spent the night in Bangor at a Hilton property there.  Charming bed and breakfasts and quaint country inns are great for a long weekend, but when you’re driving hundreds of miles day after day, you need consistency and a comfortable bed.

Cover photo: Waterfowl sculptures, Portland waterfront.
Next leg: New Brunswick.


7 thoughts on “Northern journey, leg 1: Portland and the Maine coast

  1. Karen (Back Road Journal)

    Oh your post brought back lots of memories of our time living in New England. We used to have lunch by the fireplace at Tuscan Kitchen on Christmas Eve Day. During summers at our cottage in Maine, we used to shop for bread at Standard Bakery…the best breads and croissants are to die for. Wishing you all the best in this new year, Angela.


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