Loved the Hampton Inn off the 195 in Saco. Nice property in a forested area that is supposedly industrial but very nice, green, and quiet. You barely hear the 195 and turnpike traffic.
Got there early Friday afternoon, smooth as silk check in. Were able to extend by one night to leave Tuesday, without a hitch. Everything in the room was clean and neat, great towels, sheets, etc. The breakfast area near reception was also nice. I liked the waffles available every day and other pastries. The New England coffee (esp robust blend) and hot chocolate available all day long was a nice touch too, as was the occasional chocolate chip cookie tray by the check-in area. The coffee and cookies were delicious. The omelette and sausage patties on Sunday were excellent, and I loved their OJ.
Despite the busy long weekend, we were always able to get a table for breakfast.
Easy access to Saco, OOB and Portland via the 195 and 95.
Camp Ellis was pretty quiet Friday afternoon. Goose Rocks busier on Saturday, Kennebunk Beach was very busy later that afternoon. This latter beach, major waves which was a lot of fun and the warmest water all weekend. Parking on a side street pretty ample, whereas at Goose Rocks, we needed to buy a $12 day pass from the main store on Dyke Road. Kinda pricey but a great beach. The waves in distance near Cape Porpoise looked amazing towering over the trees behind them in some instances. Parking at Camp Ellis very easy on any side street. Nice view of OOB from there.
Crescent Beach was OK, albeit very quiet and windy and cold when we visited Sunday afternoon. We got there after the parking attendant had left so waived the $6.50 pp admission. Very nice bathrooms and showers.
Monday we went to a beach east of Fortune Rocks. Parking was enforced despite City Hall (which issues licenses) being closed on the holiday. We were directed instead to Hattie's, a restaurant that, though closed, runs a parking business on the side at $15 per.
In the p.m. we went to Ocean Park, very nice views there and big grassy dunes. Parked on the street for free. The drop off from the sand near the dunes to the water level is quite steep, great place to lie down reclined. It got cold that afternoon. The water at that other beach near Fortunes was very cold, btw. There were warnings about rip currents almost everywhere.
Our last day, Tuesday, morning, arrived in OOB just as the meters were getting decapitated, so free parking again. Got rained out. Everything was dead. We hit the road after check-out and stopped by Nubble Light in York, and swam at York Beach. Beautiful day, orange (or were they faded red) flags on the beach kept me from going in too deep. Still quite cold water temps there. Free parking on the street as the meters seemed out of order even though they indicated operational through Oct. 15.
Delicious sausages at Hadlock Field where we saw the Sea Dogs beat the Fisher Cats 7-4 Friday night in the mist and rain. Still, at $6 apiece very expensive, as was the $3 sodas. The sausages had fried onions and peppers on them, woulda liked some kraut. Got free tickets to the game as we walked up to the booth, a nice man giving away a pair he wasn't using. We were right behind the plate near the Dogs' dugout. It was 1995 night so lots of old songs and memories of past players. Loved the Shipyard Ex and Summer brews at the ballpark, the price was right too. In fact, I love all those Maine micro-brews, Sebago, Sea Dog, Geary's, Allagash...
After the ballgame stopped by Brian Boru for a live band playing lots of 90s stuff, Goo Goo Dolls, 3 Doors Down, among others. Good times. Almost rained out on the upper deck patio. Made it just under the wire (before 10:00) to order a very good pulled pork with slaw, and delicious, perfectly cooked fries on the side. Great food at Boru's and good suds, $2.50 Newcastle Summer 12oz drafts.
After Goose Rocks Saturday afternoon, went to Cape Porpoise. Were disappointed Pier 77 had no patio. Went to the adjacent Clam house instead. Decent clams, good curly fries, ice cold Shipyard on tap. Crab roll was pretty good, but the bun wasn't even toasted and it was kinda small for $9.99, no sides. The steamed North Carolina shrimp were bland as was the liquidy unsalted butter it came with to dip. The worst part of the place was the rude lady at the cash, man talk about ice-cold service with a frown.
Dinner that night was a highlight. Mia's at Pepperell Square. Got there just before 9pm after getting lost at Pepperell Street the other side of route 1. My lobster chowder was the best I've ever had. The house-made bread and garlic-oil dipping sauce were delicious. The crust of that bread was worth it alone. My hanger steak cooked to perfection (medium-rare as I asked) which a nice glaze on top and sliced on a bias for max flavour. The fingerlings and string beans, and carrots and onions on the side were all organic, local, guaranteed. And so so flavourful and perfectly cooked.
The capper was the apple crumb with apple brandy ice cream dessert. The coffee was nice too as were the wine pairings (expertly done by our excellent waiter, Mike), and I was glad they had Pilsener Urquell on the beer menu. This place is as close to perfect as it gets. If I was to have a gripe it is that I think they need to have some micro-brews. But that is a small thing, their wine list is very good and the bottom line, the food and service are top-notch, as is the ambience in such a cosy setting downtown Saco. The value for money cannot be beat. Will be back for sure.
Lunch on Sunday was at Peaks Island. Nice chowder, great Sebago red ale draft, and very very affordable whole lobster dinner for lunch. I forget the name of the place, it is to the right of the ferry landing, with a patio facing the small beach below. View of Portland. Peaks Island Lobster Shack seems to ring a bell. I will find it when I rate it.
The lobster was delicious as were the fries and slaw. At $12, hard to beat, and btw take note Cape Porpoise clam shack: served with a real, creamy buttery, tasty dipping sauce.
Back to Portland and mouth-watering croissants and morning rolls washed down with excellent coffee at the irresistible Standard Baking Company before hitting Crescent Beach.
Dinner at Jimmy the Greek's. This place is a gold mine and for good reason. Great service, friendly casual atmosphere with sports screens aplenty. But most of all amazing brick oven pizza and the variety of beers. I went with the Dogfish Pumpkin (they had their autumn beers in and none of the Summers I had come to appreciate all weekend but I loved the fall ones too). The Pumpkin was interesting, very nice and I am not one for fruity beers. I found the Geary's one I had later on the OOB Pier spicier.
The pizza was the best I have had in Maine outside of my favourite in Sanford. Perfect crust with seasonings brushed on it, even olive oil. The cheese excellent, but the best was the sweet, red, plentiful tomato sauce. I wish somebody here in Ottawa or Montreal could make a pizza at least 1/10th as good as this. Pizza here in Canada, unless you go to Vancouver, is garbage.
Anyway, at Jimmy's you get Portobella mushrooms on your pie. Italian sausage and pepperoni were also very good toppings, quality ingredients above all.
The Bill's pizza slice I had the night before in OOB was a distant, bad memory after Jimmy's.
Monday, after the beach near the Pool, tried vainly to find Union House which I believe Trip Advisor says is near the Pool. Finally found it in the old mill on route 9, downtown Biddo, closed. Went to Run of the Mill instead. I loved it btw, I know one poster said to stick to the beers only. My experience was quite different. My chili cheese dogs with sides of beans and corn bread were fantastic as was my girlfriend's pan-fried fish and chips with slaw. The fries looked great too as did other dishes that went by. Excellent service and I love the seat yourself, casual approach. Nice patio too, enough removed from the traffic.
Dinner was back at Jimmy's, given that Surfside was closed and the Brunswick was closed for a staff party. We had to struggle to park and go inside before finding this out, which was a hassle, so we went back to Jimmy's. I had gyro and chips which was very good. The gyro, I find, is short on tzatziki sauce so I ordered another little cup of tzatziki which was charged at a very reasonable 50 cents. Went with the Geary's Pale Ale which was very good. Red Sox thumped the Rays that night too, so all was good.
Checked out Tuesday morning, grabbed some delicious chocolate chip muffins and croissants from the Hannaford. Again, if only 1 of the supermarkets here was a fraction as good for baked pastries and such as Hannaford, I'd be a happier man.
Hit York Beach after Nubble Light. Decided to have a bite before some shopping at Hickey Freeman and Bobby Jones outlets in Kittery. Saw Flo's and decided to try it out as it was mentioned in not one but two of our guide books. This is basically a trailer that serves what is arguable the most overpriced, crappiest hot dogs you will have. My chili cheese dog should be renamed chili-Cheez Wiz dog. The special sauce is pretty disgusting and not appropriate for a hot dog anyway, and it was with mayo too which made it even more hideous. Also, the buns were uncooked and therefore soggy, and the dogs themselves a sickly pale colour, and tiny in size. Three dogs and two sodas for $12 thank you very much. Crap!
Lots of good shops in Portland waterfront. Was amazed at the Barbour store, really nice stuff. There were a couple of nice men's clothing stores/tailors. P Renney(?) and Joseph's among others. Wish I had more time for the Barbour outlet in Kittery. Next trip for sure.
Live music, loved the band at Boru's. Another singer showed up later and played some reggae which was great. There was a band at Mr. Goodbar Sat nite too. Van Halen, Journey, Shinedown, Rage and other songs very well interpreted. The best band though was Empty Head on the pier Sunday nite. Lots of Pearl Jam, Our Lady Peace, Foof Fighters, etc. Great lead vocals, intense dude but the guitarists, bassist and drummer were no slouches. The In The Air Tonight cover was one for the ages. The drum intro alone was worth the admission price. Too bad the disco upstairs affected the sound a bit.
In short, the weather was great (Earl hardly afftected us). The water was mostly tolerable. The traffic was light. The people were cool and the food and libations were outstanding. This is why I keep going back to OOB and surrounding areas. Sad to see the season wrap up, but meantime, till next summer, Maine!