Over the last few years on my trips up to Maine I have noticed a wonderful wave of change throughout the state. When I moved away almost a decade ago I was one of those silly teenagers who thought “I’ll never end up back in this place”, but the joke was on me because coming hoME (check out this rad apparel company) has turned into my favorite retreat.
One of my family’s holiday traditions is attending a matinee of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Magic of Christmas. For me, so much of the spirit of the holiday season is rooted in tradition which is one of the reasons I look so forward to this weekend every year. Katie (my sister-friend) and I take the chance to turn it into a weekend trip and explore the city. In my humble opinion, Portland is a trifecta. A great downtown, on the water, and a reasonable drive to the mountains. Those things appeal to a variety of individuals, which is why Portland has become such a thriving city. The culture is great for supporting small, local buisnessess or taking a gamble yourself by opening a new restaurant.
One of my favorite Portland buinessess is Little Ivy Paper Goods. Addie, the owner, runs a strong one woman show as a true girl boss. She started her business while she was a student at Bates College, and has grown into a name recognized by readers of The Knot, WeddingWire, and Down East Magazine. Don’t make the mistake of thinking she is a one trick pony. My request for Addie was not related to a wedding, but about making a custom gift for someone for Christmas. Addie grew up with five full sized (that’s right five) Christmas trees in her home! Her house was so full of Christmas cheer that all of the kids in her family had their own tree in their bedroom, so she certainly understood how seriously I take my holiday gift giving and was more than happy to help! I’ll fill you in on what the gift was after Christmas, I don’t want to ruin the surprise!
What would a trip to Portland be without checking out some of the best spots to snack and then sip on a few craft cocktails? Every time I send someone a list of places they should visit while they are here, they can never complete the list in one weekend! The Holy Donut will leave your mouth watering, and have you turning down donuts by any other bakery. I’ve tried a few different flavors over the years but my “old faithful” is the dark chocolate with a sea salt glaze. If you’re more of a pastry person, check out Belleville on Munjoy Hill. The bright windows, strong coffee, and buttery croissants make it the perfect place to meet a friend for coffee or to sit with a good book and get lost. It’s also not far from the Eastern Promenade if you’re more of a grab a coffee and move your legs kind of individual.
When lunch time rolls around I have two favorites. Eventide Oyster Co. and Central Provisions will never steer you wrong. If you’re looking for a sandwich and maybe a cookie already made to grab and go, look no further than Little Giant’s marketplace. I had a friend push me outside of my comfort zone on this visit, and I was not disappointed! Pat Men Miyake’s sushi left such an impression on my tastebuds that I will surely be craving it again by later this week. By far my favorite spot of the weekend was Blyth & Burrows. As a relatively new spot in Portland, I can certainly see why it is doing so well. The bartenders were so much fun to watch as they showcased their skills mixing up cocktails from their special holiday menu, and the decor makes you want to settle in and never leave. When you eventually have to leave, you should probably head over to the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club for a nightcap, more specifically a “clove hitch”.
Lastly, if you’ve made your way to Portland you might as well tag a few more minutes on to your drive and visit L.L.Bean’s Discovery Forest at their flagship store in Freeport. The twinkling lights, warming hut, and reindeer barn will have you taking on the glow of the holiday season and spreading holiday cheer. While you’re there, make sure to check out the L.L.Bean Home store. I like to walk around and pretend everything I pick out will be in my cozy apartment when I return home!
Portland certainly isn’t on the way to anywhere, but is well worth the trip… as they say, it’s part of Vacationland.
Until next time, stay gangster.