Portland, ME: A Love Story

To begin with, I need to apologize.

My last post was a complete lie, I didn’t leave Portland until Saturday. My parents called excitedly to ask where I was, and I said, “…still Portland.” Tommy’s friends would run into me on the street and say, “You’re still here…!” Yes.

Granted, I had amazing weather and a great host, but until further notice, I think Portland is my perfect city, my signature city, whatever. Those that know me well will agree that there’s really nothing I’d be happier to do than sip a therapeutic tea called the Herban Cowboy while standing on a hill looking at this:

I AGREE! Play(ing) is SO! FUN! Pastel chalk hearts and flowers are kind of my M.O. but I promise I didn’t do this myself. I found it one day on a long walk I took up Munjoy Hill (MUNJOY!) trying to find an observatory tower that turned out to be closed until May 24. Whatevs! Munjoy Hill is on the East-ish side of downtown Portland, and at the base of the hill you’ll find this sweet waterfront walk called the Eastern Promenade. I hung out on the beach part of the promenade for a while one afternoon with a different therapeutic tea called Kapha Kick and took this kind-of-not-worth-it video possibly redeemed by Tommy repeating “Oh” three times in escalating pitch:

I think he and his friend were discussing lens caps? Unclear. I was paying way too much attention to a woman playing with her complete gentleman of a golden retriever down by the water. I wish my biggest challenge in life was trying to choose which stick to rush back to my doting owner.

See what I mean?? And this is just one END of Portland, there’s a whole OTHER end to the West. PLUS a downtown in the middle, which has flags hanging along the street that say “Portland: Love. Life. More.” which can have multiple meanings if you want to dissect it, but all interpretations are probably accurate.

Tommy lives in the West End, but really the touristy downtown area is where I first fell for Portland I think.

To begin with, I could become very fat very quickly living here.

I had cheap and delicious clam chowder sitting at the counter at Gilbert’s watching a telenovela on mute behind the bar,

I struggled epically to choose ice cream flavors (Ginger? Strawberry Cheesecake? Chocolate Doughboy? Peanutbutter Fudge?) at Beals,

I inhaled a bizarrely named Whoopie Pie from an organic farm in the North, and I shared a giant spicy vegetarian platter at a local Eritrean restaurant.

The entire city is extremely walkable, so when I wasn’t eating I spent many of my afternoons wandering alllll over the place while Tommy prepared for his graduation and gallery opening. I think by the end I got to see most of the town.

There are skateboarders, loiterers and traceurs all over the streets and parks, fishermen, punky looking fisher kids, sailors and other dock-people down by the waterfront, and a few scattered tourists (including me?) looking lost and happy throughout.

Did you know Portland is the largest oil port on the east coast? I really didn’t. It’s apparently because of the Portland-Montreal crude oil pipeline, which I didn’t know existed.

Especially near the docks, the streets are absolutely STUFFED with little brightly painted shops and restaurants and bars.

There are a ton of used and new book shops, a leather goods store, an antique maps restorer, a shoestore called Stiletto that could rival any New York boutique, and in one clothing store I had a 15 minute discussion about different types of Spanx. I’m not sure why that’s relevant but I walked out feeling knowledgeable and accomplished.

On Exchange St. there’s a little coffee shop called Breaking New Grounds where I hung out a LOT and which I recommend to anyone.

The baristas were pretty laid back (plus cool haircuts!) and there was some fun music playing when I was there. The clientele seemed to be made up mostly of art students and skinny jeans, punctuated by chatting moms, skateboards and a couple boarding school kids.

SPEAKING of artists and skinny jeans, Portland is absolutely a secret haven for arty young people. There’s Salt, which I’ve already written about a little bit, and there’s also the Maine College of Art, the University of Southern Maine and the University of New England all in town. I know when I was driving up there I was picturing lobster and coveralls, but really it’s more about twenty-somethings and cool dresses. There are also little stickers all over town about buying locally, which is awesome, I’ve never seen a town that unified in it’s green-ness. A little unexpected right?

Here are 10 more really helpful things to know about Portland, my brain is overloading so I need to resort to list format:

  1. The city’s motto is “Resurgam,” which means “I will rise again” and its seal depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes.
  2. Liv Tyler was born in New York City but grew up in Portland.
  3. American City Business Journals ranked Portland the #1 Top Market in Small Business Vitality
  4. Stephen King was born in Portland.
  5. Over the past decade or so, more than 2,000 people fleeing genocide in Sudan have relocated to Portland, making the city home to the largest Sudanese immigrant population in the United States.
  6. Judd Nelson was born in Portland.
  7. The Port of Portland is the 25th largest in the United States.
  8. A place called Amato’s claims to have created the “Italian Sandwich,” which I heard residents call “an Italian” and which seems essentially to be a sub. I’m…. not sure about this one guys.
  9. There are a TON of microbreweries in the area, and I think I sampled the products of almost all of them: Geary’s, Gritty McDuff’s, Shipyard, Allagash, Sebago and Casco Bay. My favorites were the Shipyard Summer Ale and Allagash White.
  10. In 2004, the chef at the local super-expensive restaurant, Fore Street, was named the BEST chef in the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation. I ate there! It was fantastic.

In conclusion, Portland is residentially adorable (the whole West End is filled with candy colored little houses and discreet corner stores and coffee shops), economically and geographically diverse, culturally hyper-active and environmentally responsible. In a word: perfect.

Sincerely, your very biased, googly-eyed correspondent with rose-colored glasses and an incurable city crush.

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3 responses to “Portland, ME: A Love Story

  1. This totally sounds amazing….
    traceurs? I actually knew what they are and I wish you had taken some pictures of them….

  2. oh now i’ve got an incurable blog crush. this post is my fav.

  3. Srsly, reason 4 is why I can never go there. All of his stuff is set in creepy Maine towns. I would never be able to get out of the car.

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