Traveling During COVID-19 – Freeport, Maine

Upon landing in Portland, Maine, we headed to Freeport, Maine, often our first stop during our Maine trips due to close proximity to the airport, just a short drive up 295. It’s a great little town to head to after a long day of flying. We have stayed there four out of the five times we have been to Maine since 2013.

As we headed to Freeport, we were looking forward to the warmth and coziness of the Harraseeket Inn. We have stayed here at least 3 times and dined on 2 other trips when we didn’t stay here. It is my husband’s favorite inn in Maine. They always have a roaring fire going in several fireplaces – the lobby fireplace, the living room and both restaurants. On this especially dreary, cool and rainy day, we are so happy to be in Maine and gratefully pulled into the parking lot, thinking of those warm welcoming fires. I went to check in alone, leaving hubby in the car. It was strangely quiet compared to past visits when the lobby was bustling with other guests, This time no one lingering in the lobby or heading out to the shops. Even the afternoon tea which is included if you book with the inn directly, had been cancelled. After I got my room key, I headed down the hall to the Broad Arrow Tavern where we had a reservation for dinner. We had eaten little that day so were quite hungry. I was able to change our reservation to 1.5 hours earlier. I was assured that they had received my request for a gluten free pasta entrée and ready to make it.

Beautiful Fall Floral Arrangement for our Anniversary

Upon entering our lovely good sized room with a view over the back lawn and parking area, I was touched to see that the staff had thoughtfully given us a beautiful fall flower arrangement to mark our 25th wedding anniversary. The flowers came from the lovely gardens that surround the inn. Despite the rain and travel weariness, we headed out to the shops. The room was incredibly clean which it always is at this inn even without a pandemic. If a guest needed something like extra towels or toilet paper, to limit staff entering the room, items could be picked up out of a large antique wooden truck in the lobby.

There is a lot to recommend a stop in Freeport. With lots of famous brand outlet stores, the biggest draw is the LL Bean flagship store. Once known for being opening 24 hours, the pandemic has caused reduced hours, roped off areas, closed coffee bar, mask wearing and social distancing. An employee was at the door to monitor the number of people entering and leaving and checking masks. The store was not busy this fall afternoon. We looked around for a bit. I love to check out their clearance section as I have been able to find some bargains on past trips. I was not lucky this time, so I just did my return and we went on to LL Bean Outlet across the street. It was quite a bit busier there. I also did my must stop at the Talbots outlet. It was sad to observe that a lot of other stores and eateries were closed (including Wicked Whoopies) when normally it would having been teeming with shoppers.

The rain was falling hard now and even with umbrellas, we were getting soaked so headed back to the hotel. After a change of clothes, we went down to the Broad Arrow for dinner. A lot of tables had been removed, making for a lot of space between tables. The meal was wonderful – I started with a Baby Lettuce Wedge Salad. The tomatoes in this salad were bursting with incredible flavor. For my entrée, the chef prepared a gluten free version of their Lobster Fettuccine in Lemon cream sauce especially for me. It is a rare treat to eat pasta in a restaurant as I can’t eat regular wheat pasta. This dish contained more of those marvelous tomatoes as well as plenty of sweet Maine lobster. As if I couldn’t be any happier, their featured gluten free pie that evening was my favorite – pumpkin! It came with vanilla ice cream.

We retreated to our room for a little reading and to watch Jeopardy! followed by a good night’s rest. Another change due to the pandemic, was the inn no longer did their famous breakfast buffet. Selections were very limited. I couldn’t even get a bowl of oatmeal that I like to eat on a cool fall day. I had to settle for scrambled eggs and bacon as I did not care for their daily special which I think were chocolate chip pancakes which were not gluten free. I also missed not being able to have some of their wonderful pumpkin bread.

After photographing the wonderful fall flowers and plants around the inn, it was time to get on the road to other adventures awaiting us in Maine.

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Travel During COVID-19 Pandemic

Yikes! It’s been a while since I have had time to write anything on this blog – more than 2.5 years! That’s what having a regular full time job will do to a person – give a steady income but suck up most of your time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has similarly sucked the life out of most people’s travel. First, it was lockdowns and shelter in place. Some of us worked from home, while sadly, others los their jobs or like me, got hours cut. Once people were allowed to venture out again, many places limited where travelers could go based on where come they lived (think virus hot zones) and many states required lengthy quarantines and/or negative test results only days before departure. There were numerous stories reporting blant violators as well as what I like to refer to as “escapees” – those who decamped either temorarily or permanently from hot zones hoping to escape “those COVID people” (yes, I actually heard an interview where a woman moving from NYC uttered those words!) There was also the outright fear of traveling and the risk of possibly being exposed to someone carrying the virus or yourself being an unwitting carrier to loved ones.

In some cases, business travelers were still required to travel to do their jobs. As summer came upon us, some of us got itchy and decided to take the risk to travel anyway. I was one of them.

We started booking accommodations for our 25th wedding anniversary trip to enjoy fall foliage in Maine, blissfully unaware of what was to come….

When the lockdown came in March, I thought this would be over in plenty of time for our trip in September. Then things started to unravel. I work for a non-profit that holds a big fundraiser in early April. The event was postponed until mid-September – the same week as we originally planned to be on our trip! I got approval to move my vacation to October & started rebooking the accommodations. All the innkeepers were very understanding & flexible. One accommodation had to be cancelled outright as they were not open in October.

Due to low cases, Maine has very strict requirements for travel to their state – 14 day quarantine or negative test result within 72 hours. During the coming months, Maine’s governor would add states ok to travel from free of the requirements, but Florida where we live was never one of those states. At this point, I went ahead and booked our flights using miles on Southwest (which was still keeping middle seats empty) but refrained from booking any more accommodations until the end of the summer just in case things got worse with the pandemic.

At the end of July, my hours were cut back at work. At that point, I thought we would have to cancel our trip since this affected our budget. I literally wanted to cry. My husband encouraged me to wait and see how things went and make a final decision at the end of August. I did cancel one accommadation due to cost and that businesses were shutting down in that area early due to less visitors.

Growing cases made it look like we would have to consider cancelling the trip again. I held out hope we would be able to make this trip since it marked such an important milestone for us. After Labor Day, we made the decision that we were going on this trip. I booked two more inns and again every innkeeper was understanding and graciously assured me of flexible cancellation policies.

The other frustrating thing about this trip was the airline’s cancelling or consolidating of flights. As soon as I would get one change corrected, another portion of our flight got changed. I finally resigned myself that while our return flight had us coming home later than we would have liked, we were not wasting time with unnecessarily long layovers on the outbound flights.

I spent the next few weeks gathering supplies of disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, purchasing quality masks, etc. for our protection. I even purchased face shields, which my husband refused to wear. Tampa International Airport was the first in the nation to offer onsite COVID tests (both rapid result & the longer one that take at least 48 hours), I took that as a sign we would be able to take this trip after all. We took our flight itineraries to the airport and got the rapid test. We were both negative. It was an easy process with only a bit of a wait for other passengers who were leaving that day. Just to be sure, I also got the other test with the longer wait done at a local pharmacy to be within the 72 hour time requirement. The negative results were conveniently texted to my phone the day before we departed.

I am somewhat of a germophobe in the best of times, so this pandemic has sent me into overdrive cleaning mode. I was careful not to touch surfaces unless I was gloved and disinfected every surface in the plane we might touch. It looked like I was the only one doing this much sanitizing. I had to tell my husband several times to be careful of what he touched. We kept our masks on and tried our best to distance ourselves from other passengers. I even sprayed down our checked luggage upon arrival.

Due to the early hour, there were few people in the Tampa airport. It was busier when we arrived at BWI. I observed a few cases of freakish daring or outright defiant behavior by other passengers – I did see a couple people trying to skirt correct mask wearing – one female passenger was wearing a screen printed mask of thin mesh. She was made to change it for a proper one upon boarding. One man with a big nose would move his mask until he saw the flight attendant coming up the aisle. He would cover his nose, only to move it back down after they passed by. Despite announcements to the contrary, when the plane landed, people still jumped up to grab their carry-ons and deplane. We waited until most others had left to deplane. Some people would rip their masks off as soon as they were off the plane, totally disregarding that they were still indoors with a lot of people.

We had a wonderful time driving around Maine and hiking in Acadia. Many times we were alone on trails so we didn’t have to wear masks outdoors, allowing for enjoyed the fresh air.  We did carry them in our pockets or packs and put them on or stepped off the trail when encountering others. The only time I got a little freaked out was one day when I was photographing waves at Schoodic and some people kept coming up almost right on top of me to see what I was taking pictures of. Imagine their surprise when I would turn around or look up to answer their questions and they would see that I didn’t have a mask on (fogs the viewfinder) and the shocked looks I got.

Due to the pandemic and less business, some restaurants and activities closed down early. Even the restaurants that remained open, did so with reduced capacity. I had the foresight to make dinner reservations five out of the seven nights we were in Bar Harbor. The other two dinners we did take out, calling our orders in and driving to the restaurant where I dropped my husband at the curb to pick up our food while I drove around the block so as not to block traffic. 

The only time we encountered unsanitary conditions was the final night in Portland at a Hampton Inn. I found at least four filthy areas of our room which was evidence this property was not sanitizing as advertised.

On our return flights, we had a layover in Baltimore. After eating, as we were leaving the restaurant, there was a man sitting at a table grinning at me. At first I thought he was flirting, then it dawned on me. I had grown so used to rarely wearing a mask while in Maine, that I had forgotten to put mine back on after the meal.

We were witness to a violent encounter at the next gate, when a male passenger refused to wear a mask to board. A lot of screaming. profanity, chasing a gate agent and a combination of six security personnel and police over 30 minutes finally got the offender removed from the gate area.

I was so glad we were able to take this special trip. Now that I have my vaccine, I look forward to traveling again soon.

In the weeks to come, I will posting more detailed stories on where we visited and ate, so sure to check back.

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Inns of Maine – The Danforth

 Classic Old Style Cozy Historic Meets Hip Asian Vibe

(NOTE: I wrote about The Danforth on Tripadvisor back after our stay in 2014. The first part of this post is taken from that, with updated info on their transformation and current look.)

Danfoth Inn frontIf you like charming old-fashioned historic inns, the Danforth in Portland fits the bill. My husband was not a big fan of historic inns so it took some convincing him to agree to try a stay.

On the fall day we arrived as we parked on the side of the brick house, the heavens decided to open up.  As I opened the car door to make a dash for it, one of staff  in an impeccability tailored suit was already beside it with a huge umbrella to escort us in! Talk about service!

We were given a full tour of the inn, learning the history of the house. Entering the attic, we climbed narrow stairs up to the cupola. I was intrigued with this space resembling a treehouse, imaging solitary escape to this little hideaway during the stay to enjoy a book or just to enjoy the view of Casco Bay. Check out the moon and stairs painted on the ceiling and a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on one of the walls. I fell in love with charm of the wood floors, crown molding, the grand staircase and cozy fireplaces.

Even the basement has a history, having been an old speakeasy. Now it serves as a billiards room. This was the only area of the inn I didn’t like – too musty, old, dark and creepy for me.

We stayed in Arts District Room at the back of the inn – cozy homey decor and very quiet. The bed had a Cuddledown 600 fill super featherbed topper creating the experience of sleeping on a cloud! The bathroom at that time could have used some cosmetic updating but was very spacious. There are sitting rooms on each floor if you want more space to lounge, read, etc.

Danforth Pumpkin French Toast

The breakfast was fresh made and delicious. Fresh squeezed orange juice, good coffee, a freshly baked muffin and apple amuse started things off. The pumpkin French toast was to die for and they printed out the recipe for me.

Hated to leave this tranquil place. The Danforth is great for a romantic weekend. The inn is charming, yet classy. Not appropriate for children.

 

Fast forward to today – The Danforth underwent a major renovation in 2015 to make room for an onsite restaurant (SE Asian cuisine), allowing them to qualify to become a Relais & Chateau property. The first floor common areas, Opium Lounge and Tempo Dulu Restaurant are anything but old school. Replacing the heavy wood trim and stuffed chairs are pops of purple and Asian influenced décor with a modern, bold, sometimes offbeat flair.

The grand stair case leading up to the rooms remains the same, possessing the charming architectural character of the time it was built, yet dressed in a refreshing coat of white. (Could be the perfect spot for a bride to descend on her special day. Just saying.)

The rooms still retain have much of original architectural charm and character but have been updated with white paint and modern bathrooms, giving a sleek look. The linens are still sumptuous to sink into. Service is still top notch.

Today’s Danforth is still a great place for a romantic weekend, but also a hip gathering spot to meet friends for drinks or dinner. It preserves the past while embracing Portland’s modern future.

Danforth plaque

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Maine Inns & B & B’s – James Place Inn

I love the experience of staying in an inn or B & B. Some have that wonderful cozy feel like you are staying with old friends. Others offer a chance to sleep in a historic setting while still others offer luxury and relaxation. I am especially enamoured of the inns and B & B’s that dot the countryside and small towns of New England and Maine. I have this crazy goal to stay in as many of them as possible.

I found the James Place Inn on the Internet when researching our first trip to Maine. I was looking for something different in the town of Freeport other than a generic room in a chain hotel. This B & B is located off Route 1 on a quiet residential street (11 Holbrook Street) in a beautifully restored Victorian style home that was built in 1890. Each of the 7 quest rooms (all with ensuite bath) is a different decor and color, but all possess that homey cozy feel.

James PIace Inn - Yellow RoomUnfortunately I had waited too long to make a reservation and the only room available was the Yellow Room. Located on the top floor, this light filled room, courtesy of a skylight and windows, has a queen bed and a hot tub, good to enjoy a long soak after a day of shopping. The tiny bathroom with it’s tiny shower stall was the only downside to this room. (I peeked into a couple of other rooms on the same floor and noted more spacious bathrooms.)

The James Place Inn is a favorite with many visitors who are regular guests, so booking far in advance if you desire a specific room is highly recommended and/or there is an event in Freeport during your stay. My favorite is the Pine Room with knotty pine paneled walls and a cozy fireplace that give it a true Maine flavor and romantic ambiance.

Tori and Robin Baron are delightful innkeepers and live on-site in their house behind the inn. Robin was more than wonderful helping schlep my heavy suitcase up the stairs to our room. (I really must learn to pack lighter.) He was gracious, coming to my aid when I clogged the toilet.

The breakfast is the crowning feature of this inn. Everything is homemade, some from family recipes. Upon arrival, I was lucky enough to snag a Pumpkin Scone from that morning’s breakfast which made for a nice afternoon snack. Since we were there on a Sunday, the great tradition of Maine Blueberry pancakes was served, along with a slice of delicious quiche. I also had a hefty chunk of the coffee cake which was incredibly moist and tasted like a sugar cookie. When we came back from shopping prior to checking out, I was invited into the inn’s beautiful kitchen and allowed to have another piece of this yummy coffee cake for the road. It’s little touches like this that make this inn like a good friend’s home, only better.

 

 

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How Much Are National Parks Worth To You? Pay Your Share

Acadia Carriage Rd Bridge2When the discussion arose in the media a few months back that most of the popular national parks were going to raise their park pass fees during the busy months, it struck a chord with me.

When we were in Maine in 2016, I overheard the following conversation between some other guests seated in the lobby seating area in front of a cozy fireplace of one of the more pricey hotels in Bar Harbor. The three people were looking at a map of Acadia National Park trying to decide what parts to visit. One of them said “We can go here and here as WE DO NOT HAVE TO PAY TO GET INTO THESE PARTS OF THE PARK.” I couldn’t help myself and had to object. I told them: “That is actually incorrect information. A park pass is required for all sections of the park. By not paying for a park pass, it causes the park service not to be able to have the funds to do maintenance so that things are nice, safe and to preserve it for all to use.” My remark produced stunned silence.

It is unfortunate to learn that the way these people thought about national park use is actually quite common among many visitors. They couldn’t be more wrong. In the case of Acadia, there are some ‘porous’ entry points that cause people to think that access to those areas do not require a pass. Some visitors might say ‘but my tax dollars pay for a portion of this so why do I need to pay for a pass?’ Only a small amount of the federal budget is allocated to the national park service. Not to tread too much into politics, but with the cutbacks for national park funding by the current administration, the money has to come from somewhere.

The rate hike is not to make a profit, but to cover the backlog of maintenance work to repair and maintain popular trails and sights, especially those that are the most heavily visited and see the most wear and tear.  If not, parts of favorite parks may be closed off until repairs can afford to be made. Imagine going to your favorite national park on a long awaited vacation to find that part you want to see most is closed. Disappointing? You bet.

How much is your favorite national park worth to you? To quote a famous credit card ad motto: Priceless!

My favorite park is Acadia National Park in Maine which my husband and I visit every two years or so. (I’ve also been to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and others.) The first thing we do when we arrive on MDI is to stop at the Hulls Cove Visitors Center and purchase a week long pass. The hikes and landscape are amazing and I am refreshed after each visit there. I marvel that people like George Dorr and John D. Rockefeller Jr. were in love enough with this special place to buy the land to create this park for generations to enjoy.

There are objections that the rate hike will prevent some people from being able to enjoy national parks. I understand that, but I also see lots of these same people taking their kids to theme parks, buying expensive cellphones, etc. For low income families, there is an option. Most national parks have some free admission days each year. (Acadia scheduled 4 days during 2018, of which two days remain: September 22 National Public Lands Days and November 11: Veterans Day. For free days at other national parks, visit https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks-state.htm

Senior citizens have two options that are a great deal. U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can purchase a $80 lifetime pass, plus a $10 handling fee or a $20 annual Senior Pass (plus $10 handling fee). The pass provides entrance or access to the pass owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle at federally operated recreation sites across the country. Makes it easy to spend quality time with the grandkids and introduce them to the wonders of nature. (Photo identification may be required to verify ownership.) BTW, the price for senior passes had been the same since 1994.

With a little planning, we can all pay our fair share by buying a park pass to enjoy national parks. it’s a small price to pay to experience all the beauty our national parks offer.

 

 

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Lobster, How I Love Thee. Let Me Count The Ways

When you visit Maine, most people have to eat the state’s best known food – Lobster (unless, unfortunately you happen to be allergic to shellfish). I spent some of my childhood in Maine & have fond memories of eating the delicious crustacean. Mostly, we got to eat it whenever company came to visit from “away”. We were fortunate to live in a small village in Down East Maine that enabled my Dad to drive to a nearby beach to meet the lobstermen as they came back to shore with their daily catch. It didn’t get any fresher that that. It was the early 1960’s and prices were cheap – $15/bushel for lobster, $10/bushel for crabs and $5/bushel for clams! My mother would make homemade potato salad, coleslaw, fresh corn on the cob and fresh baked rolls with homemade jam to round out the feast.

Fast forward to today. I love lobster, but know it’s not something Mainers eat every day. My husband however, is a fanatic about eating lobster anytime we visit Maine. He eats it in some form almost every day we are there. He will eat lobster in whatever form is on the menu – Lobster Benedict at breakfast, lobster mac ‘n cheese, lobster pot pie, bisque, chowder, stew, Lobster Nicoise Salad, Lobster Fried Rice, Lobster Risotto, Lobster Pizza, Lobster crepe (take a look at all these photos) –  but he seems to have a personal goal to try every lobster roll in the state.

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Lobster Roll, Red’s Eats, Wiscasset

Camden Harbor Inn Breakfast

Lobster Benedict, Camden Harbor Inn

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Lobster Benedict, La Bella Vita, Harborside Resort, Bar Harbor

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Lobster Stew, Jordan Pond House, Acadia National Park

And yet somehow, he had never experienced eating a whole boiled Maine lobster. We did try to go to two lobster pounds before going on Mount Desert Island when we made our first trip in 2013. The first one was already closed for the season and we were ignored at the second one. That night he settled for a lobster roll with all the sides and blueberry pie at West Street Cafe. (A very good deal, by the way.)

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Lobster Roll Dinner. West Street Cafe, Bar Harbor

When visiting his sister in Solon in 2016, her hubby offered to cook us a traditional Maine lobster dinner.  When the lobster was placed in front of my husband, he proceeded to pick the whole thing up and attempt to bite the tail with the shell still on! Despite gales of hysterical laughter, we did stop him from breaking a tooth. Instructions followed and he enjoyed his first whole lobster.

Alas, he still prefers lobster rolls.

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Lobster Crepes. Maine Dining Room, Harraseeket Inn, Freeport

Jordan Pond House Maine Lobster Nicoise Salad 827

Lobster Nicoise Salad, Jordan Pond House

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Lobster Benedict w/o English Muffin, Lighthouse Restaurant, Seal Harbor

 

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Lobster Fried Rice, Fresh, Camden

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Slice of Lobster Pizza, Blaze, Bar Harbor

 

 

 

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Robert’s Christmas Wonderland – Year-round Christmas in Florida

IMG_1569In case you haven’t notice, it’s December and there are only 19 shopping days left before Christmas. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are gone. If you haven’t decorated yet, have found that most of your holiday lights don’t work or need an unusual gift for IMG_1562someone on your list, it’s time to hop to it. If you live in or will be visiting the Tampa Bay area, there is the perfect place to shop for Christmas decor. Drive east on Gulf to Bay Boulevard towards the beaches and keep an eye out for the building with the Christmas tree shaped sign atop a red and white candy cane striped pole and the red, white and green striped awning. You have found Robert’s Christmas Wonderland. What a wonderland it is, featuring all things Christmas. The store is open year round, but as the holidays near, crowds come from all over including visitors from out of state and Europe, seeking that one-of-a-kind Christmas ornament or collectible. People even stop here on their way to or returning from Clearwater’s beautiful beaches. The folks at Robert’s start planning and buying Christmas items in early January of each year. Boxes of merchandise arrive in the spring and set-up begins. Even if you are here for summer, you’ll be able to get a Christmas fix, a nice respite from the heat.

There are Christmas village displays, nativity scenes, themed decorated Christmas trees, collectibles and rows of Christmas ornaments in any theme imaginable. There is even a section of Florida themed ornaments – a perfect memento of your vacation in the Sunshine state. There is so much to see that you could easily lose tract of time, so plan on at least an hour or more for your visit.

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The top not to be missed section is the Christmas Tree room. Walk through the archway of icicles and tiny white lights amid greenery into a breathtaking forest of lighted Christmas trees in every style and size, Santa figurines and stuffed forest animals (some lifesize). One can almost feel a slight chill in the air. It would take a real Scrooge not to feel the Christmas magic. You won’t find a better selection of top quality artificial trees, most of which come with a warranty.

Looking for an upside down Christmas tree that are in vogue right now? They have those too.

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IMG_1573Fancy decorating your yard like Clark Griswold to look like a scene a la Christmas Vacation? Check out the corner of the tree room to see the variety of large sized outdoor decor items, regular and themed light strings and lighted decorations. Need replacement light bulbs? No problem, they carry a variety of sizes.

Make your holiday complete with a visit to Robert’s.

TIPS: 1) If you are a Florida resident, make sure to sign up for the Preferred Customer List when paying for your purchase. Anyone who spends at least $25 or more during the past year receives money saving coupons that are good at the beginning of October. Use them and receive another coupon good in November.

2) They offer free personalization of ornaments.

 

 

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“I’d like to order the special, but please hold the side of children.”

 Banning ill-mannered children from restaurants

This morning, my local newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, published an article touting yet another restaurant announcing a ban on kids. Surprisingly, this time it’s a pizza place.

Being ‘a picky traveler”, I totally identified with this news story as well as one that hit the news earlier this year about an upscale Italian restaurant in Mooresville, North Carolina instituting a ban on children under 5 dining at their restaurant. The incident that prompted the ban involved a child using an iPad on loud volume, disturbing other patrons. The parents refused to comply with polite requests to turn down the volume or turn the device off and were asked to leave. While the ban drew some criticism from insulted parents, it has had the delightful effect of increasing the numbers of customers from 50 to 80 a night. Bravo! I would definitely dine at this restaurant if ever in the area.

I researched restaurants that ban kids and found a lot of articles and posts online. The one that appalled me the most was the one about Cuchara, an intimate Mexican restaurant in Houston, Texas, full of delicate artwork, where a child scratched the restaurant walls with a quarter, causing $1,500 in damage. Where were this kid’s parents?! Did they not notice their “little darling” was defacing the walls?! Rather than a ban, the restaurant began handing out cards with behavioral instructions to customers.

Sometimes, the banning of children from restaurants can backfire, like what happened when the Lobster Pound and Moore in Nova Scotia announced a ban on loud kids . Bad choice of words? Yes. Bad policy? No.

People think of restaurants as public, but they really aren’t. Yes, you are out in public view, but most restaurants are privately owned. People who dine out need to accept that owners have the right to make rules that benefit their business and protect their patrons’ safety and enjoyment. Imagine witnessing a 3 year old running wild in a sports bar type restaurant and almost colliding with a server with a large tray loaded with food while inches away the parents and their friends and relatives partied and drank, oblivious to the possibility of impending disaster (yes, it really happened). Something like that can make one see why a lot of people don’t like out-of-control kids in restaurants.

Just an observance, but lately there seems to be an abundance of bad parenting.  A lot of parents seem to feel they are not accountable for their own or their child’s actions. There are also parents who are too wrapped up in their own enjoyment to pay attention to their offspring, taking a break from parenting. Example: think how a person might be after drinking that third craft beer. Is that person attentive to his children and should that person also be the one driving kids home?

Seems like today’s child rearing methods are certainly different from what was the norm during my growing up years – the “Kids should be seen, not heard” generation (my father’s words). My family traveled quite a bit due to my father being in the military. When my family went to a restaurant, we kids were expected to behave and exercise the good manners we had been taught. There was no getting up from the table and no electronic devices to keep us occupied. By the age of 10, I could order a complete meal by myself. (OK, so I was not a ‘normal’ kid.)

Not all kiddie diners are disruptive. I have dined several times at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa and never witnessed any out-of-line behavior from families gathered there to celebrate. On one occasion when my husband I dined at the uber-elegant Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World, I noticed a mature beyond her years young lady dressed in her party finery enjoying the gourmet offerings and quiet conversation with her parents. The restaurant’s website states guests ages 10 and above are invited to dine at this establishment and describes themselves as a setting of refined opulence with impeccable service and world-class culinary creations; words that do not evoke a kid-friendly atmosphere. Hotels are getting in on the ban – I know of at least one historic inn filled with priceless antiques, that doesn’t accept reservations from families with children under six years of age.

In this chaotic world, manners really still matter and speak volumes about ourselves. Parents need to take responsibility for their kids’ actions as well as their safety in public. If they don’t, they don’t have the right to complain (or sue) if they are asked to leave or are banned from an establishment.

Every issue has more than one side and parents see this type of ban as discrimination. Think of it this way – if an adult behaves badly in a restaurant or bar (drunk, disorderly, etc.), they can be thrown out of the business. If the behavior is bad enough, illegal or threatens others, they can be arrested.

Everybody is aware that parents need a night out to have fun and sometimes you want to enjoy that time with your kids. Pick an age-appropriate restaurant. I understand that young children sometimes cry or have meltdowns (Trust me on this. I’ve done childcare of other people’s kids and oh, the things I know!) If your child fits this category, take your child somewhere quiet until the child settles down or defer dining out until the child has more developed social skills. If you can afford and desire to dine at “Le Fancy Bistro” don’t be a cheapo and hire a babysitter. It’s worth every penny and your fellow diners will thank you.

Dining out can be expensive these days, especially if you are looking for “an experience” which many seek. A return to civility and respect for our fellow diners can make for an enjoyable experience for all.

Additional reading with a humorous twist: The 10 Commandments of Dining With Children 

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Inns of Maine – Camden Harbour Inn

Camden Harbor Inn entry stairs & pumpkins

After an exhilarating afternoon of sailing on Penobscot Bay or a drive up US 1, this is the first sight that greets you as you pull up to the front of the inn you are spending the night at. Some might be daunted by all the stairs. Instead, marvel at the beauty of the symmetry of all those lovely pumpkins leading to the front porch entrance of the Camden Harbour Inn. A friendly employee meets you half way up, welcoming you by name (they do that lovely sort of thing at small inns) and takes the heaviest of your bags, making you feel at home.

As you check in, you are gifted with a petite box of chocolates and a stuffed animal that is one of four sea creatures. Receiving a cute green seal, he got named Oscar, before realizing that is the first name of one of the Maison de Hotels (owner/managers).

Camden Harbour InnThis luxury Victorian inn is a Relais et Chateaux property, a collection of boutique hotels/inns located around the world that are coupled with a gourmet restaurant as part of the property. At the Camden Harbor Inn, that is the award winning Natalie’s (but more about that later in this post).

Camden Harbor Inn from schooner

Perched on a hill up Bayview Street overlooking Camden Harbor, this inn has only 20 rooms, but what exquisite rooms and suites they are. Most are decorated to the hilt in modern European style, some featuring fireplaces and soaking tubs. Of course, this kind of opulence doesn’t come cheap. (Tip: If your travel plans are flexible, check their web site for last minute special rates or sign up for email specials.)

If you’re budget conscious, but desire a little taste of this cozy inn, book the Macassar – a functional room that features a king bed with luxury linens including a Cuddledown pillow top mattress cover that will make you feel like you are sleeping on a cloud (great comfort after a day of hiking). The best feature of this room is the great views of Camden Harbor from the windows. Wake up early enough to see a magical view of the sleepy little harbor with many sailboats and windjammers docked there, shrouded in early morning mist.

Camden Harbor viewed frm Camden Harbour Inn_688

An incredibly delicious gourmet breakfast is included in the room rate and is served in the dining area of Natalie’s. Enjoy the best Lobster Benedict in Maine, along with selections of fresh baked pastries and other breakfast items served with wonderful coffee and fresh squeezed juice in a beautiful setting. When the weather is nice, breakfast can be enjoyed out on the porch.

Camden Harbor Inn Breakfast

Natalie’s is also open for dinner and features creative dishes utilizing Maine’s bounty of seafood and other locally sourced ingredients. If you love lobster, definitely order their Lobster tasting menu for a variety of ways that lobster can be prepared.

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Discover the Headwaters Cafe – Not Your Usual Convention Center Food

The Headwaters Cafe in Saint Paul RiverCentre seems to be a well kept secret from out-of-town visitors. It’s located on the lobby level tucked down a side hallway as you walk the skywalk/tunnel system that connects the St. Paul Hotel, the Intercontinental, the Xcel Energy Center and the RiverCentre or you can enter from W Kellogg Blvd.  When you find it, you’ll be glad you did. No hot dogs or popcorn here. The food offerings are totally amazing because they are not your average arena/convention center food. Talking real food – fresh made soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, entrees and good coffees. It can be very busy at lunch hour, popular with the locals, but it is efficiently run. You order at the counter and when your food is ready, they call your number and you come pick it up. Prices are good value.

Their tomato basil soup is one of the best versions ever. Pair the soup with their Signature Rosemary Chicken Salad on a whole wheat wrap (or the croissant is usually comes on). The pecans, dried cranberry, apple, shallots and a light touch of rosemary blended in provided nice texture. The modern decor of polished wood, stainless and black trim give the dining area an industrial feel that is spacious and filled with light from the large floor to ceiling windows. They also serve breakfast and for evening events there is a bar serving beer, wine, cocktails and tasty appetizers. Hours vary based on events going on in the complex, so check their web site. If you are attending an event at the Xcel Energy Center, eat here before entering the arena.

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