Karen needed a vacation, and we were all too happy to oblige, so Sarah, Sean, Robert, Marcus, Samantha, and I all headed to Maine with Karen for the Fourth of July weekend. Thanks (no thanks) to Amtrak, our trains were cancelled, so we grabbed a Zipcar minivan and drove up from Boston bright and early on the morning of Friday the third.
It was a quick and easy trip, with a nice stop at the Maine Diner in Wells for brunch. Marcus had clam chowder, Sarah had eggs benedict over salt cod cakes, Sean and I had crab cakes, and Robert had a lobster pie and seafood chowder. From there we drove to Old Orchard Beach and checked into our rented apartment.
The apartment at the Beach Fantasy Boutique had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a fold-out couch in the living room, and was right on the main street just two blocks from the pier--for less than the price of three hotel rooms, and with the comforts of a nice living space and kitchen. The living room was big and sunny and had a balcony that opened onto the street, and even though it all sounded kind of sketchy, everything was impeccably clean and worked out well. We checked in, put down our stuff, changed into beach clothes, and walked down to Orchard Park for their family sand sculpture contest.
Sean had researched sand sculpting extensively over the past few weeks, and came prepared with trowels and five-gallon buckets (one with the bottom cut out), so we established him as foreperson of the job.
Robert and Sean brought back buckets of water, and we mixed the sand and then trampled it down in layers, making a good mound of wet sand for sculpting. The theme of the contest was "Patriotic Symbols and Scenes," and we decided on a scene of the Boston Tea Party--a boat, and some boxes marked "TEA" floating on the waves. The flags were anachronistic, but we lived with them anyway. I was on color duty, and though the beet power and carrot powders didn't work as well as we'd planned ("Why did you make the boat pink?" asked Marcus), the cornstarch letters and blue food coloring waves (and my blue food-colored hands and knees) turned out better than we'd hoped.
I like to say we tied for fourth place in the contest--with everyone else. There were about twenty entries, and an ambitious Statue of Liberty won first place, with an eagle coming in second, and a very easy hot air balloon that said "USA" on it ("THAT's a patriotic symbol?" Sarah scoffed) came in third--mostly because they positioned an adorable child in the basket of the balloon as the judges walked by, while our team sat mutely on the blanket letting our sculpture speak for itself. Bad idea, apparently. At any event, we had a lot of fun making it, and would love to look up sand sculpting contests closer to home (possibly with more interesting themes) to try our hand at it again.
It was a perfect beach day, too--warm but not broiling, calm but not airless--and we all had a great afternoon hanging out on the sand. At the end of the day, Robert jogged back up to the hotel and brought the van back to pick us all up.
We grabbed dinner from two places near our hotel, having fried shrimp and haddock and some clam cake sliders and poutine.
Everyone relaxed in the living room with books and cards after dinner. Sean and Karen turned in early, but the rest of us stayed up until fireworks at 9:45 (on the dot--the town was oddly punctual about it) and watched them from our balcony.
The beds were comfortable, and we got a great night's sleep both Friday and Saturday nights. It was a bit surprising that the apartment didn't have towels, but luckily we'd all brought a couple beach towels anyway.
On Saturday morning, Sarah and Sean took a walk early and brought back cinnamon rolls and coffee, and we had fruit and cheese and salami and crackers and toast and peanut butter in our sun-filled dining room. We headed out onto the pier and then over to the amusement park next door.
Robert, Marcus, and Sean did the bumper cars, and then Marcus and Sean did the log flume while Samantha (too small for both of them) went on some kiddie rides.
Karen joined in on the carousel, and then everyone except Robert and Samantha went on the spinning Mexican hat ride quite happily.
We stopped for salt water taffy and cotton candy in one of the local candy stores, and then headed back to our apartment to pick up the car and go out of town for lunch.
This is Sarah standing in the parking lot of the hotel. The headboard parking spot markers gave Karen pause, but I said it was a good sign--it meant they must have gotten new beds at some point. That is not an American flag draped over a junk pile. It seems to be a randomly striped old awening. Pay it no attention.
It was less than a fifteen-minute drive to Bayley's Seafood Restaurant. I had baked stuffed scallops, Samantha and Marcus each had a $5.95 kids' plate of fried Maine shrimp, and the rest of us mostly split a fisherman's platter. We recommend getting the clams fried in crumbs, not batter--we tried both, and the batter was a thick onion-ring batter, quite heavy for the clams.
Everything was delicious, and we ate outside, heading under their tent when a few raindrops threatened, but the rain actually mostly held off while we were there.
We drove back towards town and went to Pirates' Cove Mini Golf, where we chose the "difficult" course. It was a super exciting mini golf course, with lots of hazards and unpredictable holes.
Samantha fell and scraped both knees midway through the course, so she spent the final holes up in my sling (lobster-themed, for Fourth of July in Maine), but she'd regained her good spirits by the end. At the end of the course it was indeed raining lightly, so we just went back to the hotel and played more cards for a bit.
Soon enough the sun came out again, and Robert and Marcus investigated fireworks. We didn't actually get any (thank goodness)--Sarah talked the kids into some little glow-in-the-dark airplane glider things that you catapult across the room instead. Meanwhile, Sean wasn't feeling well, so the rest of us walked a few blocks to a Rite-Aid for supplies. We passed some great stores, churches, and signs along the way.
At 9:30 we went back out to join the crowds near the pier and beach to watch the fireworks. These were louder and longer than the previous night's display, and with the glow-in-the-dark flags Sarah gave the kids, we were all festive and happy.
After the fireworks, and a mishap about how many tickets we had left for the rides, we went on the ferris wheel and got a good view of some other fireworks off in the distance--as well as a lot of people setting off sparklers on the beach (shudder).
Robert and the kids had one more ride on the carousel for the evening, and then we got a pizza to bring back to the apartment.
Though it was a late night on Saturday, we all woke up cheerful on Sunday, and we checked out and drove to Congden's Donuts in Wells, Maine for some great donuts.
Samantha loved the picture on their box of a donut family going to the beach, and we appreciated their bald discount day. Too bad it wasn't a Thursday!
Just a little bit further down the road we stopped in Ogunquit for the Cliff Walk--Marginal Way. We parked in a lot near Perkin's Cove that was $15, but there didn't really seem to be any free/cheaper options around, and as Sarah pointed out, we should really think of it as a $2 per person admission fee. Robert, Marcus, and Karen went off to find a bathroom and got distracted watching a drawbridge, and meanwhile Sean sketched a bit and Sarah and Samantha and I chatted and sat on the rocks.
The Cliff Walk itself was lovely--paved, mostly flat for the first half-mile, and very scenic.
We went along at an easy pace, mostly trying to convince Sarah and Sean to relocate to Maine rather than Alaska at some point in the next few years. They're the same, right? Just one is closer to us....
The kids and Sean and Robert went down to a rocky beach and played around for awhile at one point. Marcus was expert at scrambling over the rocks, and didn't need any help at all. Samantha is a bit less able, but also had a great time.
Sean was enlisted to help a cellist and fiddler take photos for an album cover, and Marcus shyly complied when the cellist gave him a "cellists' high five." He asked a few questions about the fiddler's instrument, and Samantha also joined in, asking about the sponge on the back.
We walked back the length of the walk and ate lunch at the Oarweed Restaurant at the start of the walk, where Sarah had a scallop roll, Marcus had the clam chowder, Robert had a seafood sampler, and I had an amazing crabmelt. The restaurant doesn't serve anything fried--not fish, not clams, not even french fries--and the waitress had a story about why, when Robert asked her.
We briefly stopped at the Stonewall Kitchen headquarters to try a bunch of samples, use bathrooms and get more water, and buy some presents for people, and then we got onto 95 and joined the traffic heading south to Boston. Traffic wasn't awful, actually--it took us about two hours from Stonewall, when it could have taken much longer, and first I napped in the car and then Marcus did. Marcus actually ended up transferring up to the house and into bed, and then sleeping straight through the night.
At last it was Sunday night, and we were all home in our own beds--but what a great weekend it was!
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