Tag Archives: vacation

How To Be A Good House Guest

My poor, neglected blog! 

I’ve been missing in action due to a swarm of house guests.  Some were invited, others weren’t.  Some stayed a short time while others lingered on until I began daydreaming about ways to bodily remove them from my island paradise.

I think there’s something about owning a four bedroom home on an island seven miles off the coast of Maine that attracts those looking for a “cheap” vacation.  Cheap for them perhaps, not cheap for the hostess.

I think most of my visitors, family and friends alike, are considerate and helpful while others (namely those who chose to stay for weeks on end) were less than considerate and way less than helpful.

At long last, the house is close to empty, the steam has ceased pouring out my ears, and I can think clearly once again! 

In the name of all that’s holy or otherwise, I’ve compiled a list of considerations… just in case you’re someone’s house guest in the future.

1.  Wait for an invite.  While this may seem obvious to most, it never ceases to amaze and irritate me when people arrive uninvited and unexpected.  Yes, I have four bedrooms but perhaps those bedrooms are filled with invited guests.

2.  Get off your butt.  Okay, so you’ve been invited or perhaps you descended like a swarm of locusts.  It’s not your hostess’s job to cook, clean up after you, pick up your soggy towels, or replace numerous spent rolls of toilet paper.  Help your hostess; she needs it!

3.  Restrict your visit to a few days, a week at most.  Hey, even I can tolerate the uninvited when the house is already full.  For a few days.  House guests, like fish, begin to stink after three days.   And for heaven’s sake, let your hostess know how long you will be staying. 

 I tried to sound light hearted when I asked an uninvited relative, “So, how long do you think you’ll be in Eastport?”

The answer? 

“Oh, I haven’t decided yet. Three or four days.” 

She stayed for two weeks.  Just how many times does your hostess need to ask before getting a definitive answer?  Once and only once, please.

4.  Be considerate.   Considerate of water, food, electricity, your hostess’s patience….at times I’ve had as many as 11 visitors staying in my home.  Contribute some food, offer to cook, whatever! 

Remember your hostess will be paying the bill for your vacation for months after you’ve gone home.  Water is extremely expensive here on the island and filling an extra capacity washing machine with three extra rinses for your shirt and a pair of socks is not only crazy, it’s downright rude and wasteful.

Keep in mind your hostess may have to attend an unexpected event. True story:  I had to attend a funeral the other day and was made to feel guilty (yes, guilty!) for attending.  Guilt aside, I attended. 

5.  Thank your hostess.  Especially if your arrival was unexpected.  ‘Nuf said.

As an afterthought to this list:  consider presenting your hostess with a bottle of wine; after the guests have departed and the dust has settled, she just may need it.


“Stay-cation”: Lubec, America

A few weeks ago I got into the swing of the “stay-cation” when I played tourist in Eastport, Maine.  I had a wonderful time “vacationing” where I live so I decided to expand on the theme and took a day trip to Lubec, Maine (known to locals as “Lubec, America”). 

Lubec is the eastern most point in the United States, has about 1700 residents in an area of almost 70 square miles and was part of Eastport until 1811.

  Winding roads lead through thickly forested areas and blueberry barrens to bring you out to breathtakingly dramatic and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.  Sheer rock face, pebble beaches, and rocky outcrops thick with fir trees made me realize Lubec is part of the area known as the “Bold Coast” for a very good reason.

My friend Rose was up to another day spent exploring Downeast Maine. 

“I don’t scare easy,” she said.   I noticed she brought along bug spray after our last outing to Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge in Baring, Maine though.

So Rose and I set off down bumpy Route 189 into Lubec America and we were off on another adventure.  Follow us on our “stay-cation” and see just some of what Lubec has to offer her visitors.

Welcome to Lubec, America

Welcome to Lubec, America

Our first stop was Lubec Historical Society and Visitor Center (located on Route 189).  The Historical Society is housed in the former Columbia Store which served the workers at the Columbia Sardine Packing Plant in the first half of the 20th Century.

  A replica of the store operates as a museum with items on the shelves complete with price tags.  It’s an interesting glimpse into the days where choices were few and “credit” meant paying on the next payday.   Besides, it’s interesting to think of buying a “parlor organ” for $17.00, isn’t it?


Tours of Lubec and Cobscook can be arranged through the historical society and certainly these tours offer something for everybody:  history, art, lighthouses, and ice age bogs to name a few.  For more information, please visit their website.  Admission to the museum is free.

Next we were off to visit two wildly interesting places.  First order of business:  the R.J. Peacock Canning Company Sea Urchin and Echinoderm Hatchery, which is the only green sea urchin hatchery in the country. 

Yes, you read that correctly.  It’s a sea urchin hatchery.

At this point you may be scratching your head and asking yourself, “why?” and that’s  easily answered.  According to Hank Stence, who manages the hatchery, sea urchins were being seriously over harvested.  Sea urchins are a delicacy in the Japanese markets (urchins are called “uni”) and it’s easy to see how demand could soar once this niche market was discovered.

The hatchery is almost hidden away in an unprepossessing building at 72 Water Street.  Hank kindly agreed to give us a tour and it’s obvious he’s passionate about sea urchins and other echinoderms (starfish, sea cucumbers, and sand dollars). 

The hatchery is a sort of artificial insemination factory for urchins with the hope of becoming a viable source for restocking and aquaculture. 

I learned the process is complex and the urchins are highly dependent on water temperature for successful growth from the larval stage to adulthood.  Bacteria is a threat to the urchins and Hank must be on the lookout for such dangers, seven days a week. 

Tank after tank of sea urchins in all stages of development.  After one year an urchin may range in size from a pen nib to a whopping one inch across.  Hank told us about how he and two others spent six hours counting out 4,000 juvenile urchins for a research project to track their development in the wild.  If you can see it, the juvenile urchin is at the tip of the paintbrush (now just imagine counting out 4,000 of them!).

A juvenile sea urchin

A juvenile sea urchin

The other really interesting thing was the tank of albino sea cucumbers.  Sea cucumbers are a delicacy in the Chinese market and just one look will just make the dinner bell ring (hmm):
Albino sea cucumber

Albino sea cucumber

Right next door to the hatchery is Quoddy Mist, a sea salt factory owned and operated by Clayton Lank. 
Quoddy Mist is starting their fourth season in the sea salt business and is growing by leaps and bounds. 
Clayton gave us the tour of his facility and explained the process,  but in a nutshell making sea salt is a bit like making maple syrup.  It takes 44 gallons of sea water to make one gallon of brine.  One gallon of brine yields three pounds of salty heaven.
Clayton took his time in perfecting his 16 varieties of sea salts and it’s paid off.  His gourmet blends and sea vegetable blends grace stores such as Whole Foods stores in Massachusetts and Maine,  Fairway Markets in New York and white tablecloth restaurants across New England. 
Trace minerals are what separate Quoddy Mist from many other brands of sea salt.  The plain and garden blends contain 20% trace minerals and the sea vegetable blends boast 30% trace minerals.
m-m-m, sea salt!

m-m-m, sea salt!

Clayton was kind enough to set out every variety he makes for us to sample, and sample we did.   From Cajun to Irish Moss, I munched down cucumbers sprinkled with nearly every variety he makes (followed up by a glass of water of course).
And me?  I went home with a jar of “Seven Seas”.
Quoddy Mist plans to turn out 20,000 pounds of salt next year and Clayton Lank is hoping for an investor to express an interest in his rapidly growing business.  In the meantime, Quoddy Mist has free daily tours of the facility 9 am to 5 pm daily (but Sundays it’s a good idea to visit in the afternoon). 
salt is raked into piles

salt is raked into piles

Now what is a “stay-cation” without chocolate?   I was positively joyful when I discovered not one but two chocolate shops in Lubec.  Monica’s Chocolates (56 Pleasant Street) and Bayside Chocolates  (37 Water Street) are both suppliers of heavenly, melt in your mouth creations.  Both provide samples before you purchase.
And might I humbly suggest Monica’s Needhams and Raspberry Wine Truffles and Bayside’s Puffin Nests and chocolate covered cherries?
Full of chocolate, Rose and I wandered into Northern Tides (24 Water Street) and admired a wide variety of pottery, handmade soaps and candles, paintings and other great gift ideas all made by Maine artisans.  I tried on a fabulous pair of mittens that honestly felt like slippers for your hands. 
Rose and I walked down to the waterfront and admired the view of nearby islands through an observational binocular set up (you know, the kind you usually have to put a quarter into in order to see anything). 
We walked the sea wall and noticed this marker that is the international boundary between the United States and Canada.  The bridge to Campobello, Canada is seen in the background.
International Boundary Marker

International Boundary Marker


Here’s a question for whomever knows the answer:  What is the history, if any, behind the name of a certain street known as “Horror Hill”?


Rose and I headed out for some hiking but we took a detour on Boot Cove Road, which is on the way to West Quoddy Head Light.  We went to Quoddy Head but I’m saving that adventure for another post.

Back to Boot Cove Road:  we travelled perhaps a mile or two when I noticed a sign for the Hamilton Cove Preserve.

What a hidden gem this place is!  There are three short trails and one descends through meadow flowers and forest and deposits you on a pebble and sand beach.  The beach isn’t large but the most interesting thing was almost all the rocks were black, shiny, round or had very rounded edges.  I enountered a woman searching for sea glass and even the glass she had found was worn round.

Earlier I said Rose and I went out to West Quoddy Head at Quoddy Head State Park.  It’s beautiful, spectacular and deserving of its own entry in the series of “Exploring Downeast Maine”.  I promise I’ll get to it just as soon as I get a good night’s sleep.

Lubec is a wonderful town with so much to see and do, we could have spent several days and not seen it all.  Thank you to everyone who made our “stay-cation” an unqualified success and a tremendous amount of fun!

“Stay-cation” – Eastport, Maine

I’m not certain when the word “stay-cation” appeared in our vocabulary but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have correlated with skyrocketing fuel prices. 

A “stay-cation” is a vacation you spend at  home or in your hometown.  And why not?  It saves on gas, there’s no air travel involved, no expensive hotels, and way less stress than a “traditional” vacation. 

How many of us drive by museums, shops and galleries in our own towns just to tell ourselves “I’ll check it out another time”?

So, in the spirit of the “stay-cation”, I spent a day as a “tourist” in Eastport, Maine.   Not only did I have a lot fun, I did many of the things I’ve wanted to see and do (after all, it would take more than one day to do it all).

Let’s start with a little background on Eastport:

Eastport, the easternmost city in the United States,  is actually comprised of several small islands.  The city itself is located on Moose Island and is joined to the mainland by a causeway (Route 190).

There are more than 1600 residents living in an area of 12 square miles,  but at one point in Eastport’s history, the population was more than 5100.  That’s a pretty tight fit in 12 square miles.

In its heyday, Eastport boasted 13 sardine factories and was the second busiest port in the country(second only to New York Harbor).  Sardines were a very big deal in Eastport and understandably so.  More than 800 men, women, and children worked in the sardine industry and one can still see the impact the salty little fish made on this island city.

There’s a lot of history in Eastport and like everything else, Eastport is changing.  The changes are coming slowly and Eastporters seem determined to hold on to its history, charm, and unique character.  Eastporters cleverly combine the old with the new to offer something for everyone. 

 Follow me on my “stay-cation” in Eastport and you’ll see what I mean.

Welcome to Eastport!

Welcome to Eastport!

Being the outdoor type, I began with a hike at Shackford Head State Park on Deep Cove Road.  I took along my fearless terrier and we trekked the Schooner Trail.  More information (and pictures)  on Shackford Head State Park can be found here.

Molly at Shackford Head State Park

Molly at Shackford Head State Park

Molly and I are “regulars” at Shackford Head and we never, ever tire of the scenery.  We didn’t spot  seals, herons or bald eagles today but we usually do.  The Schooner Trail is one of six trails and it’s the longest and most scenic.  The most popular is probably the Overlook with expansive views of the bay, Lubec and Campobello (Canada).

Because it was shaping up to be a warm day, I dropped Molly at home (another luxury of the stay-cation) and drove down Water Street to Dog Island to see the Old Sow whirlpool. 

 The Old Sow is best seen about three hours before high tide from what I understand.  The time wasn’t right, so any pictures I would have taken wouldn’t have done the old girl justice.  If you’re interested in seeing some photos and reading some survivor tales about the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, check out this site

Reeling in the big one

Reeling in the big one

I passed the U.S. Coast Guard station, and came upon a slew of people, young and old, fishing from the breakwater for mackerel. 

 The breakwater is always crowded with people fishing and visiting.  For now, recreational salt water fishing doesn’t require a license, so bring your rod and cast a line. 

The breakwater overlooks Passamaquoddy Bay and is a great place to watch whales and seals. 

I left the breakwater and the sound of screeching gulls and made my way down to the historic waterfront business district.

Most of the store fronts on Water Street date back to the 1800’s and Eastport has been hard at work replacing sidewalks and installing period lighting.  In this eclectic little city one can shop for just about anything ranging from pottery to tattoos. 

Water Street, Eastport

Water Street, Eastport

The best part about shopping in Eastport is the quality of the distinctive wares on offer. 
Nearly everything is made locally and there’s some serious talent in Downeast Maine.
  I always stand in awe of the gorgeous creations displayed.  Prices and styles run the gamut but whether you are browsing or a serious shopper, everyone is friendly and willing to answer questions.
My first stop was the Quoddy Maritime Museum which also houses Quoddy Crafts (yes, I finally bought the coveted woolen socks with lupines knit in the sides).
The museum has a small display on the Quoddy Dam Power Project which began under the hospices of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
 The project was meant to harvest hydro power from the strong tidal currents.  The dam was never built but tidal power is being given a very hard look once again. 
 Quoddy Crafts has many items for sale:  knit items, photographs, sea glass jewellery and more.
The Commons, a fine artisan gallery, displays the work of over 72 local artisans.  They have the largest collection of Passamaquoddy Indian baskets in the area as well as jewellery, fiber arts, pottery, and wooden ware. 
The Eastport Gallery , a fine arts collective, sells works from 30 area artists in a variety of mediums. 
Speaking of fine arts, I visited the Tides Institute and perused the loaned works of William E.B. Starkweather.  The Tides Institute has a permanent collection on the second floor. 
The Starkweather exhibit ends August 17, 2008 and will be replaced by etchings from New Brunswick artist, Dan Steves (Steves’ etchings will be on display August 23 – September 21, 2008). 
 The Tides Institute is undergoing renovations to restore the copper roof as well as the  original decorative stonework. The Tides Institute is free of charge and will remain open during renovations.
I walked to the pier in the center of town, sat on a bench under the shadow of the fisherman’s statue (which was a gift from Fox after they made the reality show/mystery drama “Murder in Small Town X” in Eastport).  I watched passengers board the schooner Halie & Matthew for a whale watching tour and longed to go too.  Another day, for I had more to see and do.
Eastport's fisherman statue

Eastport's fisherman statue

I crossed Water Street and visited S.L. Wadsworth & Son which is the nation’s oldest ship chandlery and has been owned and operated by the same family since 1818. 
 Aside from being our local hardware store, Wadsworth’s also carries gifts and souvenirs (not to mention a fine selection of pirate gear for Eastport’s Pirate Festival which runs the same weekend as the Salmon Festival September 6-7, 2008).
Pirate booty at S.L. Wadsworth & Son

Pirate booty at S.L. Wadsworth & Son


Not to be outdone, there’s Raye’s Mustard Mill, North America’s only remaining stone ground mustard mill. 
 A working museum, Raye’s was built in 1903 and still uses the enormous grinding stones that were imported from France way back when. 
 More than 23 gourmet mustards, all available for your sampling pleasure. Tours of the mill are free and are offered seven days a  week, from Memorial Day until New Year’s.
The afternoon was rapidly drawing to a close, but there was one more stop I needed to make.
  The South End of Eastport is home to one of the few sand beaches on Moose Island.  Could there be a better way to end my “stay-cation” than with a leisurely stroll on the beach?
My “stay-cation” barely scratched the surface of what Eastport has to offer her visitors:  plays, live music, friendly people, harbor cruises, shopping, plenty of restaurants serving plenty of fresh seafood, a fine hotel and lovely B & B’s.    Why not make the trip down and find out?
 Eastport holds delights for all ages, and who knows, you may fall in love with this island city, just like I did.
I got to thinking:    I had so much fun on my “stay-cation”, I think I may expand a bit.  Join me next time when I visit Lubec, Maine.

The Best Kept Secret In Salt Water Camping

View from a campsite

View from a campsite

I spent a sunny, glorious Sunday at Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds, Maine.    As their brochure says, it’s “ideal for the camper seeking solitude and beautiful scenery.”

With 888 acres to explore, there is no shortage of hikes to take, beaches to comb and rocks to climb.

Cobscook Bay State Park is home to over 200 species of birds, including the American Bald Eagle. 

The camp sites are very private and secluded and they allow tents, campers and even have five Adirondack shelters for rent.

While out walking the miles of trails and gravel roads past meadows, through forests, and along the shore, I encountered a camper, Todd, who was spending the weekend at the park with his wife and two daughters.  Todd explained he grew up in the area and now lives in Orono but he returns to Cobscook Bay State Park to relax with his family.

As Todd put it, Cobscook State Park is “the best kept secret in salt water camping.”  He pointed out where all campers can, at no cost, dig for soft shell clams at a beach located on the grounds.  One peck of clams is allowed per person (and that’s a lot of clams). 

Todd went on to say that there are very few campgrounds right on the ocean and Cobscook is one of the best.

Cobscook State Park is open for camping from May 15 through October 15.  Day passes are available at a cost of $3 per person.  Renting a campsite will cost Maine residents $15 per night and non-residents can expect to pay $26 per night.  Dogs are allowed provided they are kept on a 4 foot leash.

The park is impressive in its beauty and its desire to allow campers their privacy. 

Fresh water, bathrooms and showers are available; they are abundant and well placed throughout the park.

There’s also a playground for children and the park has volleyballs, horseshoes and other games on hand for campers to use.

The park is serene, well kept, and impressive.  Without a doubt, Cobscook Bay State Park is the best kept secret in salt water camping.

You can make reservations on line:   www.campwithme.com or by calling 207-726-4412.

View from a hiking trail

View from a hiking trail

Meadows with the ocean beyond

Meadows with the ocean beyond

Shackford Head State Park (Eastport, Maine)

Shackford Head State Park in Eastport, Maine, has six trails for beginner to intermediate hikers but each trail offers spectacular vistas of pebble beaches, islands, coves and cliffs. 

Sighting seals, bald eagles, osprey and herons are common occurences.  The salt air mingles with the scent of balsam while blueberries and strawberries grow wild amongst the woodland flowers. 

The park is free to all and open 365 days a year (although getting through the trails might be tough in the winter!).  Please note there are no camping sites at Shackford Head. 

In case that doesn’t entice you, here are some photographs of my last outing at Shackford Head:





Shackford Head State Park is located on Deep Cove Road in Eastport Maine