Travelin’ Maine(rs)

A regular travel blog, written by George and Linda Smith, focused entirely on instate travel.

Texas is awesome!

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 George

                Glacier National Park, in far northern Montana, was our favorite national park for decades, until we first visited Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas in 2012. This high mountain desert is stunningly beautiful and loaded with birds we Mainers never see. This year was our third visit here in five years.

                On our second visit, we discovered Cynta de Narvaez’s three wonderful rental houses, varying in size, in Terlingua, and settled into her smallest house, a one room everything-you-need-is-in-it place, and also everything-you-need-is-outside-it too, including a sink, shower, tables and chairs, and even a bed. Yes, these folks live life outside! The large house can take 10 or more people if you are traveling with a group. And the view of the mountains from Cynta’s houses is – well, amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Mediterranean journey a short drive from home

City or Town: 
Portland
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 Linda

                You need go no further than Portland to take a journey through the flavors of the Mediterranean. When I think of the tastes of the Mediterranean I think of tomatoes, olives and olive oil. TIQA offers a much broader view including cuisines I have not been exposed to.

                Sure, you've tasted foods from Italy and France, but how about Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel? The welcoming staff, including our experienced server Kelsey, made us feel right at home and, thankfully, was fully prepared to explain the dishes on their menu. 

Arizona is amazing in April

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                 Our three-week spring birding adventure began with a week in the Tucson, Arizona area, surrounded by stunning mountains, amazing migrating birds, and awesome Mexican restaurants. Dr. Brint and Alice Darlington hosted us in Saddlebrooke, a town just northwest of Tucson. Dr. Darlington practiced in the Augusta area, and they purchased their Arizona home 16 years ago as a winter place and now live there fulltime. It’s easy to understand why, from the mountain views to the warm climate.

                We got birding advice from a half dozen Maine friends before we left and hit all the places they suggested. Don Mairs suggested Melody Kehl as a birding guide, and we spent one day traveling up Mt. Lemon in the Santa Catalina Mountains with Melody, having such a good time that we booked a trip with her the next day to Madera Canyon. We saw 100 species of birds in those two days, many for the first time ever.

An Amazing Arizona Adventure

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Two weeks roaming southeast Arizona, focusing on the wonderful birds there and enjoying the stunning scenery as well as the nice weather, put us in a very good post-winter mood. Our May 1 Travelin’ Maine(rs) column, published May 1 in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, tells you about the first week and a half in Arizona. The column is available on the newspapers’ website.

In this column, I’ll tell you more about that part of our trip as well as what we did at the end of the second week in Arizona, before moving on to Terlingua and Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. Our Travelin’ Maine(rs) column on May 15 will feature the Terlingua trip along with some travel tips.

Slaughter in Saddlebrooke

Let's do lunch - in Portland and Mount Vernon

City or Town: 
Mount Vernon
Portland
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 George

                Whenever someone wants to meet with me in the Portland area, I insist on getting together in my “Portland office,” a corner booth by the window at Hot Suppa on the west end of Congress Street. So of course, when Linda and I decided to start this Let’s Do Lunch series, Hot Suppa was at the top of our list for a visit.

                The small cozy dining area is inviting, with a small bar, booths along one wall, and three larger tables along the picture windows looking out on the street. A huge chalk board on the back wall lists the day’s specials and brews – always with a good choice of Maine micro-brews.

Loved this Portland restaurant!

City or Town: 
Portland
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 Linda

                Union Restaurant opened in the spring of 2015. Located in the Press Hotel, it has a contemporary, edgy atmosphere. Slatted ceilings and nice lighting give it an open feeling. The restaurant is in a large space and they stagger reservations here so that service runs smoothly.

                You will notice the large open kitchen as soon as you enter. Several chefs work seamlessly to produce great dishes. There are no secrets in this kitchen - it's being produced right in front of the diners. Local and seasonal food is at the forefront here. They had recently changed over to a new spring menu when we visited. I was impressed at the level of creativity in the dishes presented.

Elegant Press Hotel holds onto its printing past

City or Town: 
Portland
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 George

                Walking into Portland’s Press Hotel for the first time was an awesome experience. I’d read a lot about the conversion of the Guy Gannett Building, which housed the Portland Press Herald, into a beautiful and luxurious downtown hotel, but seeing it was a special treat. They have managed to create a gorgeous and modern hotel, with tons of amenities, while keeping its history very much alive, starting with a wall of old typewriters just to the right of check-in desk.

                I loved the large and beautiful writing desk in our room, where I sat to write this column, and the famous sayings posted everywhere, including this one, on the desk, from Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” The staff must read this one every day, because they are super friendly and helpful.

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