Portland Jet Lag Journal
Have you ever been stood up for a pre-planned international trip? I have. By my main squeeze, who committed to a trip to Scotland to drink scotch, wear tartan, and eat deep fried Mars bars in Wellies. And then cancelled. Baaacked that train right up. So I was on my own (for my birthday, ahem) with a week of vacation time from work, and you can bet I was going to use it. I’ve never been to either of the country’s Portlands, and the Maine option is a simple JetBlue $99 flight. Ideally, I would spend a week in summer in Maine at Kennebunkport, but as it was turning quite cold I wanted to be somewhere with arts and culture where I could be perfectly busy while I’m on my own.
I checked into the Mercury Inn, a Victorian home turned six-room inn that is run by a young married couple dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the delicious breakfasts and treats, where the platters of wild blueberry muffins are accompanied by a little sign explaining where the ingredients were sourced. I brought my book down to breakfast each morning but it wasn’t necessary as Tim, one of the innkeepers, kept me company with restaurant recommendations and stories of growing up in Maine.
Portland rained from the moment I landed to the very last morning, when the sun shone gloriously upon the cab that drove me to the airport. Not like I wanted to see the lighthouses. Or ride a bike. Or stand at the wharves. But OK. I had plenty to do and lots of “ports” in the storm.
The Portland Art Museum had a great exhibit on loan from the Denver Art Museum – Treasures of British Art 1400-2000: The Berger Collection. It reminded me in the most nostalgic and fond ways of my time in London whiling away the afternoons at the National Portrait Gallery. The galleries devoted to artists from and paintings about Maine life were even better.
Portland is a culinary destination, the locals are proud to tell you about it. With so many farmers and an embarrassment of local riches – orchards, maple syrup, dairy farms, breweries – the food is as fresh and as farm-to-table as any yuppie could wish. Being a table of one was extremely helpful in this department, as I could always find a place to sit at the most popular restaurants.
My favorites – and trust me, I only got halfway through my wish list:
Duckfat for some incredible fries in a paper cone, thick warm soup with chewy prosciutto, annnd some pretty gross local cider
Central Provisions for oysters, suckling pig, bread and butter, charred octopus, and a beautiful Manhattan in a coupe
Homegrown Herb & Tea for a carefully prepared sachet of tea that is some kind of magical combination of crack and babies’ hugs in a setting straight out of Practical Magic
Pai Men Miyake A more casual and affordable, but no less popular version of the all-hail-sushi Miyake, this was a busy and cosy place for me to dine on a rainy night and slurp up the low-broth Mazaman ramen
Vena’s Fizz House for homemade sodas and a nice long chat with the owner who is brilliant with bitters
Two Fat Cats A freestanding bakery that looks like you’re walking into a pie factory, Two Fat Cats offers up some pretty stellar old fashioned cake options
Tandem Coffee for really delicious sandwiches in a coffee shop that was renovated from an old fashioned gas station
As the rain came pouring down day after day, it sure left some bright foliage in its wake. I was so relieved to be able to walk the sidewalks with dry shoes. This must be Portland’s version of the Painted Ladies… Check out that gorgeous sky.
I switched hotels mid-trip (due to availability – the Mercury Inn is quite popular) to the absolutely gorgeous and luxurious Pomegranate Inn. I was finally so warm here, as my bedroom had a fireplace at the foot of my bed. I dried out my Converse in front of the fire each night, and they actually toasted so I had to chuck them when I returned home! The walls of the Pomegranate Inn are filled with beautiful artwork, and the breakfast each day was three courses – yum! As for activities to do alone and in the rain, I had plenty to do! In addition to the art museum, I took a wonderful house tour of the national historic landmark Victoria Mansion, had a rose and milk foot soak at Soakology……meandered through multiple bookstores… …got a hot stone massage at Nine Stones Spa, went to a Natalie Merchant concert at the State Theater…
…and one night I embraced the group painting fad and treated myself to a night at Muse Paint Bar where I learned to paint a cheesy sunset scene with two Adirondack chairs. I promptly painted my Adirondack chairs right off of my canvas. Here’s the example from the instructor on the left, and my version on the right. I washed off my brushes and bid farewell to my painting, leaving it behind for someone to trash it or cash it in for big time bucks.Next time… lighthouses – any and all lighthouses. I even want to stay in one!