As much as I love traveling, there are only so many places I can go in a year. Some of my friends are also experts on certain cities and countries so I’ve asked a few of them to contribute travel posts for Habitually Chic. I couldn’t think of a better person to begin than my dear friend Grant K. Gibson who’s new book The Curated Home: A Fresh Take on Traditional was just published today. He visits Maine every summer for a few weeks at a time and has spent a lot of time exploring so he’s the perfect tour guide for the Pine Tree State.
When Heather asked me if I was interested in sharing a travel story, I became immediately excited to share my story of what my annual trip to Maine means to me. – Grant K. Gibson
The Curated Home: A Fresh Take on Traditional on sale today. Book signing dates can be found here.
I was born and raised in California, and Maine always seemed a world away. When dear friends invited my partner Marc and me to Maine one summer, I was eager to discover whether coastal Maine differed from the rugged beauty of the California coast. When I told friends of our impending journey to Maine, they questioned why we’d travel across the country when we the Pacific coast was at our doorstep. Aside from the iconic delights of Maine (lobster rolls; LL Bean; etc), I wanted to know why so many East Coasters flocked to Maine each summer. Eight years and nine trips later, I’m completely sold on Maine.
My travels to Maine involve getting far enough north to avoid the crowded areas more proximate to Boston – to get a real escape from the city crowds. The town that we visit each year is a quaint, seaside village called Castine. It is located on an idyllic peninsula around Penobscot Bay, fairly close to the better known destinations of Blue Hill and Bar Harbour. For several years we stayed as guests of our friends. Eventually, we discovered our own perfect summer cottage to rent, which allows for us to have houseguests with whom we can share our treasured locale. We dabble in following – and occasionally obsessing about – the current real estate listings and dream of someday having our a place of our own. Until that happens, we are more than content in our little summer rental – and escaping to Maine is at summer’s end if always something to look forward to during the dog days.Places to stay:
Blue Hill Inn
Castle Hill Inn
The Harborside Hotel
Rent a house:
Salt Meadow PropertiesOne of the many things that I love about Castine: you have to make a special effort to get there. It is not on a road that one passes through on the way to another destination; it is the end of the road. Over the last years, we have driven up and down the coast and explored so many any other towns but always love the feeling that Castine gives us. The stunning historic architecture, ranging from shingled Cape homes to the crisp white paint with black shutters of Federal houses, all set on beautiful elm tree-lined streets. Castine is rather small with around 1000 residents, though the population fluctuates drastically depending on the time of year. It was founded in 1613, making it one of the oldest communities in Maine. To some, Castine might seem a little bit sleepy. If that is the case, I do urge you to at least drive in and walk around the town for a half day or so. My suggestions are based on my favorite things to do in the towns surrounding Castine. The end of summer can’t come soon enough, as this is the time when we visit. Things are quieter, kids are back in school, the “people from away” (a Mainer term for non-natives) are gone and we feel like we have the town almost all to ourselves. Seeing the highway sign as we cross the the border each year, we couldn’t agree more: “Maine, the way life should be”. Castine:
Dice Head Lighthouse – Make sure not to miss the lighthouse at the end of town. The views are beautiful. The color of the sky at sunset is magical.
Post Office – Established in 1794 and in the same building since 1833, Castine is one of the United States’s oldest post offices in continuous operation.
The Witherle Memorial Library – Check out the library sale that is periodically held on Saturdays
Walk down Main Street and Perkins Street to really take in the architecture and views of the Castine Harbor.
Wadsworth Cove – This is a great spot to put your toes in the water and watch the sunset.
Castine Cruises – Get a different view and take a boat tour of Castine on the Guildive, a 56’ sailboat.
Castine Golf Club – If you are into golf, the public 9 hole course was designed in 1922 by Willie Park, Jr. who considered to be amongst of the greatest golf architects of all time.Outside of town:
Blue Hill Wine Shop – Not just a fabulous selection of wines, but cheeses, local baked goods and great espresso drinks. Max and Mary Alice are delightful. If you stop by, definitely get a macchiato, which Max has perfected as an art.
Andre Strong Bookseller (Blue Hill) – Specializing in diaries and journals, gardening, history, fine bindings, collected letters, travel, and Maine/New England.Ronald Harte Antiques (Deer Isle) – This eclectic shop is filled with art, pottery, curiosities, lamps and furniture. It is a favorite for decorators and architects.
Ross Levett Antiques (Thomaston) – Filled with Asian antiques, folk art, country furniture and rugs.Blue Hill Books – This independent bookstore is the kind of place that you want come into and stay a while.
Carrier’s Mainely Lobster (Bucksport) – A favorite stop for a lobster roll, french fries or soft serve.Wiscasset, Maine- This picturesque village is the state’s antiquing mecca, with more than 30 shops within walking distance, many of them focusing on country furniture. Check out the Marston House for French antiques. It also a two room B&B in the 1785 carriage house.
Swans Island blankets (Northport) – Woven by hand using time-honored traditions.Chase’s Daily (Belfast) – If someone were to ask me where I would want to eat my last meal on earth, it would hands down be at this James Beard-nominated favorite. Vegetarian, but as a friend once mentioned, so flavorful that you don’t even notice there is no meat. Sandwiches, salads, pizzas, daily specials. They sell some of the most exquisite produce at the back of the store that I bring back home for my own cooking.
El El Frijoles (Sargentville) – Mexican food in Maine? Trust me. Michelle and Michael packed up from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007. Homemade salsas and tortillas, Mexican meets Maine local produce. Tinder Hearth (Brooksville) – Rated by Bon Appetit magazine as the 2nd best pizza of 2017. Make sure to call in the morning to reserve a time for your pizza, which can be eaten on picnic tables in the garden or taken to go.
The Lost Kitchen ( Freedom) – Located in an old mill 16 miles west of Belfast, in Freedom, you have basically won the lottery if you can get a coveted table Erin French’s “Lost Kitchen.” Intimate and charmingLong Grain (Camden) – Dumplings, Pad Thai, oh my! Hard to believe that this authentic Thai restaurant is in this little Maine town. Worth the trip.
Cafe Miranda (Rockland) – Tucked off the main street in Rockland, an overwhelming menu with options for everyone. Huge portions, comforting and filing with influences from all around the world.Primo (Rockland) – The ultimate farm to table. Herbs, vegetables, greens, honey all grown on Chef Melissa Kelly’s (two time James Beard recipient, a distinction bestowed upon few, let along twice!) farm.
Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland) – The museum’s Wyeth Center houses works from three generations of the Wyeth family.Colby College (Waterville), Bates (Lewiston), Bowdoin (Brunswick) – Why not walk around the beautiful campuses of any of these beautiful liberal arts colleges? These schools are all along the route between Boston and Castine.
Acadia National Park (southwest of Bar Harbor) – Almost 50,000 acres, this is a favorite for hikers. Check out the summit at Cadillac Mountain.Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden (Seal Harbor) – The garden was designed by the legendary landscape architect, Beatrix Farrand, for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in the 1920s. It is open for private tours once a week from late July to mid September.
The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art with Classical Excursions does a fabulous private tour of Bar Harbour and Mt. Desert Island. See what are considered some of the most important homes in Maine, including Redwood (c.1885), La Rochelle (1903) and Skylands (1925). (Skylands is Martha Stewart’s estate.)L.L. Bean – I use my Boat and Totes everyday. A functional gift to bring back home.
Photos and text by Grant K. Gibson.