Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Afternoon in Wiscasset, Maine

Downtown Wiscasset

For years, we've driven through Wiscasset, which calls itself "The Prettiest Village in Maine," stopping only for a quick lunch — we were always more interested in getting to Mount Desert Island. (If my husband needs a driving break, we'll stop in Kittery or Freeport, where he usually manages to leave with a couple of shopping bags full of nice clothing along with his iced coffee. I never have any luck myself.)

We were supposed to be in Southwest Harbor for this long holiday weekend, but work issues and unavailable cat sitters intervened, so we had to cancel. Instead of spending the whole weekend pining for Acadia, the hot tub, our innkeeper pals, and the popovers at the Jordan Pond House, we decided to drive as far as Wiscasset and finally explore the village at our leisure.

Coastal Route 1 goes straight through downtown Wiscasset, so there is usually a long line of cars crawling down Main Street, heading to the bridge over the Sheepscot River. As you sit in the traffic, you can see that this village has more than its share of beautiful historic houses and antique shops.

Sprague's

Our first stop was, as ever, Sprague's Lobster Pound, just before the bridge. Although they offer the usual seafood — lobster dinners, clam fritters, crab rolls, and haddock sandwiches, we have a yen for their hot dogs, served with melted cheese on a warm buttered roll. We sit on their sunny deck by the tidal river, and watch the long line right across the street for Red's Eats, the most famous spot in Wiscasset. We've tried the famous lobster roll, which is about $15, only to find it so-so. And it disappeared very quickly. But everyone else seems to love the place, which is fine with us. There's a much shorter wait at Sprague's that way.

 Red's Eats — famous for lobster rolls and long lines

See what I mean about long lines?

There used to be a very atmospheric wreck of a tall ship beached in the river, which kept everyone riveted as they passed it on the bridge. But it fell apart several years ago and there's no visible trace anymore.

Even minus that, the village is extremely picturesque, and like all good New England towns, is already getting decked out for Halloween. Here's a display outside Sarah's Café:


We found a great store selling African artifacts, and antiques, and an excellent selection of used books — Water Street Antiques, a few doors away from Red's. There's one room filled with antiques, old toys, and vintage-style crafts:

Overwhelming display style 

Not an inch of wasted space. 

If you spend enough time in there, I can almost guarantee that you will find something that was in your parents' or grandparents' house, triggering a Proustian moment. For better or worse. It was like a live, more tasteful version of one of my favorite Web sites. (It tends to make me weep hysterically with laughter and recognition.)

For some silly reason, neither of us took any decent photos any of the historic houses we sighed over. We were just having too good a time kicking up leaves and admiring the autumn scenery on a crisp, sunny day. I expect that we'll visit again someday and take some house-museum tours. And there's the Musical Wonder House, which I'm sorry we skipped. Instead we lingered at the Ancient Cemetery, not far from the center of town. The oldest tombstone dates from 1739.


If you go, be sure to stop in at Treats, on Main Street, for a picnic of wine, bread, and cheese, or some cookies for the road. They also have a nice collection of Emma Bridgewater dinnerware, like the carafe the stole my heart (see previous post):

Treats

No town is complete without cats. We spotted only this little gray and white kitten, reminiscent of Possum:


And that, naturally, made me homesick for him. I was happy to head back to Boston.

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