The second full day of my trip to Maine, we drove north up the coast as far as Belfast. (Maine seems to have a high percentage of towns named after European cities and countries, although not necessarily pronounced the same way. Calais, for example, is pronounced “Callus” by the locals.) Beautiful day of blue skies, blue water, and white sailboats in the harbor.
Turned back toward Camden; visited all the little shops and had lunch at the Camden Deli. The food is good, and the seats at the back of the deli have a perfect view of the spillway that flows down into the harbor. It’s like a scene from a New England calendar.
Went through Rockport after that, and Thomaston. The small coastal towns have definitely changed since my last visit–they’re still peaceful and rural, and still have the obvious strong connections to shipping and sailing heritage on which most of the communities were founded in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries–but there are many more people and houses and businesses than I remember.
The next day, we attended the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine. The fair is an annual event sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA; www.mofga.org), and features local products, environmentally-friendly products and ideas, and a pretty hefty emphasis on social activism.
I’ve attended the fair several times, and it’s always an interesting mix of vendors, exhibitions, families, local foods, heirloom plants and animals, speakers, demonstrators, and crafters. Some booths are new every year; others feature folks whose wares are very familiar. Trillium Soaps was there (www.http://www.trilliumsoaps.com/), and Peace Fleece (http://www.peacefleece.com/); the balsam pillow people (I don’t have their contact info, but I bought a balsam pillow from them at the 1994 CGF and it still smells good!); honey and bee products from Sparky’s Apiaries; and, of course, the french fry stand featuring hot-out-of-the-fryer hand-cut fries that can be drenched with sea salt and garlic-flavored vinegar. Lots of family farms with flowers and herbs and apples and anything else they grow; a plethora of all-natural “unguents and ointments” for every imaginable condition or situation, and, of course, bales and swags and heaps of Sweet Annie–a pungent herb that helps control things like moths and mice in your house.
Left the fair late in the afternoon, and made a point of stopping at the A-1 Diner in Gardiner for dinner. The A-1 is located on Bridge Street (can’t miss it if you go through Gardiner) and the structure is an actual dining car.* The food is always good, from the basic burger to the specials of the day (specials are often elegant–even exotic–for diner fare). I enjoyed my Greek salad with calamari and hoped to try the caramel pumpkin pudding, but had to pass on dessert–insufficient stomach space!
Back to Portland after dinner, and still several days of vacation left! I’ll try to wrap it up in the next post.
*The bathrooms at the A-1 were legendary: Their location at the end of the dining car required you to exit the diner completely and cross over the creek on a little metal footbridge that always felt a little rickety, plus you could hear and see the water running underneath. The bathrooms were part of the structure, but you “couldn’t get there from here,” as the saying goes. They’ve been remodeled since my last visit, and though you still have to go outside to get to them, the footbridge is much sturdier now (and not nearly as exciting!).