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Road Trip – Mid-Coast Maine

I’ve been to Maine 5 times but never seem to have enough time, so this year my friend Pam went with me for 2 weeks. And there still wasn’t enough time!

Our adventure started even before we got there. We let Siri change our route, mistake, however we did end up in Morristown, NJ. where my great, great, great, great Grandfather David Trowbridge, lived from 1730s until his death in 1768. He and his children and many grandchildren lived on a mountain that was called Trowbridge Mountain.

Also Pam just happened to be reading a book about Alexander Hamilton and we saw statutes of Hamilton and many references to his time there.



We had lunch across the street from the Square and enjoyed the sculptures and the flowers at 1776 by David Burke.

Our first stop in Maine was at a neat garden shop I had discovered last year near Kennebunkport called Snug Harbor Farm. So beautiful! In fact we stopped there a second time on our way home. I can see several paintings coming from these photos!


We visited Maine Art Hill and saw some neat whimsical work by David Witbeck.

We saw A LOT of art during this trip!

And we swung by to see Bush’s home on Walker’s Point, which has been in their family for over 100 years.



BLUE HILL

Our first four nights in Maine were spent in Blue HIll at the Blue Hill Inn which was built in 1830.

Blue Hill was a convenient place to start our tour of the Blue HIll Peninsula. The town was incorporated in 1789. It was a ship building and lumber center, also the granite quarried in the area was used to build the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York Stock Exchange.

This is the Peninsula just south of Bar Harbor.

We stopped by Nervous Nellies which wasn’t open but we did get some shots of the grounds. A very funky place indeed.

At the end of that road is Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, it was founded in 1950 as a research and studio program in the arts, offering one and two-week studio workshops in visual arts, music, literature and science. I’ve thought about going there for a clay workshop, and now seeing its location, I might just go.

I can never resist photos of weird signs and directional signs.

STONINGTON

Stonington is a sweet little town at the end of the peninsula on Deer Island with a working harbor.


A gallery in Blue Hill – Jud Hartmann’s Gallery – concentrates on Jud’s bronze work. We were lucky to meet him and hear about his work. He’s been working on a series of limited-edition sculptures entitled: The Woodland Tribes of the Northeast.

He was very interesting and also told us all about the Indians playing lacrosse. Who knew? 

He has been doing sculptures of Indians playing lacrosse for some time and is now working on a small clay sculpture to present to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (not far from my hometown) for a future installation there.

Here is a link to an article about him and his work. 

“The sport has its origins in a tribal game played by all Eastern Woodlands Native Americans and by some Plains tribes in what is now Canada. Among Native Americans it is still referred to as the “Creator’s Game,” and every tribe has its own mythology about it. I read that sometimes the games would include thousands of players covering miles.

You never know what you are going to learn on vacation.

We ran across these little sailboats going back and forth, just a few yards back and forth. When we got close we realized it was an art installation!

CASTINE

In addition to the flowers drawing me back to this part of the country, Castine was the other. Last year I had just a few minutes to spend there and I was enchanted by the storybook flavor of the town.

We took a walking tour of Castine offered by the Castine Historical Society, which clued us in on the history of this lovely town. This free tour is offered every Friday, Saturday, and Monday at 10 AM during the summer for season 2022, and is run by knowledgable volunteers.

“Castine, Maine is a quaint and historic seaside village on Penobscot Bay with more than 400 years of history to explore. The town is on the National Historic Register and home to the Maine Maritime Academy, Dyce Head Lighthouse, several historic military forts, and much more. “

It is one of the oldest towns not just in the state but in all of New England. It was founded in 1613 by Claude de Saint-Etienne de la Tour as a small, coastal trading post. That’s seven years before the colony at Plymouth. There are more than 100 historic markers highlighting points of interest.

One thing we heard about, which is guess anyone who has studied American warfare knows about, is the Penobscot Expedition, which took place here. The Penobscot Expedition was a 44-ship American naval armada during the Revolutionary War carrying more than 1,000 forces under the command of Lt. Colonel Paul Revere. Their goal was to reclaim control of mid-coast Maine from the British, and it was the largest American naval expedition of the war. We lost and the Expedition was the United States’ worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor 162 years later. There were 560 killed, wounded, captured or missing, 19 warships sunk, destroyed or captured, And 25 support ships sunk, destroyed or captured.


While we stayed in Blue Hill, we met a couple that stayed at the Pentagoet Inn in Castine and raved about it.

In the Historical Society Building they had a beautifully presented and curated exhibit about Clark Fitz-Gerald, a name I was not familiar with. He was a brilliant sculptor, writer, and 2 dimensional artist.

When Fitz-Gerald moved to Castine in 1956, he had already made a name for himself as a sculptor. Throughout his long career, he achieved regional, national, and international renown for his work. There were also his drawings, historic photographs, and writings displayed.



Also on display is the Castine Bicentennial Quilt which is 6” x 24” which was created in 1996. The seven panels of the quilt depict the history of Castine from its settlement in 1613 to its bicentennial in 1996. It was designed and constructed by sixty members of the Castine community and presented to the Historical Society.



We also learned about their Elm trees. “In the 1930s a shipment of logs imported to Ohio by a furniture company for making veneer was infested with a bark beetle. This fungal infection wiped out 77 million elm trees over a period of decades. It was first detected in the Netherlands in 1921 thus the label Dutch elm diseease.

Castine is one of the few towns in the entire country where a large number of elms survived. Many are over 150 years old. A Dr Richard Campana of the University of Maine experimented on the trees with a serum he created to protect the trees from the disease. The town adopted a disease prevention program to monitor the health of the elms. A survey of the trees was done and each tree received a tag with a number.

An Elm tree committee was formed and an offical tree warden was hired and this continues today..

We really enjoyed everywhere we went but we both agreed that Castine was our favorite. 

SEAL POINT

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden was high on the list for our Maine visit.

“This unique garden at the Preserve holds a prominent place in American garden history, both as the work of a distinguished designer and as the representation of a time of significant growth and development in American landscape design. The combined artistry, imagination, and passion of the garden’s designer, Beatrix Farrand, and her clients, Abby and John D. Rockefeller Jr., gave life to one of the most impressive gardens in the United States. East meets West through the insertion of an English flower garden within an Asian inspired landscape.

Located in Seal Harbor, the garden is designed to be at floral peak in August. It is open from mid-July until early September.  Visitation is by reservation only.“

This garden is adjacent to the spot where their 100 room summer home, the Eyrie, was located. Younger Rockefellers didn’t want to live that way nor maintain it so it was torn down in 1962.

While on that peninsula we visited the Somesville Bridge which sits on the grounds of The Somesville Museum, the building overlooks an ancient mill pond and tranquil Somes Harbor with Sargent and Norumbega Mountains in the distance.

Beside the Museum and bridge, there is a Heirloom Garden surrounding it.

New exhibits featuring Mount Desert Island history topics are installed each summer in the Museum space. The Selectmen’s Building is often described as the most photographed site on Mount Desert Island. It was constructed during the 1780s by John Somes, son of Abraham Somes, who settled in the village in 1761.

Troughout its history it has been a cobbler’s shop, post office, and a museum, the building also served as the Town Office for Mount Desert during the 19th century and until 1911.

I wish we would have counted the post offices we saw, it seemed there was one at every turn.

BELFAST

We have painted bears in New Bern, Belfast has painted chairs and crosswalks.

Belfast is a Main Street Community, like New Bern and their Our Town Belfast is similar to our Swiss Bear Redevelopment Corporation. Some of their programs for public art include painted crosswalks and chairs. Sit Down Belfast provides lots of places to sit on chairs painted by local artists. I have to say the past few years I sit a lot more when traveling than I used to.

Belfast was a center of shipbuilding and manufacturing and surpisingly photography. In the early part of the 19th century real photo postcards were just coming out and Belfast made a name for itself in that genre. The Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company was a pioneer in producing them, “unlike the mass produced variety, EIP’s postcards were the type known as “real photo postcards” meaning they were actual photographic prints, products of the chemical reaction caused by light onto a light-sensitive surface. “

We saw the former Presidential yacht Sequoia under wraps waiting to be restored, at the base of Maine street. It is 104 feet. It was known as the Floating White House during eight administrations. Even though we didn’t see it uncovered it was neat to see all the same. Somewhere I read that during restoration it will be available for viewing.

I met an artist – Kerstin Engman – and had a long conversation with her about her art. She uses cold wax with her oil paint. I’ve done a little cold wax but it was doing abstracts. Now I’ve got and another thing to experiment with, using it to produce representational work. Just what I need, another project (not).

We loved the architecture in that city.

ROCKLAND

While in Rockland we stayed at the Rockland Harbor Inn which is right on the main drag so it was easy to walk to the shops, galleries, and restaurants.

My favorite gallery in Rockport is Harbor Square Gallery, not only for the art but for the building itself. I is 3 stories with a rooftop garden.

While there we got to see old friends who took us for a ride on their boat, an old lobster boat now converted into a picnic boat! It was lovely to see them and great to be on the water. After we went on the ride we had dinner at the famous McLoons and had their lobster rolls. It was like eating a lobster without the work, huge chunks of meat!

I had been to the Langlais Sculpture Preserve before but the house and studio were not open. It was worth the return trip to see those.



THOMASTONl

Random shots of our touring.

Even though the Olsen House is not currently open this season – 2022 – it was still interesting to see where Wyeth painted his famous ”Christina’s World” painting.

THOMASTON

A European sea captain found what is now Thomaston in 1603, in 1630 a trading post was built, and it was another century before Fort George was built in 1719 at the base of what is now Knox Street. There are more than three hundred 19th century homes , many of which whre contstructed for over 100 sea captains that lived there.

Thomaston is known as a town that went to sea. It seems more wooden, ocean going ships were constructed there than any any place in the country. Ships such as tall masted schooners, and full rigged ships some with as many as five or six masts.

In the 1840 census it was reported that there were seven millionaires in the country and three of them lived in this town. They were sea captains and shipbuilders. Their homes are still in existence and are beautiful. We took a walking tour of the town following the signs of the Museum in the Street signs.

We discovered several towns having Museum in the Streets programs.

Working closely with town historical societies, the company designs a free walking that “foster a sense of historical identity, educate, encourage preservation of local historic sites and promote knowledge of stories, events and traditions.” Most of the Museum in the Streets are in the Northeast US and in France. There is a main sign like the one above then smaller signs in front of the buildings with information about each structure. This program was developed by a local fellow who lives in the area and in France.

If we had this program in New Bern there would be a sign in front of most of the homes in our historic district.

One of the many beautiful homes in Thomaston is Monpelier which was built by General Henry Knox in 1793. It is now a museum.

PEMAQUID

The drive around New Harbor is beautiful and you get yet another glimpse of the fishing industry, while on the way to Pemaquid Point.

I first visited Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in 1973, it’s my favorite one anywhere. Not because the tower is so tall (it is short!) but because of the setting with the rocks below. The museum was very interesting and the movie they show is worth the time. It talks about all the lighthouses up and down the Maine coast, beautifully done.

DARMASCOTTA

This is a sweet little town on Route 1. We mostly shopped there.I love a shop where there are hand written descriptions about some of the pieces and quotes scattered about.

This shop was one of those…

We could not pass up the Waltz Soda Fountain on a block away, they have egg creams, real ice cream, and real sodas. We also enjoyed “Gifts at 136”, they have nice crafts and paintings.

BOTHBAY HARBOR

The Five Gables Inn was the place we stayed we liked the best. It was in East Boothbay, away from the fray, on a deadend street, above the Linekin Bay. You can have your morning coffee watching the boats from the large porch, and watch the fog rolling in.

Five Gables Inn was built in 1896 and underwent an extensive restoration in 1989. Now it is a boutique hotel with a multiple course breakfast. They also serve afternoon tea and homemade treats.

I will say the food was amazing. 

In Boothbay Harbor we had to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. I discovered it was started with donations. Planning for the garden began in 1991 when a group of residents dreamed of building a public garden. They were so dedicated that in order to purchase the initial 128 acres of land in Boothbay, they used their own homes as collateral. After sixteen years of devoted work by the initial group of founders and supporters, the Gardens opened to the public in 2007 and welcomed 35,000 visitors. As the largest botanical garden in New England, the Gardens covers 295 acres, 17 of which are gardens featuring native plants of Maine and other plants suited to northern coastal conditions.

It is the most extensive botanical garden I’ve been in in the US.

There is a lot of stone in the area, so there is also a lot of stone sculpture. The Boothbay Harbor Region Sculpture Trail wanders through town and points beyond. There is even a Maine Stone Symposium the end of July.

WISCASSET

Wiscasset is a tiny town less than 15 miles from Boothbay Harbor. It has galleries, Sylvan Gallery-was my favorite, and several very nice shops, including Rock Paper Scissors and Birch Home Furnishings. You may think I shop a lot but what it really is is that the retailer is still in me. I love seeing how people do their displays, how they curate what they have, and I still like seeing what is new out there.

One of Wiscasset’s claims to fame is Reds. You can never go by there that there isn’t a long line waiting to place their order, but I know it can’t beat McLoons.

There has been a food stand on this spot at the base of the bridge since 1938 and the red shack dates back to 1954. It has been Reds since 1957, home of one of the best lobster rolls in New England.

On our way home we spotted a sign for Walkway Over the Hudson. It is part of a multi use trail that reaches 750 miles across New York.]

There was one last stop in Charlottesville, VA and that was at the Ivy Nursery. They have an extensive collection of unusual plants.

You can read about my 2021 trip to Maine by clicking here.

Up next – a week in Massachusetts!

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Road Trip – Porto To Barcelona To the Basque Region of Northern Spain – Part 2

Continued from Part 1! Barcelona

Barcelona did not disappoint in any way. It’s a much more intimate city than Madrid and very walkable. We put on over 10 miles in one day!

Of course the highlight was the work of Gaudi.

The Sagrada Familia facade that you currently enter through is almost too much to look at in one photo so I’ve added some closeups. When the Basiciala is finished (they hope by 2028, it was supposed to be done in 2026 100 years after Gaudi’s death but because of covid that will not happen), the main entrance will be to the left. They will need to tear down an apartment building to finish it. People that live there are protesting but documents were signed when that building was built that eventually it would have to be torn down. The people that lived in the building and signed the paper beleived the basiciala would never be finished.

I read that a lot of people that go to The Sagrada Familia never go inside – big mistake – it’s amazing.

As you move around the exterior, well the interior too for that matter, the style changes, as was Gaudi’s plan.

We also visited Casa Milà (La Pedrera), another Gaudi creation built for a wealthy family.




The chimneys, staircase exits, and fans, on the roof were the inspiration for the look of some of George Luca’s characters in Starwars. This is a wonderful place to visit. There is a gift shop on the first floor, the current owners live on the second floor, other floors contain apartments – you can visit one – go up on the roof where you can see across the city and there is also a museum in the attic.

And lastly Park Güell I’ve seen many pictures through the years but guess I never read much about it. It was a failed realestate venture. It was supposed to be a gated community for some very wealthy people. Gaudi built the infrastructure but it was too far out of the city and way up on a hill so only 3 houses were ever built there. It then became a park.

The park is named after Eusebi Güell, the rich entrepreneur, who commissioned Gaudi to build the luxury residential complex. When the project was abandoned, Gaudí redesigned it as a park. Created between 1900 and 1914, Park Guell has been open to the public since 1923. There are viaducts to connect different levels, A huge long bench with mosaic work, and a covered area that was going to be a market.

In 1984, it was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The park was made following the architectural style that made Gaudi famous: Catalan Modernism.



Other things I enjoyed around the city was the Gothic Quarter and seeing where the 1992 Olympics were held. We weren’t there long enough to do everything – it was just a taste to see if I want to go back. And I do. There is the Picasso Museum, Miro Museum, buildings from the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition, lots and lots of great shopping, the Telefèric de Montjuïc cable car, and lots more.

Here are some random shots around the city.

Since I grew up not far from Toledo, Ohio I could not pass up visiting Toledo, Spain. Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 .

Toledo

The view of the walled city of Toledo is pretty impressive.

The highlight of the city to me was this unusual window in the Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo. I have never seen anything like it. The rest of the Catedral was pretty spectacular as well. Toledo is also where marzipan comes from.

There was discussion about how Jews, Muslims, and Christians all got along in Toledo. We should take a lesson from them.

El Greco spent much of his life in Toledo.

Basque Country of Spain

I always thought Spain was Spain but the Basque Country is one of Europe’s oldest and strongest cultures. It is located in northern Spain, on the Bay of Biscay at the western end of the Pyrenees, straddling the frontier between southern France and Spain. Their culture and origins are distinctive from that of the rest of Spain.

What a surprise this region of Spain was! For a country smaller than the state of Texas the Country of Spain is more diverse than I ever expected.

Our trip to that region was a post trip add on, I really had no expectations of this part of the trip since I never realized that the region would be so different.


Pamploma

This region has been isolated from the outside world creating its own language with no known relation to any other language in the world, there is no C in their alphabet, the language has lots of r’s and k’s and even lots of people that grew up there don’t know how to speak it. People call it Basque but it’s real name is Euskera. During Franco the people could not speak the language, read it, write it, teach it, because he wanted them just to be Spanish, not Basque. So for several generations it was slowly disappearing. Now they teach it in the schools as the main language with Spanish, French, and English as secondary. Another fallout from Franco’s rules for the region is that an organization was formed that wanted the region to become its own country. They caused a lot of violence and deaths through the years. Because of the 40 or so years of his rule the Basque region now keeps all its own tax money, none is sent to the government of Spain, as kind of a payback for the years of oppression.

The area is mountainous and gets much more rain fall than the rest of the country and is the richest region in all of Spain. There are lots of farms, lots of rain, and lots of manufacturing.

Pamploma is one place they do the running of the bulls, where Hemmingway wrote The Sun Also Rises. We walked the path that the running takes place. Pamploma is also a stop on the The Camino de Santiago from Pamplona to Logroño is the second section of the Camino Frances , starting from the city of Pamplona (“Iruña” in the Euskera language).

We asked our guide how many people get hurt each year during the running of the bulls – hundreds – how many people die – it happens occasionally and is usually a visitor because they don’t realize how dangerous it is.

This is the corner of the street where most injuries take place.

This photo is from the cities website. People rent their balconies for the occasion and it pays their rent for the year!

City Hall is a beautiful structure, especially the top of it.

Pamplona was where we were first introduced to Pintxo and Txakoli. Pintxo I wrote about earlier, small bites poked with a skewer, and Txakoli a sparkling cider drink. Pxakoli is only availble in the Basque Country.

The Hotel Hemmingway wrote and drank in.

Balbao

I won’t go into ancient history but will say that it became a steel town, due to the iron ore mines surrounding the city, with major pollution following. We saw strip mine after strip mine as we drove through the mostly tree covered mountains on our way here. It was also a major port and ship building area.

And food wise, in the rest of Spain and Portugal they have tapas, in the Basque Country they have pintxo like I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog post.

At some point the steel industry relocated and at one point unemployment was at 60 percent. The people that had come to work in the steel industry had built slums going up the mountains that surround the city. The city center is the only part that is build on flat land. So the new part is very hilly. In order to turn the city around  The Basque government approached the Guggenheim Foundation in 1991 with the idea of setting a new Guggenheim museum in Bilbao’s then-decrepit port area. This was to be the focal point of their redevelopment plans to rejuvenate and modernise the old industrial town. It’s a fabulous building. The outside is titanium and the sculpture on the right is by Jeff Koons, a dog covered with flowers.

Inside the art is giant, and their collection consists of only 600 pieces.

Suddenly other architects wanted to leave their mark on city.  Over the past twenty years the city has created a whole new identity.  It is a beautiful mix of the old and the new.  In 2010, Bilbo received the World City Prize, “considered the Nobel Prize for urbanism”.  The city’s mayor received the World Mayor Prize just two years later.  Bilbao was chosen the Best European City 2018 by the Academy of Urbanism.

The museum has also inspired the term ‘the Guggenheim effect’ to describe the socio-economic impact landmark architecture can have on the overall success of a city. During the first three years of opening, the museum welcomed almost 4 million visitors which generated around $500 million in economic activity (hotel, restaurants, shopping, local jobs to support increased tourists and payment of taxes among other items). Now the museum attracts about 1 million visitors every year.

And the city is enjoying full employment today, mostly in service industries. And the redevelopment continues.

It’s an exciting city. On a Thursday night in early June the pedestrian streets were packed. The metro, bus and tram systems have reduced the need for cars on the streets. People here like in the rest of Spain and most of Europe don’t think about eating before 8 pm. In fact even in the big cities stores close between 2 and 5 pm and most restaurants don’t reopen until 8. The old part of Bilbao is very small and any vestiages of ancient buildings are pretty much gone but it’s full of shops and restaurants that the locals as well as tourists enjoy. In the old town the buildings are generally from the 1800s. Life is very lively on the streets!

Here, like all over Spain, the is a lot of public art, both old and contemporary.

Paintings on the ceiling of a portico across from the old market.



On our last day we visited San Sebastian.

San Sebastian.

It is very mountainous between Bilbao and San Sebastian.

We didn’t spend a lot of time there but I was glad I went. It’s only 15 miles from the French border so a lot of French come but surprisingly it’s Americans that make up most of their overnight visits. We were lucky to see the beginning of one wedding and see girls dressed in traditional costumes, and the end of a second one that had traditional drummers and black powder explosives!

Then just around the corner we saw men with big paper mache heads and others on stilts with children following, it was very festive. San Sebastian also has a huge, beautiful beach and marina area.

It turns out that in January they have the San Sebastian Festival which is where over 15,000 people come together, forming 100 bands, and start a 24-hour drumming session known as the Tamborrada, they have been doing it since 1836. So some of the drummers performed for us after the second wedding.