Longfellow said, “The country is lyric, and the town dramatic.”
For a romantic Maine weekend not too far from home, Phippsburg and Brunswick provided the best of both.
Phippsburg: The Country
I arrive at Sebasco Harbor Resort a jangled wreck after a flat tire and several small professional crises.
The legendary mid-coast resort occupies 550 acres of gorgeous Phippsburg peninsula. Family-friendly and with impeccable service, Sebasco offers a range of comfortable rooms, cottages and suites — some in a unique octagonal lighthouse. Our was nestled in a quiet inlet under tall pines.
My first stop was the Fairwinds Spa, where I surrendered to an exceptional hot stone massage and began to relax. Ocean breezes continued to lift my spirits with a walk around the exquisite grounds. A patch of unusual white ladyslippers was nearly “gone by” but still stood magical in the Sebasco woods.
The immersion continued at Pilot House restaurant’s corner window. As lobsterboats bobbed in the harbor, two men in chef’s whites ran down to the dock for the catch of the day. Yes, it’s that fresh. We sampled the chef’s outstanding salmon & scallop tartare with a glass of crisp “Evolution” wine. Don’t miss his signature creamy lobster risotto or wild asparagus.
Next morning we drove winding sun-dappled roads to Popham Beach and out to Fort Popham. The sea was deep blue and the silver-green beachgrass was dotted with purple flowers. A boy in a red shirt stood fishing as seagulls wheeled overhead. At Percy’s General Store we ordered Maine’s breakfast of champions: fried clams. Best eaten at a weathered picnic table in the sun.
Brunswick: The Town
Brunswick Inn on Park Row is a handsomely restored Greek revival. Proprietor Eileen Horner’s décor is frou-frou free, with sophisticated lighting and blooming orchids. Spectacular paintings are on-loan and for sale from Bayview Gallery, a nifty reciprocity between art and hospitality. Eileen’s breakfast was a feast, appealing to eye and palate. Don’t deny yourself the blueberry cake.
Lined with shops, bistros and galleries, Maine Street in Brunswick has an unabashedly retro feel. When was the last time you saw a small appliance repair across from candlepin bowling? I pondered the action from hip and congenial Little Dog Coffee shop, and decided a main street this healthy and vibrant is definitely worth a visit.
The Bowdoin College Art Museum is a jewel. Collections include old masters, Maine classics, a Winslow Homer gallery, plus distinguished American works by the likes of Andrew Wyeth, Mary Cassatt and Robert Rauschenberg. At Bayview Gallery, a downtown anchor, we enjoyed work by Maine artists Barbara Applegate, Robert Colburn and Suzanne Harden. After our informal art walk we sampled a few of the handmade artisanal flavors at Gelato Fiasco — the espresso chip was dense and rich, the strawberry tart, sweet and refreshing.
Fort Andross is a restored mill with exposed brick and ancient beams. A colorful farmer’s market runs all winter and a flea market all summer. Cabot Mill Antiques is chock full of fascinating antiques and ephemera basking the fort’s abundant sunshine – no must or dust anywhere. The mill’s signage can be confusing, but don’t give up — The Frontier Café in back is a wonderful lofty space with fresh menu, gallery and small cinema — with free wi-fi and wonderful views the Androscoggin River.
We savored a relaxed candlelit supper with old friends at Henry and Marty’s restaurant, where “food is love.” The calamari with shallots and roasted mussels with basil got raves. So did the pear Martini. The exterior signage doesn’t do the place justice; this unpretentiously creative spot deserves fanfare.
For a relaxed, convivial, creative, adventurous, tasty, occasionally posh, and very Maine weekend full of romance and surprises, try this town-country split. You won’t be disappointed.