Edit: I previously titled this post “Selkie-hunting in Maine,” but I realized that made me sound like the villains in every Selkie story ever. I swear I was only thinking of the observational kind of “hunting”! 😳 Can’t change the url, unfortunately, but you get the idea.
For one last summer adventure, my mom and I decided to travel northeast for a week, soaking up some mermaid vibes and writing inspiration in Kennebunkport, Maine. It was also a throwback to one of my childhood favorites, the first selkie book I ever read — Sylvia Peck’s Seal Child (previously reviewed here and here) — as well as a chance to practice some (very amateur) wave watching as learned in Tristan Gooley’s How To Read Water: Clues, Signs & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea, and even to take a Seven Tears
at High Tide-inspired trip to a local amusement park.
Yup. I totally met a real-live selkie, posing for tourists.
I’d forgotten how cozy the mood and setting of Seal Child are, but re-reading it before the trip, I was taken back to long winter nights by the fire, drinking French-style coffee and eating hot fudge, listening to local sea lore; long summer days picking berries and making pies, taking long beach walks with your dog, buying candy sticks from the general store; summer nights spent swimming in the local pond…
Of course, my trip to Maine was a lot more touristy than Molly’s; I stayed at a hotel instead of a cottage, ordered lobster rolls and clam chowder from the famous Clam Shack instead of preparing my own meals, and spent my week partaking in such touristy activities as souvenir shopping and lobster boat touring instead of baking pies and listening to stories told by old friends.
To be fair, my biggest reason for taking the Kylie’s Chance lobster boat tour was the promised stop at Bumpkin Island, a well-known gathering place for harbor seals. They were kind of hard to spot that day, but they were there. And I did ask around a bit about local seal stories, and discovered this absolutely lovely book by local artist Mimi Gregoire Carpenter, the tale of a boy who pretends to be a harbor seal for a day.
The illustrations are wild and whimsical full-page images of seal pups and mermaids and sea dragons, and the story teaches good lessons for beach tourists, like which sandy treasures to leave alone (anything that’s still alive).
Another day, inspired by Kevin and Morgan’s trip to the county fair in Seven Tears at High Tide, I took a day trip thirty minutes up the coast to Old Orchard Beach to check out the beachside Palace Playland. I didn’t go on any rides (unfortunate motion sickness as discovered on the otherwise-awesome lobster boat tour), but I dutifully spent some quarters at the arcade (I recommend the giant Connect Four and the classic Ms. Pac-Man), and stopped for a Morgan-inspired plate of fried fish ‘n chips at The Shack.
Back in Kennebunkport, I spent the late afternoon/evening sitting on Gooch’s Beach, watching the surfers and boogie-boarders ride the waves. I watched the foam spilling off the tops of the breaking waves like some invisible hand folding over the edges of a pie crust. Back home, I re-read the chapter on ocean waves in Tristan Gooley’s book to decide whether I’d been watching spilling, plunging, or surging waves.
Spilling waves with spindrift (wind whipping off the crest of the wave in an airy spray)
Some non-OOBE experiences worth mentioning
Where to eat:
Those lobster rolls at the Clam Shack were worth every penny of the $20 price. I also really liked the ones at Linda Bean’s Lobster Cafe at the Portland Jetport. Pro tip: order a bowl of clam chowder on the side and dunk the sandwich in periodically. You’ll thank me.
The best breakfast of the week was at the Edgewater Inn’s On the Edge restaurant (thank you, Yelp!). They bring you French Press coffee and a mini appetizer tray before your meal — a spoonful of polenta and another spoonful of pineapple upside-down cake in our case. As for the meal, I highly recommend the Cove Side Benedict, with its baked polenta base, pesto, and basil hollandaise sauce.
For dessert, check out Rococo Artisan Ice Cream, which boasts unique flavors like Goat Cheese Blackberry Chambord, Maine Whoopie Pie, and Sweet Avocado Cayenne, among less hair-raising options like Dark Chocolate, Honey Vanilla, and Passion Fruit with Chocolate Chips.
Besides the French Press coffee at On the Edge, I also really enjoyed the Dirty Chai at H. B. Provisions, a general store along the main drag (Western Ave.), and the medium-dark roast Old Port blend at Mornings in Paris, a small cafe near the corner of Western and Beach Ave. For even more coffee and coffee-related products, check out Coffee Roasters of the Kennebunks, where you’ll find plenty of French Press and Chemex coffee makers, lots of whimsical mugs, as well as variously flavored olive oils, habanero chili lime peanuts, and Korean roasted seaweed (tastes kind of like zucchini).
Where to stay
My mom and I chose the Franciscan Guest House next to St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery, for its low rates and Lithuanian connections. The monastery was bought by Lithuanian Franciscans in 1947, and is surrounded by shrines and monuments, as well as a beautiful set of woodland walking paths that take you along the Kennebunk River.
Shrine of the Stations of the Cross
How about you, fellow Postcardians? Any exciting trips this past summer? Any Out of Book Experiences?