When I travel to Blue Hill, I fly into Boston, pick up my luggage, and go right out to the curb to get on the Concord Bus Line for Portland. I could go all the way to Bangor and rent a car there, but I like to poke around first in some of my favorite places along the Maine coast. The first is Portland.
My research base in Portland is the Maine Historical Society. Three generations of Emilie Loring’s family lived in Portland, and the Brown Research Library offers enough books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, and special collections to bring me back, year after year. Adjacent is the home museum of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, worthy of his poem:
All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
We meet them at the doorway, on the stairs,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.
My second stop is the waterfront. Emilie’s great-grandfather John Baker III sewed sails on Long Wharf in the early 1800s, but I have a different purpose in mind: lobster rolls. Some lobster rolls are mixed with mayonnaise, but at the Portland Lobster Company, the rich, meaty lobster is simply drizzled with butter on a toasted roll. That and a glass of chilled chardonnay, overlooking colorful boats and fish mongers’ shacks are on my list every time.
A short walk up Exchange Street takes me to my favorite, Portland shop, Abacus Gallery. I buy my annual calendar here, a colorful creation by painter Dana Heacock. Then I marvel at two floors of unique creations. If you’re looking for a bike chain gekko or a monkey clock, this is the place. (No, I have no advertising agreement with them; I just like the place.)
Of course, the “must see” in the area is Portland Head Light, across the bridge on Cape Elizabeth. First lit in 1791, it is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and one of the most picturesque. Foggy days bring to mind generations of sailing ships kept from dashing against the jagged rocks. Sunny days present the full glory and romance of Maine’s brilliant coast.
From time to time, I tease myself with ideas of moving to Portland, as blogger Mainelysteph is going to do. At the least, I always wish I could stay longer. I’d like to explore its craft brews, take hikes and cruises, see its museums and galleries. But Blue Hill awaits, and there is more to see along Historic Route 1. I get into my rental car and head north.