My Impressions of Portland: Happiness and Convenience Stores

PORTLAND, United States – What can one do on a trip, when it rains? One can eat, one can drink, but when one’s gut’s full, what’s left? Eating in Portland, Maine, is not the only activity: one can visit the museum of cryptozoology.

In Portland’s museum of cryptozoology, there is a creepy bearded old man who speaks passionately about Bigfoot, Chupacabra, Nessie, and as it is so well explained on the museum’s website, it has “many unusual and remarkable pieces of evidence.” You read right: there is, in this Yeti museum, tangible evidence of the existence of these creatures. Unfortunately we did not find any reasons to believe in the existence of monsters, scary hairy giants or any other type of dinosaur-like fishes.

The man behind this marvel of sensory excitement is Loren Coleman. When he became aware that we were from Canada, he was quick to point out his recent visit as an interviewee on William Shatner’s Weird or What?, a TV show presenting bizarre anecdotes and supernatural stories. You see, Mr. Shatner’s originally from Montreal, which explains Mr. Coleman’s enthusiasm.

The museum has a few patched-up videos of blurry shapes in the forest and a couple of ancient books recounting age-old stories of strange sights of monsters and other bizarre animals, but Loren Coleman surely is a character, and having discussions with him really is worth the detour… especially when it’s raining.

My Impressions of Portland: Out of town

After this fascinating tour, it’s time to leave Portland, visit the surrounding areas of the city and reconnect with reality. Since it would be too cliché to visit Ogunquit and Old Orchard, we are headed north by rental car on the very picturesque US Historic Route 1.

By the way, if you want to know more about road trips in Maine and in New England in general, head over to the Daily Adventures of Me and read “New England Road Trip Guide”!

The coastal part of the route lines the Atlantic Ocean. The area probably has inspiring landscapes to offer – like the road between Bethlehem, Vermont and Portland, Maine – but when we passed, the rain and mist reduced visibility to the point where it felt we were riding on a cloud.

Brunswick, a few miles north from Portland, is a small coastal town. It’s a beautiful spot to drive around slowly, because Eating in Portland, Maine is possible, but it’s also possible in Brunswick! Navigating through its quiet residential corners, it is possible to notice lobster traps in almost all the backyards of the small Victorian bungalows. Carefully riding along a small street, under the overpass, and tucked away in a corner, a small convenience store stands.

The couple who run the quaint store placed two small tables in its establishment: a picnic table outside and a tiny wrought iron table near the counter inside. They serve the best lobster roll in the world. No jokes.

“But,” I hear you ask, “a lobster roll, isn’t that a simple dish made of a few pieces of lobster, a little celery and mayonnaise, laid on a hot dog bun?” Yes, absolutely. Maybe a little lettuce, a slice of tomato, and maybe the bread is toasted in butter.

At Libby’s Market, lobsters are taken alive from the huge aquarium – yes, a lobster tank in a convenience store –, freshly boiled and prepared to order. I ask the man behind the counter how he eats his. “No lettuce, no tomato, and bread must be cold!” Okay, I’ll take one like that, sir. “Oh no, I am convinced that you won’t like it, I’m the only one who eats like that, I will not even suggest you to take it! Besides, my wife would disagree if you ate one like I do!”, says the man, with a glaring grin on his face. Okay, I’ll take one the way you like it, and my friend will have one the way your wife eats it!

Note: There are other fun things to do in Portland, not just eating lobster rolls!

Since I’m a tourist, and since I know the good things in life come in pairs, I dare to ask a risqué question: can we have a beer with that? “Oh, no, we’re not allowed”, says the gentleman. “I can’t let you drink beer in the store, I do not have the license”, he says, though the store is full of cold beer for sale. He then turns his back, grabs two large cups, serves us two cold Miller High Life’s and pulls his finger to his lips, “shh!” Certainly, happiness and convenience stores go hand-in-hand.

The lobster roll is an accurate representation of good American food: extremely simple, a bit too fatty, and unmistakably delicious. The lobster meat grabs the spotlight: sweet, juicy, and with just enough texture to chew on.

What to do on a rainy day? Eating in Portland, Maine, surely.