Howdy, Portland, Maine! // 4th of July 2014

Sean and I didn’t originally plan on spending the 4th of July in Portland, Maine. Up until about a month ago, we were actually pretty convinced that we’d be celebrating Independence Day in Philadelphia. But then a little thing called Memorial Day in New York City happened. And while that trip was an absolute blast, it was also an absolute madhouse. We knew Philly would be similar in terms of crowds, and we just weren’t sure we were up for two crazy trips in a row.

So ultimately we decided on Maine. Not any city in particular — though we did choose Portland as our final destination — we were really more interested in the drive than where we ended up.

Friday: York, Kennebunkport, and Ogunquit
We took Highway 95 out of Massachusetts and through a sliver of New Hampshire, but as soon as we crossed into Maine we headed for the scenic route along the coast.

We’d only been in Maine for about 10 minutes before we decided that we should’ve moved to Maine instead of Mass. Maine is heart-achingly beautiful and a little bit mysterious. It’s quintessentially New England (lobster; lobster everywhere) but it’s also wild and remote. Maine makes up half of New England, but fewer than two million people live in the whole state. The rest is bears and trees. (And lobster.)

There’s a huge outdoor store just on the other side of the New Hampshire state line that lets you know you’ve arrived. “Welcome to Maine,” it says. “Take a look around — what business could you possibly have inside?”
True, the weather was not great for our drive, particularly along the water (thanks, Hurricane Arthur!) but there were outdoor sights to see and, by golly we were going to see them! We didn’t realize we were going to run into a lighthouse on our way up to Portland — until we watched the Nubble Lighthouse rise ethereally from the fog as we wound our way toward it. My gosh, you guys. That craggy coastline. The angry, hurricane ocean. And that lonely little house standing resolutely in the middle of it all. As far as first lighthouse experiences go, ours was pretty perfect.
My mantra for the weekend was “We need to become the sort of people who’d have a summer house so we can buy a summer house in Maine.” As we drove through Kennebunkport, Sean spotted the house he wanted. It was set off from the others and built right on the coastline. It was large and full of windows and surrounded on three sides by water. And it belongs to George H. W. Bush. Perhaps we should set our sights a tad lower. (Shout out to the prez for the Texas flag!)
Our last stop on the Tour de Maine Coast was in Ogunquit for — what else? — lobster. We split a lobster roll and a lobster grilled cheese (yes! One thousand times yes to that!) and then piddled around the cute shops until the sky really opened up. After that, there was nothing left on our agenda but to get to Portland.

Portland is the biggest city in Maine. It’s home to a whopping 66,000 people; it inspired Portland, Oregon; and, with more than 230 restaurants, it’s one of the foodiest small towns in America. Our foodie senses led us to Duckfat for dinner on Friday night.
French fries are to Duckfat what lobsters are to Maine. We ate buckets and buckets of French fries as poutine and dipped in — wait for it — truffle oil ketchup. (If you’re like me and have always pronounced “poutine” as “p%*#@$,” I can now assist. In the States it’s pronounced “poo-TEEN.” In Canada it’s pronounced correctly/differently, but who cares? This is America. We say what we want.)
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Five things on a pseudo Friday

1. Happy 4th of July weekend, patriots! Sean and I are heading up the coast into uncharted territory tomorrow — to the Maine land! We planned the trip at the absolute last minute (that seems to be our thing now) so I’m not really sure what to expect. But I know Mainers brew good beer and I know Mainers make tasty food and I know Maine has a long coast, so I’m pretty sure we’re all set to have a stellar holiday weekend.

2. The first hurricane of the season is on its way to Boston (sort of) just in time to put a damper on the July 4th festivities. The city moved its AWESOME fireworks show to today because bad weather is expected tomorrow, so that means we get to go again this year! We might see some rain on our drive tomorrow, but for the most part I think Maine’s going to be exempt from the weather. Fingers crossed!

3. We’re three days into our first-ever July without air conditioning, and OMG I AM SO SWEATY. June was really mild and nice — I think I only spent two days stuck to the couch. But it’s been in the low 90s pretty much every day this week, and I’ve been permanently coated in greasy nastiness. (I even told Sean I was going to stop showering because there’s no point.) Stay strong, little fan! I hear it cools off again in August.

4. My beloved was out of town from Tuesday to Sunday of last week. I was afraid I’d become a feral, snarling recluse while he was away, seeing as how I work from home and still don’t really know anyone here. But job stuff took wheel on Monday and steered me straight into No Free Time Land, and before I knew it, the week was over. (So thanks, work! I guess?) I didn’t have time for loneliness on Saturday, either — I was too busy shopping at the best thrift store ever, discovering delicious rosé and gyoza at Trader Joe’s, and drinking multiple cocktails on the patio with my family friend. I was thrilled to share welcome-home cupcakes with my dude on Sunday, but I was also proud of myself for surviving my first week alone in my new city without getting twitchy.

5. My parents are newly obsessed with a show you’ve never heard of on the Smithsonian Channel called Aerial America. Each episode is one hour of aerial footage of a state, plus history and fun facts and info about cool cities to visit. My parents call it their “old people show,” but that didn’t stop my brother and me from becoming completely hooked on it when we were in Dallas, and we talked it up so much when Trey was in Boston that Sean was dying to see it, too. Two weekends ago Sean and I got a special delivery in the mail from my parents — two Aerial America DVDs (the New England Collection and the Pacific Rim Collection) and two similar Over America and Over Hawaii DVDs. We’ve only watched a few episodes of Aerial New England so far, but it’s seriously the best travel guide ever. And we’ve already watched Maine twice, naturally.

Enjoy your weekend, friends! Fire up the grill, eat hotdogs by the fistful, and count your lucky stars that you live in such a diverse and beautiful country.