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  • Des & Sandie Nichols

ACADIA, CADILLAC MOUNTAIN, BAL HARBOR & CAMDEN


Oscar Wilde's descriptive words help encapsulate the changing scenes here in New England as the canvas of leaves turn from a uniform green into a myriad of yellows, reds and gold. It is one of nature's finest performances and we are so fortunate to feast our eyes on this spectacular metamorphosis.

A harbinger of winter stumbling into Fall

From Belfast, we went two hours north to Acadia National Park which sits on northern Maine's Mount Desert Island, just over 100 miles from the Canadian border. It comprises almost 50,000 acres of north American wilderness, with its dominant Cadillac Mountain surrounded by lush woodland, expansive pastures and rocky beaches. The best and easiest way to see it is to take the loop road, passing along the Atlantic side of the island high above the ocean and overlooking the town of Bar Harbor below. The Park is criss-crossed with carriage trails, built in the 30's by the ubiquitous John D. Rockefeller Jr, taking time out from making billions out of Standard Oil with our friend Henry Flagler.

Acadia and Cadillac Mountain

Acadia

Acadia Sand Beach

A storybook English 'Tudor' house in the Park

But we were particularly fortunate to arrive at the raising of the curtain of the 'New England In The Fall' showtime and to see the kaleidoscope of colors starting to ignite as winter approaches. It is early days but teases us enough to want to pull up a comfy chair to sit and watch the hills for the next six weeks. But as winter looms, we have to keep moving.

Bar Harbor is a heralded and popular tourist destination in north Maine. Clearly, it was once charm itself, with its old wooden houses and shops sitting on the edge of a glorious bay. But.... what is that in the bay? Yes, it is yet another cruise ship and, as with Key West, the natural calm and beauty of the place is sacrificed as ship after cavernous ship disgorges its cargo of passengers into a tiny, historic town. The result is T-shirt and cheap jewelry shops and menus of fried food. It is a desecration and our disappointment was considerable.

The monster lurks in the bay off Bar Harbor

But this was soon offset by the elation of discovering the harbor town of Camden some 100 miles south. This stylish, almost chic, haven shows how it should all happen. It has learned to welcome tourists and still retain its dignity and heritage. We were particularly tickled to see the schooner Appledore berthed here. All winter this fine vessel sits in Key West, giving sunset cruises to visitors, and we have ourselves sailed on her. But come summer she plies her trade in Camden, Maine and it was like seeing an old friend. We wish her well on her journey back to the Keys in a week's time.

This lovely town of Camden is a must visit.

The Appledore

Camden Harbor

Camden Main Street

A serene scene just outside Camden

We headed further south and have arrived at the idyllic village of Kennebunkport, made famous not just because it is ridiculously picturesque but also because President George H.W. Bush (the loved and credible one) had his summer home here. He had spent much of his childhood in the area and it was clearly his spiritual home. Kennebunkport is a true former fishing village in essence, now with a population of around 4,000 lucky residents, reached by a bridge over the eponymous river and made up of a collection of wonderful wooden buildings. It is no surprise that it is home to one of the wealthiest communities in Maine. It does not take long to walk the few streets and even less time to be tempted to another fresh lobster at one of the many eateries. We were advised that the best restaurant for seafood lies a mile outside - Mabel's Lobster Claw; nestling on the side of the road, you eat outside on the verandah as the cars go by, French-style. Mabel did not disappoint. The lobster risotto, served elegantly in large scallop shells, and the inevitable soft-shell red lobster were simply spectacular.

Kennebunkport

Quirky Kennebunkport

Quaint Kennebunkport

A mystical view across the Kennebunk River

Yet another lobster fatality at Mabel's

Portland Head Lighthouse through the sea fret.

On Monday, we are setting off to winter in the southwest, exploring New Mexico, Arizona and southern California, being joined by our daughter Rosie for Christmas as she flies through from Sydney, Australia back to the University of Florida. En route we shall spend time in thoroughbred racehorse country, Kentucky.

Please follow us - we love your company.

Our next route, exactly 1000 miles from B to A, is to Lexington, Kentucky.

And finally...

Our good friend Alan James, a brilliant guitarist who played with and was musical director to Roy Orbison for years and years and who is now the leader of the President's favorite society band, the aptly named Powerhouse, shares with his wife Jessica a passion that we entirely understand. Cats. They both work tirelessly for cat charities but, as Oscar Wilde also said (and he said so many brilliant things), they have a wonderful weakness - they can "resist everything except temptation". They are classic cat foster failures, taking poor misfortunate felines in and then finding they are completely unable to let them go. At the last count I think they had 10. Well, that was until little Itty Bitty Kitty, a tiny kitten who watched Alan play around on his guitar, picked up playing like a musical genius. Needless to say, Alan told me yesterday, 'She isn't going anywhere.!


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