I haven't blogged in the last few days, and that's partially becauseI have been otherwise occupied enjoying a brief spontaneous vacation with my wife in Kennebunkport, ME.
Jeannine had learned a few months ago of an interesting new bookstore in Kennebunkport, called "Kennebooks", and in January of this year we had given some thought to driving up there and staying in what appeared to be a very nice inn called the White Barn Inn and Spa (something I had stumbled upon while researching Kennebooks' location on Google maps) for my birthday. But January and February were months with a lot of snow and cold weather, and we figured it might be better to wait for better climatic conditions for our initial visit to Kennebunkport. (Curiously, though we have been to the southern coastal area of Maine many times for vacations (pretty much every year since Emily was a baby), we had never been to Kennebunkport, which is really not very much further north from Ogunquit or Welles.)
With the weather starting to look better here in western Massachusetts, and the snow fairly rapidly receding, we decided to take a chance and go up to the White Barn Inn for a couple of nights. As it turned out, this decision dovetailed nicely with a talk about writing that Jeannine was scheduled to give to a group of teachers at the Phyllis Allen Smith North Shore Council of the International Reading Association meeting in Danvers, MA. That town is north of Boston and only about an hour from Portsmouth, NH, which we decided would be our first overnight stop on our way up to Kennebunkport.
I helped Jeannine get set up (mostly getting the projector and computer ready for her Keynote presentation) and wandered around taking photographs of the room and some of the people there. Jeannine introduced me to the vivacious Elaine Magliaro, retired teacher/librarian and current writer of poetry for children, and the person who invited Jeannine to the event (and who graciously allowed me to sit in and eat dinner with everyone), and also to a very nice young woman named Grace Lin, an author/illustrator she'd met some years previously, who came to the event just to see (and listen to) Jeannine. Grace had had several books published, including her Newbery-honored "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon", a book she wrote and illustrated. (I got to see this book the next day at the Dover Public Library, and was impressed -- I have not yet read it, but the illustrations were very cool.)
Here's a shot of Jeannine signing a copy of her book "Borrowed Names" for Grace...
Before Jeannine's talk, there was about half an hour during which people could buy copies of a variety of Jeannine's books and get them signed, and while that was happening I got a chance to chat with Grace a little bit about the world of illustrating, something I hope to get back into, and she gave me several useful tips.
Jeannine gave a hour-long talk, which held everyone's attention (not an easy feat when dinner follows the talk and people are already hungry). The food afterwards was great, and we enjoyed talking to the teachers who sat at our table.
Following the talk, we packed up Jeannine's stuff and headed up to Portsmouth, one of our favorite towns. The following morning, we ate breakfast at Popovers (I mentioned this place in my blog last year), and I had a wonderful thing they described as a "breakfast quesadilla". Very yummy! Check it out...
I have more to write about but the sun is shining, it's almost one o'clock, and the temptation to get out on my bicycle is just too strong -- I must go! I'll be back later. -- PL
Okay, I'm back -- had a nice bicycle ride out to Hadley on the bike path, and stopped at Panera Bread for lunch after picking up a magazine or two at Barnes and Noble. It is SO nice to be able to get out on the bike again after this long, snowy winter.
So after breakfast in Portsmouth (and a hour or two for Jeannine to write while sipping coffee at Popovers), we checked out of our hotel and got on the road, first stopping at an historic site in Portsmouth that I'd remembered going to once, years ago, with Jeannine and/or Emily. It was called Fort Stark, and it is essentially an abandoned shore defense installation from World War II. My slightly shaky memory of that single visit some twenty-five or more years ago included this detail -- that the site was on or at the end of a street the name of which had something to do with either things floral or things fruity. As it turned out, when I did some searching online the previous night, it was on Wild Rose Lane in New Castle, NH. (I love it when I come across evidence that my memory of certain things is not ALL that terrible.) The site was not open yet (I guess their season has yet to start) and the parking lot was closed, with ominous "No Parking!" signs all around the small lot outside the gate. So we just stayed a few minutes, allowing me to take some shots of one side of the site. Here's a small panoramic view:
I hope to get back there when the site is open, and roam around the grounds so I can take a lot more photos.
Jumping back in the car, we headed toward Maine. We decided to stop in Ogunquit and have lunch, and picked up some food at a store in the center of town. We found a vacant bench at the south end of the Marginal Way -- not very far, in fact, from "Johnny's Oarweed", a seafood restaurant where a young Kevin Eastman used to cook lobsters -- and ate our lunch, per Jeannine's wise suggestion, while watching (and listening to) beautiful waves crashing on the rocks in the cove.
We continued to follow Route 1 up to Kennebunkport, arriving at the Inn about forty-five minutes later. The staff could not have been more friendly and gracious, and they showed us to our cottage, which was about a quarter of a mile from the Inn proper, and situated on the shores of the Kennebunk River. It was small, cozy, quiet and tidy, and we loved it. (Except for the Wi-Fi -- the signal was pretty weak inside the cottage, leading to a frustratingly sporadic connection. If i hadn't discovered that sitting outside on the front steps of the cottage provided [for whatever reason] a much stronger signal, we would have been virtually Internet-less. Horror!)
We did find Kennebooks (in fact, drove right by it on our way into Keenbunkport) and thought it was pretty cool. And even though it was Saint Patrick's day, and we thought we might have trouble finding a place to eat supper in town that evening, we ended up having some decent Mexican food at a joint named Pedro's, which the proprietor of Kennebooks had recommended.
The following day, we had AMAZING weather for March 18 -- sunny and 70 degrees! -- which made our excursion to check out Kennbunkport's beaches quite a pleasure. First we drove to Goose Rocks Beach, stopping along the way in Cape Porpoise to pick up some food at a deli called the Cape Porpoise Kitchen.
It was great food, but what we didn't count on was the brisk wind that kicked up when we settled down on the beach to eat -- blowing sand all over, which was fun to watch, but not so much fun when some of it got into our food. (It made me wonder -- and remark to Jeannine later -- if dentists in coastal areas see more damage to people's teeth from eating sand in this manner than their counterparts inland do.)
Here's a photo of the sand blowing across the beach, although a still image doesn't really do justice to the sinuous undulations of these sand waves. They really were quite beautiful.
I spent some time taking photographs of some of the interesting textures in the beach sand -- I love looking at these things. Here are a few examples:
We walked to the north end of Goose Rocks Beach, then turned back. I saw this single clam shell on the beach, and liked the way it looked against the backdrop of the ocean, the sky and the sand:
And this one I like for several reasons, mostly the light reflecting on the water and the wet sand, and the frozen moment of Jeannine's forward stride, as she is made almost a silhouette by the bright sunlight:
It was a wonderful day, with wonderful almost summer-like weather. So you might be able to imagine my reaction when, upon awakening the next morning, I rolled up the window shade near to our bed in the cottage and saw this:
I couldn't believe it. I stared at it, and then just started laughing. I mean, it was just so absurd, to go from almost summer conditions the day before, to a snowfall the following morning. I kept chuckling that morning, every time I thought about it.
Now, if the snowfall had been heavy, and there had been a serious accumulation, then I would probably not have laughed so much. But this flurry didn't last too long, melted pretty quickly, and was actually kind of pretty while it lasted.
I tried to get in touch with Steve Lavigne while we were there, because he and his family live within a half hour's drive of Kennebunkport, but once again I didn't plan it well (i.e. waited too long to call him) and it didn't happen. Next time, Steve!
Jeannine and I had a great time at the White Barn Inn, and hope to go back again. The staff was incredibly nice and helpful, and the food (we had breakfast there twice) was excellent. I'm not sure if it would be as quiet and restful during the peak summer season, but in the spring or fall I think I'd like to spend a few more days in one of those cottages.
Heading home on Saturday, we decided to stop once more in Dover. I had mentioned to Jeannine that she might like this cafe I'd eaten at last year, "Cafe on the Corner" at 478 Central Avenue, a new eatery in what was once one of our favorite places in Dover, an ice cream bar. And, I told her, there's a bookstore right across the street.
She enjoyed the meal at the cafe, but wasn't too sure about the bookstore -- Baldface Books at 488 Central Avenue -- until she discovered their extensive poetry section in the back, which she loved. We each left the store with several book purchases, including one which I bought partly because it was so cheap ($1.50) but mostly because it had some illustrations which I found intriguing. It was a Scholastics Books paperback titled "The Monsters' Room" (original title: "Peter's Angel"…!? Go figure…), and it contained a number of black and white illustrations by someone named Lilian Obligado. They were really nice, apparently drawn in pencil, with a lot of energy in their subtle shadings. I plan to look for more of her work.
And then it was back on the road home, although we did make another bookstore stop -- the Toadstool in Keene, NH (a GREAT bookstore).
Not a bad little vacation. -- PL