Ahh, Boothbay Harbor. Every time I think I've given up on Maine entirely, we stumble across something just cute enough, or goofy, or cool enough to make my hopes stay alive.
|A rare 1/2 blue lobster|
We visited the Boothbay area, which is about an hour to the Northeast of us this last Thursday, to celebrate my birthday. Our tentative plan was to visit the aquarium, spend most of the morning there, eat some lunch, maybe shop a bit and head home. Well, as we planned this, I couldn't find anyone that had ever been to the aquarium, which I thought was odd. I kept getting "Oh, the aquarium in Boston?" from people. This made me intrigued but a bit nervous about what we'd find. But this was the Maine State Aquarium. It had to be pretty decent, right?
|The Aquarium. All of it.|
When we finally found the place, tucked away down a twisty road on the far side of the harbor, we found out why no one had been there. It's teeny tiny! Essentially one room attached to a large building housing a research facility, the aquarium had a large touch tank, a "shark" tank (with one unfortunate 2-foot long shark and a couple of rays) and around 10 fish tanks.
Beyond that, they boasted a 10 foot section of t-shirts and mugs for sale, a tiny display case of lobster history pieces and a couple of bathrooms. It's not much, and I could see a hundred ways to remodel and change a few things to make it more modern and appealing, but if you are in the area already, you should visit.
While this was initially diappointing, the visit was not a bust. The fish they did have were lively and well-kept and the showpiece for me, as it should be at the Maine aquarium, was the lobsters. They had a century old monster that was over 2 feet long and a variety of oddly colored ones as well, a condition that is estimated to occur in only 1 out of 32 million lobsters. So we wandered for a bit, tried to milk our $5 admission for as long as we could, then lit out, determined to find some way to spend the rest of the day.
|Their Giant Lobster|
This ended up being easier than we'd thought. First, we stopped at a place called McNabbs Fine Tea and Yarns. But it looked like some lady's house so we left. Then we stopped and decided to brave it anyway and turned back around. It turned out to be some old lady's house that just happened to be filled to the brim with yarn and in one room, in the back of the house, hundreds of tins, bags, boxes and bowls filled with teas. No order at all either, just wherever they happened to land, with hand labeled stickers and tags. I felt like we were in the domain of some witch or an alchemist. Apart from Roscoe the dog, who kept handing me his red rubber ball, he kind of ruined the effect. We spent a while there, huffing tea, until we reached a sesory overload and my wife chose a couple to buy. We ended up with some cinnamon and spice chai and a black tea that smells like a smoky fireplace.
After that, we wandered around a cemetery for a while and headed into the center of Boothbay Harbor. Which I loved. It still had some things that rang untrue to me, like they were doing things a certain way because it was expected of them, not because they loved it, but we found a lot to enjoy in the little town. Unlike Old Orchard Beach, which is geared towards young people buying clothes and hanging out on the beach, Boothbay Harbor has the feel of an oceanfront town for empty nesters. Lots of shops selling wine and high-end knick knacks and nice restaurants. No Fried Dough and French Fries to be found, Lobster and tapas seemed prevalent. There were a few oddball surprises, like Enchantments, which was so stuffed to the gills with fairies and glitter that it was overwhelming. At first glance, it seemed to be the exact thing that was missing out here - a fun and funky shoppe filled with insanity, run by beach bum hippies. But Enchantments only appeared to be that way. Once you got inside and saw all of the angry signs about cell phones, pictures, ice cream and babies you realized that it was all a sham. Or run by the worlds most uptight hippies. (I did snap a photo before noticing the harshly worded signs about it....)
We ate lunch at a place called the Chowder House's Boat Bar, which was a bar made out of an actual boat, where we shared a cup of chowder and some homemade potato salad while we watched a family kayak in the harbor.
We stopped into a lot of shops, some good, some overpriced. I realized that Christmas ornaments are really hard to shop for when they are displayed exclusively on Christmas trees, and that if you see a fairly full ice cream shop with a short line, you should get in there because later in the day when you do want ice cream, that line will be out the door and along the walk. But the day was perfect, warm with a cool breeze and there were enough diversions that we'll have to visit again. We also popped down to Newagen to see a lighthouse and eat some salt water taffy on a pier.
Eventually, we had to get home to empty the dog's bladders and we left, stopped for some groceries and got home just before the skies got dark and it started to rain.