Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Ferry to America

Some people who live on the island refer to the mainland as "America," as in, "You goin' over to America today?"  And while it's a mere fifteen minutes over to Portland, it does often feel like a world--or at least a country--away.  Most of the time I'd rather stay here, but one does need things like hair salons and farmers' markets and banks, so trips to America are necessary.  Plus, the ferry ride weaves its own kind of magic.  Whatever the weather, whatever your mood, there's this harbor and the seagulls and boats of all shapes and sizes, and salty wind in your hair.  If one has to make a commute, this is the way to travel.
Before you even leave the island, you wait down at the landing next to Forest City Seafoods; they are open in the afternoons and they actually sell only lobster, which for some people in these parts covers the entire category of "seafoods."  If you like lobster, it doesn't come much fresher than this.
On weekends and warm days, you need to fight for a good seat on the open upper deck, but the day I took this shot was windy, so only brave souls toughed it out for the whole journey.  Yep, that's Todd on the right.  He thinks of the front seat as "his" and doesn't care if it's windy.

Once in Portland, there are endless choices and places to go.  I grew up near here, and I went to college here, so even though it's been 18 years since I lived in Portland, I still think of it as home.  It is the place where I feel most myself, most comfortable in my own skin.  Do you have a place like that, too?  
On Wednesdays and Saturdays we go to the farmers' market.  I love the picture above because this farmer's young daughter had made the "onions" sign and had arranged this wonderfully minimalist display.  Very zen.  I liked that her mum had let her do this.  
I snapped the picture above on Congress Street where you can find the Maine College of Art, the Portland Museum of Art, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, the Portland Library, and loads of funky antiques stores and restaurants.  It runs west to east, straight through the city's heart.
Portland's Old Port, down on the waterfront, is the center of tourism and shopping.  When I first graduated from college I worked (and played) down here.  It's wonderfully local and pretty and hip, even after all these years.  Blanche and Mimi is a cool little French-inspired homewares shop.
The east side of Portland is the up and coming hip neighborhood.  The area called Munjoy Hill used to be a little bit scary, but today it is the place to go for great shopping and AMAZING food.  Portland is a foodie's paradise.  I'd choose it over Boston any day, plus it is more reasonable and far less pretentious.  The photo above was shot in a great little coffeehouse on India Street called Coffee by Design.  They roast their own beans and have a few locations around town.  

My cats opened a bakery!  No, not really, but I kid you not when I say that this place is phenomenal.  If you are in Portland, you must go there!
I want to show you dozens more pretty and inspiring places (oh, like Z Fabrics--I'll take you there in another post), but we mustn't miss the ferry back home!
We make the ferry just in time, and I toss my bag on the bench beside me.  It's stuffed with fresh veggies from the market, so tonight I'll make a white bean and swiss chard soup.  
A quarter of an hour and one chapter of The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte later, the island landing welcomes us back from our journey to America.


  1. Ah, next time I'm zipping through Portland on my way up to Pemaquid (next summer I hope, if not sooner) I know who to ask for suggestions about where to eat!

  2. I'm having such a great time living vicariously through your journey. I've never been to that part of the country, although it is on the list. Thank you for taking me along for the ride.


  3. You know, it's always been a back of the mind dream of mine to have my own bakery. One in a seaside town, on an ancient street, with a wonderful sign such as this one. Maybe dogs instead of cats, but you get the idea. I would do all the baking and only be open when I felt like it. Alas, the business plan always seems to break down at that last bit.

  4. Oh thank you so much darling for taking us to "America" with you. I did enjoy it.

    I adore the two fat cats, love the sign so much. All the photo's were so interesting. Thank you.

  5. What fun...Loved taking this outing with you, Gigi! Love the quality, texture and visual variety of the photos...wonderful! Happy Day, my friend :o) ((HUGS))

  6. I really enjoyed my trip to Portland. I love a boat trip...the best way to travel, I think....and if I had to live the rest of my life, only eating lobster, I would be happy....and what amazing sights to see in Portland itself and I can't wait for a bowl of that soup !! Call me when it's ready, Gigi !! XXXX

  7. well, my dear ... i've never been to portland, til now! thanks for taking us along on your jaunt over to america and introducing us to all the 'just right' spots (love the two fat cats bakery ~ bet their butter buns are divine!) ... and a peek into 'your town' that has inspired, shaped and been such an important thread in your life ~ lovely!
    and for the sake of my boys, is that bike for real? i am sure their comment would be 'sick!' ... which would be one of those 17 year old compliments!
    although you feel like you are going 'home' to portland, are you feeling a bit of ownership now with the island ... and does your heart beat strongly to return there?
    hope your soup was a scrumptious as it sounds!
    cheerio for now ~
    prairiegirl xo

  8. m. heart: Oh, I love Pemaquid!

    Someone's Mom: Thanks so much! That means a lot to me since I know from your blog how much you love to travel.

    Pamela: I share almost exactly the same dream. Sadly, I probably would eat all the profits!

    DJA: I'm a sucker for fat cats.

    Tracy: Thank you, my dear! I always love going on your travel adventures, too.

    Jackie: Soup's on! Come on over!

    Prairiegirl: It's funny, I don't feel ownership yet with the island, but I do feel attachment! I really love it here. Oh, and yeah, that bike is pretty "sick." Wish I'd seen the guy actually riding it!

    Thanks, all! xoxo Gigi

  9. What a wonderful trip and life! I enjoy sharing in your adventures, thanks for bringing us along!

  10. What a fabulous adventure you are on! Thanks for sharing!

  11. this is breathtaking. you speak to my soul, dear friend. how was the yummy sounding soup?

  12. Portland looks like a dream :)
    Two Fat Cats has my number!!!
    Great photos too :)

  13. Great pics! Loved going with you to the mainland. :) Love that bakery sign... :)

  14. This looks like so much fun! Great photos. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Although we go to Maine each year we usually bypass Portland because we are in such a hurry to get to our destination....this will have to stop! I love that your island residents call going to the mainland going to America...real island mindset!...and I love the Fat Cats Bakery sign!

    I tried once to move away from RI but just couldn't do it I guess this is where I feel most at home:)

  16. Oh, you make me miss my college days and the weekends spent on the coast. Sigh.


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