Maine by Train

Robert's had a stressful summer at work, so I'd planned a car-free trip to Maine for a long weekend, timed to coincide with the end of his stressful event. I took the kids up to Old Orchard Beach, Maine, on Thursday August 14th, and Robert joined us the next afternoon after he'd finished things up at work.

We took the orange line to North Station and the Downeaster Amtrak train right from there. It was a bit delayed, but we still got into Old Orchard Beach and walked down the main street a half mile to our hotel, the Beau Rivage, arriving there around 2:30. At check-in, while Samantha snored on my back, the woman at the hotel desk asked for my car information. "I don't have a car," I said. "You took the train?" she asked. "Yes," I said. "And you walked all the way from the train station?" she asked. "Um, yes," I said. I'd had Samantha on my back and was wheeling a rollerboard suitcase, and Marcus was wearing a kid backpack, and we'd made it just fine. The woman looked shocked.

We dumped our stuff in the room, put on bathing suits, and crossed the street from the hotel to go to the beach. The beach is lovely--very soft sand, not a lot of rocks or shells--and Samantha still snored in my sling for the first part of our time there. Marcus dug in the sand and played in the waves with a purpose. When Samantha woke up, she joined him in the sand but refused to go near the waves.

We stayed at the beach until after 6:00 and then went back to the room and showered and headed out to dinner. Though we investigated a few different places, we ate at a mediocre Tex-Mex place on the main street. Marcus had lobster quesadillas, which weren't bad; Samantha had coconut fried shrimp; I had a lobster burrito with mango salsa. We went into a nearby candy store after dinner and went crazy on $8 worth of hand-picked salt water taffy--bacon maple, red velvet, cupcake, chocolate chip cookie, buttered popcorn. . . they had some pretty great flavors, and all three of us loved it.

From there we walked over to Palace Playland and the kids rode some rides together--something with motorcycles, something with airplanes, and something with dragons--and then we all rode a dragon's belly ride which was sort of like the teacups, and finally Marcus had a turn down the giant slide while Samantha relaxed in the sling. We shared a lemonade and walked out on the pier and then around 9:15 went back to the hotel.

The kids were in pajamas and laying down when the Thursday night fireworks started, so I popped Samantha back into the sling, and Marcus stuck on his shoes, and we walked down to the sidewalk in front of the hotel (the hotel was set back from the street a bit, so we couldn't see the fireworks from our room). Marcus had recently read a few books about fireworks, so he was good at identifying the different shapes/types, and he'd call those out while we watched. At 10:00, when they ended, we went back inside to bed.

On Friday morning we woke up and were at the beach by 9:00 for another morning of digging and playing in the water. Around midday we went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and then got pizza, mozzarella sticks, and french fries for lunch (there's one place that's supposed to have some of the best french fries in New England, but I was not impressed) and then went over to Memorial Park to play hopscotch and then play in the playground until Robert's train came in.

When Robert joined us, we walked straight to Pirate's Cove mini golf, on the far side of the train station. It happened that they were a chain, and Marcus had one a free game for a hole in one from their New Hampshire location last month, so we enjoyed the toughest course with coupons. Robert and I each got three holes in one, but we didn't win any additional prizes.

After mini golf--which was fairly slow because we were behind a giant slow group--we went to the Landmark for dinner, and had baby back ribs and twin lobsters on their patio. The kids devoured the lobster, of course, and then Samantha also made a dent in the ribs. We had to stop for poutine for "dessert" to top ourselves off.

Yes, poutine: Old Orchard Beach was described in something I read as "the Florida of Quebec," and in many ways it did resemble a chillier, cloudier Florida filled with French Canadians who seem to love smoking and seem not to love children (despite, in most cases, sitting on the beach with their children, and two or three rolling carts of stuff). We liked the rides, we liked the beach, and we appreciated the chance to get poutine, but we weren't really sure how people spend more than two days there.

After poutine we went crazy and splurged on fifty tickets. Marcus rode the log flume with Robert, a bunch of kiddie rides with Samantha, and a roller coaster with me. He was nervous on the roller coaster and didn't much enjoy it--I think it was his first taste of a non-Disney ride, and Disney rides are certainly much smoother and less jerky--but he was brave, just clutching my arm silently throughout (and, for the record, he begged to go on it--it's certainly not that we pressured him into it!). We had a caramel crepe at the end of the evening and walked back to our hotel once more.


Saturday we went down to the beach early again, and this was Robert's first time on the beach. He found it chilly, and clearly would have preferred the hotel heated pool, but we stuck it out.

We came back to the room around 11:00, changed, and left our stuff in the lobby. Our destination was the town square for the thirty-odd annual "Beach Olympics," a series of kids' contests which was billed as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics, and we were excited. When we got there, we couldn't see any sign of the contest which was supposed to be going on then, though, and finally some kids told us that the organizer had decided, due to low turn-out, to race through all the events (despite publicizing a schedule advertising one event at 10:00, one at 10:30, one at 11:00, etc.) and finish everything by 11:00. Mildly disappointed, we got a clam cake (excellent) and some tiny fried Maine sweet shrimp for lunch, and some more poutine (this one, from Slyder's, far superior to the one in the park). Then we had ice cream: Marcus wanted a cherry dipped cone, so of course Samantha did too, and we split a blizzard.

The kids then each got to take a turn skeet shooting in the arcade, and then choose tiny prizes from the prize booth, and then Robert went back to the hotel to pick up our bags while I got him a coffee and us another order of fried shrimp (strangely, our gourmet kids kept eating all our shrimp. . . ) to go. We played in the playground for a few minutes before hopping on our train for the fifteen-minute ride to Portland.

In Portland we found ourselves in the big city indeed. We took a cab to the hotel, though we could have called the hotel for a free car pickup, and we were entitled to free city bus passes according to the Amtrak website (though no one connected with Amtrak seemed able to explain where we would get those passes), and checked into the Portland Harbor Hotel on Fore Street a block from the water.

We went out for a walk and headed straight to the Holy Donut (a potato donut place) for a chocolate sea salt donut (Samantha was in love) and a plain donut with a three-berry frosting (Marcus's favorite). Then we wandered around trying to find a playground that wasn't clearly marked on any map we could see. While I went into an artisanal beef jerky place and a gourmet organic popcorn place (licorice popcorn for Aunt Mary), Robert ran into Ron, a friend of Sarah's from church who apparently comes up to Portland often. We eventually did find the playground, and then made it back to the hotel in time for the hotel car to drive us to Hadlock (not Haddock, as perfect as that would be) Stadium for a Portland Sea Dogs (the Red Sox AA team) game.

It was Star Wars night at the game, so we got to have our picture taken with assorted characters. Samantha slept through the first part of the game, but we ate barbequed chicken sandwiches and enjoyed the "lobster" races and other crazy down-home entertainment in between innings. We also ran into an entire three-generation family from church. Who knew Bostonians loved Portland quite so much? The Sea Dogs won in the bottom of the tenth (it had been 0-0 until then) and the fireworks after the game were set to the Star Wars theme music (until the end when they caved and used more traditional fireworks music), which was pretty neat, and then the hotel car picked us up and took us back.

On Sunday morning we went back to the Holy Donut for another chocolate sea salt (Samantha), another three-berry (Marcus), and a cheddar-bacon fritter made with their potato dough (Robert). We also walked along the waterfront and stopped at the Standard Baking Co. for some additional baked goods. From there we walked back to the Children's Museum, which was quite nice, if small, and very pro-Maine. We spent the rest of the morning there and then went to Yosaku, just a few blocks away, for lunch on their terrace: we had great sushi lunches, cold zaru soba, and a fabulous $7 kids' bento box for Marcus (teppan chicken and rice, complete with edamame and little jelly candies for dessert, in a baby-shaped set of stacked bowls). We also ran into a Women's Studies professor there--proving, again, that Bostonians love Portland. We seriously ran into more people we know in Portland than we typically do in a weekend out and about in Boston.

From lunch we walked back to the hotel, grabbed two East End cupcakes for the road, and caught a ride to the train station. We were in Boston a little after 5:00, and on the Orange Line home a little bit after that. It was a great weekend, and a much-needed time away together after a busy summer.


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Created: 8/18/14. Last Modified: 8/18/14.