I usually like to go along with things, but this looks like a lot of traveling.
We’re taking JetBlue, which worries me. Not a week goes by without an airplane falling out of the sky. And JetBlue is especially concerning because some years ago one of their planes crashed in Florida, leaving a perfect plane-shaped outline in the swamp. The image stuck with me. But, contrary to expectations, this turns out to be a new aircraft and it’s very nice. The seats are leather so the odor of a million farts won’t be absorbed by upholstery. Also, there’s more legroom and all the technology works.
Because the flight was delayed for a couple of hours we don’t arrive at Logan until midnight. But don’t worry—we still make last call at the airport Hilton’s bar and a glass of wine is exactly what’s needed.
The next morning we uber into South Boston and move our luggage into a B&B, Encore, that’s run by a jovial old German whose partner is involved in Boston’s theater scene. Masks and theater posters are on every wall. The partner, whom we don’t meet for the two nights we’re there, is an Edward Albee fan, or maybe even a friend. Several poster ads for his plays hang in our room. And if you look closely you’ll see that they’re signed by the cast, directors, and producers.
The first day we walk the Freedom Trail, which begins at Boston Commons and ends at Bunker Hill. It takes four and a half hours to cover the entire thing. The path is made clear by red bricks laid in the sidewalk. I highly recommend this adventure that passes by Paul Revere’s house, the site of the Boston Massacre, statues of famous revolutionary leaders, the Old North Church, etc. When we get back to the room we collapse on the bed and take a nap. That evening we go out for Indian food, which, tragically, is unavailable in Marble Falls. Lamb vindaloo!
The next day our feet are sore from walking across all those cobbled streets and it’s quite chilly, so we take a tour bus that basically follows the same route, only with the driver’s entertaining commentary. We leave the bus at the Barnes and Noble, where we go in and ask at the information counter if they have Old Buildings in North Texas which, unsurprisingly, they do not.
“It’s an unusual book by an excellent new author,” I tell the woman. “Why do you not have it in stock?”
“I’ll order a copy right now,” she says.
“Not one copy,” I say. “Twenty at least. It’ll fly off your shelves.”
Her smile tells me she thinks I’m demented. David and I thank her and leave.
“It was my understanding that Old Buildings was to be distributed in the states,” I whine to David. “Arcadia has a distributor that they’re paying to distribute it. Doesn’t that mean it should be in book stores?”
“Call them. Find out.”
David believes in being proactive while I believe in not bothering anybody.
The next day we pick up our rental car and drive up the coast to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The town is quaint, a cobbled shopping street with a hundred restaurants and two hundred shops full of t-shirts, mugs, and hats. Because we’re post-season, the number of tourists is manageable. We visit an enjoyable ten-acre walking museum, Strawberry Banke, which preserves and presents three hundred years of the history of Puddle Dock, one of the first Portsmouth neighborhoods. I like looking at old stuff and there are costumed artisans to explain and demonstrate everything from boat building to cooking.
Every restaurant advertises lobster rolls, which seem to be an area specialty. So that evening we each order one. There might be variations, but what we’re given is a huge amount of lobster that’s been marinated in garlic butter and wrapped in a warm heated roll. I get the smallest on offer and David gets the next bigger size. They’re expensive and rich. The advantage seems to be that the lobster is peeled for you. What’s not to love about that? But I’m talking about consuming five thousand calories at the end of the day. That lobster roll will be with me until I die.
Our Portsmouth hotel is generic, which I confess I prefer—two queen beds, cable, a desk for writing, and no interaction with a maniacally hospitable host.
The next morning we’re once again on our way, this time to Portland, Maine. Another touristy area, this one bigger and right on the waterfront. More t-shirts and restaurants. Once again we’re on foot. Five miles from the outmost tip of a wharf to the observatory, the highest point in the city, from Longfellow’s home back down to the water where we eat salads, trying to fool ourselves into believing that fresh greens and grated carrots will cancel out last night’s lobster rolls.
We spend the night at Fleetwood House, a B&B run by a woman well into her seventies who, needing supplemental funds for her retirement, spent a small amount to make her extra rooms habitable. She’s friendly and generous with her recommendations about local restaurants and attractions, but there’s no disguising that she’s not able to keep up. My feet are filthy after walking barefoot across the floor of our room. When I dry my face on a hand towel my cheeks end up coated in dust. And I don’t want to think about what the grainy bits in the sheets mean. The breakfast, toast and fruit, is presented attractively, but no protein. Bye, Portland. You were worth visiting.
Next up, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. A couple of my Marble Falls friends recently returned from Acadia and one of them—was it Cathy or Jane?—said that Bar Harbor was so over-the-top packed with tourists that they could only tolerate it for the length of a single meal before moving on. As David and I have reserved a room in the biggest hotel on the busiest street, we have no choice but to disregard their opinion.
The Bar Harbor Grand is exactly what I require at this point. Luxuriously large room with a generous writing surface, accommodating staff, on-site parking (this can be a problem), and a wine shop next door where I found a lovely Australian Malbec.
Tomorrow we will go hiking.