To celebrate the 21st anniversary of us knowing each other, David and I traveled to Maine. We remember very well meeting each other for the very first time in August, 2000 in Thailand and had peculiarly good feelings about one another even though we were both in no position to date anyone. Nevertheless, twenty-one years later, after having been through many legal, logistical, social and psychological hurdles, we have been married for 18 years with two children. Therefore, we thought we would go somewhere quite special to mark the occasion. A few places in the U.S. that have always fascinated me and David owing to their locations, geography and climate are Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Alaska, so we thought we would start with Maine.
After landing in Portland and picking up our rental car (a Hyundai Venue 2021), we drove for 3 hours to Bar Harbor. We took historic U.S. Route 1 or U.S. Coastal Highway 1 to try to see the coastline and iconic Maine scenes along the way. Most of the houses along this route are in the traditional colonial white clap-board style, and everywhere is decked out with flowers and flower baskets. We saw flowers on patios, in window boxes, in gardens and in front of most buildings along this scenic highway. In fact, we were so charmed by the scenery consisting of ocean and flowers that both David and I thought we had never seen any place so beautiful before.
We stopped at a grocery store (Edward Brothers Store) right before Bar Harbor to buy fruits, egg salad, tuna salad, meat and cheese, crackers, carrots, hummus and milk before checking in to our hotel. By that time, we had been traveling for 14 hours starting at 4:30 am from Campbellsville to Louisville to Washington D.C. to Portland and then to Bar Harbor. We were simply too exhausted to go anywhere for dinner, so we thought we would eat in our room and then turn in early. Our hotel is called Atlantic Eyrie Lodge and it comes with a view. An unexpectedly amazing view as it turned out! Below are the captured moments of sunrise at 4am right outside our balcony the next morning.
Our hotel, neighborhood and rental car
Downtown Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is a village on Mount Desert Island (map below). This biggest and most touristy village is surrounded by other smaller traditional fishing villages all around the island. While there, we found out that this is the most popular vacation destination with people from New England. We saw cars from New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maryland parking at our hotel and everywhere in the town. We also saw many cars from Virginia, Texas and Florida. The local population year-round in Bar Harbor is only around 5,000 but it swells to 18,000 in the summertime. Besides New Englanders, we saw German, French, Indian and Chinese tourists there as well. We ended up strategizing the timing and choice of our activities so that we could avoid crowds.
On our first day, we decided to explore the town on foot. So we walked to downtown Bar Harbor past the College of the Atlantic whose campus lies right across the street from our hotel. We made a mental note to investigate and walk around this college campus on another day. On the way, we walked past La Rochelle, a seaside mansion belonging to the Bowdoin family and built during the Gilded Age in the 1920s. We made a mental note to tour this mansion later as well. This was a vacation house where the family entertained such contemporary celebrities as John D. Rockefeller and Mark Twain.
The village green
At the middle of downtown Bar Harbor is the village green where lovers and family sit to enjoy looking at the harbor.
Our shoreline walk
After wandering past many streets and visiting some shops as well as checking out a bookstore, we discovered an alleyway leading to a walk along the shoreline. On our walk, we stopped and chatted with a Jamaican gardener outside a fancy hotel (costing $800/night) who told us what he knew about people in Bar Harbor and what the town is like in the winter. We enjoyed this shoreline walk a great deal.
At the conclusion of our shoreline walk, we had some refreshment at a picturesque ivy-covered inn downtown, got some ice-cream and blueberry pie at an ice-cream shop and then started walking home. On the way, we passed this real estate business with a sense of humor. We thought our boys would really enjoy seeing this.
What really struck us as neat and most enchanting about Maine and Bar Harbor are the beautiful flowers we saw almost everywhere. Whereas people in Campbellsville tend to frame their homes with hedges, bushes and topiaries, people in Maine use flower borders, flower baskets, driftwood, rocks and boulders. Once, as we were admiring a flower border in front of a restaurant, two elderly ladies from Ohio started talking to us, saying that they thought the area got more beautiful with flowers every year.
Flowers here have vibrant shades and are artfully combined and layered according to colors and heights. One of my favorite plants is lavender and it is used in almost all flower borders we saw. We saw some flowers for the first time here at the College of the Atlantic and at Acadia National Park. There are beautiful native wild flowers in both places. And at the garden of the College of the Atlantic, we saw tall stalks of delphiniums of the most stunning deepest shade of purple. Nonetheless, the most creative gardening aspect I saw there are the whimsical planters created from hollowed-out tree trunks and low brick walls. What great ideas!
A traditional fishing village on Mount Desert Island
Later in the afternoon on our first full day, we drove to a seafood restaurant in a fishing village half-an-hour away from Bar Harbor to try Maine lobster for the first time. We found out that lobster meat is a little special but is not worth the premium price people pay for them. Lobster fishermen can only work for six months of the year because the winter in Maine is long, so the high cost of lobster must be for insuring they will survive financially.
Thank you for reading! Enjoy!