Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Day on the East End

Confession: Portland, Maine, is probably my favorite city in the world. I feel a pinch of guilt saying that, because Augusta is my home, and I'm committed to making Augusta the vibrant city it ought to be, but the truth is it's not there yet. Portland, to me, is the perfect size: large enough to have all the benefits of city living, small enough that you'll always meet someone you know downtown.
When I was growing up in Scarborough, a couple of towns over, the East End - Munjoy Hill especially -  was a thoroughly disreputable place. Well, things change! But slowly.

Luckily my work frequently takes me to Portland, usually to the East End. Though adjacent to the Old Port, a shopping and nightlife district wildly popular with tourists and locals alike, Portland's East End remains largely a haunt of townies. The shops there are less tourist-oriented: there are salons and second-hand stores, artists' studio-storefronts, and tiny cafes, and even a couple of little grocery stores.

My day started at Hilltop Coffee, one of several choices I had for my morning java.I could also have chosen either of 2 Coffee by Designs, or the Portland Pottery Cafe. Then I went shopping!

Artists are the earthworms of an economy, going where the conditions are less fertile, preparing the soil so other businesses can thrive. Unfortunately, once an area is thriving, artists are often priced out! The East End is still at that stage where artists can afford to do business there, so I visited several studios.

Willa Wirth Silversmith
Jen Burrell Designs
Laura Fuller Stained Glass
Because it's geared more towards locals, shops on the East End tend to be less spendy than those in the Old Port. I adore second-hand stores: they appeal to the treasure hunter in me, as well as my frugal nature. I visited Cobwebs, Circa Vintage, Carlson and Turner, and two secondhand clothing stores that are recent arrivals: Frock and Urban Vogue.

Urban Vogue
Lunchtime! Though there are lots of good choices, for me it was always gonna be the Portland Pottery Cafe: I know those folks well, as I teach classes at Portland Pottery, the studio next door. What's on offer today?
I had the Strawberry Bliss Salad, from the regular summer menu.

The cafe also sells handmade pottery, including mine
After lunch it's time to visit the real gem of the East End: how many places can boast a neighborhood beach? East End Beach is exactly that. It's a pocket beach on Casco Bay, not large enough to attract the attention of most out-of-state visitors, but Munjoy residents can just wander down the hill for a swim. This was a hot day in July:

Kayakers departing from East End Beach for their Casco Bay adventure

The view from the East End
Artists painting the view

Feeling thirsty after our day in the sun? Well, there's the Hilltop Suprette, or the Rosemont Market, if you're looking for a lemonade. Oh, wait, you were thinking of a libation? The Crow Bar is a fun little dive of a neighborhood bar, or maybe The Snug if you'd rather go a little more upscale. I used to live on the East End, and sometimes I wish I still did. (Only sometimes, Augusta!)

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