Tue 25 Jun - Portland, ME

Summer has arrived in New England. It was a hot day in Portland, ME (30 degrees but little wind and in the sun it felt much hotter). So we sun screened up, dressed in shorts and light shirts and went exploring the town. Time to sweat a bit... This is how we walked...

Distance is a bit inflated as we ducked in and out of some shops down by the waterside, but the route is right.
We fried a little but were not at much risk of burning - not like these guys off West Commercial Street. Phew, they can keep that job - we would not touch it.

We chose a route that looked OK on the map but the initial couple of kilometers along West Commercial Street turned out to be a bit dull. We lightened the mood with this embarrassing moment for Di (Hans' idea).

After 3.5km of walking, we find our way to the Old Port area. Much better!

We identified a Iikely contender restaurant for Hans' birthday dinner tomorrow night but were also feeling good about the number of pubs and other restaurants nearby in case the karma did not stack up.

Portland is very much a working fishing port. If you walk out on some of the piers, you could very well be somewhere in Asia given the smell and the mess. Very real grit and grime which suits Hans well :-)

We liked it all, although Di is not yet a huge Portland fan, she misses Bar Harbor.

The birds were keeping a watch on the comings and goings. They looked very well fed. Wonder why...?

A serious seafood market on a pier made Di smile and improve her view of Portland. Now she just needs a kitchen...

Warning signs here proclaimed the self evident we thought, but there is obviously a reason why they felt the need to put them up...

You could pretty easily imagine getting nips or scratches by unhappy lobsters if you stuck your hand in the tank. These guys were not happy about being picked out for a dinner party (about 6 taken home by a customer).

Further along Commercial Street were quite a lot of pubs and places to eat. This Irish pub caught our eye with its free chalk and space to write something witty about "Before I die...". An employee was busy removing any offensive comments - like "get a child slave" or "fuck" - but left many others including a wish to "go to Australia and get in a kangaroo's pouch". Hmmm...

Hans gave the thumbs down to the very first one on the board. Why, oh mighty? Erase, please.

We took a short break with a banana and water near the ferry terminal and used their facilities. We also picked up details for a probable trip around the Casco Bay islands tomorrow.

Then on to East Promenade walking and bike trail. It appears that this trail has claimed most of the old railway line space and they have made the area available for pedestrians and bikes along the single narrow gauge where you can now take a scenic train ride. On a hot day you realize it will be much better when the trees are fully grown but it is good to be away from the traffic and it seems popular - the paths were quite heavily used for a Tuesday.

We came to East End Beach. A small rocky beach where several people were sunbaking (on chairs as they do when the beach is rocky) and 2 brave souls were attempting the water but while we were there they only got in to their knees.

On the far right of the picture you might notice a "truck ferry".

The ferry seemed to only be carrying working vehicles - no pedestrians nor cars. We assume this is how they provide services to the outer islands.

Further around, the trail was separated from the old railway area and climbed a little hill. You can see in this photo the old bridge has been left open for boats and parts of the timbers seem to be deteriorating. The railway bridge does not appear to be in use any more.

We got to the top and you see... Portland Waste Water Treatment Plant. No joke, this was only a mile or so from downtown. Interestingly though the provided helpful sign boards to explain what part of the process we were seeing. This is Aeration - where the soiled waste water (brown) is aerated to allow the bacteria maximum oxygen to breakdown the "organic matter".

Left us feeling like getting a cup of coffee!

On the way back into town we passed a small section of park, and on the grass up ahead some critter was moving. We got excited - it was a Groundhog! No, not Punxsutawney Phil.

Groundhogs are supposed to be common here but we've not seen one before on this trip. Maybe they were in hiding due to the shame brought on them by Phil "fraudulently predicting an early spring" (quote from an Ohio Prosecutor) when instead it was a long harsh winter.

Very cute - these are just 2 of about 8 photos taken of Portland Phil.

We found our coffee place - Coffee By Design or CBD - on Washington Street. The smell inside was right as soon as we opened the door and the espresso turned out to be very good. Nice break from the heat in their aircon with comfy chairs and free wifi. We loitered for a while, as did several other punters from what we could see.

We then continued west on Congress Street, the main east/west drag through central Portland. Location shot with Portland City Hall on the left.

The corner of Congress and Free Streets has been made to a little square where there are eateries and where people congregate. That included this Motley Crüe of "musicians". The music sounded like anybody had been invited to come along to play independent of their musical ability, just bring an instrument or something. We didn't linger...

We walked nearly the full length of Congress Street and passed this place on the way. "Father of Prohibition"? We immediately took a dislike to the place! Turns out that Neal Dow got this title because he sponsored the "Maine law of 1851", which prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor. It should be no surprise that there was a Portland Rum Riot soon afterwards (1855). Mate, it doesn't work...

Back into West End, we picked up a few hot dog buns for our left over wurst from yesterday that we intended to have in our motel room. By now, 1pm or so, the heat was punishing and we had been out getting fried for quite a while.

Right of a sudden at the corner of Congress and St John Streets, we hear very loud distorted guitar music. Ha, another duff duff car perhaps... No, the "music" came from a long haired bloke on a bicycle, electric guitar in hand, small amplifier on his back, a cup for "donations", waiting to cross the red light. Of course, nobody paid him any attention so he muttered something about it being pointless to "play" as no one was listening to him... (clearly too much of something be shouldn't have taken this morning...) and cycled away.

Yet another misunderstood "artist", we laughed... Sorry, no picture, but the guy was a riot.

After lunch, we had some downtime in our room, waiting for the heat to hopefully subside in the afternoon.

Early dinner at 5.45pm or so, at a local Thai, Saeng, nearby on Congress Street. There was a thunderstorm warning for much of New England by 7pm so we tried to beat that. Weather was still fine when we arrived and when we left.

Di ordered Pad Thai and chicken satay sticks. Both good but sweeter than we normally eat (which we find with most food served to Americans). Here is Hans with his green curry chicken. Nice.

We noticed on the way to the Thai that there is a minor league baseball game on tonight, so we decided to walk by the Hadlock Field after dinner, just to have a look.

Slugger is the mascot for the Sea Dogs and clearly a popular local identity.

Hmmm... Ticket prices were somewhat different to what we paid for the major league Yankees game in NYC. General admission of $8 (about 10% of Yankee prices) is almost as much as what they charge for parking using any available local parking lot that they can find ($5).

For the people of Portland... Well, not the guy to the left...

We did like the grass roots feel of it all but did not "take ourselves out to the ball game" as we really are not that interested in baseball and the thunderstorms are coming.

We wandered back to our motel, watched a couple of episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" while the thunder and lightning played a bit of havoc with the broadcasting signals, which disappeared for minutes at a time. Oh well at least we are warm and dry.

Observations of Maine and Portland in particular after our morning exploring... It looked and felt poorer than we thought before coming here. From what we saw Portland has a lot of homeless looking people, infrastructure looks run down and many properties and apartments were up for lease. Tourism appears to be a relatively new fad, and limited to the Old Port area. Shipping and fishing seem to be the main areas from where people derive income and that generally only makes the top 1% rich. As Di observed in TripAdvisor, the vast majority of the various Portland reviews were from Maine residents, I.e. limited interstate travel to Maine. This has not been the case in most other parts of the US that we have visited. It might seem all different in the morning...Good night.

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