Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Maine-ly Delights!

If there is one thing that is all uniquely Maine that I adore, it's got to be lush lawns edged with natural stone containers brimming with colorful flowers.

The fact that I am besotted with this particular Maine feature must be all too obvious to you by now. So rather than go on and on about stone-walled flower containers, I will tell you about this tiny, heavenly patch on the east coast of Maine called Bar Harbor.

Rosalie's, a popular Pizza joint

About two and a half hours north of Portland, Bar Harbor is a long drive from Washington, D.C. - about 16 hours. But split over two days - with a layover in Boston on the way up and in New York on the way back - it's not too bad at all, even with and for the two kids in the back seat.

'2 Cats,' a restaurant and coffee house. Scrumptious doesn't begin to describe their breakfast spread.

Although the week we were there was sandwiched between two hurricanes, the weather was perfect. In the low 80s and high 70s during the day and in the 40s at night. The sun was bright but mild. Great weather to go biking, whale watching, driving around or just loitering the streets of Bar Harbor, all of which we did.

Bar Harbor is on Mt. Desert Island, the major portion of which is preserved as Acadia National Park, home to numerous lakes and the 1,500 ft. tall Cadillac Mountain. Thoughtfully laid out paths (thoughtful from the perspective of allowing visitors to extract maximum enjoyment out of their visits) for hiking and biking meander around crystal-clear lakes and through thick woods.

We rented three bikes for four hours. The lady at the counter looked us up and down and recommended that we bike the path of "intermediate" difficulty. I was skeptical. The next step was to choose the right bikes. Hope replaced the skepticism. Hope that had been springing eternal ever since I got to this country and faced my first non-Indian bike back in 1995.

I asked the man that was helping us for a bike with no gears. He looked at me like I was from another planet. Which I might as well have been given that what was driving my request was fond memories of riding bikes as a fifth-grader in Bangalore. Not-too-fond memories have managed to sneak in in the interim. Bikes with gears and I don't mix very well, you see. I just want to get on it and keep pedaling. I don't want to be bothered with figuring out what gear works on slopes or on hills. (But with cars I'm completely the opposite - I loved driving cars with gears.) Almost always, I find myself in the wrong gear.

My hopes dashed yet again, I resigned myself to a tussle with the bike for the next couple of hours and we started off. My husband and D on one bike, C on his own and me on mine. The very first hill almost had me turning back. The legs burned. The bike moved in spurts. It was incredibly hard to pedal in patches but I made good progress, and ridiculously easy in others but I had hardly moved. Argh! In the meantime the husband and C had shot off and were waiting for me atop the slope.

Thus the story went - I straggled, they waited, I walked alongside my bike, they waited, I flipped gears furiously, gently, cajolingly, they waited. Once in a while C would bike back looking for me and be my personal cheerleader, "You're doing great, mom! The last time you biked was five years ago. See, you're a natural!" Maternal pride and burning embarrassment jockeyed for real estate on my grimacing face.

The ride was well worth it, though. Not least because the path was punctuated with slopes going downhill as well. One spectacular slope lasted a good three or four minutes. The sweat we had worked up only amplified the coolness of the breeze floating in from the lakes. Plus it let us get closer to some beautiful parts of Acadia National Park than we would have been had we just stuck to the car.

But I must confess that driving around Mt. Desert Island was an infinitely more pleasurable activity. Drives on coastal roads are our favorite anyway, and Maine's rugged, scraggly coast was the perfect setting.

It took us to the top of Cadillac Mountain and gave us expansive, 360 degree views of the surrounding beauty.

It took us to the Somesville Footbridge. Somesville is the oldest village on the island and this footbridge is apparently very popular among photographers. I can just imagine the gently curve of the sparkling white bridge forming a delectable contrast to fall foliage.

It took us to the Bass Harbor lighthouse. It's not a great shot, and we apparently missed a better angle because we did not know there was another approach to the lighthouse. Oh well!

It took us to Thunder Hole. See how the rocks are angular and not rounded? They entice you to walk further and further out because they don't look slippery, because you feel like they are solid and they give you a good foothold.

But this is exactly what brought us to Maine. So I swallowed my trepidation and we walked out as far as we could and we just sat for a while, taking in the wilderness and the sounds and smells of the ocean.

The drive took us to Sand Beach, the one semi-proper beach on Mt. Desert Island.

As night fell, we took a long walk along the pier in Bar Harbor, the ocean on one side with the boats coming ashore for the night and beautiful, beautiful homes on the other side.

The highlight of the trip though, hands down, was the whale watching boat trip. A good one hour into the ocean and we came across a large pod of pilot head whales.

Pilot whales going about their business while we gawked

They were not shy at all and seemed content to swim circles around our boat. Nothing came close to delighting the children as much as happening on those whales did.


Altoid said...

What a lovely, picturesque getaway! Loved the pic in your header. Acadia has been on my list of must-see(along with a 100 other places, of course!). I've heard fall in these parts is just as much a pretty sight.

Sylvia K said...

What a fantastic, beautiful place! And what a wonderful trip you have had! So happy for you!



Sriram said...

Looks like you had a great trip. Lovely place and great pics! :)

Broom said...

yes, WHY are cycles so complicated here?
I really hate the damn gears.

Looks like a LOVELY holiday.

Kavi said...

FAntastic getaway. From the hills, bikes down to the whales. Throw in the pizzas... and you have one heck of a serving for the soul !!

Thanks for sharing

Choxbox said...

So thats where you were all this while!

Sounds/looks lovely and very inviting. And feels good to be on the other side right, after years of relentless cheerleading that we did!

Anonymous said...

WOWWWWW !!!! Its looking like Heaven on Earth :)

sujata sengupta said...

where are you lady? Miss you around here. the post was lovely and the pics awesome as always

Anonymous said...

Looks and sounds idyllic! Have added it to our ever-growing pile of to-be-vacation locations! A question though: can you comment on the vegetarian-friendliness of the place? So many of these small out of the way places have little to no options for us vegetarians, and cheese pizza gets ultra-tedious after two meals!



Nino's Mum said...

okay I grinned hearing the bicycle diaries - you have my sympathies, Suj, but I ACE cycling - I think it's the only physical activity I can happily do for hours!
beautiful pictures.

Chitra said...

Loved that tree-limb across the water photo!

Sands said...

Such lovely pictures. Awesome header. Just my kind of vacation. Beaches and biking. My two most favorites :)

dhruv said...

holy crap!! and to think half of stephen king novels were based in maine!!! specially "it" ... really pretty place.. wanna visit !!

Sujatha Bagal said...

M, vegetarian options are not plenty. But you have the usual complement of pasta, salads, wraps, sandwiches, and pizza as you mentioned. There was not a single Indian restaurant (a lucrative business opportunity awaits the brave soul). There was one Chinese restaurant, but we did not visit it. Lots of American/Italian restaurants with plenty of seafood choices as you can imagine. The roasted halibut at one restaurant we visited was out of this world, but I shall not bore you with the details. :) Hope this helps. The other option is to rent an apartment, as we did, and at least have one solid vegetarian meal a day.

Anonymous said...

seems like you had a wonderful trip. whoever thought life and adventure ended after having kids!! your post reminded me of the long rides that R and i used to go on on the bullet. Now, we only stick to driving because a long distance ride on a bike with a 23 month old doesnt look like a very safe idea.

Nagesh.MVS said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Poppins said...

Lovely lovely pictures and description!

Gears and me - we just stay away from each other :)

Bong Mom said...

Isn't it lovely ? Every year we want to go back. And the food and the lovely names of the restaurants. Ahhhh Maine is heavenly

Saw your mail only over the weekend :( Sorry, and thanks for asking & the link

naperville mom said...

Love your header image... actually, all of the images are so lovely, suj and enjoyed the read too!:)

Anonymous said...

simply beautifully captured shots and lovely reading about the place...fabulous!