Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine

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Summer is Coming!

With Memorial Day weekend a mere five days away, summer is marching ever closer in the great state of Maine (although as Mainers, we all know how unpredictable the next 2-3 weeks can actually be in terms of summer weather).

Personally, I am incredibly excited for my first summer vacation in Maine in close to, maybe more than, five years (wedding planning trips don’t count – hard to believe that was almost five years ago).  But my trip is still more than a month away, while yours may be just around the corner, so this post will be the first of two Memorial Day themed posts.  Today we’ll focus on what to do… then, in another post in the next few days, we’ll focus on a recipe or two that will make a great addition to your Memorial Day feast.

  • Go for a ride at Old Orchard Beach’s Palace Playland:
    (just remember to eat your Pier Fries AFTER… unless you have a stomach of steel)
  • Get your golf game on at Sugarloaf, opening May 22:
  • Visit York Beach, Maine: named the number one New England vacation spot for Memorial Day, it offers lots to do (zoo / amusement park, two beaches, shopping and dining) all while surrounded by quintessential Maine charm.
  • If you like a few less people (as I tend to), I suggest a hike or a picnic (or both): if you venture to Northeast Harbor, Maine, you’ll be within moments of the hustle and bustle and amusements of Acadia, but distant enough to enjoy some peace and quiet.  Other options include: Evans Notch Road, Blueberry Mountain, and many more.
  • Visit a working lighthouse in South Portland: Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is offering the rare opportunity to step into history and tour an active lighthouse during their open house, 11am – 3pm, Saturday, May 23rd.

There are many, many more things to do in Maine than can be captured in one list or even twenty.  One of the reasons I’m most grateful that I grew up there is all of the experiences I was exposed to.  If you’re an outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman), there are multiple sports for every season; if you’re an art and culture lover, there’s no end to the history and creativity you can find; if you like to eat… well, we all know there’s plenty of good eatin’. Ahh, happy summer.

Enjoy your time in Maine, and drop me a line to tell me about it!

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Happy Memorial Day from Jekyll Island, Georgia

On this Memorial Day, I’m writing to you in a place far from hoME – miles and miles down the coast in Georgia.  This is a place steeped in history – like much of Maine and other coastal communities – and being surrounded by that history has, on this particular holiday, enhanced my understanding of this important day and my thankfulness to those who have given, or risked, their lives for our country and our way of life.

There are elements of this place that strongly call Maine to mind – particularly the ocean and marshes – although it’s a very different coastal experience from the rocky, rugged coast of Maine.  It has been soothing to be close to the ocean again – I miss it and the outdoor activities that go hand-in-hand, being so far inland in Charlotte.  And so today, I hope to share this place with you through my post, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to come, visit, see, and do.

Nick was asked to attend a conference for work over this holiday weekend, and since they were sending us to such a beautiful spot – Jekyll Island, Georgia – we readily agreed.  We followed a recommendation to stay at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a lovely, luxurious hotel with a rich history.  In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to be a winter retreat for America’s wealthiest families – the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Morgans, Pulitzers, and more.  The Club officially opened in 1888, and over time, some families built “cottages” for themselves on the property.

The Jekyll Island Club

The Jekyll Island Club

Today, we would not describe these structures as remotely cottage-like.  Intended to house both family members and servants, two of these large homes have been restored and are actively used for hotel guests.  Nick and I stayed in the Sans Souci, pictured below, which was built in 1896 and owned in part by J.P. Morgan.  The other restored home, the Crane Cottage, was built in 1917 for Richard Teller Crane, Jr., and is the largest and most lavish of the cottages.

The Sans Souci

The Sans Souci

This resort effectively combines the best of history and modern conveniences – our room was both spacious and charming, with a working fireplace and stunning crown molding.  The sensation of walking along the same halls as those individuals who played such a significant role in making America what it is today is both fascinating and sobering.

Although the island is small – about 7 miles long- there is much to do and explore.  On Saturday afternoon, shortly after our arrival and the set-up at the Convention Center, we enjoyed our first on-island dining experience – at the “Rah” Bar (I appreciate their humorous spelling) on the pier directly across from our hotel.  We enjoyed fresh, wild caught shrimp and two Pina Coladas – and while the shrimp were slightly overcooked (making the peeling a little challenging) they were still quite tasty, and the Pina Coladas were delicious – the bartender didn’t skimp on the rum, a welcome surprise, as that is often the case.

Mmm, seafood does not get fresher than this...

Mmm, seafood does not get fresher than this…

On Sunday, Nick headed off to play golf with the other conference attendees, and I decided to rent a bike and cycle around the island.  I must admit – I can appreciate the irony of my selecting this mode of transportation.  I used to actively protest cycling around Acadia National Park on family vacations, and I still don’t really like to bike.  Regardless, I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise and see the entire island.  Roughly 18 miles and two hours later, my seat was incredibly sore and I was exhausted, but it was worth it, and I’m better able to appreciate why my parents wanted us to get around that way in Acadia.

Every moment on the Club property is like a scene from Gone with the Wind – from the formal dining room, with its ornate carvings and columns, plantation shutters, and view to the lush scenery outside to being outside – surrounded by old, old oak trees that are heavy with the Spanish Moss that epitomizes the coastal South.

In the case of this old oak tree, its heavy branches have actually grown down and slightly into the earth.

In the case of this old oak tree, its heavy branches have actually grown down and slightly into the earth.

Most of the bike ride was breathtaking – from my ride along the Intercoastal Waterway to the striking views of the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern side – I was able to see and experience the island lifestyle in a way I couldn’t have otherwise.  Where the Club is quiet, with the soothing grace of the old South, the Atlantic side of the island, with its wide, flat beaches, has more of the bustle and activity that you’d expect from a modern vacation destination.

Beautiful, flat beach

One of my favorite things about this area is that it still feels a bit remote and rural – it has far fewer people than a vacation hot spot like Myrtle Beach, Charleston, or Savannah, and I love that.  Perhaps that also means fewer dining and shopping options, but that’s fine by me – I’m not high maintenance about those things (after all, I grew up with only the Maine Mall to shop in).

I hope, if you decide to vacation down south, that you consider visiting this idyllic, picturesque place.  True, it’s a bit further than some of the destinations I mentioned above, but I have to say – it’s well worth every extra moment in the car, plane, or boat.

A welcome sight at the end of my long bike ride - the backside of the Club property!

A welcome sight at the end of my long bike ride – the backside of the Club property!

Happy Memorial Day!

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Making Memories on Memorial Day

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend brings with it a rush of nostalgia for me – memories filled with Memorial Days spent in Maine, participating in parades or watching from the sidewalk, grilling hot dogs (the red ones, of course) and hamburgers with family, celebrating togetherness and honoring the memory of the servicemen and women who gave their lives for our country.

As we all know, summer starts slowly in Maine. Memorial Day weekend is often the real turning point to summer weather, making it a welcome milestone for Mainers. In preparation for this holiday, I’ve put together a brief listing of events around the state, as well as some opportunities to give back and support those who have served our country:

City of Portland Memorial Day Parade – May 27th at 10am, begins in Longfellow Square
(most, if not all, towns in Maine will have local Memorial Day parades – so keep a look out for news about yours.  I have fond memories of the Memorial Day parade in Gorham)

10th Annual Downeast Birding Festival (you may recall this from my post a week or so ago) – May 24th – 27th, Cobscook Bay area, Maine

Plant Sale at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (NOW is the time to visit this lovely place) – May 25th – 26th, 9am – 4pm (members only on Saturday morning), Boothbay, Maine.  Admission is also FREE for Maine residents (with valid ID), 9am – 5pm this weekend for Maine Days.  How many more reasons do you need?

Barberry... one of my favorite shrubs!

Barberry… one of my favorite shrubs!

Guided Walking Tour of Historic Downtown Presque Isle – Saturday, May 25th, the tour begins at 10am and includes more than 30 historic sites and individuals (approximately 2 miles walking distance).

Embrace history with a tour of museums in Old York, Maine – Monday, May 27th, for just a dollar per building, from 9am – 5pm.

The Wounded Warrior Project is an excellent program committed to providing services to our returning servicemen and women. Their mission is to “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.”

The Maine Military & Community Network strives to raise awareness about the challenges faced by military service members and their families, help to connect them to resources and support, and help them integrate in their communities.

Happy Memorial Day (in advance) – I hope you are able to spend it enjoying the company of family and friends!