With vaccinations now available to young teens, we wanted to celebrate our newfound freedom to travel with our teenager, Mary. As we considered where to go, June’s unusually warm weather immediately made Mary think of Maine’s beaches, uncrowded before the summer tourist season.
We chose Kennebunkport, on the southern coast, with plenty of dining choices and enough non-beach activities nearby to amuse us even if the weather changed. While many B&Bs don’t have family-sized rooms, we found a charming suite at The Inn at English Meadows, a bright two-room aerie on the third floor, with its own balcony overlooking the gardens.
The two large rooms provided plenty of space for the three of us (it would easily have slept four), and a comfortable sitting area with a large sofa and chairs. A round coffee table was perfect for playing evening games. Although the rooms were partially open to each other, the configuration gave us all privacy as well. The spacious suite had a kitchenette with a small fridge, coffee machine and microwave, as well as a free-standing gas fireplace.
Our suite was in the converted carriage house, where a downstairs lounge always welcomed us home with tea, coffee and a plate of freshly baked cookies (the lemon mascarpone cookies seemed to mysteriously disappear within minutes of our arrival). An outdoor terrace with café tables was another place to relax and enjoy the gardens, or to eat breakfast on nice days.
Kennebunk has several beaches to choose from, but our favorite is Parson’s Beach, a long stretch of white sand backed by dunes. Curious about Rachel Carlson National Wildlife Refuge, whose sign we saw just up the road, we walked along the one-mile trail there, where we counted more than three dozen pink lady slippers in bloom.
We hadn’t brought our own kayaks, but learned we could rent them from World Within, on the Ogunquit River in the center of the Wildlife Refuge. A couple of hours on the water gave us a new view of the dunes and the saltmarsh wildlife.
It also gave us quite an appetite, so we headed to Billy’s Chowder House, overlooking the tidal marshes in Wells. Three-course breakfasts each morning at The Inn at English Meadows were bountiful, and we knew Kennebunkport was filled with good restaurants, so we restrained ourselves to big bowls of clam chowder.
Mary is keen on food quests — and on chowder — so we always rate those we find in our Maine coast travels. Billy’s and Cape Pier Chowder House were the winners for this trip. Cape Pier got the best rating for the view, set beside the fishing docks at the tip of scenic Cape Porpoise, where we could watch the boats from our table on the deck.
The clear winner for dinners was Chez Rosa, a newly opened restaurant in the heart of Kennebunkport that our host at The Inn at English Meadows suggested to us. With a French bistro atmosphere, exceptionally attentive service and a bright, uncluttered dining room, it was a place we could all enjoy a leisurely dinner and revel in the fun of being able to dine in a restaurant again.
The menu is not long, but there was something for everyone — a perfect steak frites, cod baked inside a buttery puff pastry and Parisienne gnocchi, delicate dumplings in a light sauce. The unanimous choice for dessert was brioche toast topped with dark chocolate mousse, fresh berries and nut brittle.
Shopping was another pleasure we missed for a year, and Kennebunkport’s shops are sure teen-pleasers. We browsed for summer clothes and found new silver earrings after visiting several shops specializing in hand-made jewelry with local Maine stones. Shore-themed home décor, saltwater taffy, original art, handmade chocolates, beachwear, books, antiques: Like the menu at Chez Rosa, there is something for everyone.
We drove along the shore to Ogunquit and spent a couple of hours walking Marginal Way along the outer shore from Perkins Cove to the center of town. I was anxious to see the new exhibit of works by women artists who painted in the area since 1900, just opened at Ogunquit Museum of American Art. Outside the museum, we wandered through the outdoor sculpture garden, enlivened by huge wooden animals by Maine artist Bernard Langlais.
Inside the galleries, instead of her eyes glazing over, Mary was fascinated by the way a few brush strokes could become a scene as she backed away, but seem to have no form when viewed up close. She came away with a new understanding of Impressionist art.
We all came away from the four-day trip refreshed and happy to be looking forward to a summer of travel.
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