Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Summer 2023: Portland, Maine


Aaron and I decided we needed to plan a vacation. Originally, we were going to plan for my Christmas break, but between holiday activities and my school schedule, it just didn't seem feasible. Which meant we needed to squeeze in a trip before the school year started.

We wanted somewhere with water, but also a place that wasn't too hot. We decided on Maine, because the summer there is beautiful, and they have great food! Two weeks before wheels up I booked our plane tickets and a hotel!

Saturday, July 29, 2023

We decided to get a hotel in the cities the night before flying out so we didn't have to deal with driving up in the morning and figuring out parking. We stayed at the Hilton Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport because we could leave the car there when we were gone, and they offer a free airport shuttle starting at like 4AM. 

The last time we were in the cities, we had intended to go to Pizzeria Lola, but we were both too exhausted the day we were going to go and headed home instead. Because of this, I was adamant we MUST go there for lunch BEFORE our trip!  Pizzeria Lola was on Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives, which is where Aaron got the original idea to go. It was delicious! It is located in a neighborhood in Minneapolis and has its own parking, though street parking is also pretty readily available. We got the My Sharoni pizza (for reasons that are very obvious if you know us!)

We spend the evening at the Mall of America, wandering aimlessly until it was a reasonable time for dinner (Buffalo Wild Wings - it was National Wing Day after all!!)

Sunday, July 30, 2023

We were up, showered, and on the shuttle from the Hilton to the airport by 6:30 this morning. Our flight wasn’t until 8:50, but I never know what TSA will be like, so I prefer to be early. It worked out, because while the line wasn’t too long, it was a bit slow. They didn't have a separate PreCheck line, but they did give me a little slip of paper so I could keep my shoes on. It took us about an hour to get through, then we went to the Minnesota Wild Bar for breakfast. I was hoping for more fun choices (since MSP airport has AMAZING food), but since we were flying Sun Country we were flying out of terminal 2 and there isn’t much there. You had to order via a QR code which was kind of a pain, but we got it figured out. 

We finished breakfast just in time to use the restroom, fill up water bottles, and board the plane. Thankfully we left on time for our just over 2 hour flight to Portland.

The flight was uneventful (which are the best flights, of course). I dozed the first hour, then finished and audiobook and worked on my book I brought to read.

Once we landed, we grabbed a Lyft to our hotel (Holiday Inn - By the Bay) in hopes we could check in early. It wasn’t a problem thankfully. The room faces the bay which makes for a beautiful view!


We walked to Nosh Kitchen Bar for lunch. I was VERY excited to see poutine (vegetable gravy, mushrooms, cheese curds, hand cut fries) on the menu, and Aaron got the pulled pork Mac and cheese (braised pork, Gouda/fontina/Gruyère cheese sauce, fried pickles jalapeños, South Carolina bbq sauce). He said the Mac was delicious! I thought the fries and cheese curds were good (there was so much cheese!), but the gravy was pretty tasteless. 

There were a lot of shops in the area, so we sauntered down the road to see what was all in the area. Nothing much interested us, so we headed back to the hotel to decide how to spend out evening. 

We ended up going down to the hotel bar for a drink and made friends with the bartender and another patron before heading out to wander again. We discovered a pub called The King’s Head which had 33 mostly local beers on tap. The cocktail list was great too! Aaron had a King’s Margarita and a Boston Tea Party, and I had a Queen Charlotte. 

From there we decided we were finally hungry enough for dinner, so we walked down to our destination for the night, Becky’s Diner. It was PACKED. The restaurant was on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so we figured it was a hot spot to go. Luckily they seemed to turn around pretty quick and we probably only waited about 29 minutes.

Aaron ordered the lobster with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables and I got the fried haddock with fries. It was all VERY tasty, and I won’t be surprised if we end up back there again on this trip.

We headed back to the hotel to go hang out in the bar again. There was nice couch seating which was perfect to chill on and we hung out there until it closed. Our BFF Bartender Todd from Boston took good care of us!

Going up to the room, we put on Harry Potter and I read until I deemed it was finally time for sleep.

Monday, July 31, 2023

I slept very well last night! Woke up a bit before 6 and played around on my phone until 7, because that is when the donut shop opened. It was a half mile walk, so I took a nice stroll. The weather was BEAUTIFUL, and the area is really cute. The ground was mostly cobblestone, and there were a lot of shops and restaurants. 

The place I got donuts from was The Holy Donut. They make donuts using potatoes! I got us 5, because I’m indecisive (and I like donuts): honey lavender, 2 lemon, maple bacon, and chocolate cinnamon sugar. I thought the honey lavender was wonderful. The chocolate cinnamon sugar was OK.

We ended up getting a Lyft out to Fort Williams Park where we spent a couple hours exploring the land, climbing on rocks, and checking out the lighthouse. There were food trucks there, so we got lunch from Cousins Maine Lobster. I had the lobster tacos (figured if I was ever gonna eat lobster, this was the way to do it!) and Aaron had the lobster grilled cheese. They were both delicious!!

We tried our darndest to get either a Lyft or Uber back to the hotel, but with very little service, very few drivers, and being a bit out from where we were staying, it was impossible. Finally, we gave up and I called a taxi from Portland Taxi Service to come get us.

Once back at the hotel, we walked half a mile to Walgreens so we could get some snacks and drinks for the room. We spent the afternoon relaxing and watching our favorite, Harry Potter.

We wandered back down toward the bay for dinner to try Gilbert’s Chowder House. Neither of us were very impressed. Aaron wanted some clam chowder, which was why we went there. They had a lot of options! He had his in a bread bowl, but said it was pretty plain. I had the fried haddock sandwich with onion rings. The sandwich was good, but the onion rings were BAD. The onions were still raw and crunchy, and the batter was tempura-like. Not greasy at all. I thought maybe they were undercooked, because our food came out SUPER fast, but seeing other plates come out of the kitchen, they seemed to be cooked the same.


On the walk back to the hotel, we tried to find Lincoln’s Speakeasy. Happy to say it only took us two tries! Lincoln’s is a cash only bar with a select list of beer, wine, liquor, and mixers. Everything is $5 cash! They even have food- well, only chili Mac. It’s $5, too! If you go, I will tell you that it is located in Market Street Eats. If you want better directions, just ask! Otherwise, have fun searching!!

We easily spent three hours there just hanging out. It was amusing seeing how excited people were when they found the door to get in.


We came back to the hotel a little after 9 and went to visit our friend Bartender Todd for drinks and cheese cake.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

This morning started way too early for me. I was wide awake at 5AM (which is only 4 back home, so I don’t know why!) I laid around for a few hours before we got up and got ready for the day.

We ended up deciding last minute that we would have breakfast at the hotel. We both got the breakfast skiffle: 2 eggs (over easy), bacon, ham, sausage, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. I put some hot sauce on top and it was DELICIOUS. 

Then we walked the mile down to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railway for a 40 minute train ride down the coast of Portland. We opted for the open air car since the weather was nice. It’s general admission seating, and there weren’t many people on board, so that was nice. They gave a good history of the area over a speaker during the ride. I learned that Portland has burned down 4 times. And that the railway was only two-feet wide versus the now-standard three-feet because it was cheaper, easier, and the trains could turn faster. We did get the chance to stop and get off the train and the end of the ride before returning back.

We were still VERY full from breakfast, so instead of going to lunch at noon after the train ride like we planned, we went back up to the hotel. I was in serious need of a nap! On the walk back we stopped at the candy shop that we'd walked past a handful of time, and Gorgeous Gelato! I got the lemon cookies and it was SO YUMMY!!

We did head back down for an early dinner at 4 because we had evening plans. We went to The Porthole, another DDD feature! I got the cajun haddock tacos with onions rings, and Aaron got the lobster roll. He said the lobster roll was good. My onion rings were SO much better than last night, and the tacos were good as well, though VERY messy. I did wish I’d had the fried tacos instead, but that’s okay.

We had plenty of time after dinner to meander, so we wandered through the ferry port, grabbed water back at the train museum, and people watched on a bench.

At 6, I had booked us a rum tasting/tour on a sail boat with Portland Schooner Co. featuring Three of Strong Spirits! We got to try three cocktails, and sample any of the 8 rums we wanted. My favorite cocktail was the Pina-mate Punch (classic punch recipe featuring pineapple & lime juices, mate, bitters, stone pier rum, and nutmeg). My favorite rum was the Oaked Acadian (agricole-inspired rum distillery from cold press Louisiana sugar cane juice aged in rum barrels adding notes of vanilla, banana, mango, and spice). 

The rum guy was telling us some pieces of history. The one I remember most is that when Portland manufactured rum back in the 1800s, they had a population of 10,000 people and 20 distilleries! Also, prohibition started here when the mayor banned alcohol.

It was a little chilly at first, but then the clouds parted and the sun came back out and it was beautiful. We got to watch the sunset as well, which was pleasant.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

This morning we walked down to the pier where we got ferry tickets to head over to Peak's Island. On the island, I had rented us a golf cart from Peaks Island Golf Carts for two hours so we could drive around. The island is pretty small, and in the two hours we leisurely drove around (including stopping in different areas) three times. The weather was so nice, it was a perfect day for a drive. There didn't seem lot to do on the island, so I was glad we rented a cart. There was an ice cream shop, a bike rental place, and a couple restaurants from what I could see. 

After a couple hours, we took the ferry back to the peninsula. We were both craving sandwiches, so we set on a mission to find the CVS and also a sandwich shop. Lucky for us, we found the CVS and Mister Bagel just down the road. I got the turkey club and Aaron got the buffalo chicken wrap. We took them back to the hotel and demolished them - so yummy!!

I had spent last night sick with a migraine, and still didn't feel the greatest today. I was battling between head pain and stomach ache, so we spent the afternoon and evening relaxing at the hotel.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

I woke up this morning feeling mostly okay. I could tell I had a headache coming, but wanted to make the most of the day before that happened. Chronic pain is no joke, yall.

We walked the half mile to Eighty 8 Donut Cafe to grab some mini donuts for breakfast. You had to buy them in either 6 packs (one flavor) or 25 packs (5 flavors). We got a 6-pack of the lemon raspberry and a 6-pack of the Bamm Bamm (fruity pebbles). They make them fresh when you order, so they came out warm! We took them back to the hotel while we decided what to do for the day.

We ended up going for a walk and looked into some shops before ending up at the trolley tour. I had put us on a wait list to go lobstering, but their last tour was at 11:30 and since we hadn’t heard by 11:00, I figured it wasn’t happening. Since I wanted to do the trolley tour with Portland Discovery anyway, we hopped on the 11:15 one. I did see that they had a longer tour that went out to the lighthouse, and if I had known about that ahead of time, I would have done that instead of having us Lyft out there. The trolley tour was an hour long and took us around Portland. I believe she said the whole Portland penninsula was like 3.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide? Or something close to that? 


We learned about the 4 fires that happened here. Two happened when the Native Americans and the white folks fought over land, the third happened when it was attacked during a war and after the soldiers won whatever fight was happening from their ships, they were told to hop off and burn the town down. The last fire was in the 1800s and it occurred on the Fourth of July. Everyone was down on the promenade waiting for fireworks and someone had set one off (or something?) in town and since all the firemen were at the fireworks, no one knew about it until the town was already burning. When they rebuild, they kept plenty of parks and stuff thoughout town as fire stoppers to help prevent fires from jumping from building to building should the town begin to burn again. 

We saw the tallest building in the state (20 floors) and were told they try to avoid tall buildings here to protect the view. Also, there are no billboards in Maine for the same reason.

We saw the place where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born, as well as the home where he lived. I enjoyed seeing the different houses in the area!

When we went past the lobstering are, we saw the cages they used. When catching crabs, it is law that they throw back all egg-bearing females, but it is gentleman’s rule to just throw all female’s back. They also have to throw back any lobster that measures less than 3.25 inches from eyes to tail. Females lay a lot of eggs, and this is how they keep from destroying the lobster population. 

Maine is one of 6 states to have a National Crustacean- the lobster, of course.

After getting off the trolley, we walked a bit down Long Wharf where they had three Berlin Wall slabs as well as a piece of chain link fence with locks attached. 

Another place on my list to eat was Duckfat. We walked to the restaurant, but there was a 30-40 minutes wait, and since we didn't have actual breakfast today, we were hungry. We had seen an Italian place on the walk there, and though I had put our name on the waitlist for Duckfat, we ended up walking back to Anthony's Italian Kitchen. This was definitely the right choice! We both wanted pizza and pasta, so we each got a slice and split the pasta. They were so kind as to split the pasta for us without us even asking! It all hit the spot! We ended up taking half the pasta back to the hotel for a late night snack.

We went back to hang out at the hotel for the afternoon. I was waiting to get sick again, but it didn't happen! For dinner, we walked back down to Duckfat and I got the poutine I had been dreaming about. The cool thing about Duckfat is that they cook in duck fat! The poutine was super tasty!

I was hoping to head back to Lincoln's Speakeasy for comedy night, but given how I had been feeling the past couple days, we decided to just hang out in the hotel bar for the night. Unfortunately, our BFF Todd wasn't working tonight. 

Friday, August 4, 2023

We took our time getting up in the morning and slowly got ready for the day, finishing off our leftover donuts and other snacks we didn't want to take with us on the plane for breakfast. This included trying the Whoopie Pie I had gotten at a restaurant on Peaks Island. The Whoopie Pie is Maine's official state treat, so I figure when in Maine.....

It was....not good. I think I expected it to taste like a Swiss Cake Roll and it didn't, so I was disappointed. We each took a bite, then threw it away. Not our thing!!


The flight home was longer than the flight there, and other than a little turbulence, uneventful.

Overall, we had a great trip!! Portland was BEAUTIFUL! I loved that we could walk pretty much anywhere we wanted to go. It felt very safe and welcoming! Also, the weather was perfect. Apparently June had been really rainy, and the week prior had been HOT, but it was about mid-70s all week and sunny!

If I were to go back, the following places are still on my list to visit:

Flights: I'd never flown Sun Country before, but I'd also never heard horror stories about them, and since the price and time was right, I decided to go for it. I would definitely fly with them again! You have to pay for a carry on, and you don't get snacks, but it was worth it for the direct flight and low price.

Hotel: The Holiday Inn - By The Bay was very nice! The view from our room was great. They have a lot of floors and it was pretty quiet. There is a hotel restaurant and bar. The pool was decent size and they have a shuttle that takes you just about anywhere in downtown Portland. The downside was that there wasn't a microwave in the room, but there WAS one by the ice machine. Also, no vending machines, but they did have a little store. And no hot tub.

Also, I paid for it completely with credit card points! Mostly from the sign-up bonus. If you're interested in the IHG card you can use my referral link. You get a free night each year (which is worth more than the annual fee!) and if you don't have TSAPrecheck/Global Entry, you can use this card to get it and they will give you a statement credit for the fee!

1 comment:

  1. Portland in summer vacation is seriously an amazing thing for me to have fun. I had a great time there through east coast tours and love to recommend all should go there .