Sunday, June 25, 2017

Postcards from Maine: Jordan Pond, But Popovers Elsewhere

Our one sunny day turned cloudy by early afternoon as we took our annual walk around Jordan Pond.

The iconic view of the Bubbles, two peaks in Acadia National Park.

This is a 3.3-mile walk, with pond views for the whole circuit.

The walk around the pond is partly a gravel trail and partly boardwalk, with a couple of short stretches over rocks. I've done it in flip flops, which is foolish but doable. This year I finally found some sneakers (Tretorn) that don't bother me much.

We saw a loon but didn't get good photos. Here are some seagulls having a party instead.

The most interesting sight turned out to be a fellow hiker in a wedding dress:

Afterward, we planned to have popovers at the Jordan Pond House, as is traditional. However, it is early in the season and there were no tables out on the lawn, only in the dining room, which is often noisy and feels kind of "generic" to me, and the "swoop," which is our preferred spot, a screened porch where you have the Bubbles view, shade, and breezes, but no bugs or bees. As we made our reservation we asked for a table on the swoop, and they asked us if we had a dog. We said, "NO!" emphatically. And then they told us that only people with dogs get to sit on the swoop nowadays. 

What?? Anti-felinism in Acadia National Park? Do we need to go to Rent-a-Dog to eat popovers in peace?

So we bagged it and went over to the Asticou Inn and had popovers there instead. We sat under an umbrella on the porch overlooking Northeast Harbor. Their popovers are perfect and the whole experience is completely lovely. Civilized. Gracious. Old-fashioned. Delicious. Plus, of course, their popovers come with all sorts of toppings, whereas Jordan Pond House serves only butter and strawberry jam. 

Our server remembered us enthusiastically from last year  — and we were hoping she'd be around again, too. She brought us both kinds of blueberry jam, butter and housemade lemon curd without our asking. It was heaven.

I like to combine as many toppings as possible on my popovers, to create Abstract Expressionist compositions. All of my work explores themes of happiness, indulgence and calories well spent. 

We ate every scrap of everything, waddled to the car, and drove back to the inn to read in the hot tub for the rest of the afternoon. (I'm pleased to report that it's finally May in Old New Yorker land.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Postcards from Maine: Astico Azalea Garden

We saw so many rhododendrons in full bloom around Maine on our drive up Route 1 that I was hopeful that the Asticou Azalea Garden would be in full bloom this year. Usually we get to Northeast Harbor in time to see only the very last blooms on a few of the many flowering shrubs in the garden. This year we were too late once again, but the garden is still lovely — always worth seeing. Someday, I hope we'll see it at peak.

We raced over there on our first full day — the only sunny day we had until it was time to go home.


Postcards from Maine: Maine Coon

When we travel, we start missing our cats as soon as we've locked our apartment door and carried our bags outside. (If we're lucky, someone is watching us from the window, and we wave and call up to him.)

As we drive to Maine, I start looking at their photos on my phone before we hit Route 95. By New Hampshire, I'm sorry we left them behind. I'm sure they're already missing us, despite having each other for company amid the extra toys, empty boxes, and lengths of kraft paper strewn around the apartment for their entertainment.

They know we're going away when they see us take out our bags the night before we leave, when their big nylon play tunnel also gets unfurled. Possum sits on the bed and watches us pack, lying on whatever clothes are waiting to go into the bags. Toffee and Harris look mildly alarmed and ask for more attention. The next morning, Lion gets the last word by disappearing before we do — he hides right after breakfast so we can't say goodbye.

The cats do like our cat sitter, though. She comes twice a day, and plays with them and takes photos, which we look for eagerly, at all hours, just in case we missed some.

Several hours out of Boston, we stop to visit friends in Thomaston. They have four cats and we are so cat-starved by then that we are thrilled by any attention they give us, although they are usually not that interested in us. This year, we saw three, and one sat on my foot.

Naturally, we start looking for cats as soon as we get wherever we're going. There's usually an indoor-outdoor cat or two living on the Clark Point Road near our inn, and we search for them as we walk back and forth to town. For a few years we enjoyed a gorgeous cat named Ruby, who jumped in our laps at breakfast on the porch and joined us poolside, until she met an untimely end crossing the street. We still think of her often.

This year, I discovered a regal Maine Coon down by the harbor:

Instinct told me this was a female from her attitude and pretty facial features. I find that male cats tend to be sociable. She wouldn't let me get near her, sauntering away and meowing a warning whenever I got too close. This didn't stop her from putting on a little show:

How I wanted to stroke that fluffy white belly of hers, but it was not to be.

A few days later we spotted her again in someone's yard. She gave me a few more photo opps, and more meows, but no contact:

She went under the bush and knew I couldn't go in after her, so she posed nicely for me as I came closer:

And she was the only cat we saw except for someone who meowed at us from a screened window one day. Even that helped.

Postcards from Maine: Lupines

A few years ago, our Maine innkeeper persuaded us to try a visit in June in addition to our usual trips in August and October. "You HAVE to see the lupines!" he said. We didn't even know what they were. He also told us that the island was much quieter in June than in the high season and that settled it. He's a born salesman — he sold cars and was a haberdasher back in Australia, and he has an antique shop now, where the even the most unlikely items (a lefthanded cross-bow, anyone?) routinely fly out the door. I only wish he'd decide to sell us on visiting in May, July, and September, too.

Anyway, lupines.

We begin to see big patches of them growing wild along the Maine roadways just north of Portland. I know they grow further south, but we don't see them. (And I recently found some in at least two gardens here, on Commonwealth Avenue, but it's not the same effect.)

There's a field of them not far from the inn:

Most lupines are deep purply-blue, but there are pink and white ones, too. I bought the innkeeper a packet of seed that promised some red and yellow ones. We'll see if he's successful.

Apparently lupines aren't fussy, although they prefer cool, wet climates and well-drained soil, even if it's sandy and poor. That explains their profusion along highways, I suppose.

There were some growing wild by the harbor parking lot, so I helped myself to a few for our room. The best way to pick them, if you don't have pruners, is to twist the stem with two hands until you sever it. The flowers have a strong, sweet scent, and it's good idea to change their water often. I changed it twice a day since I had a small vase. In a few days, the dozens of little flowers on each stalk will start dropping and making a mess.

Outside, as the flowers fade and drop, the displays become less vivid day by day. By early July, all the color is gone and you'd never know there'd been a purple spectacle amid all the greenery.

So, in June, it makes sense to celebrate them.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Postcards from Maine: Along the Way

I'm in a hurry to post some Maine postcards before we take off for another (short) trip in a couple of days. And there's another trip coming up soon after that.

The drive to Southwest Harbor takes a full day because we make several stops for food, shopping, and visiting friends. Here are some postcards from the drive north.

No photos were taken in Freeport, where we split a blueberry frosted donut from Frosty's. It didn't survive long enough for me to get out my iPhone and snap it, partly because my fingers were covered in glaze. As usual, my husband lucked out at the Allen Edmonds outlet, where he often gets great deals. This time we found two beautiful Italian merino sweaters for $34, instead of $175. They came in handy on the island because he hadn't packed enough warm clothing. (I bought a Cuddledown pillow that was so firm it made my ears hurt. I returned it on the drive home.) 

Flowers in a window box in Wiscasset:

We always have lunch at Sprague's in Wiscasset — cheese hot dogs on toasted, buttered buns. I will swear that a Sprague's hot dog instantly cured me from a miserable IBS attack last June. I know that makes no sense, but they are magic to me now. (I did have a superb lobster roll in Bar Harbor on this trip. I have to be in the mood.)

Sprague's is kitschy but nobody cares.

We visited friends in Thomaston who live right on Route 1, in a restored sea captain's house with four cats. They hired a yacht builder to spruce up the interior over many years. Here is their yacht-worthy guest bathroom, which we covet:

The floor is inlaid wood; the ceiling is wood-paneled. Every inch has a perfect, glassy sheen.

The harbor in Camden, where there are always a few old sailing ships:  

Not photographed: At the deli on Maine Street, I got a chocolate-and-mint frosted brownie and my husband got a weighty item that was part brownie, part cookie, and part petrified cookie dough. It took us two days to finish them. Needless to say, we gained a few pounds on this trip and we are appalled. (Here at home yesterday morning, this happened: our digital scale lied to me at first, saying I was five pounds lighter, just where I hoped to be. I was thrilled! Then it corrected itself. I was dashed into the depths of despair.)

We are trying to do better now.  And that won't last, since we'll be traveling to Pennsylvania Dutch Country soon.

In the meantime, this blog post is heading north:

After Thomaston, I always start fretting aloud about the fate of of the crumbling old house in Searsport. You may remember that we met. Mr. Brown, the owner and toured the interior with him last October. Now that we know that he is actually dismantling it, I was more afraid than ever that there'd be an empty lot in its place. But look — it is still standing, looking quite like its usual decrepit self:

I do miss the two-story addition on the left, which had a deeply bowed roof with an increasingly big hole skylight. But that was already gone last October, when we went inside. Mr. Brown seemed busy, so we didn't stop to chat with him. When we return in August, we hope to talk to him again. I expect we'll see much more demolition, and I don't want to think about it.

It was evening when we arrived in Southwest Harbor. We unpacked, caught up with the innkeepers, and realized we were starving despite having essentially eaten our way north. We went out for sandwiches. We caught this glimpse of the harbor as we walked to Main Street. It turned out to be the only pink sunset of the week:

The inn has nice new mattresses and we slept soundly. More postcards to come.