This Family Vacation

It’s been over a month two and a half months (I maybe abandoned this post last month) since we came back from our vacation to Portland, Maine, and not a day has gone by that we haven’t talked about it— it was the perfect vacation, the perfect balance of going-and-doing and staying-and-not-doing.  What follows are maybe, kind of, approximately just under 100 pictures, so if you’re not my mom, you might not be that into them.  But maybe you are into pictures of ambling toddlers and blue skies and green grass and lots of lobster?  If so, click on through!

We decided to take two days to drive from Brooklyn to Maine, as what would be a five hour drive without the babe was sure to be a ten hour drive with her (and with our incessant need to pull off for every roadside everything).   Because we are insane, we decided to test out Winnie’s first camping experience as a stopover between those two driving days.  Because I am super-extra-nuts, I decided that on our way out of town, we could just swing by a dozen cheese shops in three boroughs to drop off some posters.  You know, on the way.

We’d reserved a campsite in Massachusetts, but needless to say, we didn’t quite fly out of town lickety split, so we ended up only making it about 90 minutes outside of town before we need to stop to set up camp and start dinner.  Luckily, we were just a few miles away from a totally workable campground in a gorgeous state park where we had camped before.

(Oversharing side note: the last time we camped here was the weekend following the loss of our first pregnancy.  After my D&C, I had wanted nothing more than to be away, with my husband, someplace still and quiet but not too still and not too quiet.  It was exactly what we needed (insofar as anything could be). We walked and hung out with deer, ate pancakes and bacon and hot dogs and s’mores and stopped to cry every now and then with no one looking on.  We didn’t intend for this trip to be some big, symbolic homecoming, but Mike and I couldn’t help but give each other one of those big knowing smiles, acknowledging that we’d made it through.)  Okay, enough oversharing, now onto pictures of my bedhead!

We set up our little four-person tent, which was able to hold both Win’s pack and play and a queen sized airbed, because—did I mention?— car camping, y’all.

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As soon as the sun dropped, Winnie did too, because apparently nature is its own white noise machine.  She woke up bright and early on Sunday, ready to protect me from bears.

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They have really fascinating dirt upstate.

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We walked down the road to the shore of a small lake near the campground, waving at the other early-bird campers and marveling at the people who were still sleeping in their hammocks.

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After we realized we had used all of the firewood on our post-Winnie’s-bedtime fire and thus wouldn’t be able to fry up that Benton’s bacon without lugging back another half a tree, we decided to down some granola bars, pack up, and hit the road.

Winnie surprised us with her keen ability to put on her own hat.

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Those cheeks!

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After a few stops along the road (it wouldn’t be a trip north for us if we didn’t stop in some random town’s REI), we made it to Maine, where we were rewarded with this:

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We drove along the coastal highway for a while, until our impatience got the better of us and we zipped up the Interstate to Portland.

We settled into the rental house, greeted Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Jenny, and headed into town in search of lobster rolls, oysters, and beer at Eventide Oyster Co.  Winnie opted for the asparagus.

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Because Portland is a town of wonders in a state known as Vacationland, there is approximately one ice cream shop for every two residents of Portland, or at least that’s how it seemed.  We visited Mount Desert Island Ice Cream (note the amazing logo) a ridiculous number of times that week (I ate my fair share of Bay of Figs and Sweet Cream cones, that’s for sure), where we discovered that our kid is a NUT for ice cream.  We also discovered that we have the same taste in ice cream as the Commander in Chief.

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With three over-qualified babysitters at the house (also known as The Grandparents and Aunt Jenny, MD), Mike and I managed to slip out more than once on such exciting trips as: Bagels!  Coffee!  Buying up baby food pouches by the case because holy crap Maine, you are dramatically underpricing these things!

We visited the bagel place (which also doubled as the sea salt shortbread place, the yeasty, buttery cinnamon roll place, the perfectly toasty coconut macaroon place, and the oh-my-god-this-cookie-is-so-chewy-and-this-bread-is-so-perfect-I’m-going-to-crawl-inside-it place) for the first time at nine a.m. at which point they had already SOLD OUT OF BAGELS.  South Portland, we have traveled from Brooklyn, land of selling out of food things, and you have shown us.  Well played.  Except we’re hungry.

Luckily we managed to find a whole heap of things to sate us (see list above), and we managed to make it back a few other mornings for what might be my favorite bagels ever, which would most certainly get the New Yorker Card I have not yet earned revoked.  Because these bagels were not at all like New York bagels, instead hewing closer to a crackly, chewy baguette in bagel form.

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We found the perfect little public beach on one of our morning jaunts, and we took Winnie back with John and Jenny while Mary was in meetings.  We’re still sorry, Mary!

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Winnie’s first sand experience was a success vaguely traumatic experience for her, though she’s since gotten over it on the overcrowded, kind of schmutzy beaches of NYC.  City Baby loves city beaches, I guess.

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Note tiny feet trying to take flight off of the most horrible substance they had touched to date, the beach.

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Jenny and I have a lot of talents.  She saves lives for a job, and I have really excellent handwriting.  We are not, turns out, super great at coordinating a simple jump off a giant piece of driftwood.

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There we go!

We picked up some Maine lobsters (because MAINE) from the seafood market of my dreams— drains in the floors, rubber aprons, and heaps of ice piled high with bivalves.  We skipped letting Winnie play with the lobsters on the kitchen floor and queued up for a turn to (somewhat) humanely kill a lobster and shuck some oysters.

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+ ramp pesto, pickled ramps, roasted asparagus, and Maine Beer Co Peeper Ale = dinner

Did I mention it was someone’s birthday?  Her very first one?  We wiped the dollar store out of birthday supplies, picked up some pizza and wild Maine blueberry pie and celebrated that little love.

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She comes by her pie-love honestly.

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HEY!  DO YOU GUYS KNOW ABOUT PRESENTS?

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I know it’s traditional to wait until the 16th birthday, but we gifted Winnie the Fit a little early.  The oil needed to be changed, anyway, and she’s better at stuff like that.

We hauled the family out to Allagash, to geek out over beer, and it didn’t disappoint.  Winnie was particularly impressed with the barrel room, containing precisely the amount of sour beer her mother will likely drink in her lifetime.

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Our last day in Portland, we hopped on a ferry to Peak’s Island, a magical land where bicycle rentals work on the honor system, there are more golf carts for transport than cars, and there is, for whatever reason, an Umbrella Cover Museum.  It was closed.  Bummer.

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(Oh, ps, the Andersons sans our trio walked this whole jetty out to the mini-lighthouse at the end, Bug Light.  I may have encouraged them to do this.  I’m sorry.)

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We reached Portland right as the seasons shifted between late spring and early summer, and thus were treated to the last of the lilacs and tulips when we arrived.  By the end of our week there, they started to fade and the irises and azaleas stepped in.

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We went to L.L. Bean because I am my grandparents’ granddaughter.

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And then a parrot showed up on the windowsill.  Don’t worry, a police officer came to rescue it and he drove off in his cruiser, bird perched on his shoulder.

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On our way out of town the next day, we stopped at the most amazing place I have ever been in my whole life, Rabelais Books, focused on fine books on food and drink.  Every book I could have ever wanted was there, and the owner was tremendously warm and welcoming, giving us the lay of the Maine cheese-scape, the small business scene, his expatriation from Brooklyn, pulling out rare books on cheese and a fragile map showing milk production in New York State over a century ago.  Armfuls of books later, we took his recommendation for Palace Diner, a tucked away diner car (Maine’s oldest) serving up perfectly executed diner staples made with ingredients that you know help someone else put food on the table, too.  And this is the crux of our Maine trip, where it all comes together— our family, doing what we do, seeking out the culture that wants to know where its inputs go and where its outputs come from.  It’s not just agriculture or local/regional or access or good work or family— though it is all of those things— it’s also about knowing, and caring, and doing the right thing.  And really, really good homefries.

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Thanks for the vacation, Maine.  We’ll see you again soon.

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