In July John celebrated his 33rd birthday and I planned a surprise weekend away as his present. I had a few different locations floating around in my head but ultimately settled on Maine (we love Maine so much). Here’s how we celebrated!
We left Boston early on the morning of John’s actual birthday and got to Portland just as our lunch location, Central Provisions, was opening. We always try to go to Fore Street in Portland when we visit (especially to celebrate a special occasion) but they were all booked up on this particular weekend. Since we were out of luck with Fore Street, I searched Yelp for the #2 rated restaurant in Portland and landed on Central Provisions
The restaurant is small with limited seating (and no reservations) so getting there when they opened was clutch. We sat at the bar and got a great show with a perfect view right into the kitchen. The chefs worked deftly and meticulously. I loved watching them work. The food was beyond excellent; we had a delicious chopped salad smothered in bacon and I had a perfectly cooked fish sandwich. Simple, beautiful, delectable.
After lunch we spent a few hours shopping downtown, walking around the shops, and enjoying the bustle of Portland’s Commercial Street. We made sure to stock up on wine from Maine Mead Works.
From Portland we drove 20 minutes north to Freeport, Maine. Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean so we went to their flagship store which was amazing and massive! Each L.L. Bean division (clothing, home, outdoors, fishing/hunting, etc) had it’s own building so the entire place was like an enormous college campus.
We also walked around downtown Freeport which was adorable and full of great shops. I can’t wait to come back to Freeport again, there was so much to do!
From Freeport we drove another hour and a half north to Camden, Maine and checked into our B&B. This inn was the thing I built this whole trip around – I knew John would totally love it. We stayed at the Norumbega Inn, a castle built in 1886.
We stayed in the Norumbega’s Library Suite which was the Castle’s original library. The room features a beautiful mahogany balcony full of books and a giant stained glass window. The lower level of the room has the bed, a sitting area, fireplace, bathroom, etc.
A panorama of the library’s balcony!
We hung out in the room for a while enjoying its’ splendor and then headed out in search of dinner. We ended up at 40 Paper and had a wonderful italian meal there.
After dinner we walked around downtown Camden a bit and then got the birthday boy some celebratory ice cream.
The next morning we headed downstairs early to enjoy the B&B’s breakfast prepared by chef Phil Crispo. We had a watermelon amuse bouche and I had the french toast and bacon. The meal was delicious, the best breakfast at a B&B I have ever had!
We spent a little time after breakfast exploring the first floor of the Norumbega. It is a gorgeous place and all of the rooms are maintained beautifully. The grounds are lovely too with a lush green lawn and pretty gardens in the back.
We went back to our room to pack up and enjoy it for a few more moments.
Before leaving Camden we walked around downtown and did some shopping.
Camden is so quaint and is truly quintessential Maine. We loved it and definitely plan to go back soon.
We had a two hour drive south ahead of us so we hopped in the car and got going. We stopped for lunch in Woolwich, Maine at Taste of Maine. Great seafood and a lovely view from the back deck!
After lunch we drove another hour south to Bath, Maine. After the B&B, this was the main (MAINE, haha) event of John’s birthday trip. I had booked us two tickets to tour Bath Iron Works, something John has wanted to do for years. More on that in a bit.
Our Bath Iron Works tour was out of the Maine Maritime Museum, and we had time to spare before the tour, so we checked out the museum for a bit.
Maine has a long and rich maritime history and the museum captured it beautifully. I would highly recommend it, their exhibits and artwork are really nice.
You can see Bath Iron Works from the museum and they offer a little overview from this vantage point.
Finally it was time for our tour! Since the 1890s, Bath Iron Works has built naval and commercial ships (full list here). From the beginning, BIW established a reputation for quality construction and became an industry leader in innovative maritime engineering. BIW has been making military vessels for the US Navy since it opened, most notably WWI, WWII, and Vietnam war destroyer class ships. Right now BIW is currently building a Zumwalt class destroyer for the US Navy and has also recently built an Arleigh Burke class destroyer for the Navy. We couldn’t get any closer for security reasons but here’s the enormous warehouse where they build each section of the ship before putting them all together to get the finished product.
This is the view of Bath Iron Works from the Sagadahoc Bridge. The multiple cranes move pieces to and from drydock and well as to and from the build warehouse.
Our BIW tour was run by a former employee, an engineer actually whose job it was to liaise between the iron workers and the military (since they apparently don’t always speak the same language, figuratively that is). The tour was excellent, we learned a ton about BIW and the impressive portfolio of military ships that have been built here at their headquarters. John is a huge military history buff, and naval history buff as well, so he was thrilled. I knew he’d love it and we’d been meaning to get to Bath for years for this tour. I would highly recommend it.
From Bath we had another two and half hours to drive home. Our last stop, to break up the ride, was at the DeLorme Map Store in Yarmouth, Maine to see Eartha: the largest rotating globe on Earth (totally something I found on Atlas Obscura).
Eartha was built in 1998, is 41 feet in diameter, weighs 5,600 lbs., and is covered in 792 map panels. Very cool roadside attraction that you should definitely stop and see if you’re ever in the area!
We finished our drive home and immediately began planning a return trip to Camden, Freeport, and, of course, Portland. Until next time, Maine!