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Archive for the ‘Maine’ Category

Lively Lady Too

 We woke up to yet another beautiful day – blue sky, sunshine, hardly any clouds and the perfect temperature.

After breakfast we headed down to Camden to check out the “Lobster Boat”; according to one leaflet the boat would leave at 11am, another leaflet said 10.30am. When we tracked the organisers down in the harbour they explained there would only be one daily trip at 1.30pm! (it’s the end of the season hence only one trip a day instead of three).

Right, we put our names down and went back to Lincolnville Post Office to find out how best to send a parcel back to the UK.  The lady was extremely friendly and went out of her way to help us.  She handed us two different sized (free) postage boxes for us to take back home and try out.  We managed to get the girls’ books, Amish dolls and horseshoes in the smaller box and sent it at the slightly cheaper rate of $40 instead of nearly $55 (that would  have been the “flat rate” no matter the weight of the parcel).

Since we had some time on our hands, we decided to group all our belongings (clothes, electrical stuff, overnight bag, notebooks, etc.) ready for our departure tomorrow.  It also meant that we could really relax and enjoy our boat trip this afternoon.

At about 1.30pm we boarded the Lively Lady Too, together with another couple and a family with two small children.IMG_2585

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The captain and his helper pulled up a lobster trap and overloaded us with information about lobsters.  Now we know that legal lobsters are those of the correct length (there are different lengths for male and female lobsters), any lobsters that are too short are thrown back.  Also female lobsters with eggs will have one of their tailfins notched and released back into the sea.  They notch a tailfin to avoid someone else removing the eggs and trying to sell the lobster (no-one will buy a lobster marked in this way).  The two most interesting facts about lobsters are that they can’t see anything stationary and they don’t have any memory at all. IMG_2591

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After the captain expertly put bands on the lobster’s claws the children were asked if they would like to hold it.  Not one little person felt brave enough, so the lobster was passed to Tim to hold and show to the children.  Ellen and the little boy then had the courage to stroke it.  IMG_2603

We also came across this group of Harbor seals and were told they were not sunbathing but storing up oxygen.  They can then stay under water for up to half an hour – Hannah thought this fact was pretty fascinating.  IMG_2606

On the way back to the harbour, the children were invited to steer the boat, but again Hannah & Ellen declined.  All in all we found this boat trip very informative and fun and would strongly recommend it to other visitors.IMG_2609

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Once back on firm ground we immediately headed for the nearest ice cream stall and treated ourselves to yet another ice cream – cookie dough again for the girls, Maine maple walnut for Tim and Moose Tracks for me (vanilla & chocolate with chocolate & peanut butter chips).

Tim had had a nagging headache all day and was feeling pretty tired, so after I finished a little more packing the girls and I went to our local beach one last time.  We will miss it, but we also know that we will come across many more breathtaking places before heading back home.

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Et in Acadia ego

It’s a clear day, it’s not the week-end, the Union Fair isn’t on – so the time is ripe for driving ‘down east’ to Mount Desert Island, a good 70 miles from where we are staying.

It’s the home of the only National Park in this corner of the USA, and there’s a clue in the title… Acadia is indeed a corruption of Arcadia, and is associated with French settlers (Cajun is a further southern corruption).

Many people spend a whole week in this area, and we had but one day. The lady in the Visitor Center recommended doing the highlights in reverse order to avoid the crowds, and we took her advice.

First we drove up Cadillac Mountain (named after the French explorer, not the automobile), the peak of which is the first part of the USA to see the sun rise (in autumn and winter, at least). On a day such as today, the views are spectacular – Kirsten’s panorama ran to nine photographs, which I don’t think I can squeeze into this blog, but it’ll make the photo-book we produce one day…

Anyway, here is a selection of our shots:

Trails are marked with cairns rather than gaudy coloured markers.
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A view down towards Bar Harbor with its five ‘porcupine’ islands (Bar, Sheep Porcupine, Burnt Porcupine, Long Porcupine and Bald Porcupine).
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The sky was ridiculously blue (but not as deep a colour as we’ll get in the Andes, perhaps).
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The clouds casting island shadows…
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Three ladies on the summit, ready to greet the sun’s first rays (if we’d got there six hours earlier).
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Then the long and winding road down again.
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We stopped at Bear Brook for a picnic lunch, then drove on round the one-way loop road to the imaginatively-named Sand Beach (well, it is the only sandy beach on the island). The girls had a good run around, but no swimming today; the water is notoriously cold here, and there were three-foot breakers.
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Thence to Thunder Hole – not a James Bond film, but a Pancake Rock sort of thing where waves are funnelled through a narrow channel in the rocks and spurt spectacularly with a great deal of noise (or they do at high tide). We still experienced something akin to the thuds of Salisbury Plain shelling.
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By this time it was getting near 4 o’clock so we scooted around the rest of the loop, skipping intriguing stops such as Bubble Rock in order to get to Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor for a nice ice cream. We know well enough by now to order the Small option every time, and if Hannah’s Cookie Dough cone was small, the large one must be served in a traffic cone… Ellen had hers in a bowl (to prevent dribbles), Kirsten had Mocha Chip and I tried their trademark KGB – Kahlua, Grand Marnier and Baileys. (I was allowed to drive home some of the way.)

We had promised ourselves a proper lobster meal before we left the States, and once we got home we did a quick change of clothes and popped down to The Lobster Pound on Lincolnville Beach. The girls were given the mandatory colouring sheet and crayons and ordered the mandatory chicken and chips. We asked about sharing a crustacean and were instead offered twin lobsters (how do they know?) for a very reasonable price (about £7 a piece), so that’s what we went for – see below:
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Eating them was a bit of a lobstacle course (we’ve never done this before), figuring out which bits of shell to crack and how to wheedle out the meat with our special forks – and which bits not to eat (anything green got the red light). These were of the soft shell variety – less meat, but sweeter and more tender compared with hard-shell lobsters.

Yes, we enjoyed the meal (including our starter of mussels) but you don’t get much edible lobster per pound weight – good thing there were fresh bread rolls and side orders of salad and baked potato.

Finally, do you all know the three famous crustaceans to be found in London…?

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Lighthouse Family

An end to the rain this morning, although the sky was still overcast. We drove south to Camden and followed the two-mile Scenic Route to Rockport – supposedly ‘the prettiest walk in the world’, according to Yankee magazine, but I wouldn’t go that far. Only the occasional glimpse of the ocean, and the much-vaunted Belted Galloways were far in the distance (we got up close at Friday’s Fair). Admittedly, fall is the best time for this drive/walk, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then down to Rockland breakwater – and its lighthouse. You walk out along the breakwater (built with a mind-boggling 768,774 tons of stone, all neatly jigsawed together) for nearly a mile, as long as it’s low tide and the sea is calm (which it was).

And then you arrive at the 1902 lighthouse, again a relatively squat construction compared with your tall and slender Brittany ‘spears’. The lighthouse keeper lives alongside and behind the light, rather than below.
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We looked around the keeper’s accommodation (used until 1963, and currently just bare rooms with old photos) as well as the lighthouse itself. The latter appears to be solar powered, judging from the above photo; a slight drawback, one might think.

Then the near-never-ending walk back along the breakwater, leaping over the deep cracks between boulders. This area (like so many in Maine) is used for lobster traps, so this photo could be subtitled ‘girls and buoys’…
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We returned home for lunch, stocking up with lots of bread and pastries at Hannaford’s to see us through our last few breakfasts, lunches and teas. Then down to Lincolnville Beach to keep the girls happy. Quite a fresh breeze today, so we kept fleeces on although the girls ran around with just their swimming costumes on for most of the time. Here they are ‘surfing’ on bits of driftwood.
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And here is a windjammer tacking into the wind on its way back to Camden Harbo(u)r.
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(Kirsten) Ellen and I were approached by a friendly lady and two girls (her daughter Sydney, aged 7 and friend Tara, aged 8) who wanted to get to know Ellen & Hannah and maybe play tag together on the beach or paddle in the “hot tubs” the girls had dug out earlier.

The lady explained she grew up on Islesboro, an island we could see in the distance (she even managed to point out the house she grew up in) and suggested  a couple of activities we could try out on our way to Acadia National Park.

Something else that fascinated the girls was a man who kept walking up and down the beach with a metal detector.  Every time he stopped to dig up some sand they went over to watch from a distance.  One time he stopped to have a chat with us, turned out he was originally from Glasgow (his wife from Sussex), and had come to the States at the age of 19. 

It is exactly people like this friendly lady and man that make a place even more interesting and memorable and that’s what I really like about travelling.

Despite the fresh breeze we did manage to have an afternoon snack of cookies and crisps and pink lemonade on the beach (a hot coffee would have gone down really well, actually).  But about half an hour later we were defeated by the cool breeze and headed back home so the girls could have a warm bath/shower before supper.

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Rain in Maine

After yesterday’s late-ish night  we had a very lazy morning.  For over a week the girls had been nagging us to be allowed to watch a movie called “The Wizards of Waverley Place” (a series showing daily on the Disney Channel), so we decided to have a film night with crisps and candy floss.  We all enjoyed the film and nibbles and Hannah & Ellen were pretty tired by the time the film finished (about 10pm) and fell asleep pretty much immediately.

Today we weren’t greeted by warm sunlight, but by rain, rain and rain.  It rained all day non-stop.

For the first time since we left the UK over four weeks ago I felt quite chilly and simply couldn’t get warm and even ended up wearing my thermal top and microfleece and two pairs of socks!  When later in the day we checked the weather we found out it was a mere 52°F (about 14-15° Celsius) and after 4 weeks of hot, humid and sunny weather it definitely came as a shock.

We decided to have a quiet day at home to recharge batteries, our own as well as the cameras’, and to catch up with washing and drying clothes.  Tim caught up with all the computer stuff like backing up photos and videos. 

 The girls decided to play a game called “Lets pack our rucksacks, blankets and pillows and take them downstairs and make a huge mess” – well, actually they had improvised a camping story and had a great time.  (It was just mummy & daddy frantically reminding them not to lose any of their things).

A rainy day offers a good opportunity to do some schoolwork and I asked the girls to write about our day at the fair.  While Hannah got stuck in straightaway, Ellen needed some pointers so answered a few questions about which animals she saw, which rides she went on and what food she had to eat.  She did really well, her writing is coming on nicely and even managed to write several words without any help from regarding the spelling.  To finish off the task she drew a beautiful picture of the big wheel we went on.  I also tried a little numeracy with Ellen, she was getting tired (or so she said) but managed to finish ten sums in no time and was rewarded with some stickers and candy floss (that was one of the words she managed to write).  When Hannah finished her little essay, she moved on to some multiplications and times tables (2, 3, 5 & 6) and shortly after she finished it was time for afternoon snack.

Despite the persistent rain today we did venture out into Camden tonight to try out a local takeaway called Thai Kitchen.  The girls were up for it and chose egg fried rice with chicken and pineapple and Tim & I chose vegetable samosas with sweet chilli dip for starters and Pad Thai (noodles) with shrimps.  After a struggle with the key, we managed to get in and finally have our food.  Both girls tried to eat with chopsticks and had great fun, but unfortunately were slightly less keen on the food itself.  We were pleased, though, that they had tried it.  Both dishes were tasty but I can’t wait to get to Malaysia to try the real thing.  We ended our meal with fresh pineapple pieces (free dessert with takeaway) and watermelon.

We’re hoping for some dry weather over the next few days so that we can explore Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain.

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The Flying Wallendas!

A cool, dry day forecast, just right for going to the Fair. Union Fair to be precise (Union is a small town beyond Hope), and on Maine Wild Blueberry Festival Day, too…

En route we paused in pretty Camden (this one is, anyway) to take in the harbour views and to get some tourist info. A most helpful lady (her husband is English, from Gloucester) suggested some boat trips as well as a scenic drive from Camden to Rockport and was happy to chat for ages (we were early birds and the only customers). Along the harbourside, stalls touting windjammer trips vied for business.
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We chose to press on to Union, a few miles inland, and we got there around 10am – a little trouble finding the fairground (no big signs advertising it for miles around; just a little notice before we got to the turning. We paid our entry fee, a reasonable $8 per adult with children free, and parked as directed (they’ve been running this for 50 years, so it’s flawlessly organised).

First to Pulling: 3,300 pounds and 3,400 pounds classes of horses. We sat in a barn on aluminium tiered seating and watched a tractor tow a sled piled with hefty concrete blocks and a ride-on mower drag a metal grid to smooth the earth floor. Was this it? Where were the horses? We didn’t quite get it.

Then a pair of mighty horses appeared at the far end of the barn, engines revving (so to speak), barely controlled by three men. They were hooked up to the sled and it was then a contest between an irresistible force and an immovable object. This first time, the sled won – it wouldn’t budge, despite straining equine muscles and sinews. (I think the problem was synchronisation, or the lack of it, as in a tug of war – the horses lunged forward at different times.)

There followed more ground-smoothing and realignment of the weighty sled. The next team of horses (pictured below) was the eventual winner, and an awe-inspiring sight. The sheer powerhouse horse-power was remarkable as they dragged the ton-and-a-bit load up the barn, round and back again, then up and down again within the five-minute time limit. They were allowed recovery breaks, and you could hear the laboured breathing from the far end of the barn. This was World’s Strongest Horse.
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A little before 11 o’clock, we joined a rapidly-lengthening queue for free wild blueberry pie. Yes, all visitors were given a voucher (blue, of course) to receive their complimentary dessert served by this year’s Blueberry Queen. And not just the mini-muffin we perhaps expected, but a hunger-busting dish full of stewed berries with a slightly caramelised topping. We all loved it (not too sweet, but oozing fresh flavour), even if the girls’ appetites were insufficient for the task.
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Then a wander around the grounds – part agricultural show, part fairground. We saw Belted Galloways (coloured like Oreo sandwich biscuits as the tourist info lady had said), Belgian (Antwerp) blue hens, immaculately trimmed sheep and pygmy goats.
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A bit later, the fairground rides opened and we weighed up the different options: buy bracelets for unlimited rides for $18/person, or buy a block of 40 tickets for $30 and share them around (bearing in mind that a ride costs 3 or 4 tickets/person). We went for the latter, exactly sufficient for the dodgems, the Big Wheel, a mini-rollercoaster train ride and a ‘Fun House’ which turned out to be the one disappointment. (Perhaps it was supposed to shake or something, but it seemed to consist of walking along plain metal platforms apart from descending a slide at one point. Hannah claims she found it fun, anyway…)
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The Big Wheel afforded good views
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and the bumper cars were not too rough (Hannah loved driving solo).
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We paused in a shady spot for candy floss and a drink, and found we had stumbled upon the Blueberry Spitting Contest; they were appealing for late entries. I was seriously toying with the idea (when would I next get the opportunity?), but it’s just as well I didn’t sign up – it turned out to be for children only…

The lady on the left supplied the individual berries to competitors, the one in the middle did the measuring while the third was the announcer. The winning ‘performance’ was in excess of 12 feet.
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Then, the highlight of the day and one of those serendipitous, fortuitous episodes that we could never have set out to build into our trip – we saw and met the Flying Wallendas! Why they should be appearing at a (nationally) obscure fair in Maine and performing for no additional cost to our entrance fee, I don’t know, but there they were. (There are several branches of the family performing today, but this group is headed by the family patriarch, Tino Wallenda.)

This is their rig – tomorrow’s shows will surely be cancelled if the promised thunderstorm arrives. Mathematicians will admire the perfect catenary curve (y=cosh x) in the centre. [N.B. there is no safety net – as is always the case with the Wallendas.]
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JP the clown warmed up the show (down on terra firma), followed by some juggling with clubs, balls and finally fire. Apprenticeship in action; one new addition to the troupe (Trevor McNabb – non-family, and only been performing since February this year) who is not yet an accomplished juggler, but he goes out there every show and is learning on the job. Alex Wallenda is pretty good, though, faltering only on 5/6 balls.

Still, this is just a side-line to what they are brilliant at, and I’ll simply let the next few photos explain…
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Here are the girls with Alessandro (Alex)
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and with JP the clown.
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They collected autographs from the whole team, including Olinka (Tino’s wife, who recalled performing for and meeting the Queen in the 1960s) and Aurelia. An ice cream to round off the day, then back home with another rich store of memories.

Peru is looming, and we’ll be there this time next week. Four full days left here in Maine, and the squeeze is on – what can we reasonably pack into the remaining time?

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Picnic at Bald Rock

Another glorious morning – even before 7am, sunlight overflowing through the blinds exhorting us to get up and out and exploring. How could we refuse?

So we passed a cloudless few hours at our local Lincolnville Beach, near-deserted when we got there, but gently filling up with a handful of other families as the morning progressed. Low tide, rocks and shingle, chilly paddling and gritty flip-flops. Nearby US flags at half mast for Ted Kennedy. Futile damming of water streams (but it’s fun to watch the sand barrier get swept away in the inevitable trickle-to-torrent). Our girls transmogrified into a cat and a dog, chasing over the sands.

And no, Hannah, wasn’t doing the Sand Dance here…
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We returned home for lunch and considered how best to use the remainder of what might be the loveliest day we’ll get this week. Perhaps the ferry to Islesboro island, a few miles offshore and providing such shelter for our beach? We drove to the jetty; next boat at 2pm, last one back at 4.30. Perhaps not worth the near-$50 for a couple of hours over there.

So to Plan B: take a hike. The State Parks charge an admission fee, but Gretchen (our neighbour and owner of our rental property) mentioned a (free) walk up to Bald Rock, just around the corner and near inland Lincolnville. We found the trail-head and parked; a popular spot, judging from all the other cars there. The sign said 1¼ miles, so we thought we’d give it a go.

Up the gravel vehicle track through the forest. And on and on up the same gravel track with no change of scenery. Unusually, this was getting boring (but somewhat relieved by our ‘puppy’ Ellen retrieving sticks). I asked people coming the opposite way how far we had to go. “You’re nearly at the cutoff, then it’s another half mile.” Cutoff for losing the will to go on?

No, it transpired we soon had to cut off the main track and onto a rocky, rooty, interesting path… Only half a mile uphill – can’t take that long. And everyone coming down said how beautiful it was at the top (obviously too good to be merely awesome).

But the path wound onwards and upwards and upwards and onwards. Surely getting on for a mile by now? Flagging legs all round, and despairing of ever getting the maple biscuit reward at the summit. “You’ve still got a fair way to go” was the encouragement from a passer-by.

However – just as with planning RTW trips – we got there in the end.  Everyone else had told us how lucky we were to have such great weather; it’s been too wet or too hot up until today. And we were rewarded with a 180° IMAX view over Penobscot Bay, verdant islands shoaling out to the horizon, sailboats punching white triangles in the blue. We sat on the smoothed boulders at the summit to enjoy our maple creams and have a drink – and to soak up the reality of being there.

A tiny panoramic view from Bald Rock
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and now a bit of lateral thinking (please do adjust your set…)
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We found it so hard to drag ourselves away from this spot – more so than for any other location on our trip so far. At the still point of the turning world.

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Maine roads

A good solid sleep following our good solid fare last night, a minimal stand-up breakfast and then away just after 9am following a parting handshake with Mr Patel, who also hoped we’d “have a good one”, though this seemed a little incongruous coming from him (he has otherwise eschewed such phrases).

Lady TomTom behaved today, and we wound our way around the lakes of New Hampshire and at length into Maine. Now, although we tend to show you pictures like this
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and
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much of our journey is more like
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with plenty of
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and
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and even the occasional
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(All of these seen from Maine roads.)

Sometimes it seems that a business gave their name five seconds of thought and just picked the first, most obvious one that came to mind (as with anything “White Horse” in Wiltshire) – here, we have already spotted Mainely Hair and Mainely Used Cars and there are bound to be many others. (Sure enough – just try Googling ‘mainely’…)

A few random gleanings from today’s drive:

  • Fireworks are illegal in the State of Maine
  • DRIVE CAREFULLY – ITS NOT JUST CARS RECALLED BY MAKER
  • Roadside signs advertising taxidermy and sewing machine repair (in case the need arises while you are on the road)

And from our drive up to Vermont last week, the raucous and politically incorrect banter on the local radio station about George Michael’s Land Rover rear-ending a truck… (the only repeatable bit was “it went – WHAM!”)

(Kirsten) Anyway, we got to our next property around tea time and received a warm welcome from Gretchen, Steve, Wesley and little Preston.  The holiday cottage is adjacent to their house, which will be convenient should we need anything from extra towels to information on where to buy the tastiest lobster.  The cottage has a kitchen/diner, bathroom (with self-closing toilet seat!), sitting room and study/hideaway downstair and two bedrooms upstairs.  It is small in size but has everything we need.

After unpacking the car we headed straight off into Belfast to do our usual weekly shopping.  Gretchen recommended the large Hannaford supermarket as  it has an enormous selection of organic fruits and vegetables.  We certainly were not disappointed and stocked up with strawberries, apples, bananas, watermelon, carrots, broccoli, potatoes and fancy things for breakfast like croissants and mini rolls filled with raspberries and blueberries.  We all agreed that this was by far the best supermarket we have come across in the USA.  To top it all – although the items were scanned willy-nilly, they are all grouped together on the receipt; i.e. all the bakery things together, all the grocery stuff togther, all the fruit  and veg together, etc, pretty nifty huh!  Or as they would say over here “awesome”.

On the way home we had a 5 minute stroll on the little local Lincolnville beach which we hope to explore a little more over the next few days.IMG_2321

The owners also have a garden landscaping business, so after a good night’s sleep we’ll go and explore their garden!

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