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  • Writer's pictureMark Lewis

My Maine Squeeze

I can't believe it's been almost two years since my last blog post, two... freakin'... years! It's not that I haven't had anything to photograph and write about during this time but rather I just haven't been able to prioritize these posting activities due to more pressing things in life during that time. I'm happy to be back at it and I hope I will keep this momentum going forward. Let me start by saying that 2020 itself has been one challenging year that most of us can attest to.

As a person of color I have been directly impacted by the racial unrest that has swept across the United States and throughout the world. I have experienced prejudice / racism at times over the course of my life and some of the decisions I make on a daily basis are impacted by race. I know people who have been diagnosed with Covid-19; most have survived and some have tragically not. The past few years have been really draining emotionally. I'll write more about some of these things in the future but the focus of this post is on a trip I recently took to Maine also known as the Pine Tree State and Vacationland.

As a typical New York City resident I never owned a car, and in normal times we probably would have flown, but due to the pandemic we opted to drive. By 'we' I mean my wife, daughter, brother and me. Our common requirements were to visit somewhere within a few hours drive of NYC, walkable and with low current Covid-19 infection rates. I also wanted somewhere with good food and biking! Our search results led us to Maine.

Our home base on this trip was in Portland, a happening city located on a peninsula in the Casco Bay. It is home to many financial services firms, as well as import / export businesses among others. You will see modern buildings mixed in with the historical buildings, older homes and newer apartments. Because it's in the bay you're never far from the water. The food scene is amazing and it gives NYC a run for the money! As we met locals, they were proud to share that Maine has been voted the top food destination in the country. I didn't "waste any meals" as the saying goes, and we did a combination of dining out and home cooking using fresh seafood (as in caught that morning) from one of the local fish markets, Harbor Fish Market. There are ~67,000 full time residents in Portland. Due to the pandemic and the timing of our trip in early October, things in Portland were a bit subdued, which I actually enjoyed. You could tell that in the peak Summer tourist season this city would be bustling. My wife reserved two different Airbnb's on this trip; one on the west side of the city during the first half of the week and the other on the east side for the last three days. When we arrived at our first rental I felt really good seeing this because yes...

One of the biggest surprises of the trip for me was seeing that many Mainers are in support of progressive policies, as evidenced by the many lawn signs we saw. We unloaded our luggage, relaxed for a bit and then, to no one's surprise, I said "let's get some oysters". Indirectly, that statement also meant "let's get some beer too".

We walked downtown and eventually made our way to J's Oyster. This place is right on the water. We had outdoor seating which included heated lamps. The food and service were quite good. I had some raw oysters, clam chowder, a lobster roll and one of the many very good local beers. For all of the foodies reading this, here is a list of my top restaurants: Not far from J's is Gilbert's Chowder House, where they had the best seafood chowder. It was full of shrimp, lobster, clams and fish and was almost a meal in itself. The best raw oysters and tuna crudo I had were at Eventide Oyster Company My wife said they had the best lobster roll. Of course this place has a wait at any time throughout the day but we went somewhat early on a weekday and the wait wasn't too long--and it was worth it. The best fried seafood goodness was at Fisherman's Net in Gray, Maine. Fisherman's Net is more of a seafood market than a restaurant. They have tables inside but due to the pandemic we ate at a small table on the side of the parking lot. Fisherman's Net is worth the drive to Gray all by itself but we happened to be close by as we visited an orchard which is described later in this blog. Some photos of these places are immediately below.

I had my camera with me every time we went out and I made my way around the streets taking a few snaps along the way to document our stay.

I wasn't solely here to relax with the family, eat good food, drink great beer and take pictures. My brother and I brought our bikes along and we did some mountain biking too. The first place we went to was Blackstrap Hill Preserve in Falmouth. We got word that Blackstrap has some good biking with a combination of challenging (in mountain bike parlance the word is 'technical') trails, which is what we prefer, and some flowy single track. It was a good ride and did not disappoint. We used an app. called Trailforks to navigate this trail system and during a break at the top of the mountain we ran into a local rider named Ricky who was happy to give us a few recommendations.

Other places we biked at included Bradbury State Park in Pownal and a trail system in Bath. Of these three places, Bath had a section of trails that was the most challenging terrain but we could only spend about an hour there as we had to go back to NYC that same morning so we were short on time.

On this trip we also made it to Cape Elizabeth to visit the Lighthouse and Gray to Hansel's Orchard to do some apple picking. Both were amazing experiences and show you more of the different activities and sites you can do and see in Maine. The folks at Hansel's were quite nice and helpful and the apples we picked that day were used to make apple pie / crumble over the next couple of days.

I hope this blog post provides a brief overview of what Maine has to offer. There's so much more and I'll definitely be going back soon. I've posted additional photos of Maine in the Scapes section of my site, which you can access here.

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