Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Visiting Portland, Maine

I didn't know anything at all about Portland, Maine before I went. It was just a city name I knew, and knowing that it is one of the bigger cities in Maine, I figured it was a necessary stop. 

As our first stop in Maine, Portland did not disappoint. I expected somewhat of a small, big city and with a population of about 66,000 I wasn't wrong. I chose a small boutique hotel called The Francis that I found on Expedia. I wasn't sure about the location, but the reviews described it as a good one. The area was pretty nice and close to things including restaurants and attractions like the Old Port. The Francis is a converted home, built in 1881. I'm attracted to unique accommodations, ones that you can feel some history in or at least feel like your room is a little different than your neighbors. It was quiet there, so for the most part coming and going felt like were were coming from a private home. It's the closest to living in a mansion that I'll ever get! 

We spoke with the hotel front desk clerk, who was a young Portland native. I enjoyed the opportunity to pick his brain about the general vibe of the city, including what it was like for young people living there. What I got was a description, not far from what I would have expected. A pretty liberal, inclusive town, lacking some diversity however. This is likely once of the most diverse parts of Maine, I still did not see people of many different ethnic backgrounds. 

It was nice to be in a place that publicly took the pandemic quite seriously, even still. There were several signs and banners in support of mask wearing and protecting each other. You could tell the city made a huge effort in marketing a protective stance on stopping the spread of Covid-19. 

We enjoyed some walking around, including in the Old Port area. The night-life areas felt bustling, but not too busy and it was vivacious and full of life. Being a very old city, there are many areas of roads that are still paved with brick and loads of historic architecture to admire. Portland was originally settled in 1632 and incorporated as a city in 1786.

I came up with Fort Williams as a Portland attraction that I wanted to check out. It was about a 15 minute drive out of the city center in the South Portland area. It was home to the famous Portland Light Head,  the oldest lighthouse in Maine, finished in 1791. The park also encompasses the decommissioned and mostly demolished U.S. Army post Fort Williams, which was a working fort in WWI and II. We had such a great time hopping around on the rocks along the coast of this area and exploring the ruins of the old army fort. There were also ruins of an old mansion, over taken by nature and time.

A trip to The Holy Donut was another fun thing to do. When there is a funky donut shop in town, it's always seems to be worth a stop. There were colorful, unique creations with fun flavors. They are actually made from potato and included some that were made from sweet potato. 

Lastly, steps away from our hotel, we came upon a unique drinking establishment. I was immediately attracted to the stone stairs leading down to what I described as "creepy" and "dundgeon-y." We walked down to what seemed like an old wine cellar, dimly lit with exposed bulbs and candles. I enjoyed a gin and tonic for my pre-birthday celebration.

Our one and a half days in Portland left me with good vibes about this cool, quaint, and hip city. Definitely a place I'd return or recommend.