Raising the Bar

Bar Harbor, part of the Acadia National Park, is situated on Mount Desert Island in Maine, only a couple of hundred miles from the Canadian border. All but impossible to reach except by car, Kev and I somehow managed to align our Monday-Friday trip with the week’s only two shuttle buses from Bangor, an industrial town an hour and a half away. Not wanting to rush into anything, we spent our first day at Sand Beach, a little alcove with gorgeous views of the surrounding forest and an array of tanned, semi-naked bodies.


The park’s impressive transport system has six totally free shuttle bus routes which cover the entire area, ostensibly making it easier to plan hiking routes. Nevertheless, we managed to climb the wrong mountain on one day, navigating some very vertical terrain in the process (think Spiderman, but worse – pure clambering territory). When we eventually climbed Cadillac Mountain, our time at the summit coincided with the only cloudy hour of the day.

Mixtape dropping soon

This disappointment was alleviated by the panoramic views going up, down, and through the park. Every turn took us to a secluded lake or lookout over the town. Bar Harbor was a pleasant surprise: only 15 minutes from our motel(!), it had a wealth of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops (I bought a very questionable baseball cap), including a Christmas store which stays open all year. We started everyday with smoothies from Thrive, and had beers on chairs outside our room with chips and a 5-layer ‘fiesta’ dip (guac, cheese, salsa, beans, sour cream). For some reason, this tiny town has invested firmly in the gluten free industry: whether it was a tiny, traditional pizza diner or sports bar serving deep fried everything, there was no shortage of food and beers, much needed after a full day of adventure tomboy fun.

It took three buses and eight hours to trek down the coast to Boston, where we headed to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. Having not eaten all day, I bought two GF pizza slices from a concession stand and, in true American style, received two whole pizzas. With the help of Wikipedia and some friendly local fans, we deduced that baseball is essentially rounders with better kit. We invested time, money and, eventually, passion in the game, which went to a tie-break ended by the Red Sox with a home run. At $25 a ticket, it was clear that it’s cheaper to be an American sports fan than an Arsenal supporter.

Blending in
Wasn’t even wearing socks

On Saturday, we strolled through Cambridge, the student town just north of the city and home to Harvard. The impressive uni was interesting enough, and it’s always fun to watch lost freshers roaming the campus nervously, wondering if they’ll grow up to be the next Supreme Justice or Harvey from Suits, but we spent most of the day in town.

We got lucky!

Harvard Square was brimming with cheap bars, burger joints and cafés, all of which we sampled enthusiastically. That night, we were bought our first drink of the trip; having realised that we didn’t factor quite enough into our budget for beers, Bryan’s generosity was welcomed, even though it was tequila and not champagne on offer.

Oh heck

The resulting hangover was cured on a jaunt which began in Little Italy and ended 10 hours later in a downtown Mexican restaurant. The Italian area, on the north side, had cobbled streets and beautiful old churches, with dozens of restaurants and bakeries along the way. We visited an old bookshop, where I impulse-bought a comprehensive and heavy biography of Vladimir Putin, which, two weeks later, I still can’t bring myself to start reading.

It was also near the start of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail, a route which takes you through the city via monuments and buildings that were seminal in American history. At the Granary Burial Ground, a kind soul named Jimmy provided free homemade tour guides with personal tangents and anecdotes. His dedication to history was heartwarming. Later, we got a little distracted in the food court at Faneuil Hall, unintentionally spending two hours gazing at piles of various different fried cuisines. Particularly memorable were the cannolis: we each tried our first and were utterly blown away by the surprisingly hard, sweet pastry and thick, rich ricotta filling. It was a perfect day, except for the mouse in our Airbnb when we got home.

Cannoli? Ca yes please

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