Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Maine state of mind

Claire and I just returned from a few days in Maine. Yes, it's March, I know. She had an interview at a college in Bar Harbor, with the rest of our time spent enjoying the quiet winter beauty of the Maine coast. Oh, and a few yarn stores, too.
Of course.

Here are a few pictures of the campus. It's right on Frenchman's Bay, on Mt. Desert Island, just a stone's throw from Acadia National Park. I can't think of a more gorgeous setting for ANYTHING.

And yes, this all of these pictures are ON CAMPUS. Amazing.

College of the Atlantic offers only one major to its 400 students: Human Ecology. What the heck does that mean? Anything you want to self-design into a personal program.

The college grows many of the veggies used for meals on their own organic farm. The balance of the school's food is purchased from other Maine organic farmers. We had lunch on campus one day, and the food was fantastic! The entree was a pork tenderloin with fennel roasted with a teriyaki glaze, mashed sweet potatoes, fresh sesame green beans, steamed broccoli that was as good as a three star restaurant offering(read crisp-tender and very fresh), homemade whole wheat bread, and dense, crunchy, uber-dark-chocolatey oat bars. Not a pizza or a burger in sight. Who'da thunk?

Bar Harbor is a wonderful place once the crowds and summer visitors are gone. We got to know one of the owners at Ben and Bill's Chocolates, Yvonne, VERY well. Originally from Ireland, her rich accent and amazing expertise at all things chocolate AND TEA were just the ticket for us. It's so hard to get a good cup of tea at a restaurant or shop: No one seems to know (or care) that the water must be freshly boiled to make a decent tea. You can't make good tea from a Bunn coffeemaker, or a decanter of hot water on a warming plate, thanks very much. But Yvonne knew exactly what I was looking for when I asked for a "proper cup". Living above the shop, she dashed upstairs to find tea from her own personal stash! We were rewarded with huge cups of Irish Breakfast tea, perfectly brewed and delicious. We went back twice a day, every day, for tea and a few of her decadent chocolate offerings: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Creams, Buttercreams, Turtles, Maple Walnut Creams, Wintergreen Patties, Deep Chocolate Truffles, Coffee Creams, Bark, Honeycomb, Chocolate Walnut Fudge, Penuche, and more. That was only the tip of the iceberg of her offerings. Every time we'd walk past the store, she was hard at work, dipping and crafting chocolates or making fudge. She always waved when she saw us, and I think she must have recognized my bright yellow parka; it's pretty unique and hard to miss. Her chocolates are fabulous, so if you visit, you must go and savor them. For all the chocolates that we bought, not too many made it back to Austin with us, though. We just couldn't resist.

My birthday fell right in the middle of our visit, so to celebrate we spent the day traipsing around a wide area visiting local yarn stores. At Bee's in Bar Harbor, we encountered the lethal combination of hand-dipped chocolates and yarn. The shop is tiny and cram-packed with yarn, cards, handknit sweaters and an old-fashioned candy counter. There's no place to sit and knit -- barely enough room to maneuver in -- but the owner is friendly and helpful, whatever your needs or desires.

THE LILAC LILY was the highlight of our day, though. Located in Southwest Harbor, it has a wonderful selection of Maine artisan yarns and a wide selection of labels that are well known nationally. It started to snow while we were there, and Leslie, the welcoming and gregarious shopkeeper, invited us to stay and knit with her. Another regular patron, Nancy, came in and joined us, and we knit, talked Ravelry, and watched the snow come down in big, lacy flakes.

Back in Bar Harbor that night, we had dinner at Geddy's, which is lit by the silhouette of a moose on the roof. We dined on the best clam chowder ever, giant lobsters, and slices of sinfully good wild Maine blueberry pie for dessert. Then we trekked over to see Yvonne for our nightly chocolates and tea. One of the best birthdays ever!

We explored a little of Acadia NP one day, though many of the park roads are closed for the winter. Echo Lake, with the famous carriage road circling its perimeter, was frozen solid and deserted, in stark contrast to the crowds, traffic, and congestion of summer.

On departure day, we checked out of hotel at 7 a.m. for the 4.5 hour drive back to the Manchester, NH airport. We built in an extra hour and a half for a stop at Halcyon Yarn in Bath, ME, which was not much of a detour for us. It's a huge old warehouse, stuffed floor to ceiling with 10' tall aisles of bins loaded with skeins, hanks, and cones. There's even an entire aisle of roving for spinners. That's just on the first floor. You're looking at an entire aisle of Jaggerspun on your right. ------------------------------------------------>
I won't torture you by telling you there are also aisles for Harrisville Designs, Casco Bay yarns, Brown Sheep yarns, Bartlett, sock yarn, and much more.

On the second level, there are looms, wheels, and every spinning thing made or known to mankind. Claire bought her first drop spindle here, and a cloud of roving. Now she just needs time to perfect her technique.

View of the sunrise from our hotel room


  1. Chocolate? You didn't mention chocolate!

    Glad you're back in sunny Austin!

  2. What a fantastic trip! I wish Claire the best of luck getting in to this great sounding school.
    Sandra Singh


Glad to hear from you! If you want a response from me, be sure to leave an email address. Thanks!