For most people, a new year signals a fresh start. This year it signals for me an inspiration to return to those things which make me happiest, strongest, best. Portland, Maine is at the top of that list.
Every time I go to Portland, I feel like I regain the parts of myself that ebb away with everyday stresses and negativity. I can list off a million things I love about it specifically (food, art, music, books, people) but really none of them matter individually. Collectively, it is my sanctuary. NJS and I could think of no better way to start 2011 than with a quick trip there.
I’ve passed Vignola many times since my first trip to Portland years ago, and I’ve always marveled at how beautiful it looked but for some reason I never went in. This time we made sure to go in, and we had a wonderful dinner at the bar (of course at the bar.) They have a huge selection of cheeses, and NJS and I put together an eclectic little cheese plate with Beemster, Belletoile, a local NH cheddar and a spanish goat cheese with paprika rind. A better blogger might write these things down so as to remember their names when it comes time to write.
The rest of the menu was full of delicious, locally sourced items, but we were craving simple and stuck with a pizza and wine. It felt like everyone there was regulars, although we never felt out of place or like we weren’t any less welcomed than they.
Walking back to our hotel – the Inn at St. John is clean, friendly, and super affordable since it’s a whopping mile or so walk to Old Port – I fell in love with the holiday displays. They were bright and colorful and festive without being specific to any religion or holiday. It’s not often that something can manage to be both general and beautiful. Take notes, Boston.
In the morning we had an appointment first thing at Soakology. I can’t say enough about how much I love this place, and frankly I shouldn’t have to explain why I love a place where you pick a foot soak and a tea and add on a massage so I won’t. Also beyond explanation: Public Market House. Especially K. Horton Speciality Foods. As soon as you walk into the building you’re met basket with little bits and bites of cheese and meat, perfect for picnics or the chairlift, as noted here.
Once we were loaded down with cheese, we headed for brunch at Hot Suppa, a place we’d noticed on the honeymoon but hadn’t been able to get to then. There was one heck of a wait, but the food was worth it and everyone was great about apologizing for the wait and making sure we had our check with our food so we could scoot on out to the bus. Be forewarned, though, they have tough rules:
The best part of going to Portland is coming home and hanging on to this feeling for as long as possible. Oh, and the dinner we make ourselves of the cheese and meats we bought.
I’m definitely ready for 2011.