What does Portland Maine compare to…?
Its character is a yard worker, sitting on the water’s edge, looking out over the harbor. Its pant legs are frayed over the top of its boots, its sweater is soiled and pulled out of shape, with a hole not large enough to discard it. And it is eating a gourmet lunch from a high-tech lunchbox.
Portland is a happy mix of old and new. The working waterfront is a real one – hauling $616,500,000 in fish every year – and, in places, it shows the wear.
The wharves and quays are home to numerous tour boat companies, ferry boat companies, tugboats, container terminals, shipyards, and yacht brokers. Then restaurants, bars, and art galleries add to the scene like fruit in your oatmeal.
The balmy summer months bring swarming schools of tourists. And every Autumn, cruise ships spill thousands of souvenirseekingleafpeepers like seahorses giving birth.
Moving up the hillside is downtown – where 18th century, federal style, buildings sit uncomfortably next to their multi-storied grandchildren. The new generation is made from a different stock; triple pained glass, brushed stainless steel, and polished basalt. The new generation stands brazenly up to their aging ancestors.
An modern city is rising from the clunky cobbled streets – which are quickly disappearing into the sinkholes of time.
Restaurants, micro-breweries, and cyber cafes are numerous. You can find the entire spectrum of fares, from every ethnicity, to every taste….even a vegan will feel comfortably out to pasture in this town.
Some culinary experts say Portland is second to only San Fransisco. If you consider its resources; the abundance of seafood within its reach, and the impressive organic farm movement dominating the land, reports like that may not be a long stretch.
Fresh local ingredients, paired with the unique New England cooking traditions; a continual rising tide of local breweries – about 40 in Maine and 22 in the Portland area alone, and you have all the elements of for a perfect storm –– although, in this case, the conditions are favorable.
As for Mainer’s, don’t let their modest demeanor fool you. They’ve been at it a long time. Hard winters have tempered their souls, and maybe calloused their hearts a tad.
But, the bounty and beauty of their land is worth defense – it’s the beauty that keeps them cheerful. Cunning characters for sure, and it dwells beneath a seemingly childish naivety. I’m certain their cheerful greeting for visitors has an underlying contempt….”Hi, welcome to Maine – when are ya leaving?”
That may be too harsh. But they are proud and happy to be called Mainers, and in the scope of things, not many can say that.