Bangor, Brewer, + Orono
48 HOURS-November 2013
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Katy Kelleher + Leanne Ouimet
Katy Kelleher, Online Editor
Fall weather is my favorite type of weather, and scary stories are my favorite kind of stories, so it’s with a sense of happy anticipation that I begin the trek upstate to Bangor on a crisp September Friday. Though I’ve never been to this Maine city, I feel as though I already know it. It’s where a Paul Bunyan statue can come to life and attack you with an axe. It’s where overgrown hedges tempt children on bikes into the creepy dark depths of an urban wilderness. It’s where writers write and dreamers dream. As it turns out, I’m only partially wrong.
2:00 p.m. @ The Mount Hope Cemetery
Mount Hope is one of the oldest landscaped cemeteries in the U.S. As I pull into the sculpted garden graveyard I see a woman dressed head-to-toe in historical garb, from her straw hat and basket to the full red skirt that sweeps the ground. She will be my tour guide. For the next hour, I listen as she explains the various traditions and rituals designed to honor the dead. I trace my fingers across the smooth surface of centuries-old headstones, and daydream about ghosts. Each stone seems like a gaping absence, a place where there is no person. My macabre thoughts send a shiver down my back.
6:30 p.m. @ The Hampton Inn
After overindulging in imagination, I come back to earth at the Hampton Inn. Fresh, warm, complimentary cookies will do that to a girl. I check in and scope out my room. It’s the perfect home base for my weekend of exploration.
7:00 p.m. @ Ipanema Bar + Grill
I had planned to eat dinner at 11 Central, but it is so packed that there is an hour wait to sit at the bar. I put my name on the list and head off to find a drink. I settle in at Ipanema, where the bartender is friendly and the drink list is witty. I decide to nurse a glass of wine while chowing down on some “rat toes.” Jalapenos wrapped in bacon, stuffed with gouda and served with a habanero dipping sauce, these little snacks are far tastier than their name (though I admit, that’s the primary reason I ordered the dish).
7:50 p.m. @ 11 Central
I receive a call that a space has opened up, and I head over to the bustling eatery. I am greeted by owner Ann Marie, who is gracious and kind and treats all her diners as though they are guests at a fabulous private dinner party. I tell her that I’m looking for something light, and she suggests the crab cakes and the 11 Central salad. Paired with a watermelon puree cocktail, it’s a wonderful antidote to my cheesy, greasy, appetite-ruining snack.
10:00 p.m. @ Hollywood Casino Hotel + Raceway
I meet my colleague Leanne Ouimet at Paddy Murphy’s and together we head to Bangor’s casino. I’ve never been gambling before, and I try to keep an open mind. Turns out, my personality does not get along with the high stakes (by this I mean a $5 minimum bet) at the roulette table. Slot machines, with their cheerful noises and animated screens, are more my style.
10:00 a.m. @ Sunnyside
Florists and Greenhouse When I heard about the farmers’ market from a diner at 11 Central, I pictured rows of ruffly lettuce and piles of earth-marked beets, but prepared food dominates the scene at Bangor’s European Market. Walking down the aisle, I feel as though I’m stomping through home kitchen after home kitchen. When I see a table full of Hungarian food, I stop to taste and ask a few questions of the grandmotherly chef. Helen moved from Hungary 29 years ago, and her food still tastes exactly like Budapest. Having spent six months living on the Pest side of the city, I’m eager to talk to her about the virtues of paprika and why pickled peppers are a gift from god.
11:30 a.m. @ Cross Insurance Convention Center
In an abrupt change of pace, I go from greenhouse to gun show. Neon pink shotguns hang alongside booths of antique pistols. Kids under 12 get in for free, and I end up chatting with a few young sharpshooters. They show me how to hold a rifle, and I take a few practice shots at clay plates. I can’t leave without a souvenir, so I settle on a pair of stainless steel camo-print wine glasses.
12:30 p.m. @ Bass Park and Paul Bunyan Statue
Before heading downtown, I stop to take a picture with Paul. He’s not quite as menacing as I had hoped, but this grinning behemoth is still mighty imposing.
1:00 p.m. @ downtown Bangor
Since my boyfriend couldn’t join me for the full 48 hours, I decide to take advantage of the alone time and do some serious shopping. My first stop is Epic Sports. I am in the market for a kayak, but I realize it would be rather challenging to transport a tandem kayak through the streets of Bangor by myself, so I decide to wait on that purchase. Instead, I snag some cheesemaking supplies at Central Street Farmhouse, opting for a much more portable hobby.
1:30 p.m. @ University of Maine Museum of Art
I can’t visit a city without soaking in the colors and lines at the local art museum, and while the UMMA is small in size, it is still a rich experience. Joanne Freeman’s bright brushstrokes create yarn-like tangles on the canvas, and Emily Trenholm’s series of Monhegan paintings is stunning, yet my favorite artist on view is Sean Downey, whose paintings of surreal Americana make me long for the West Coast.
3:00 p.m. @ Blue Heron, OneLupine Fiber Arts, Maine by Mainers + The Rock and Art Shop
Inspired by work on view at the UMMA, I spend a few hours surveying the local art scene. After wandering through the galleries, I stop in at the Rock and Art Shop, where I find myself wondering aloud about the Bangor street art scene to a friendly shopgirl. A lanky man with a French accent interjects, and offers to show me where “Pigeon,” a local wheatpaste artist, has made his mark. As I stroll through Bangor with my new friend and his young son, I realize that I am currently talking to the artist himself. Pigeon (aka Orson Horchler) is a well-known Maine artist, who decorates walls and windows with his transient trademark bird. He reveals that he particularly likes to decorate the boarded windows of foreclosed houses. “I would rather live next to art than empty boards,” he says. “There should always be a good reason for street art.” His reason is simple: street art can beautify. And his does.
6:00 p.m. @ Thistles Restaurant
I return to the hotel to gather my thoughts and savor a glass of wine, purchased at the local shop State Street Wine Cellar, before heading downtown to meet my boyfriend, Garrett, at Thistles. We sip wine and talk about our various days of work. After pondering the menu, we decide to order a few appetizers, including the fresh and spicy shrimp ceviche and the fried queso fresco, which is served with tasty swirls of guava sauce.
7:45 p.m. @ The Fiddlehead Restaurant
Following a leisurely first course, we drive downtown for our dinner reservations. Since I truly believe that eating copious amounts of seafood is a necessity of any Maine vacation, I order the tuna tartare to start, and the shrimp and scallop fried rice as my entrée. Garrett gets the lamb skewers, which come with pickled cauliflower and lavash bread. We end up trading midway through the meal, and I attack the cauliflower with such enthusiasm that Garrett comments, “you look like you haven’t been fed in days.” In reality, I’m stuffed, but that’s just how good it is.
10:00 a.m. @ Bangor City Forest
After a quick dip in the pool at the hotel, I get in the car and head north to the Bangor City Forest. While the name makes it sound like a small patch of greenery bordered with sidewalks and interrupted by fountains, this is not the case. I end up spending hours walking through white pine groves and plushy green marshes. I see a snake perk up as I walk by, and a deer flip its white tail as it runs. A dragonfly alights on my finger, perching on an opal ring. It’s the last straw; have I stepped into some sort of alternative reality where wild creatures act like Disney cartoons? Unreal.
1:45 p.m. @ Verve
Before heading home, I stop in for lunch at Verve. I get a burrito bowl with vegetables, green tomatillo salsa, sriracha sour cream, and pickled jalapenos. Everything is green, from the lime-colored walls to my water bottle. The world feels fresh, and I drive home with the windows down and the radio on.
6:30 p.m. @ Geaghan’s Pub
My friend Joe recommended Geaghan’s Pub as a great place to kickoff my weekend in Bangor. I snag a seat at the end of the bar and dive into the menu. With six different home-brewed beers on draft, I’m not sure how to choose so I ask my bartender Andy, whose grandfather opened the pub in 1975, for some guidance. After obtaining a couple of degrees, trying a couple careers, craft beer is what lured Andy back to the family business and his passion for it is evident when you talk to him. He convinces me to try their famous hot wings (51,000 pounds of wings were sold last year) and I decide on the “reserve” sauce—not too hot, but not bland either. Between Andy, myself, and the three other guys sitting next to me, we could have talked all night about home brewing, beer, and a host of other topics, but a date with my co-worker Katy pulls me away.
8:30 p.m. @ Paddy Murphy’s+ Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway
I can hear music radiating out of Paddy Murphy’s Irish Pub well before I happen upon this great local restaurant on Main Street. I meet Katy here for a snack and a cocktail and the Trisha Mason Band, an all-girl punk rock band that’s performing here tonight, blows us both away. We get a chance to catch up at the bar before trying our luck at Hollywood Casino. While neither of us hits the jackpot, we do enjoy figuring out how to play the slot machines and watching others gamble stacks of chips on the roulette table.
8:30 a.m. @ Hilton Garden Inn
My bike made the trip to Bangor with me and I’m ready to explore the town. My sneakers are tied, my helmet is (almost) on and my bike is locked up outside, but first—breakfast! Not only does the hotel have a wide assortment of cereals, bagels, fruit, and yogurt; it has made-to-order omelets as well. After devouring a ham, cheese, green pepper and onion omelet and two cups of coffee, I’m fueled up and ready for a ride!
9:30 a.m. @ Cascade Park
I’m speeding down State Street and almost miss Cascade Park; I had no idea such a park existed in downtown Bangor! There are waterfalls everywhere, park benches, picnic tables, and small dirt paths to follow, which I take full advantage of. It’s the perfect spot for an outdoor lunch or fun day with the family. As I’m leaving, I run into locals Jerry and Donna who tell me the park is operated by the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department.
10:30 a.m. in downtown Bangor + Maine Discovery Museum
As I’m biking through the streets of Bangor, I keep seeing artists setting up easels and painting different places of the city. Unbeknownst to me, it’s Paint Bangor Day and local artists are auctioning their works to raise money for the Bangor Public Library’s new roof. Everyone is so friendly and finding inspiration in all types of unique and beautiful places. I stop at the Maine Discovery Museum to see if my friend and executive director of the museum, Niles Parker, is there but unfortunately I’ve just missed him! We’ve worked together for the last two years on the museum’s annual art auction but we’ve never actually met in person! Oh well, there’s always next time.
11:00 a.m. @ Giacomo’s
It’s a gorgeous, warm, fall day in Bangor and I’m so glad I’m seeing the city by bike. I’ve worked up quite a thirst so I stop by Giacomo’s for a large water and iced coffee. As I nibble on a homemade, dark chocolate and blueberry bar, I glance over today’s Bangor Daily News and stick a University of Maine Black Bears football schedule in my backpack. Onward.
11:30 a.m. @ Bangor Car Show “Wheels on the Waterfront”
Not only is Paint Bangor Day happening this weekend, but the Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau has organized an amazing car show at the Bangor Waterfront Pavilion. I am not a car girl, so I thought I would take a quick tour of the show and be on my way. Two hours later I’m still finding new people to talk to and cars to ogle. Serena and Joe from Houlton who own a 1966 Plymouth Belvedere on display. Dennis from Belgrade has owned his American Motors “Rebel Machine” for over 40 years and purchased the car because “everyone had a Chevy” and he wanted to be different. There are hundreds of cars here but the one that steals my heart is a 1949 Studebaker Truck. I don’t know why, it just does.
1:30 p.m. @ Mexicali Blues + Metropolitan Soul
I have a little more time before I have to bike back to the hotel so I check out Mexicali Blues and score two beautiful wall hooks for my bedroom. This seems to be the place where local college students come to shop, and the store is busy with school having just started a week ago. Across the street is Metropolitan Soul, a great gift shop, clothing store, and Main Street staple. After talking with owner Tracy Monaghan for a few moments, I can tell she has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the Bangor community. She says Bangor has grown so much in the last few years and it’s only getting better.
3:00 p.m. @ Orono Bog Walk
Talk about peaceful… There’s a cool breeze blowing through the tall pines and across the beautiful marsh. I walk from the shaded woods to the expansive marshy fields and hear a boy behind me yell “Cool! Open space!” It makes me laugh, but also realize how special places like these are among urban cityscapes like Bangor. Just 15 minutes away from downtown Bangor, this 45-minute walk is a must-do.
4:00 p.m. @ The Bear Brew Pub
Having grown up in Portland, I have more friends and family members who attended the University of Maine Orono than I can count. Many of them, including my dad Leon, class of 1980, recommended the Bear Brew as a great place to grab a beer and pizza which is exactly what I end up doing. There isn’t a UMaine football game on, so I guess Red Sox vs. Yankees will be my entertainment for the evening.
6:00 p.m. @ Massimo’s Cucina Italiana
It’s never easy going to a restaurant by yourself, but here I am, by myself and headed to Massimo’s Cucina Italiana on Hammond Street in downtown Bangor. The restaurant is packed and so is the bar, but having called ahead, I secure a seat right in the middle of the action. Everything I order is so delicious but it is the bread and homemade “pappardelle” pasta that stands out. The crusty Italian bread is absolutely incredible and it’s no wonder—chef Massimo and his wife Anne Marie also own a bakery by the same name just up the street. I put everything I order on top of that bread starting with the prosciutto and herbed goat cheese from the charcuterie plate, and ending with the leftover ricotta cream sauce from my entrée of pasta and shaved zucchini with hints of lemon. A chilled glass of pinot grigio and three courses later, I have made friends with the bartender, fellow patrons, and chef Massimo himself.
8:30 p.m. @ Bangor Wine + Cheese
Katy and I have plans to go on a hike tomorrow so I stop at Bangor Wine and Cheese to grab some provisions. I never know what kind of wine to get, but here there are notes and helpful tips on almost every shelf of wine to make choosing less overwhelming.
9:00 a.m. @ Schoolhouse Antique Mall + Steve’s Family Restaurant
I’m looking for a new floor lamp for my living room and thought School House Antiques would be the perfect place to shop, with three floors of amazing vintage goodies just waiting to be discovered, but unfortunately it’s closed. Dark clouds move in and a torrential rainstorm hits so I run across the parking lot to Steve’s Family Restaurant to warm up and get some breakfast.
11:00 a.m. @ Bangor Farmer’s Market
I read online that Bangor has its own farmer’s market so I decide to check it out on my way home. Located across the street from the Public Library and open from May to Thanksgiving, it has a wide array of veggies, cheeses, meats and so much more. I get almost all of my grocery shopping done here including my first apple cider of the season. It’s gone before I hit I-95.
12:30 p.m. @ Dysart’s
A few wrong turns on my way out of town take me down many unfamiliar roads and while my GPS is “recalculating,” I drive right into Dysart’s Restaurant. I stop for some lunch and while feasting on warm, yummy comfort food, I think I hear claps of thunder outside. Nope, just a motorcycle gang hitting the open road after a hearty lunch. I love the atmosphere inside—no frills, no nonsense, but the sweetest staff who I’m sure are most comforting to the truckers who stop in for some great food at all hours of the day and night (Dysart’s is open 24-7).