Kennebunkport: Christmas Prelude at Captain Lord Mansion

Romance, Holiday Magic and Comfort

By Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo © Maine Sunday Telegram / Portland Press Herald 2009

Captain Lord Mansion at Christmas Prelude

I imagined a romantic getaway … lightly falling snow, twinkling lights, pine boughs, and the warm glow of a cozy fire. A friend suggested the award-winning Captain Lord Mansion in Kennebunkport, overlooking the Kennebunk River across a sloping village green.

We found the inn decorated inside and out for Christmas Prelude, with sophisticated touches reminiscent of a European country home. The décor is anything but stuffy, with smiling antique Santas, a sparkling lighted spruce, and a Christmas garland of feathers — yes, feathers—draping an archway.

The magic starts with innkeepers Bev Davis and Rick Litchfield. “When you travel, you want a find to find a place that restores you,” they said. “We hope that’s what we have created, that place of peace and tranquility.” At Captain Lord, serenity rules, and winter is called “serenity season.”

Christmas Prelude

Kennebunkport’s 10-day holiday celebration features unique events including a lobster-trap tree lighting, candlelight caroling in the Franciscan Monastery, and the arrival of Santa by lobster boat with “lobster” elves. There are trolley rides, art exhibits, craft shows, musical performances, holiday meals and tastings. A Historic Inn-to-Inn Tour raises money for the local food pantry—this is Maine hospitality with a heart.

Dock Square offers festive holiday shopping during Prelude. Homemade cookies are served and shops are decked out for the season. Horse-drawn sleighs carry revelers around town. While I browsed my favorite shop, The Daytrip Society, my husband enjoyed a beer at Federal Jack’s—he says a brewery tour is also a fine way to spend a winter afternoon.

Mussels at Federal Jack’s

Serene season in Kennebunkport also offers romantic walks on deserted Kennebunk and Goose Rocks beaches, plus sledding, skiing and snowshoeing through beautiful fields and woods. And there is always hot cocoa and a book by a cozy fire, more my style.

We enjoyed Old Vines winebar with its extensive selection of wines and tasty small plates. We wondered why everyone had the herbed olives until we tasted them—all spice and citrus—perfect with a robust wine. We spent the evening on Cape Porpoise’s working waterfront savoring steamed clams and crab cakes at The Ramp. We were surprised to run into an old friend, but hey, this little fishing village is a friendly place. I should know, it’s where my grandmother was born and raised.

The Ramp pub in Cape Porpoise

History and Elegance

All 16 rooms at Captain Lord have soft linens and down comforters. We loved the “Lincoln Room” with antique wooden ship in a glass case, overstuffed chairs, and dangerously high four-poster bed. Unless you’re in the mood for a running jump, better use the bedside steps. The 21st century marble bathroom had heated floors and glass shower, but an antique oval window reflected the inn’s elegant past.

We enjoyed lively conversation over breakfast of savory sausage soufflés, muffins, sticky buns, and yogurt with juicy fresh berries, all served family-style in the combination hi-tech / old-fashioned kitchen. One of the guests turned out to be a Red Sox medic, much to my husband’s delight—his enormous team ring was a dead giveaway.

The historic Captain Lord inn offers the weary holiday traveler, reveler or shopper a much-needed recharge during a hectic season. We left rested, restored and full of the holiday spirit.  •

The Mansion is offers a number of special packages for the holidays.  (www.captainlordmansion.com).  Captain Lord Mansion was recently included in Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the top 30 small hotels in North America.

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Sea Grass Bistro/Star Fish Grill/J. Ellen’s Café

Sea Grass Bistro - Maine Women's Journal

Star Fish Grill – Maine Women’s Journal

J. Ellen's - Maine Women's Journal

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Camden Harbour Inn: A romantic escape for two

Camden Harbour Inn

Fine food and gracious hosts complement stunning views.

by Elizabeth Margolis Pineo © Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram

The inn is a perfect getaway any time of year, but the owners are offering two spring packages and a $50 discount for Maine residents through April 30.

At the end of a messy Maine winter on the threshold of mud season, my husband and I were in need of a relaxing trip within a few hours drive. When we heard that the Camden Harbour Inn was offering spring specials, we leapt at the chance.

Innkeepers Oscar Verest and Raymond Brunyanszky have transformed this charming and historic inn by the sea into a cosmopolitan boutique hotel, winner of the prestigious AAA four diamonds award.

Originally from the Netherlands, Oscar and Raymond insist that their goal is to be “a tranquil oasis of comfort and perfection, with personalized service and something for everybody.” Their welcome is as warm and genuine as their commitment to the comfort of their guests. Each distinctive room has stunning views from its many wraparound porches and windows — it’s all blue ocean, craggy islands and deep green firs.

On our first afternoon, we decided to tour Cellardoor Vineyard in Lincolnville. Their free wine tastings, vineyard and garden tours are a great way to spend an hour, an afternoon or a whole day. Upcoming events include cheese tastings, chocolate tasting, a cheese and wine pairing, and more. Try local wine favorite Queen Anne’s Lace, or our personal favorites, Vino Divine and Perfect Stranger. Owner Bettina Doulton said she works really hard, “to beat our guests’ expectations every day.” If our experience was any indication, they succeeded.

We returned to the inn just as darkness was falling. Guests were settling by the glowing fire in the library for cocktails or Prosecco. We slipped away for some private time to our comfy New Amsterdam suite and sank into the curved arms of a lilac velvet sofa. We shared a split of champagne in front of our own fireplace. It was lovely, tranquil and private.

Above the fire was a very large flat screen TV. I could not resist the British romance collection. Eventually, my husband tired of Hugh Grant and moved into the bedroom for college basketball playoffs. As Oscar and Raymond say, there is something for everyone.

This little break set us up for our five-course dinner at the Inn’s award-winning restaurant, Natalie’s. We met chef Klang, whose talents have earned him the 2008 Maine Lobster Chef People’s Choice award as well as accolades from the James Beard Foundation. His sumptuous dinner was the highlight of our stay, featuring both Maine ingredients and Maine wines — some from Cellardoor.

In this setting among twinkling lights and red glass votives, we began with an elegant “shooter” of eggplant soup with artichoke-asparagus garnish.

Our next course was a delicate column of chopped local smoked salmon topped with a quail egg — amazing, mildly sweet and minimally sauced to let the flavors sing. Followed by a country pate of duck, porcini mushrooms and foie gras, accompanied by a surprising minerally Riesling. Next, he paired sweetbreads with lardons, whose slightly smoky flavor were balanced perfectly with a Spanish sherry.

In the evening, Edward noticed I had on a black dress and asked if I would prefer a black dinner napkin to the red on the table. We were served a crisp lemon sorbet before we realized we needed it. The service at both inn and restaurant goes beyond impeccable to almost clairvoyant.

Served with a fresh and lively French Mirambeau, our fifth course of delicately herbed sole alongside spinach-mushroom roulades looked and tasted like spring. We wolfed it down as if we hadn’t eaten in days.

Over dessert of chocolate mousse and a sweet Italian vin santo, we chatted with hosts Oscar and Raymond, who describe their life at the inn as easy and relaxed, “the way the Netherlands was 20 years ago.” I’d say the Netherlands’ loss is our gain.

In the morning, guests are served another surprise “shooter,” a tiny fruit smoothie. The European-style breakfast buffet is lush, with cheeses, yogurt, croissants and fruit.

The menu has eggs any style, meats and waffles. Exotic fare includes green curry scrambled eggs, smoked salmon with Swedish potato “rosti,” and a silky and decadent must-have: lobster eggs benedict.

We attempted to walk off breakfast through downtown Camden. We split a cappucino at Zoots, cruised Planet Toys for a purple feather boa for our niece, Tillie, and browsed colorful tablecloths at Surroundings. Shopped out, we knocked back a few beers at Gilberts Pub with the locals.

Bayview Street is ideal for walks. A left took us toward the Village past the Camden Harbor Yacht Club. A right along Atlantic Avenue brought us to Harbor Park, with boatyards, marinas and lovely water views. A turn onto Sea Street brought us to the public boat launch, an ideal spot for a sunny, breezy picnic.

On our final afternoon we were treated to a half-hour massage before our final relaxing evening at the Camden Harbour Inn’s bar, Victoria’s.

Roses are a theme, from an opulent urn at the bar to a small bouquet in our room to a tiny bud on each dining table. Their signature cocktail, the “Victoria’s Secret,” also contains rose petals. I’d give you the recipe, but “shh, it’s a secret.” We sampled the eclectic bar menu of fresh oysters, sushi, grilled lamb kebabs, and an outrageous lobster mac and cheese with shaved truffles. Wow!

The two Dutch gentlemen possess a winning combination: a great sense of design, color and style, and a reverence for romance. Our stay at Camden Harbour Inn was flawless, absolutely perfect. This beautiful spot is the ultimate in R&R, highly recommended — and the spring specials make it more accessible to Mainers.

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