Today I’m starting a new regular feature for my blog. I will be exploring new places around the Maritimes in Canada and Northeastern Maine, U.S.A.. I will be taking my ass to these places and sharing some of the beautiful gems that can be found in the North Atlantic region. Yesterday, my friend Donna and I took my ass across the border to a little town in Northeastern Maine called Eastport. It’s very close to Calais- pronounced like those hard bumps that form from working with your hands or walking too much, “callus.” Although, I enjoy pronouncing it the French way, “Cal-ay” because it sounds more sophisticated. From Calais, you take the Coastal route 1 along the Atlantic coast heading south to Perry. And just after you come to Perry, there will be a turn on the left for Route 190 which will take you to Eastport. It is 27 miles from Calais and will take about 35 minutes to get there.
Along the way, you’ll find many cute little parks and rest stops. We stopped at Saint Croix Island National Park which is designated an International Historic Site as well. If you’re familiar at all with the Europeans arrival in North America, you may be aware that in 1604 Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts and Samuel Champlain came with a small group of French men to what is now modern-day New Brunswick and Maine to settle and trade with the First Nations people. They chose to settle on Saint Croix island in the middle of the Saint Croix river because the position would allow them to trade with the Aboriginal peoples on both sides of the river. Champlain left the group to map the coast of “Acadie” which would later be known as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. What the French settlers didn’t realize was how harsh the winter would become due to the influx of Arctic air from the north. The men were not prepared for the severity of the winter weather conditions. The ice in the river froze creating ice floes too small and dangerous to cross. Isolated from the mainland with no access to fresh water, food or wood, the men began to die from scurvy. Of the 79 men, 35 died and just over 20 were near it by June of 1605 when Champlain returned. Because it is the first known settlement by European people in the Maritimes and Maine, and because of what happened to the people, it is considered to be a place of historical importance. It was closed because it’s winter yesterday, and all of the interpretative displays and monuments were covered up. But there is a beautiful view of the St. Croix River and of St. Croix Island.
After enjoying the view, (and not much else) at the St. Croix National Park, we continued straight for Eastport. Once you turn onto Route 190, you cross two causeways to reach Eastport. That’s because it’s on an island attached to the mainland through causeways. Eastport is on Moose Island, but to get to Moose Island you first have to drive over Carlow Island, also attached by a causeway. It is a scenic drive of ocean views most of the way to the little town of Eastport. When we finally arrived in the little town, I said to my friend Donna, “Doesn’t this remind
you of Cabot Cove?” I kept expecting to see Jessica Fletcher come cycling around the corner any moment. I apologize to those of you who may be too young to understand the references here; it’s from a television series, Murder She Wrote. Jessica Fletcher was a murder-mystery writer who lived in the fictional town of Cabot Cove in Maine. Every week someone got murdered and it just so happened that the police were always incompetent. Luckily, Jessica Fletcher would always weasel her way into the investigation and help solve the case. Surely, Cabot Cove in Maine must have had the highest murder rate per capita in the world.
We arrived in Eastpoint around lunch-time (Atlantic time) so we ate at the WaCo Diner. Not as in Waco, Texas. As in “whacko.” I didn’t really see anyone who looked like a whacko in the diner. Probably the only whacko in town that day was me. Imagine it- I carried my donkey head on a stick all over that little town and took photos. And no one seemed to take a second look! The WaCo Diner had a beautiful view of the water and we sat right next to the window. It is your typical diner with reasonably priced food and excellent service. We didn’t have to ask for our drinks to be refilled, the waitress brought us fresh drinks as soon as our mugs were empty. Donna had a coffee, so I wasn’t so much surprised at her refill. But I had a hot chocolate with whip cream on top and she also brought me a fresh one with the whip cream as well! They had all day breakfast so Donna had the special (steak, eggs, homefries, and toast) and I had the “Eastport Scramble” which went straight to my ass. My literal ass, not my figurative one. Actually, maybe it is my figurative one? It is my figure, after all. In any case, it was delicious and well worth the cost.
After we ate we walked around downtown Eastport and explored the shops on Water Street. There wasn’t much open. We discovered that all the shops in Eastport are closed on Sunday and that only about half of the shops in Eastport are opened on Mondays. Tuesday-Saturday all the shops are open. However, it seems the local pub is only open Wednesdays-Saturdays. Of course, we did visit in December. They may have different hours in the summer. The first little store we went into was S.L. Wadsworth & Son. I guess it is the oldest ship chandlery in America; that’s what it says on their business card. I don’t even know what a ship chandlery is, but it seemed to me that they sold a lot of the kinds of things you might find at a Canadian Tire in Canada but on a mini-mini-MINI-scale. The part my ass was drawn to
was the gift shop area. Most of the items were nautically themed or ocean related. And if you are a pirate, this is the store for you! It must have the largest selection of pirate gear that I’ve ever seen. Aye, Aye, matey! If you’re having trouble finding it, look for the fisherman statue. It’s right across the street.
The next shop we visited was called Port O’ Call. I really enjoyed this store. It was full of unique gifts and trinkets and even clothes items. You can even go to their website and order some of the neat items in their shop. I’m going to feature a few of the things I thought were interesting but I know that many of you may find some neat finds by browsing their online gift shop. Almost immediately after we walked into the store, I was drawn to the Scramble Squares puzzle display. Anyone who solves the puzzle in less than 5 minutes wins a puzzle of their choice. I love puzzles. So I was game. (Get it. I was “game.” I kill me.) I started at it as my friend Donna browsed through the rest of the shop. I was probably there for 30-40
minutes, lost in a spell of trying to solve the puzzle and determined to do it before realizing my 5 minutes was long up. I only realized it because Donna had finished browsing through the entire shop before I had even went past the puzzle display. I ended up buying two of the puzzles, one with hummingbirds for my mother and one with puffins for my grandmother-in-law. Then finally, I browsed through the rest of the store and was drawn to were these necklaces with round pictures on them. I’m not even sure what the pictures are made of. For some reason, they made me think of Jenny Lawson‘s taxidermied raccoon, Rory and her taxidermied mouse, Hamlet. I’m not sure if the animals on these necklaces were dead, but for some reason, they remind me of her dead stuffed animals.
Because it seemed the rest of the shops were closed on Water Street, we crossed over from Port O’Call and into the Moose Island Bakery. We were still full from our lunch over at the Whacko Diner (spelled WaCo), so we just viewed the treats and didn’t indulge. The bakery is open year-round and is locally owned and operated. The lady at the counter explained that her sister owns the bakery and if we wanted anything ordered special for Christmas that they are taking pre-orders. Of course, for Donna and I that wasn’t really helpful information since Donna will be spending the holidays in New Brunswick and I will soon be returning to Halifax, Nova Scotia to spend time with my family. Next time we visit, we will be sure to save some room in our tummies for some of the bakery treats at the Moose Island Bakery.
Finally, we looped back up to where we had parked and stopped in to The Commons Eastport. We both adored this art gallery, but what I was surprised to learn when I was referring to the brochure to write about our adventure is it is a “destination gallery.” Above the gallery, there are rental condos for short or extended stays. The gallery is open year-round and features artists from Maine, the Maritimes and the Passamaquoddy Nation at Sipayik Point. The lady at the gallery was very friendly and knowledgeable about all of the artists, and there were also Christmas ornaments created by many of the artists. Gallery photos:
I discovered the work of Bonnie Stewart while at the gallery (above and below). She is a local artist who uses small objects found in nature like pine cones, shells, sea rocks and the like to create intricate works of art. I absolutely love them. I can’t imagine the amount of time and thought that must go into creating each one of these unique pieces of art.
It is a delightful shop and the inclusion of artists from both Maine and the Maritimes highlights the close relationship that exists between the two regions. We are connected by the land and the sea and often rely and assist each other in times of need. I remember in Nova Scotia when we were hit by category 2 Hurricane Juan in 2003 that the power corporation in Maine sent up workers to help restore power. And, of course, every year, Nova Scotia sends a Christmas Tree to the city of Boston in Massachusetts as a thank you for the help they sent after the Halifax explosion on December 6, 1917. It was the largest human-made explosion prior to World War II. Two ships collided in the harbour, one carrying explosives. It was an accident, but it leveled much of the city. The Maritimes has always had a deep connection with the New England states. Well, maybe not during the American Revolution or the War of 1812, but other than that, we were pretty tight.
I think a great day was had by us all, and I want to thank the people of Eastport for being so accommodating and welcoming to me and my ass. Not everyone wants to put up with an ass, but the wonderful, kind, and friendly people of Eastport were happy to do so. I think when you can go to a place carrying a donkey head on a stick and people don’t judge, that you’ve found a safe place to stay awhile. If you ever get a chance, I encourage you to take a detour off the beaten path and check out Eastport, Maine. Tell them you heard about it from Ocean Hayward’s ass.