Salty air, foghorns and seagulls

Portland, Maine

Walking down the cobblestone streets of Portland, Maine — salty air in your lungs, foghorns blaring in the distance and seagulls circling overhead — it becomes immediately clear that you’ve stumbled upon the quintessential New England coastal city.

A couple years back, we decided to take a trip up here in January and were met with sub-Arctic temperatures and freezing winds; the salty air was not pleasant to breathe nor did we have much interest in the foghorns or seagulls, or really anything that involved being outside.

Regardless, we had a blast. My assignment for Playboy at Gritty McDuff’s went well; we had a truly locavore dinner at Fore Street and stopped at the 24-hour L.L. Bean Mother Ship in Freeport on the way home.

It’s amazing what a change of seasons can bring.

We drove up from Boston this morning and had a couple of hours in the Old Port. The weather was about as perfect as Maine weather can get as we sat down for lunch at J’s Oyster, an unpretentious place that serves up fresh seafood on the waterfront to a largely local clientele.

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We started with a plate of oysters before moving onto the Maine Event. My 1.5 pound lobster, sweet corn on the cob and cup of butter ($17) was just perfect; Charlotte, preferring not to smell like fish for the remainder of the day, stuck with the lobster roll ($11), which had huge chunks of meat and no gross mayo.

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Afterward, we walked around town, passing converted warehouses and eclectic boutiques and shops. Portland has a grungy yet trendy feel to it; the working port is filled with fishing boats returning from sea but a block away are yuppie specialty stores like Stonewall Kitchen.

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We didn’t have much time and were soon back in the car for a 3-hour drive north to Bar Harbor. Lindenwood Inn, a small b&b in Southwest Harbor, was the perfect place to stay. Friendly owners, a view overlooking the harbor and, most importantly, no floral wallpaper, carpets or curtains that typically make me want to throw up.

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Charlotte had booked us tickets for a sunset cruise aboard the Downeast Windjammer. Unfortunately, late afternoon fog prevented much of a sunset, but there was still complimentary wine and cheese, glimpses of the rocky coastal shoreline — and plenty of opportunity to judge all those on the boat with us.

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After some hearty clam chowder and pints of Allagash White, we headed back to Lindenwood.

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We’ve got a big day planned at Acadia National Park tomorrow.

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