Day 35 – Lobsters galore!

Day 35. The big day I’ve been waiting for this entire trip: the day I go to Lobster Fest. It’s also the last full day I get in Maine, so I knew I had to make it count. What better way than to go stuff my face with lobsters?

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Alas, a couple days before the event, I decided to look up reviews of the event. After all, I’ve gone through a number of things within the past couple of weeks and felt a little disappointed with some things I’ve had high expectations for (read: farmers’ markets), so I figured it’d be a good idea to see what exactly what I was getting myself into. I, of course, turned to my trusty friend Yelp to check out what people had to say about the event. Yelpers say… 3.5 stars. Ouch.

In case you’re unfamiliar with interpreting Yelp results, let me explain a bit. Yelp reviews and ratings are most helpful to you if you understand the region you’re searching in. For example, if you search for the best taqueria in San Diego, CA, your highest rated results will probably give you some pretty mind-blowing tacos. People in San Diego know their Mexican food, so you can be assured your highly rated restaurants will give you quality, authentic food. However, if you search for the best taqueria in Portland, ME, your top rated results may be the best that is offered in that area, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the place is good. Portland is not known for Mexican food, so I wouldn’t expect a highly rated Mexican restaurant in Portland to knock my socks off. I learned about interpreting results the hard way when I tried to find Mexican food in San Ramon, CA. That 4-star Mexican restaurant I went to was definitely no bueno…

So back to Lobster Fest. 3.5 stars in an area known for lobsters isn’t really a good sign. I skimmed through the reviews, and it seemed like most people were expecting a little more from the event. Aside from food, it seemed there wasn’t much to be seen or do at the festival. I’ve been to some pretty cool food festivals and events in California, so I figured that if people in the area didn’t like the event that much, I probably shouldn’t expect too much from it.

IMG_7817No worries though! I quickly came up with a Plan B. After hyping it up for myself for the past couple of months, I would still of course go to Lobster Fest, but I decided I wouldn’t spend my entire time there. But what else to do? As you know, I’ve become quite the collector of National Parks cancellation stamps. What’s there to collect in Maine? A stamp at Acadia National Park. But I actually didn’t get the idea from going through the cancellation stamps list. I got the idea from the US Interior Department‘s Instagram account.

I know what you’re thinking–what the heck, a US government entity has an Instagram account? It’s weird, but check it out and follow. They’re always posting/re-posting some great photos of various national parks and monuments throughout the US. Gives you great travel ideas 🙂 After serendipitously seeing a post about Acadia National Park, I really wanted to go. I had planned to rent a car to drive up to Rockland to go to Lobster Fest anyway, so why not drive to Acadia too?! And that was when I solidified my plan for my last day in Maine.

So Friday morning, I made my way over to the Portland International Jetport to get myself a rental car. Technically, you can get to Lobster Fest via rally bus, but I figured having my own car would give me more flexibility. Also, since I decided I wanted to go to Acadia, it made the most sense to rent a car. Ever since college, I’ve always wanted to rent a car but never did because of the crazy prices people under 25 face. Then I turned 25 but I didn’t have anywhere to go. But now I do, so I rented my first rental car at 26! Woohoo!

I made it to Lobster Fest by 1PM, and I was super hungry. I left the house earlier that morning without consuming anything for breakfast, partially because I wanted to leave room for all the food I was going to eat but partially also because I was too lazy to go find food to eat… To get to Lobster Fest, I actually parked in a school parking lot and took a quick 10-minute shuttle ride over to the event grounds. This saved me a good $15 since the lot next to Lobster Fest was charging that much to park there. Definitely not worth it–save that money to go towards another lobster!

The Lobster Fest grounds were actually not as sparse as I thought it would be! There were quite a number of things, including snack booths, carnival rides, and crafts, in addition to your normal lobster and seafood fare. I walked through quite a number of interesting booths on my way to the main lobster tent.

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The moment I had been waiting for–lobster feasting time! I wanted to try all the things that were offered so I got the Maine Shore Dinner: 1 lobster, a corn on the cob, 1 bag of steamed clams, and a dinner roll. I actually was supposed to get a cup of coleslaw too but I completely missed it 😦

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Verdict? Pretty tasty, but I’d suggest going for just the lobster and a couple of sides. I wasn’t a big fan of the clams because 1) I had no idea what to do with these steamers and 2) they were a little gritty/sandy still. Lobster was well-cooked though and absolutely delicious! I gotta say, the claw meat is so much more tasty than the rest of the body. I would have photos of myself eating but I was a little too busy eating 😉 I’ve actually never had a whole lobster like that before, so it was a fun challenge figuring how to eat it. Luckily, I had watched a video tutorial about extracting lobster meat from the shell a couple weeks earlier by my favorite chef Gordon Ramsay.

I actually didn’t go looking for this video, but it showed up on my Facebook News Feed randomly. Talk about perfect timing!

Let’s talk about steamers really quick. I’m used to eating Manila clams, so I was a bit taken a back by these strange little clams I saw on my plate at Lobster Fest. WHAT ARE THESE BLACK THINGS STICKING OUT OF THE CLAMS?! I knew enough about bivalves to know that the little tube-y lookin’ things were siphons that allows the clams that are buried underneath dirt/sand to eat/breathe/poop. But that didn’t mean I knew anything about how to eat them! The clams I’m used to don’t have siphons sticking out of them, so I wasn’t sure what to do. Sadly, I didn’t have any phone service so Google was not an option. I just ended up eating everything BUT the siphon because they freaked me out a bit. Now that I have internet service again, I was able to find this helpful video. Check it out below if you’re a noob like me:

Siphons aside, the clams were still a bit gritty so they weren’t that great. If I were to go through Lobster Fest again, I’d definitely get 2 lobsters instead of the entire Maine Shore Dinner.

Surprisingly (or not) after the meal, I was still a little hungry so I wandered around to find more things to fill my belly. I happened across one of many seafood stalls that sold clam chowder, but this particular one had free samples so I gave it a try and got myself a cup.

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Guys, this is everything I’ve been looking for in a clam chowder. Maybe it’s because I’m lame and used to mediocre chowders not made on the East Coast, but I really wanted to get chowder that had some thickness to it. I mean, it’s chowder, so it should have some thickness to it by definition. Every place I had been to, however, had served broth-like thin chowder (and weirdly enough, always lukewarm). This place served a properly thickened, steaming hot chowder.

IMG_7568And after the chowder, I was actually still a little hungry, but the desserts didn’t look too appetizing, so I wandered the crafts sections for a bit then decided it was time to head off to Acadia. Lobster Fest is definitely an event you want to go to if you’re with a group of friends or if you have children, but it’s not super fun if you’re just going by yourself because there’s really not much to do except eat. The crafts are fun for a quick walkthrough, but there wasn’t anything particularly interesting. I wanted to get a lobster headband for giggles but the headband looked much too small for my giant head, unfortunately.

Then it was off to Acadia! While I’m glad I drove up to Rockland to do Lobster Fest, I don’t know if I’d drive to Acadia again by myself. The drive can be pretty scenic and beautiful. Maine, after all, is a coastal state, and a lot of the freeways will lead you to cross bridges over some lovely bodies of water. But, it is loooooong. From Portland to Rockland isn’t too bad–it’s about 1.5 hours. I’ve done 1.5 hour drives before, since I used to drive from the Bay Area to Davis where I went to university. That part is bearable. But my goodness, the drive to Acadia is loooooong. It’s 3 hours from Portland, and 2 hours from Rockland. And mind you, it’s 3 hours one way. You still have to drive back afterwards. Acadia is pretty beautiful though, so maybe I’ll do it again someday to go camping and see the sunrise. Maybe.

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Pretty sight from one of the bridges I drove across. Not a great photo because I didn’t want to crash the car.

Acadia National Park is located on a little island, which is why it takes so long to drive to it. From Rockland, you have to drive on a bunch of land to Belfast then around to Mount Desert to get to Acadia. There’s some cool sites along the way like Fort Knox, which is not the same as the Fort Knox in Kentucky that you’re thinking about. I had to do a double take (and a triple take, really) to make sure I wasn’t reading things wrong, and I questioned my knowledge of geography a bit. Fort Knox in Maine is different; it’s the first fort built of granite in Maine and served as a way for us to protect ourselves from British naval invasion. I unfortunately did not take any photos because I was determined to get to Acadia as soon as possible, but here’s a lovely photo from a Maine photographer of the bridge right by Fort Knox.

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Photo by Michele Stapleton

 

Once I arrived at Acadia National Park, I paid a visit to the Visitors’ Center to pay my entrance fee ($25 per car) and to get my coveted stamp.

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IMG_7594Then I set out to do a quick hike on the Ocean Path that was recommended by Joe! I wanted to do a more strenuous hike, like the one up Acadia Mountain, because I always love the challenge but I only had a limited amount of time before the sun set, and I was in an area I’m not too familiar with. I didn’t have any cell reception, and I didn’t have my trusting Columbia hiking boots. It felt like it’d be a lot safer for me to take an easy hike and enjoy the nature, rather than push myself and risk injury in a place where no one knew where I was.

Not to fear, the Ocean Path was pretty enjoyable! It’s definitely a nice casual stroll, but it’s very scenic, especially during the twilight/sunset hours.

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I regret a bit not doing this hike during sunrise , but realistically, I’m not sure I could’ve woken up at 3AM and made the 3-hour drive to Acadia in the dark. Sunset is already really pretty so I wasn’t missing out on too much.

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Speaking of dark, you gotta be careful about where you are around sunset. Once it gets dark, it’ll get pretty dark, and if you don’t know where your car is and you don’t have a flashlight, it’ll be tough to get around. There’s a free shuttle service that goes through Acadia for visitors but it’s once every 30 minutes, and if you can’t find a stop, you’re in big trouble. It got pretty dark for me around 8PM, so do keep that in mind if you’re hiking around Acadia during the summer.

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And that was it for the day! I made the (agonizing) 3-hour drive home back to Portland (which actually took a little longer than 3 hours because I got a little lost) and got my things ready to board the plane back to California the next morning. After 5 weeks of being a nomad, I looked forward to a more stable home…at least until I move to Denver at the end of the month 🙂

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Stopped by a hotel and the nice front desk girl gave me a plethora of maps to get me un-lost

Questions? Comments? Stories to share? Let me know below!

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