August 30th, 2005

Brian and Anne

And.... we're back! From Bar Harbor, Maine

Bill and I went on a long overdue vacation this past weekend - a four-day trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. It was wonderful.

We flew in Friday, early enough that we had time to drive in from the Bangkor airport, get settled at our Bed and Breakfast (Anne's White Columns) and then go drive the loop road around the main part of Acadia National Park. Along the way we took a two-hour hike with a park ranger to Otter Point, learning all about Glacial Erratics* and Lobster catching and how to tell -- from a single needle! -- the difference between a Spruce (Short, Sharp, Square needles you can Spin between your fingers) and a Fir (Flat, Friendly {not sharp}, Fragrant needles that are Food if you consider that three of them hold your daily vitamin C requirement and you can eat them, though they are pungent). The ranger pointed out that if long ago sailors had only figured out they could eat their christmas trees, they wouldn't have had such a problem with scurvy.

We got to the top of Cadillac mountain just in time for a beautiful sunset, then headed "home" to park the car and walk into downtown Bar Harbor for a late dinner at McKay's Public House --Absolutely fabulous crab cakes, a delicious salad, a lobster stew (like a bisque) that doesn't hold up to Le Dog's but was fine anyway, and a whole hardshell lobster, all split between the two of us, eaten out under the stars with white sangria to wash it down and a slice of carrot cake to top it off. The patio was surrounded by bushes and flowers with little white lights strung in them, an effect we mean to duplicate sometime. Really, the whole town was laden with lovely flowers.

Saturday we had our host (Bob, of Anne and Bob) reserve us a space on the Sea Princess for an afternoon Harbor Cruise and picked up a sack lunch at a local Deli. For the morning, we split up. I had taken a langourous bath and felt lazy so Bill headed off to the Mount Desert Oceanarium and I took to the Hammock and read a bunch of John Scalzi's Agent to the Stars, a very funny and witty sf book I'd been looking forward to reading (and not just because he mentions me in the acknowledgements section :) ). The hammock was under this lovely huge maple, facing into it, so that I felt like I was lying in the embrace of the tree. The weather was beautiful. It was a grand start to the day.

The cruise was also very nice. We saw two kinds of seal (Harbor and Grey), Osprey, Cormorants, a Loon, and a few other birds I can't name any more. There are lots of islands in the southern harbor of Mount Desert Isle (named after the french for isle of the deserted mountain). We stopped on Little Cranberry Island and walked around, mailed a postcard, went to the museum there.

After we got back to land we went to a place in Acadia national park where Bill had read of a 40-foot waterfall. It's only a real waterfall in spring, so it was just a trickle now, but it was a lovely spot, with a really impressive angled stonework bridge going over the creek that runs downstream from it. There are all kinds of impressive bridges in Acadia, all hand built by the Public Works program that made the Blue Ridge Parkway we enjoyed so much last year. It's too bad, we kept saying, that the US government doesn't fund anything like that anymore.

That was a leisurely hike and we got back to the B&B in time for evening wine and cheese with our host, who recommended another local spot, Cafe This Way, for dinner. This was probably our least impressive dinner out, but it was still a lot of fun, especially due to the powerful drinks (mint Mai tais? can't remember), and the fact that we ate dinner backwards - raspberry chocolate cake, Lobster linguini with a lemon vodka sauce, and then a crab cake appetiser. Even though we split each item the crab cakes were really too much food.

Sunday we took it easy getting started and around 10 we rented a couple of bikes for the day. Acadia national park is riddled with well-maintained Carriage Roads -- packed dirt and gravel roads where no cars are allowed, only bikes, horses, horse carriages, and people on foot. We covered two "moderate" and one "easy" loop for around 22 miles all together, with a gorgeous stop for lunch on the lawn of Jordan Pond House, overlooking Jordan Pond with the Bubbles mountains at the far end. (If you go there, note that you have to go around or through to the other side of the pond house for the view.) They have benches and lawn chairs and tables from the restaurant, and there were lots of people there. The people were about as interesting to watch as the rest of the scenery.

Sore but happy, we returned to the B&B for a shower and some cheese before heading off to our fanciest dinner of the trip. Bob's young assistant, Laslo, told us that Havana was the best restaurant in town, so we went to check it out. If you follow that link to the web site, it doesn't all work, but you *can* get through to the photos section, which will show you the interior. We found it quite charming, especially considering there was a gerber daisy at our table, which is our flower. The meal was superb. We split a cold cauliflour and broccoli soup that was served with a chilled crab salad in the middle, then Bill had a salad with raspberries, greens, blue cheese, and pecans that were carmelized with a touch of chili or similar spice, while I had a seared sea scallop appetiser served over a spicy tomatillo of corn and chorizo. Tired of lobster, we both had steak entrees - Bill had Filet Mignon and I had the evening's special, which was a strip steak served over a spicy beet couli (a little too spicy for me, but good), with thick-cut sweet potato fries and a portabella and shitake mushroom sauce on top that was to die for. I've never had a steak served charred *and* medium rare. As Bill pointed out, the grill had to be tremendously hot. For drinks, Bill started off with a cuban mixed drink I can't remember the name of (Mojito, says Bill), with mint and cane sugar, a hint of lime, and Mount Gay Rum, and I waited until I had some food and then ordered some Auchentoshen (Scotch). After dinner while I was working on finishing that, Bill had a Fonseca 10 Year Old Tawny Port he really liked.

We swayed a little on the walk home, which included a nice chatty stop at a local shop where we got talking about, of all things, language study. The shop proprietor had a language CD I might have to get.

By this time we'd had a wonderful trip and we still had another day! Or half day, anyway. Monday we strolled around town and down to the harbor park in the cool morning and occassional rain ("Quick," said Bill, "a pagoda!), and wandered the shops a bit. I got a 3000-piece jigsaw puzzle and a copy of Blueberries for Sal, a favorite picture book of my childhood. Bill had commented on Friday that Bar Harbor was like Gatlinburg, only without the samurai sword store. Then on Saturday we found the samurai sword store. They even have a Route 66 restaurant... But in general it's a really pretty, friendly town, and they do have organic food markets, which Gatlinburg lacks. We packed up and headed over to Southwest Harbor to see the other oceanarium over there (they have "more than 20 tanks!" the first oceanarium bragged to Bill). It was cute, mostly kid-directed, with great low-tech hands-on displays and a touch tank.

We had a nice lunch in a local deli and drove the rest of the way around the west side of the island, with scenic stops at national park picnic sites at a Sea Wall where we dipped our toes in the ocean, and at Pretty Marsh, where we took a walk through pine woods down to a harbor overlook gazebo old enough to have grafiti carved in it from the 1940s. That was our last scenic stop before we drove back to the aiport. brendand kindly picked us up at the airport in Detroit and we came home and made smoked sausage and bacon spinach lasagne, a recipe Bill made up yesterday morning, that turned out really well.

That about sums it up. Now Bill is off to Chicago for a few days for work and I should get to work myself. It's really nice to feel so well-vacationed. I kept saying we'll have to go back there for our 25th anniversary, and I plan to.

* A glacial erratic is a rock that doesn't belong there, but was dragged there from miles away by a glacier. In Acadia you can generally recognize them because the native granite is mostly pink, with smaller bits of black and white mixed in, while many of the glacial erratics are all white.