Wednesday, July 08, 2009

It's official ... I'm in love with summer

I'm so glad the weather turned out much better than planned for our trip to Old Orchard Beach! We spent the long weekend at the beachside amusement park and the Pier, munching on cheese fries and Pier pizza and riding the rides. We ate at a delightful vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Portland, a city I can only describe as "eclectic."

Portland's a much bigger city than I'd anticipated, a seaside city full of nice little byways, curious little nooks with local shops, restaurants, and clubs, including a cool, trendy little teahouse/foot spa called Soakology, where we stopped for tea on Saturday afternoon. Before we were seated at the vegetarian place, called the Green Elephant, we went down the street to the city square, where hippie street performers regaled an equally artsy/hippie audience with illusions and dangerous feats (walking on glass, breaking a cement block over a guy's chest while he lay on the broken glass, juggling lit torches -- one girl even hammered a giant nail through her nose into her face with a big mallet; I still don't know how she pulled that one off), including one performer getting a cake to the face and some audience members picking the remains off the ground and stuffing their faces -- literally. While I somewhat identified with the hippie and arty atmosphere, I failed to see the appeal in some of the performers' and audience members' behavior. Still, it was cool to hear seemingly live music broadcast through invisible loudspeakers throughout the square, people gathering and sharing in the freedom and limitlessness of it all.

On Saturday, we also hit up a water park, Funtown Splashtown, and got through every ride we wanted to go on except one when a storm passed through and temporarily closed down the rides. At that point, we had other things to do, so we left and stopped at an all-you-can-eat buffet in a building that actually used to be a schoolhouse, separated on either end into boys' and girls' sections. The dining rooms were transformed from old classrooms. It was really cute -- we ate to our hearts' content from the buffet and shared a boiled Maine lobster -- it was a bit smaller than I'm used to, but it was one of the most delicious, fresh lobsters I've ever had. After that, we went to the Portland Headlight, a beautiful lighthouse, where we took pictures and I got some souvenirs for my family.

We watched the fireworks from the beach at Old Orchard, standing in a group of people in the amusement park area right by the beach; it was the closest I've ever been to a fireworks show. I was surprised at how they did it -- instead of setting off one firework at a time with a "grand finale" at the end, it was just one long grand finale, with about 10 fireworks going off at a time! It was very impressive, but ended abruptly, since there really was no final ta-da. Still, it was beautiful, a nice end to our Fourth of July.

On Sunday, we checked out of our hotel in the morning and set off for York Beach, a town at the very southern tip of Maine that my mother's family has been visiting for about three generations now, always staying at the same motel right across from Long Sands Beach. I have many fond memories of going there with my family, grandparents and aunt, and staying the week, eating lobster nearly every night and feasting on freshly caught steamers, finding starfish and hermit crabs in the tide pools, and going to York Village to shop and visit the famous Goldenrod Kisses store -- where you can see them making the saltwater taffy right there -- and playing at the arcade. I also loved visiting Nubble Light in the evening, watching the sun set while a jazz band played. In bad weather, we'd go shopping at the Kittery Outlets, and in better weather, sometimes we'd go whale-watching nearby off the New Hampshire coast.

My mom and aunt had been going since they were children, and we kept the tradition going when my brother and I were children, though as we got older, it became more boring doing the same things every year. When you get older, it also becomes harder to meet new people on the beach, because kids that age don't really "play," per se, so the chance never arises that your sandcastle's structure may carry over to theirs, sparking a conversation or an argument that later turns into a friendship. But, even now, my grandparents -- and sometimes Aunt Mo, as such is the case this year -- make the trip each summer for a week or so, visiting the same sites and oftentimes the same people who also come each year and stay at the motel. It felt good to show Darren all these things from childhood vacations past, and he liked seeing the lighthouse; the water was absolutely, beautifully blue, and the sight of the waves crashing up against the rocks made a perfect picture. We drove through York Village past the Goldenrod, the other shops and Short Sands Beach. The weather the entire day was bright and gorgeous, with nary a cloud in sight. For a moment, it was as if I was a small child again, scouring the tide pools for sea creatures and lying on the beach, soaking up the sun.

The weather now is less than what it was last weekend, which leads me to believe a power higher than my own was involved in creating such a wonderful vacation for us ... or maybe it was just good fortune. Tonight, Darren and I will try to get into a screening of "500 Days of Summer," a film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (someone I used to have a crush on as a child during his "Third Rock from the Sun" days) and Zooey Deschanel (another favorite of mine, whom I loved in "Almost Famous" -- she also had a great four-episode stint on "Weeds"). I've been longing to see the Sundance film since I first heard about it a couple months ago. The trailer looks rather promising. The screening is first come, first served, so we're hoping to get there early enough to snag free passes.

Then, this Saturday, we've been invited by one of Darren's new coworkers to a cookout at his house. I plan on bringing some orzo salad and something else to throw on the grill -- some fish or seafood, perhaps. On Sunday, we're going to the Philippine Food Festival in Quincy, which we've been looking forward to for about a month now. And we want to try to fit in a trip to see the tall ships in Boston Harbor ... so much to do and only so much summer to do it!

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