BOOKS & COFFEE TRAVEL IDEA
One of the joys of visiting the tiny, hilly, curving streets of Boothbay Harbor is the breathtaking view over the harbor. Unlike many of the Eastern Seaboard harbors, where the water, even on the best days, retains grayish hues, Boothbay Harbor overlooks true blue ocean canvas.
Getting there is half the fun – provided you don’t expect to drive 65 mph to do so. The Maine Turnpike is 495 – and that’s not the one you want. You want 295 – I’m not quite sure what the nickname is for that one – until you get to Brunswick. Maine recently renumbered all its exits – if you stop and ask for directions, the locals will give you the old numbers, so don’t pay attention to exit number. Look for Routes and towns.
Bath is a beautiful, historic ship-building town and well worth inclusion in your books & coffee travel idea, but if you’ve got Boothbay Harbor on your mind, keep going. You’ll drive over a lovely bridge with a stunning view of the water and both shores. Drive on. You’ll take the Rt. 27 South turn-off near Wiscasset, wander through gently curving roads, down the hill into Wiscasset past Red’s (which has a line around the block every day), drive over the narrow bridge, and ride through Edgcomb with its funky little cemeteries and pottery galleries, through Boothbay to Boothbay Harbor.
Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor are now separate entities. They argued and split a good many years ago, although if you ask why, you get vague looks and scratched heads. The most prevalent rumor is it was over water rights.
Boothbay Harbor itself is at the tip of the peninsula. The streets are narrow and winding. Most streets are one way. And there is one way to get into town and one way to get out of it. Parking is tricky – there are some small municipal areas in which to park (too small to be called “lots’, in my opinion). There are some parallel parking spots on the streets, if you’re lucky enough to find them. If you’re staying at a local inn, they usually provide parking for their guests.
Once you’ve arrived and you meander along the streets peeking in the stores full of things you don’t need but are fun to buy anyway, there are two “musts” for your visit on the books & coffee travel idea adventure.
Spend some time, quench your thirst and have a snack at the new Townsend Avenue Coffee and Wine Bar, on Townsend Avenue right next to Grover’s Hardware. They have parking behind the house. And a house it is. Nicknamed “everybody’s living room”, this used to be a funeral home. Don’t worry – no ghosts or other nasties wander these halls, although the special elevator used to raise and lower the coffins still sits on the back porch. Inside, the lovely décor and comfortable furniture make it a welcome stop to read the paper, meet with friends, or contemplate as much or as little as you wish. They serve coffees, teas, wine, sandwiches, salads, fondues and sweets, with high quality at a reasonable price. It’s owned and operated by Lyle Jones and Tod McKim, two Broadway veterans who chucked their life in New York for the beauty of Boothbay Harbor. The Coffeehouse itself is worth the drive. I’m often teased with “You drove all the way to Maine for a cup of coffee?”
Yes, I did and you know Books and Coffee are a travel idea worth considering.
The other gem of Boothbay Harbor is the Used Book Store. It is run by the Friends of Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library and is housed in an actual house next to the library itself. The library stands on a hill near the center of Boothbay Harbor – the views across the water are lovely. The Used Book Store has several large, long shelves on its porch, filled to bursting with volumes for sale. Price: 10 cents each. And there’s a small container attached to the door in which to set your dimes, should you crave a book in the middle of the night. I’ve never seen anyone walk away without paying, and I hope I never do.
Inside, it’s light and lovely, with simple wooden shelves filled with books. The prices are excellent – I found several paperbacks for 50 cents each, in very good condition, a hardcover oversized edition of Literary England also for 50 cents, and a book filled with a century’s worth of photographs of Scotland for one dollar. On the visit I made to the store in July of 2005, I bought 19 books for a total of $10, mostly books I can use in the research of my new novel. Money goes to support the library – a cause I’m always happy to assist. (Hyde House, right behind the Library, which is on the corner of Oak and McKown).
Boothbay Harbor is a place to spend an hour or to spend a week. The quality of light alone as it shifts across the water during the course of the day is enough to keep you entertained.
As you can see the books & coffee travel idea is quite interesting if you are a coffee and book lover.
Traveler: Devon Ellington