The Other Portland

Trip Start Jan 30, 2011
Trip End Nov 16, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Last night was my first time experiencing the room spinning; I'd heard Mum describe having to hold onto her bed when my age and the effects of alcohol left the room she resided in moving in an unusual manner, but never truly known what it felt like. Unfortunately my spinning wasn’t caused by a night of drinking, but by the cold or whatever virus I currently have, which made waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of girls coming back into the dorm even more confusing as the bunks all went around like the crazy loop at a fairground. Night sweats and spinning rooms made me yearn for sleep, so I closed my eyes and made the spinning stop so I could drift back off, in the hope the world was standing still when I next woke. 

The spinning had indeed gone six hours later and I was soon rushing about trying to get ready for my eight o’clock bus to Portland, Maine; having visited, and had a great time, in Portland, Oregon, I thought it only right I should visit its namesake on the East Coast.  The $2.50 price tag offered by Megabus for a return journey made me even more willing to make the trip.

In view of the spinning room and possible lacking in health I opted for a protein-filled egg sandwich and some Vitamin C to accompany me on the two hour journey to Maine, and watched as the handful of passengers pulled out their paper tickets whilst I showed the driver a code on my phone and hoped for the best; luckily she had my code on her piece of paper and waved me aboard.  The trip that costs $36 when booked through Concord itself cost me less than most bus company’s booking fees, and yet I still sat on the same bus as the others, half-heartedly watched the same Indiana Jones movie, and experienced the same level of Wi-Fi; I even got the same free pretzels and water.

Those two hours passed by in a blur of sleep and music from my iPod, meaning I soon arrived in sunny Portland and boarded the first bus to pull up, hoping it was heading Downtown, which the driver assured me it was.  The first conversation I overheard was by a trio of junkies, and included the phrases 'I just went cold turkey,’ ‘this one guy took my drink and drank from it, but I didn’t want it back, I didn’t want herpes,’ ‘I only smoke the good stuff,’ and ‘oh, there’s a cop; he’s probably waiting for me.’  Welcome to Strange Maine

I bought a day pass for the bus for $5, not realising that the main area of Portland was in walking distance, and shocked a coffee shop owner when I said it had cost more than my return ticket to Boston; I know I keep on about it, but what a bargain.

My hunt for bargains led me into a vintage store where I tried on a pretty top and wondered why there was an extra hole, only to realise it was a jumpsuit, and not a clean one at that.  You’d think they’d steam the clothes before putting them out on the shop floor; I know we’re bargain-hunters, but we’ve got standards.   Between the soiled clothing and my body’s inability to regulate itself, I was soon drinking in the aforementioned coffee shop just so I could sit down and prevent myself from fainting from this strange illness that seemed to have taken residence overnight. 

Refuelled and ready to go, and with the sun back in the picture, I looked around the farmers’ market and noticed the abundance of people who shared my accent, later cottoning on that a cruise ship was in town; all the shops displayed tickets offering the passengers 10% off their merchandise to welcome them to Maine, but not one of them offered me anything.  I was quick to bag my own bargain in the form of an ‘I lobster Maine’ t-shirt, the lobster taking the place of the usual heart, that was a large child’s size and consequently $2 cheaper than the adult ones; I may not have been a cruiser, but I managed to save over the 10% they were offered. 

Wandering around the many, many shops introduced me to the first doggy pram I’ve ever seen, I’ve seen dogs in handbags, but never a pram specifically for our four-legged friends; surely you’d get some odd looks in the park if you were seen pushing one of those, never mind the poor pooch, how could he show his face in public again? 

As my mind boggled I began to feel dizzy once again, and found it the perfect excuse to visit The Flatbread Company, a restaurant on the water Chris and Tracy from Portland, the other Portland, had recommended following their visit here.  It’s still an odd feeling to walk into a restaurant alone, but I’m getting used to it now, and with the alternative being sitting on the sunny but cold deck, I was happy to be a loner. Besides, the smoky smell of the open fire welcomed me as soon I walked through the doors, meaning I was in no hurry to turn around and run; to this day the smokiness of a coal or wood fire reminds me of my dad coming home from his shift as a fire-fighter, connoting safety and a big hug.

As well as the pizzas and the soppy memories their smells evoke, there was also an abundance of beers on tap, but with my dodgy head already making walking in a straight line a little tricky I opted for hot lemonade, which was delectable: homemade and served in a glass, it was a nice welcome to the autumn season.  The pizza was also delicious: a flatbread base, as the name suggests, covered in squash puree, red onions, baby spinach, and Portobello mushrooms, but far too much for one person at lunch, even if that person was me, so I packed it up and took it on my way ready for the bus back to Boston. 

I considered going out on a boat trip whilst looking out at the water, but with my current state of wellbeing not in the best form, I didn’t see the point of playing the guessing game as to whether my sickness was due to the rough seas or my dodgy immune system, so opted to stay on solid ground. 

As I’ve said before, there’s always room for dessert even if you are full of your main, and so a venture into another Chris and Tracy suggestion followed soon after in the form of The Standard Baking Company; the smell alone is enough to make you a happy bunny, but when teamed with a chocolate financier, which I’d never heard of before, it was happiness in a box.  Unfortunately the little man in Canada-red trousers with uncombed hair blighted my happiness by walking in front of me when it was my turn, but I was soon in charge of my baked dessert and smiling again.

Surprisingly, I didn’t wolf if it down straight away, and instead reviewed my map to see where I could go nearby to enjoy the sunshine whilst it stuck around, but as I did a car pulled up and asked me for directions to somewhere; a map, a camera, and the confused face accompanying my possessions surely shouldn’t encourage someone to ask me for help in finding anywhere, and yet still they look shocked when I state what I think is the obvious reply, ‘I’m a tourist.’

To make use of my bus pass I hopped on one heading up to the city’s lookout, and watched as a man with the rosy glow of an alcoholic also jumped on with what looked like a bottle of Pepsi watered down with something a little stronger than H2O.  He didn’t sit anywhere near me though, so I didn’t think anything more of it, and was soon faced with the more pressing quandary of whether or not to approach the viewpoint surrounded by a dozen hooded and baseball cap-wearing youths, or dodge to the left of it and take an angled picture.  I opted for the latter, as I may be slightly less paranoid about what people think of me, but I’m apparently still just as paranoid about approaching a large group. 

I was soon back on the bus after watching a little lad on his scooter make it his mission in life to kick every single recycling bin on his way down the hill, and doing a recce of my trip back to the bus station.  It was a good job I did, as I was sitting on the wrong bus.  When asked by the driver where I wanted to go I could only reply that it was where the bus pulled in this morning, but someone was watching over me as the driver who’d dropped me off in town when I arrived was actually taking that bus home and remembered me; he told the driver where he’d picked me up from and they both explained which bus I needed to get on to get back there later.  Whoever thought up doing a recce before a trip was a clever person. 

With the finale of my day nearing I ended up returning to The Standard Baking Company to buy a cheeky chocolate croissant for my trip, forgetting I already had my leftover lunch waiting in the wings, but once again I was recognised from my previous visit and explained I felt the need to come back because it had been recommended and I was only there for the day.  Some part of my ramblings earned me an extra croissant for free, with the explanation being that they were small and so I had to have two to make up for the lacking in size; I was about to explain that they were large by European standards, but she quickly told me there was to be no arguing.  I was so busy talking to them that I walked out of the shop without my green tea latte, and so a third visit ensued to collect it and bid goodbye once again; I get so excited just talking to people when I’ve been alone for a while that I forget everything else

The clock ticked away and it was soon time for me to head to the bus stop; as I did I passed countless young teenagers puffing away on cigarettes, and one who had so much energy running up and down walls yet took a drag from the nicotine machines when finished.  It baffles me that they can waste not only their money, but their good health on those things that aren’t even seen as cool anymore, surely they can’t be hooked already?

Whilst on the bus we passed a bit of a dodgy area, but were assured by the police car’s slogan ‘Protecting A Great City,’ and the signs that one policeman had been doing just that by using his well-worn truncheon on those who threatened to ruin it.  Another story of enjoying one’s work followed when I was at the bus station, though this one didn’t involve truncheons, but instead a retired businessman who had discovered his love of photography at seventy-two and was now making a successful career of it, supporting the old adage that if find a job you love, you’ll never do a day’s work in your life. 
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Tracy Thomas on

Glad you enjoyed the Flatbread Company and Standard Baking!

PJ on

We did the other Portland must try this one it sounds great.

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