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I am Writing this from the Midpoint of a Unique Vacation In a Seaside Stretch of 19th Century America

Winter Harbor, ME
     Back in the days when discount shopping outlets were new and rare (I’ll explain the significance later on), my wife and I decided to make an auto tour of the coast of Maine. We no sooner crossed the border into that state, than we encountered the first of several amazing reduced-price stores, whose wonders reached a crescendo at L.L. Bean (then unknown to us).
     Out the window went that storied rockbound coast.  For the next several days, parking our car at a nearby motel, we devoted our “vacation” to feverishly shopping for household goods meant for a new apartment, at prices a third of what we would have spent in New York.  And at the end of the week, we stuffed our purchases into the car and returned home.
     I am ashamed to admit that I failed to return to the coast of Maine until last week, when my wife and I rented a modest seacoast bungalow for a week at the bottom tip of the Schoodic peninsula (that’s its unusual name) across a 40 mile bay from Bar Harbor and right next to Acadia National Park.  
    And we’ve had seven deightful days in a quiet section of maritime America, visiting that remarkable Acadia Park, gazing at awesome seaside vistas, walking the streets of little towns scarcely changed from a century and more ago, watching sculptors carve abstract statues from giant hunks of granite, patronizing farmers’ markets and exquisite art galleries, going to old-fashioned smoke houses where trout, haddock and salmon are preserved using ancient recipes, attending community breakfasts of blueberry pancakes served up by white-bearded members of various fraternal organizations, drinking in the atmosphere of small-town America, returning time and again to the magnificent vistas of Acadia National Park, and most of all--devouring lobsters, available this past week at restaurants here for $10.95 per utterly-fresh examples of the exotic seaside product. It’s been a glorious week, so utterly different from what I normally experience in my urban life.
     You’ll notice we have stayed far away from even medium-size centers, across a huge bay from the bustling, touristic and commercial town of Bar Harbor, Maine. Our choice, instead, has been the quiet and historic little town of Winter Harbor, Maine, population 500.  It has two superb restaurants (but many more on the highways outside), a general store calling itself a “5&10”, one b-and-b, an IGA grocery (a bigger supermarket is 40 minutes away at the larger Ellsworth, Maine), and—most important—old-fashioned bungalows and big wooden homes fronted by lawns and gardens, and renting for the bargain price of $900 a week.  And this in high season!
     Had we wished to be even more isolated (or quiet), we could have stayed in various other bungalows or bungalow colonies on some of the roads a ten-minute drive from Winter Harbor--as, for example, in Prospect Harbor, where the popuation is probably less than a hundred.
     You’ll notice the word “harbor” in the names of many of these small towns.  We front the sea. The permanent residents, according to a local, are often either “lobster men or clammers”—which seems to sum up the largest population groups. Some are artists or sculptors who have escaped the pressures and costs of the big American cities. And others are cooks engaged in gathering up huge daily catches of lobster and boiling them in salt water over open wood fires, forconsumption either dipped in melted butter and devoured plain or as ingredients of lobster stew or in those sandwiches known as lobster rolls I have had enough lobster these past several days to last me a lifetime.
          If you have never been to the "downeast" coast of Maine, you really should consider a trip.  
Photo credit: Natalie Maynor/Flickr