Monday, August 16, 2010

Maine: The Big Chicken Barn

It's a long drive between Boston and Southwest Harbor, Maine, but we look forward to it with the excitement of kids on Christmas Eve. The only sad part is leaving our cats behind, but we have a little plan to overcome that, which I'll describe in a later post.

We've lost count of how many times we've stayed in our inn, but it's probably up to around twenty visits now. You'd think we'd have packing down to a routine, and I do keep a list on my computer of everything I brought on the previous trip so I can mindlessly wander around collecting it all, throwing it on the bed. But it still takes forever and we still forget to bring stuff even though the car is loaded with duffel bags, groceries, the cooler, laptops, books, hiking boots, Barbours, and pool toys. This time, I think I only forgot a few kitchen utensils, which I can borrow from the inn's kitchen.

We almost always take the scenic route along Route 1, have lunch in Wiscasset at Sprague's Lobster Pound, and do a little outlet shopping in Kittery or Freeport. Today, we were eager to visit the Big Chicken Barn, in Ellsworth, not far from Mount Desert Island. There are no more chickens, except for a stuffed one by the register and a number of salt-and-pepper shakers.

It offers more than 21,000 square feet of antiques and old books on two floors instead of chickens these days. Mercifully, it doesn't smell like chickens, either. The inventory is mostly inexpensive, Brimfield-type antiques and vintage items. The emphasis seems to be on tacky knick-knacks. Here's a typical stall, loaded with stuff your grandparents and parents used to have, which you have forgotten entirely about:

If you've been pining for a set of painted china pig napkin holders, for example, here are seven:

 Digging around, I spotted this old Japanese blue-and-white transferware bowl on a stand.

I'm a pushover for any nice old bowl, and it was 20 percent off, so I dithered for a long time and finally bought it. It's very heavy porcelain, with a vibrant, rather messy tree-of-life design and a scalloped edge. It's good-sized and we have nowhere to put it, so that's another reason to move. I can imagine it sitting on an old round table we don't have yet, holding a flower or two floating in water.

The innkeepers were gone by the time we arrived at the inn, but our bungalow was unlocked and there was a pretty vase of garden flowers waiting for us. It's great to be back.

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