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Archive for June, 2012

Raising the Bar (Harbor)

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

It’s our last full day in Bar Harbor, and the air smells like a clean white shirt. Frenchman’s Bay is still slate, the way it is every morning before it gives way to the deep blue matching our rented house’s trying-too-hard indigo theme.

Stone outcropping known as "The Assyrian."

Incredibly, we’ve been coming to Maine for seven summers. We look forward to it all year — the balsam fragrance of the piney woods, the rose-scented primula blooming on the edge of rocky ocean cliffs, and of course the steamy kettles of saltwater and seaweed boiling lobstah. It’s a culture so foreign to the South it could easily be another country — the spare New England decor and masterful carpentry in everyday things like floors, molding and kitchen cabinets. The people are long and lean — in body and face — with a stubborn self-sufficience and individuality that is, sadly, disappearing as fast as the gray-haired, solo lobstermen in their tiny wooden skiffs.

We’re setting off tomorrow morning, starting our slow descent through the Northeastern coast, and down into more familiar territory starting around Virginia. But here, at the apex of our annual tour — sort of like looking down from Cadillac Mountain — it’s a good perspective for big-picture assessments, such as: This has been our best trip here. Why? In part because after saying we ought to many times, we finally actually spent more time at this comfortable, well-situated house watching the ever-changing seascape from the patio. Some days we took towels and sprawled out on the lawn, so well-tended it looks like a $50 haircut. We cooked and read and watched the seals, the loons, and yesterday saw the first goldfinch — they usually arrive when it’s time for us to go.

With the Underwoods at Acadia National Park's Sand Beach.

And though we missed some of our favorite places — Stonington, Blue Hill and Deer Isle especially — we found some new ones, and one of our favorite discoveries was Capt. Winston Shaw and his little boat. After many years of wishing we could find someone who could take just us two around the island and show us some of the stunning estates, tell us history and point out wildlife, we found him. Perhaps next year we’ll spring for the longer tour, showing the fancy digs around Somes Sound, but this year’s jaunt was fabulous, including sights of a bald eagle, harbor porpoises and of course big-ass estates — some with the bonus of tragic storylines!

We always enjoy having houseguests, and this year Susan and David Underwood came out for a great three days of laughing, talking, eating and driving around to look at stuff. Because they came so early in our stay, it seemed we showed them our favorites right away, allowing us to immediately touch base at places we long for when we’re away — the Jordan Pond House in Acadia State Park, Sawyer’s Grocery, Sargent Drive. And of course the vista from the top of Cadillac Mountain.

After they left, it seemed our stay stretched out before us like a freshly made bed. We alternated between exploring the island and cocooning at “home.” Even our morning walks were eventful — in one we saw both a bald eagle, and a herd of deer — close enough to see their velvety antlers.

This little place appeals to us so much because it’s a concentrated version of what we love — city and country. Fantastic restaurants, and a drive home that requires tapping on your brights. Stunning, pristine scenery out the window, with the benefit of wifi and premium cable.

At Thurston's Lobster Pound, in Barnard.

That’s enough for now — Bill is waiting for me on the porch. I could be out there drinking coffee with him, scanning for seals. We already know what we’ll do differently next year — spend more time right there. It will probably be the best year ever.