From Off

Travel, the Lifestyle

Running Away Has Never Been Better April 28, 2008

Filed under: Maine,nature,Portland,Travels,Uncategorized — janne88 @ 2:17 am

There are days when you just can’t take it any more, and my husband and I had one of those last Saturday. We still had work to do over the weekend, but we decided that if we were going to have to spend the weekend working, we ought to at least have an incredible view. We decided to run away for the night to Phippsburg, ME, a tiny town on the “fingers” of the Maine coast, about an hour north of Portland. We tried the Popham Beach Bed & Breakfast first, but they were full. The recommended the Stonehouse Manor, and we couldn’t be more grateful.


Jane and Tim were the most magnificent hosts. We sipped hot tea while we worked on the sun porch overlooking the lake, and when our computers wouldn’t work with the Manor’s wireless, Jane even went so far as to loan us her own laptop to e-mail our assignments in before deadline. The only way it could have been better is if we could have skipped the working part and spent the afternoon walking on the beach, which is a five-minute, lovely walk away.


Our room, the Lake View Suite, couldn’t have been cozier. The bed was the perfect cushiness without being too soft. If it wouldn’t have made me what I imagine would be a very creepy guest, I would have stayed in the velvety robe and slippers all day. And the love seat and chair in front the huge windows made the perfect place to sip my morning’s first cup of coffee.


Jane recommended a fantastic restaurant – Solo Bistro in Bath- for dinner. Recommendations are even more important when your husband is vegetarian; it’s pretty easy to stumble around the countryside and find almost no restaurants with a few good vegetarian options, if you’re working blind. But Solo Bistro had several options, and even better was the customer service. First, Kevin ordered the Parmesan risotto. Unfortunately, he didn’t like it. I saw several other people happily eating it – and I tasted it myself – and I can assure you it was a matter of personal taste, not bad food. It was just heavy on what I think was oregano, and it wasn’t to Kevin’s taste. He asked if he could order the cavatappi pasta instead, and he insisted that they charge us for the risotto. 


They quite graciously refused and returned with his pasta in a matter of minutes. The pasta, by the way was a splendid and rich grown-up mac and cheese, with fresh basil, pine nuts and swimming in cream and Gorgonzola. In the meantime, I had what was at least in the top five of my favorite burgers of all time. Perfectly cooked (medium-rare, in my opinion), topped with tangy city of ships cheese, a mound of tiny fried onions and a balsamic reduction, that burger will be on my mind for a while. Fortunately, Bath is a pretty short drive from Portland.


Back to Stonehouse Manor. The next morning, Jane greeted us with one of the most glorious breakfasts I’ve ever had at a B&B, and that includes the chef-rich B&Bs of Hyde Park, NY, home to the CIA. I had to use extraordinary restraint not to absolutely stuff myself on her omelets stuffed with ripe cherry tomatoes, spinach and herbed cheese; blueberry pancakes with maple syrup; homemade toasted bread with butter; and a plateful of delectable fruits. Jane is not a chef, by her own admission, but that does not get in her way. Her food is delightful. Oh, and the coffee was also fantastic, which, if you think about it, is a B&B must. If you’re a coffee person, that is. 


After only one afternoon, a night and a morning, we begrudgingly left to go back to even more work, but not before taking a sadly abbreviated, but perfectly serene in a very chilly way, walk on Popham Beach. We would have loved to stay the entire week. I’m not sure I would ever tire of a life in Phippsburg at Stonehouse Manor.










Is it so wrong to love a good run in a graveyard? April 23, 2008

Filed under: Maine,nature,Portland,Writing — janne88 @ 9:00 pm

I’ve never had a more fulfilling run. Of course, part of the reason is because I was actually able to run the whole time – a big accomplishment for me, really. And this place has hills! Yea! But, honestly, I think even better was the way my imagination ran wild. Does it say something weird about me that I find tombstones inspiring?

Today I chose the Portland Trail Map’s trail number five: the Evergreen Cemetery. The largest cemetery in Maine, and maybe the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen, Evergreen is a glorious place to be, whether you need to get some exercise or get some peace. You can run (or walk or bike) on any or its crisscrossing paths, some dirt, some paved, so that you can make your run as long as you want without feeling like you’ve passed the same thing fifteen times. Of course, the place is so big, you probably wouldn’t have that problem anyway, unless you’re training for a marathon. And if you are, please write to me. I am fascinated by you.

Every time I passed a tombstone, stories leap into my head. Who were all these people who died the same year, who all have the same kind of tombstone? One woman would have been 15 when the Civil War started. How would it be to come into womanhood at the same time the country is ripping apart? When I left, i felt totally recharged for the writing I had ahead of me. I only wished two things: that I had brought my camera, so I could share photos with all of you, and that I had a guide to tell me some of the history of the place and its many distinguished, and touchingly simple, monuments. I could have spent all day there, and I mean to do exactly that very soon.


Wisdom vs. Experience April 22, 2008

Filed under: Election 2008,politics — janne88 @ 1:30 pm

My brother and I were having this conversation last night about the experience of each of the potential presidential candidates, and it made me wonder … Intuitively I would wager that for the most part wisdom is born of experience, although I certainly have known young people who were wise beyond their years. As to whether that old soul type of wisdom holds out in tight situations, I don’t know.

Which brought me to next question – How many years of experience did our favorite presidents have? At first, I stupidly considered making my own little chart, and then leapt back into 2008 and decided to Google it.  Here’s what I found. I’m not sure it completely answers my question – not without a lengthy conversation with, oh, maybe a panel of presidential historians, but it’s interesting, don’t you think?


For Frustrated English Students April 17, 2008

Filed under: Books,Writing — janne88 @ 1:39 pm

I love Delancey Place. It’s a daily e-mail (and a blog) that consists of an different, almost always fascinating, excerpt each day. Today it’s about English and why the heck it’s so lawless, rule-breaking and frustrating. I like to think I’m a little bit smarter every time I read Delancey Place, or at least a little bit better at Trivial Pursuit. Either way, it’s definitely added a lot of books to my wish list.


Presidential Watch 2008 April 16, 2008

Filed under: Election 2008,Fun Stuff,politics,technology — janne88 @ 5:50 pm

It doesn’t matter where you live, these days, you’ve got to find unique ways to keep up with politics in this country. It’s so big, so convoluted, so often maddening. But it’s also important. So that’s why I love smart people who give us tools to help navigate our Daedalian democracy. I’m not sure, really, how to process or use this information yet, but at first glance, it strikes me as good stuff. It’s a Web site that tracks all of the Internet/Blog activity surrounding the election and its candidates. Here, you can at least get an overview of current national thought, or at least the part of the nation that’s surfing the Web.  I wonder how many people in that segment go to the polls … I do. Do you?

There’s also a map of the blogosphere that’s pretty amazing. I have no idea how anyone is able to wrap all that up in one mind. Or ten. Or sixty.


Trails of Portland April 15, 2008

Filed under: Maine,nature,Portland — janne88 @ 6:43 pm

I’ve never been a very good runner, but I’ve always wanted to be. There was a time – before the move took over my life – when I was running a 5K on the treadmill five days a week. I won’t lie. I thought that was pretty incredible. I realize that a 5K is simply nothing to a real runner, but as an in-no-way-real runner, I was pretty impressed with myself. And yet, that was two months ago. I had a period of three weeks since then when I was back in the gym regularly, but I’ve been out again for a couple of weeks. So today, since the weather is finally, beautifully warming up, I thought I’d check out one of Portland’s trails.

This Web site maps all of Portland’s many trails, and today I chose the 3.6 mile loop around the Back Cove (trail 1). Let me tell you, I was not prepared. Granted, running on a treadmill, as I’ve been doing all winter (well, not ALL winter), is a completely different thing than running outside. But this was unexpected. I probably ran a total of maybe one mile out of the whole loop. Holy cow. Now, I’ve had a cold, but I thought I was over it. My lungs thought differently.

My out-of-shapeness aside, the run was beautiful. The Back Cove loop is mostly sand and gravel, too, which means you’ve got to be paying attention to your feet. But it also means that, unlike when I used to run on the Brooklyn sidewalks, my shins won’t hurt for days after I run.

I’ll be checking out, and reporting on, more trails as the summer moves on, hopefully with better news about my running capabilities, too. If anyone has any particular favorites, let me know!


Finding wireless April 5, 2008

Filed under: coffee shops,Maine,Portland,Travels,Uncategorized,wireless,Writing — janne88 @ 3:01 pm

When you’re from off, epsecially when you’re a freelancer, or really any kind of working person these days, you may find yourself in this situation: your plane lands and immediately you need to be on the Internet. If it’s just for e-mail, and you have a Blackberry, Treo, etc., you’re okay. But sometimes you need to edit a document and send it right back or find the answer to a client’s urgent question, or maybe even bang out an entirely new document that has to be researched, written, edited, and approved in a matter of hours. And that’s when the Blackberry does you no good.

This happened to me at DFW once – Dallas Fortworth International Airport – and, being the panicked new freelancer I was, I sat right down in the airport, paid the $7.99 to access their wireless hotspot, and did my work. But I didn’t like it. And I still don’t. So I was wondering, wouldn’t it be great if there was a Web site that allowed you to put in the area code of your current location, and it would spit out a list of all the wireless access points – particularly free ones – nearby, along with a map and directions for finding it?

Of course, as soon as the idea occurred to me, I knew it must have occurred to about seven hundred thousand quicker thinkers who came before me, so I just googled “wireless by zip code” and here’s what I got.

The first hit I got was Wifi411, which did what I wanted, but yielded unimpressive results. All of the locations were pay-wifi, and not even all of the pay locations I know Portland has. None of the free hot spots showed up.

The second hit – JiWire – was more like it. JiWire produced a lengthy list of both pay and free spots, and it also indicated which providers the pay spots used, in case you happen to be a T-Mobile user, for example, and those spots are free for you. It’s an advertising site, so you’ll get a lot of Starbucks and hotel listings first as the “featured sponsor listings,” but they do calim to list non-sponsors as well. The site had some problems, and I wasn’t able to view the complete list, but from what I saw, they didn’t list my  so-far favorite wireless spot in Portland, which, for those of you who are also from off, is the North Star Music Cafe.

So the lesson is, this may not be a way to locate a new city’s cool places to work, but it’s definitely a good way to save your tuchus should you find it in a bind.