Portlandia, Maine

I haven't managed to make too many posts this summer, but that's because like many families during the summer: we've been gone! Although I love Boston in the summer, by the time the weekend rolls around, the downtown area is crawling with tourists and it's so hot that I just want to run to the mountains. So this summer we've been to New Hampshire (twice), Wisconsin, the Berkshires (three times), and our latest trip was to Portland, Maine.

For those of you who grew up in Boston, I'm sure going to Portland was a no-brainer. But for me, this adorable city didn't get on my radar until TWO very wise mom friends told me about it. Although it's known as a kid-friendly foodie destination, what really sealed the deal for me was the fact that we could take the train. 2.5 hours from North Station and you're there. You can also drive. Due to a work conflict I had to take the bus up solo while my boys took the train without me. And let me tell you....it was pretty relaxing. The only drawback was that the movie they ran was Marley and Me so I was basically balling my eyes out for 2 hours. But weekend summer traffic going North can be brutal, so if you're going during peak time, I suggest the train. Plus, your toddler can (and will) run all over the train cars and distract themselves with that idea for at least an hour. So that's a win right there.

This was how Chewie ended up napping on the train ride home. Like a boss.

We managed to find an awesome Airbnb home that was right on the bus line. So the whole trip was done car free. Meaning NO CAR SEAT. I know for those of you who drive regularly, that's not a big deal. But for me, lugging that stupid car seat around is the bane of my existence.

The Airbnb place (which can be found here and I highly suggest) was from a family who had three boys (and tons of toys). So they had everything we needed, including a pack and play. So just imagine- going on a vacation with no car, no car seat, and no pack n play. It was almost like we were kid-free again (almost).

The whole city is like Boston on Prozac (at least during the summer it felt that way). People were friendly, and downright chatty. My Wisconsin roots really appreciated that fact and I found myself talking to everyone, including the nicest couple who had just seen Acrocats- the cat circus (I KNOW. YOU WANT TO NOW MOVE TO PORTLAND TOO). One of them had previously lived in Boston, so I got the comparison (ie, the winters are nearly the same; the people ARE actually nicer; everything is more affordable).

The city is walkable in the same way that Boston is walkable. My guess is it would be about 3 miles across (think North End to Fenway), but the Number 1 bus ran along the main drag, so it was nice to be able to take that as an option as well.

The house we stayed at was at the top of a pretty big hill, and while it was minutes from 3 playgrounds, including the Eastern Promanade which was straight out of a postcard, it was a bit of a slog to march Chewie up the hill. So I suggest the bus. The other option would be staying in the West End. We stayed in the East End (think Cambridge...especially the 'used to be not so nice' areas), which I loved because of the Promanade and the amazing restaurants that were outside our door. But the West End is a lot more like Back Bay and slightly closer to downtown. Pretty well established and refined. I'm sure either would be spectacular, but I found the quirky shops where we were to be really charming.

So, the takeaway is we'll be going back, possibly moving to Portland forever. The only question is, who's coming with us on the next trip?


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