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The Quick & Dirty Version
The Highlights:J's Oyster Bar (a must for oyster lovers!), Allagash Brewery (because yes, my dog is named after one of their best beers), Rhum Food + Grog (TIKI BAR!), MJ's Wine Bar (for DIY flights), Sonny's Restaurant (it's in an old bank!), Three Dollar Dewey's (go-to bar food), and Cabot Farmers' Annex (CHEESE! and other stuff), and Binga's (WINGS! Er, WINGAS!).
The Lowlights:Parking. Seriously, it was the only thing about this city I didn't love.
How We Got There:Driving. All the driving. And then more driving. And some more driving that wasn't documented, but you should absolutely stop at a liquor barn in New Hampshire. I don't remember what car, but I want to say it was a Nissan Altima and was gas efficient and totally inoffensive. Other transportation options discussed at the very end.
Where We Stayed:Residence Inn Portland Scarborough. 10/10, would stay again. Major props to Dennis who answered all of my questions, fixed my reservation, and accepted packages for me even before we checked in! Scarborough isn't downtown Portland, but it's 10 minutes in and oodles cheaper. Plus, scenic drive in to town over the bridges. Plus, if your husband isn't a buzzkill, you can stop and buy a lobster to boil in your kitchen! Other lodging options discussed at the very end.
My Thoughts? Do this. Do the Portland trip. And rent a car so that you can go out in to the mountains and visit the nearby states and go up to North Maine. It won't be the cheapest trip you ever take, but it is worth every penny!
The Not So Quick & Potentially Still Dirty Version
Our first night in town was a meetup with HaiJo and their friends and family. We squeezed in at J's Oyster Bar, which is a long-time Portland tradition. I'm a BIG oyster lover, and got to try oysters from all over the Northeast. I'm still partial to my big, meaty, earthy Gulf oysters, but those Maine oysters... they tasted like clear, briny sea and there's nothing like them! We dashed through the chill to Three Dollar Dewey's where I started loading up on local brews because, well, that's my MO. We grabbed fries, chili, and a burger to top us off, and I definitely recommend the chili!
Day Twowas wandering over to Allagash to see the mothership the brewery! I'm a big fan of my local brews, but Allagash is one of my favorite breweries and has been for years. Even the beers that aren't my style are ones that I can appreciate, and I've worked the Allagash booth at the Decatur Beer Fest with pride! After a delightful (free!) tasting, I went shopping and got a Curieux sign to hang in our living room and chatted with the staff about driving up from Atlanta and naming my dog after their beer. They kindly sent me home with a bottle of Curieux, which really made my day! It's always wonderful to find that a company you like so much is full of the awesome people you want them to have.
After Allagash, the Cabot shop where we tried every single cheese and then bought a cooler full to bring back with us. Cheese tasting drunk may not have been to my advantage., Then, we walked around downtown Portland (beautiful city to walk around in, definitely bring your walking shoes!), and back to the hotel to rest up and pick up our roommates for the weekend! I was thankful for a nearby shopping center that featured a Marshall's with more weather-appropriate dresses than anything I had at home... it was at least 15, if not 20 degrees cooler! We picked up C and F (and their therapy floof, Sophie) from the airport and got ready for a night out on the town!
Our first stop was Rhum, the Tiki Bar. Rhum was SUPER HARD TO FIND, Y'ALL! Google maps got really really confused and we walked past it about a million times until we ran in to someone who knew from the look of us that we were lost looking for Rhum. Spoiler Alert: It's kinda on the side of the building on a side street, not super obvious from the outside (especially in the dark). Once you're in, you go down a very cool, kinda spooky ramp in to the bowls of the place where you see a very Tiki looking Bar! The menu was well-balanced, and we ended up getting the Pu Pu Platter to share and cocktails for everyone. Everything was definitely high on the value for money scale, we could have eaten our weight in appetizers, and I refrained from stealing the cat my drink came in.
While waiting for the wedding party, we hit MJ's Wine Bar (a mistake, but a fortuitous one) which didn't have much in the way of snacks, but definitely had amazing chocolate and an awesome wine selection! My favorite thing, and the reason I list it in the highlights, is that you can get 3oz pours of most of the wine on the menu for just a few bucks. They also had a cider selection, which was great for my not-so-wine-inclined husband!
We met up at Sonny's, a restaurant & bar that was made in an old bank with the original vault still exposed for public viewing. It was super cool and I wish I'd been sober enough to catch decent pictures of it, but there are plenty online. Or, you know, you could see it for yourself! We had a few drinks at Sonny's, all the beer and cocktails were delicious and properly priced, and then wandered around to our next stop. Or at least, we tried to... turns out, a huge group of people on a Saturday night is a little hard to fit in! And Portland closes surprisingly early. Good news? We found Binga's! Seriously, they had the best wings AND they had one that was too hot for the PK Husband! I've honestly never seen so many sauces in my life, and I probably could have tried every single one given the chance.
After filling ourselves to the brim with hot wings and beer, we all retired for the night, totally happy and totally ready for the next day's wedding!
The day of the wedding we left a little early since the venue was technically in New Hampshire. We wanted to leave a little earlier and really drive the mountains, but unfortunately my hair had other plans... We stopped for BBQ about ten minutes away from the venue (don't remember the name, it was fine but nothing noteworthy, it DID have a great view ^^) and then plugged in the mountains and drove! We pulled over at a scenic overlook and, well, here are some pictures:
Just do yourself a favor and go out there. The pictures? They don't do it justice. I wish there had been the opportunity for scenic overlooks as we drove through those very same mountains, but where there were pulloffs there wasn't much to shoot. The snow was amazing, the roads were very driveable, and I am desperate to get back there and do some hiking.
The wedding itself was lovely -- the venue was adorable -- I got to try Moxie. Still not sure how I feel about that last one. We made new friends, celebrated old ones, expanded our expanded family, and danced in to the night! We also ate some really. Really. REALLY. Good pizza. You don't need the deets, so here are some pictures that capture the night.
I'll do my full summation in the next post (in which we drive back to Atlanta through Pennsylvania), so for now you get your promised transportation and lodging options!
Transportation is one that you'll need to put your work in to. Portland can be pricey to fly in to, at least for two of us flying from Atlanta, and once you get there you'll need transportation around the city. There is Uber/Lyft, but that can add up over time, so think about where you're staying and how often you'll need to get somewhere outside of walking distance. Your other option is to fly in to Boston and take the bus. From Atlanta, Boston tends to be about half the price of a Portland ticket. Although the bus ride only runs a couple times a day, there are a few carriers and tickets start at $16. Looking at today's prices as I write, one person's cost to do the Atlanta-Boston-Bus to Portland option would be about $200 instead of $400 flying directly to Portland. I personally would try to get a flight in to Boston in the early AM and spend the day in the city before hopping the night bus -- they have fantastic transportation and it's really easy to get around!
Your other option here would be driving from wherever you are like we did -- the rental car was $580 from Enterprise with the full get-hit-and-walk-away insurance and I don't have a number on gas, but probably less than $250 all told assuming around 2,000 miles driven. So, basically, for the price of two plane tickets we had transportation to and from, plus the freedom to explore our way up the coast and get around once we got to Portland.
The one thing I'll say about Portland is that they do have public transport (GP Metro), but I did not notice it once while I was there. It isn't like other big cities where you notice exactly where the stops are even as a visitor. Looks like it does a basic loop through Portland, which could be perfect for a day of seeing the city, and there are routes that will take you out and around the region and links up with transportation to Freeport, so you could dig around and see if it gets you where you want to go/if you're interested in seeing anywhere it will take you.
Lodging is one that takes a little less looking around to not break the bank. We did stay at the Residence Inn so that we had access to a fridge and a kitchen, and because it was dog friendly (we weren't sure if our dog would be making the trip with us or not) and had a sleeper sofa for our roommates -- the hotel was around $150/night, but we split that in two to make it a little more affordable for everyone.
If you aren't traveling with an animal, that widens your search pool. It honestly depends on your preference, if you're willing to share space at your lodging or not, since hotels and Air BnBs tend to be about the same price. The hotels will be closer in to the city, and the Air BnBs a bit farther out, so be sure to look at the map if you're looking to do Air BnB.
Obviously, lodging is a lot less complicated than transportation. Once you get to the city, you're there, and you just have to decide on your priorities. Do you want to stay in downtown Portland for the food and drink? Do you want to stay outside Portland and do some camping and hiking? Do you want to head up to Freeport and do the beachy cottage pseudo-Cape thing? All of that will shape your lodging needs; if you need help, just reach out!
I think that's been enough for this MONSTER post from Portland -- next time, we'll wrap up with a drive home and some thoughts on the trip as a whole. Thanks for sticking with it! I promise the next one will be a little less strenuous...
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