So I picked them up at 9:00 AM, and KennebecTom's tour service proceeded to hustle to Fort Halifax Park. We parked, hopped out, and viewed the 1754 blockhouse and the nice new informational display. Then sauntered into the park far enough to see the beautiful lawn, trees, picnic tables, and Kennebec River. After a Ferris Bueller style contemplative silence, it was back to the car. I was spewing factoids about the river and the Fort. We drove back up Halifax Street, which I pointed out appears on maps from the late 1700s, and past the ancient headstones of Fort Hill Cemetery.
Then we crossed back over the Kennebec, discussing the Hathaway mill and stopped at Head of Falls, where we walked out onto the Two Cent Bridge, while I gave amateur tour guide info on the former paper mill, the bridge, and City Hall and the Waterville Opera House. Then it was back in the car and to our breakfast destination, Selah Tea Cafe. Good coffee and a delicious scone for me. Nikki, a tea lover, had something off the lengthy tea roster. I eyed the pleasant surroundings as a possible Atlantic Music Festival venue.
Then I decided to show them Barrels Market, so we started walking down Main Street in the cool fall air, but Holy Cannoli caught our eye. The ladies had never had cannoli, so we stopped in and got them three to sample. I chatted with the proprietor and made note of the ready-to-heat stromboli in the display case. Future lunch? Oh yes.
We stopped outside the Maine Made shop for a photo op with the giant stuffed moose. While that picture was being taken I was peering through the glass into the REM Forum, again thinking how the space might work for a chamber music performance. Then we made it across the street to Barrels. Something delicious must have been cooking because it smelled GREAT in there. Nikki loved the place, proclaiming that she'd shop there all the time if she could. I told her they'd love for her to move to Maine. Amy picked up a teeny-tiny jar of blueberry honey (that will comply with airline rules). I had never noticed, and was impressed by the hand-crafted soap that is sliced and sold by weight on the spot. Mostly, I reminded myself to come back soon for more Maine tinned herring.
Next, it was back in the car for more road-touring. Down Water Street so I could show them the Hathaway Creative Center building. Beyond that, I pointed out my demarcation line for the beginning of the "bad part of town", which is quaint compared to the bad parts of...say...Phoenix, Arizona. They were treated to a dual appearance of Shirtless Bob and Shirtless Rob, and I mentioned John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt. Well, they really lucked out, because after we wended our way back up to Silver Street, past my office, who should we see, but Die Ubersturmfuhrer himself, walking jauntily with his cane and pseudo East German military garb. Sort of military casual.
Back across the Carter Bridge, we took the back road to Augusta just to see the rolling countryside, some farms, trees changing color, historic houses, and the former Coburn Classical Institute building standing on the hill like a castle.
In Augusta, I swung them by Fort Western and around the State Capitol building. Then it was back to the turnpike, but just for a short bit. I wanted to stop and see something I've passed for the last 11 years. The Center for Maine Craft at the Gardiner Travel Plaza. I had always skipped it, thinking "craft" meant country hearts and angels motifs that I loath, and other JoAnn Fabrics kinds of nicky-nack stuff. I was disabused of this notion when I had a discussion with...well...either the director or an assistant director of the Center during an event at Common Street Arts.
It's not exactly salient, but in the travel plaza, nestled beside the Starbucks and Quiznos and Burger King, and through a glass door, is an amazing collection of the output of Maine's best artists and craftsmen (used in the Star Trekky non-gender specific sense). I couldn't really soak it all in in the limited time we had. Usually, I'd whip out my iPhone and photograph everything to share with you and to inspect more slowly later. But there were several signs saying no photography, so I respected that and tried to rely on my lousy 42-year old memory apparatus.
There was woodwork and furniture, and glasswork, and glassware, and textiles, and weavings, and clocks, and lamps, and paintings and photography, and jewelry and lots of beautiful stuff. Truly a wonderful collection, I thought, hmmm...wouldn't it be cool if a satellite branch was opened in downtown Waterville. The formula is already worked out and the contacts established. It could be located close to Common Street Arts to help build the much-sought-after critical mass.
I filed this place away as a viable Christmas shopping location and a gem to recommend to visitors, since they have to pass it to get to my house anyway, AND it's in the same building as a Starbuck's. Hello?!
But, back in the car and on to Portland it was, where I treated my benefactor drivers to Chinese food at my family's favorite Chinese restaurant in Portland - near the Mall and the airport - Imperial China. Mongolian Beef and hot tea for me. Nikki praised them for being the rare example of a place that, when she requests spicy, really makes it spicy.
And that was the end of the fateful four hour tour. I dropped the ladies curbside at the jetport and bid them the fondest of farewells - well, au revoir really, since we'll be seeing them in December.
On the drive back I communed with my new (used) Camry and we began forming that oh-so-important car-owner bond (probably like mountain men used to have with their horses - except you can't eat a car in a pinch). I reminded myself that I should repeat certain elements of this tour more frequently myself. And perhaps you should check them out on a more leisurely basis.