Unseen Portland ~ Portland Maine Stripped of Pretense

I miss home.  Well, my true home.  Portland, Maine.

So I find myself frequently perusing sites that have photography of Portland to make me feel a bit closer to my friends and family and my roots.

Today, I came across this site and found myself looking through 100 pages of Portland photos.  Many of the places and graffiti I recognize and it made me laugh.  Even if you’re not from there, I’m sure you’ll find some things to make you smile.  Enjoy.


Old Orchard Beach, Maine in Autumn

Last November we made a surprise trip home to Maine for my mum’s 70th birthday.  We decided since we were staying so close to Old Orchard Beach that we would go take a walk on the seashore.  Normally I’m not a fan of Old Orchard Beach.  Well, I’ve been known on an occasion to get a hankering for hand-cut pier fries, a good slice and maybe a bumper car ride peak season, but it’s not my first choice for soaking up the sun.  I know, I’m in the minority with that, but it’s generally overrun with tourists and locals.  I prefer quiet beaches, where I can just chill and snooze in the sun.

This proved to be the perfect time to visit in my opinion.  I had forgotten that everything pretty much closes down post Labor Day.  All of the  folks who flock to O.O.B. from all over the world,  go back home.

It was eerily still and almost like a ghost town.  Buildings boarded up.  Not a soul around. We were literally the only four people on the beach.

I thought it made for a great opportunity to take photos of the deconstructed amusement park, Palace Playland, the pier and the seven mile stretch of deserted beach.

It’s worth noting that Old Orchard, which opened in 1902, is the last remaining beachfront amusement park in New England.

Graffiti Greetings from Portland Maine

“On the back wall of the Asylum nightclub, facing a parking lot on Free Street, stands a 1,500-square-foot mural painted – and paid for – by a collection of talented Maine graffiti artists.

“This one was like a gift to Portland,” said Mike Rich, the 37-year-old de facto curator of the space, which has been reserved for graffiti art since 1997. “Out of the infinite possibilities of themes, of what we could paint, of what we’d want to paint, we painted this.”


Rich grew up on Munjoy Hill and started making graffiti in 1985, when he was 11. He began painting murals at 14 and started painting the Asylum in 1997, after proposing it to the nightclub’s owners.

“It was just getting bombarded with vandalism all the time,” Rich said. “It’s a dark parking lot on a one-way street, and I thought, ‘Geez, let’s see if they’ll give us permission to do something, and then we can do something really awesome.’”

Before its latest incarnation – completed Sunday after a month of toil – the space featured a spooky montage from Stephen King horror novels. Before King, the scene was George W. Bush and Armageddon.

This time around, vibrant colors and big, bold block letters infect the mural with joy. Eight artists filled each letter in P-O-R-T-L-A-N-D with their own styles, making for a brassy but cohesive whole.

A rocky coast is below the letters. Above them is an orange-yellow sky radiating from the iconic Portland Head lighthouse image – with an aerosol can standing in for the limestone tower and two rays of white enveloping the words “Greetings From” … instead of a beam of light.

“Ties it all together,” said Rich, who painted the P. “I’m totally thrilled with the way it came out.”

He’s also proud of the mural’s do-it-yourself nature. The nightclub hosted a fundraiser one night last summer. Otherwise, artists brought their own materials and donated their time. Rich pegged the cost of supplies at $1,500 to $2,000.

“We did something great for the city of Portland, especially in this time, with the whole graffiti ordinance downtown,” Rich said. “There just seemed to be a lot of tension with the art form itself. I thought it would be a really good gesture to do something, and have a little class, too. To show that we can do something nice and it’s not all undecipherable to the common person, you know?”

In June, the City Council adopted an anti-graffiti ordinance calling for fines of as much as $500 for perpetrators. Property owners are required to file plans with the city for removing graffiti within 10 days after it’s reported.

Doug Fuss, owner of Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street, is president of the Portland’s Downtown District board of directors and a leading advocate of the ordinance.

“Well-conceived street art is not what we’re talking about here,” Fuss said. “The stuff that we’re talking about is tagging, and it’s taking paint pens and writing on meters and etching glass and even painting pretty large-scale pieces.”

The Asylum wall, he said, “as long as it’s well-curated, which that one is, I think, is a completely separate world from vandalism.”

Rich and his artistic friends covered three other walls of the building in colorful murals, one of which includes a whimsical puffin. Now, his biggest worry is the annual tradition of repainting the wall.

“This year’s mural is so good,” Rich said, “it’s going to make me cry if we have to paint over it next year.”

Silly’s ~ Fun, Funky, Fabulous Food! Real Maine

Portland, Maine is an awesome city.  It’s filled with artists and musicians and yeah… super duper good eats! I’ve read that there are more restaurants, per capita in Portland, than any other U.S. city.  Not sure if it’s true, but it’s kinda interesting!

A lot of folks who travel (myself included) want to hang where the real folks are.  I find it very anticlimactic to get to a new town and go to Chili’s or Applebees.  Yuck.

Why anybody would want to spend their hard earned cash on nasty pre~ frozen food, MSG and nitrates is beyond me.

Then there is Silly’s.

Glorious, ‘Fast Abdulla’s’ and falafel that is to die for! Crazy jerk chicken, insanely good milk shakes and mega huge burgers. Oh and all of their sauces, dressings, cakes, pies, breads and rolls etc.  It’s all homemade.

I could spend a day talking about how incredible Silly’s is, but suffice it to say… it’s freaking fantastic! Their menu has grown and grown over the years, but their quality is never, ever lacking.  If you’re vegan, vegetarian, can’t do gluten, want a burger or a huge piece of homemade cake; Silly’s has it all covered.  And the coolest thing (well, one of many) is that they keep it as fresh and local as they can.  They source as many of their items from small, local businesses and they are huge recyclers… including their fryolator oil, which is used to power bio~diesel cars.   That’s pretty cool to me.

It’s got probably the best atmosphere of any restaurant I’ve ever been in and you can tell the staff really love their work.  It’s quite family friendly and there are even games to play while you wait for your food!

If that is not enough reasons to go to Silly’s.  Check out their Elvis shrine.  Yeah, I knew that would get cha’!

Silly’s Restaurant

40 Washington Avenue
Portland, Maine


Winter Hours:
Monday closed
tuesday 11-9
wednesday 11-9
thursday 11-10
friday  11-10
saturday 9am-10 pm
sunday 9 am -9 pm

Homesick for Harmon’s Hamburgers ~ Real Maine

Harmon’s Hamburgers = God.

Plain and simple.

Don’t even think about asking for a Harmon’s Hamburger prepared any other way than how they do it.  Some sort of neon red relish, amazing grilled onions on a buttered and steamed bun. No lettuce, no tomato… no way, no how!

Since 1960 a sign behind the counter at Harmon’s Lunch lovingly states (as only a New Englander could put it). “This is not Burger king. You don’t get it your way. You take it my way, or you don’t get the damn thing.”

The thing I think is so cool about Harmon’s is that they have stayed true to their original vision.  They have not tried to fancify the ingredients by adding extra wank to the menu.  I know I can go in ten years from now and it will be the same good food, served on paper plates, I’ve always had from there.

So friends, if you’re up in Maine and want to get off the beaten path and have a totally amazing burger, check out Harmon’s in Falmouth.

Harmon’s Lunch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 144 Gray Rd., Falmouth, ME – (207) 797-9857

Closed Sundays

Portland Maine ~ Enter Through the Back Door – Part II The Old Port

The Old Port, Portland, Maine

Back in the 70’s when I was a young gal, our Saturdays were spent shopping downtown Portland.

There were no malls, no mega marts.  You parked your car on the street, put a quarter in the meter and walked and shopped, rain or shine.

Dad would go for his weekly hair cut at Jack Murdoch’s up above Congress street, and my mum, Brion and I would go walking from store to store.  We’d always stop in for a hot dog at Woolworth’s 5 & 10 lunch counter as our treat for “being good.”

As kids one place that was generally off limits was The Old Port.  Up until the late 70’s this area was a haven for rowdy fishermen, sailors and ladies of the evening.  It was filled with pubs and head shops, bikers and hard working folks.  Definitely not the tourist destination it has since become.

Fast forward to 1978, a wonderful and innovative bunch of folks decided to turn these old, decrepit rat infested buildings back into the Victorian gems they are today.   They primped and painted, remodeled and renewed.  They literally transformed this otherwise, “bad” area of Portland into a lovely haven for artists, musicians and visitors to the city.  And yes, there are still a few good old places to knock back a PBR with a local fisherman too!

So, let’s start by grabbing a pint at one of the Old Ports originals…

Three Dollar Dewey’s

“One Dollar Lookie Two Dollar Feelie Three Dollar Dewey”

Three Dollar Deweys                                            A Perfect Pint!

Three Dollar Dewey’s, “Portland’s Original Alehouse” is a Portland institution.  Originally it was up on the corner of Fore and Temple Street in the OP.  It outgrew it’s location and moved the lovely old, communal, picnic table style seating down to Commercial street and opened the new joint, years back.

Deweys has an amazing selection of drafts and bottled beer and some wicked good chowdah, nachos and chili!  So grab a table, a nice brew and a basket of warm fresh popcorn (self serve) and enjoy the waterfront.


Deweys Interior

The interior of Dewey’s is like a great old waterfront dock warehouse.  Warm wood, dim lighting and old brick walls.  There are large booths that hold about 6 should you want a more intimate gathering, or you can join the locals at one of the original large, heavy carved farm tables.

Good, though perhaps… not great food that is moderately priced.  I always found going for some beers and nachos was a good way to go.  But the kids always seemed to adore going to Dewey’s.  I still think it’s because of the atmosphere and popcorn!

241 Commercial Street
Portland, ME 04101-4622

Abacus Gallery

“What is art but a way of seeing?”  Saul Bellow

The Old Port has seen a lot of businesses come and go over the years.  Sadly, I think there are literally about 6 remaining that were originals from back in the day.

One of the mainstays in the Old Port is Abacus Gallery.

I always enjoy walking by Abacus’s window.  They have super rad displays with some of the most creatively colorful housewares, exquisite woven textiles, and some of the most amazing jewelery.  I know it’s easy to be intimidated by the word “Gallery” if you’re not loaded.  One would think that it’s stuffy, inaccessible, maybe even pretentious.

No.  Not this gallery.  Abacus is fun.  Abacus is friendly.  They’ve got customer service nailed down if you ask me.   I like that. I love their super low pressure, friendly,  laid back staff.  It’s perfectly fine to go in, browse and oooh and ahhh to your hearts content, even if you don’t purchase, though I’m sure they would be okay if you did buy a little something too!

And the coolest part….??

Abacus offers price ranges to work with many budgets as well; making their artwork so accessible to most everyone.  Though I’m still pining over their most awesome lighting that they have and at a cool $675. while TOTALLY worth every single penny, I may still need to  convince the Mr. that it’s all THAT!  See he’s more into computers and techie stuff, and me more the decor genre of stuff!  (see photo below of that totally awesome lamp I will own one day!)

One of their regular products that they carry is their awesome yearly calendar (shown above).  I love this calendar because it is meant to be framed as a piece of artwork, instead of the normal spiral bound calendar thrown up on a tack.


THE  lamp!!                                                                     Exotic Jewelry at Abacus

By the by… it’s worth mentioning that if you cannot make it to P-Town any time soon, you can still shop at Abacus online at


“A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it. “
Alfred Hitchcock


This post is  not for the tourists but the guys and dolls relocating to P-Town to save you years of searching for the great stuff around town!!

Where do you even begin when explaining the MOST AWESOME STORE EVA????!!!  Videoport is beyond and I do mean BE-frEaCkiN-YOND the greatest store of ALL TIME!  Get ready to give up your video subscriptions folks!!

Super bananas selection.  Super cool staff that know movies and can just give you a good idea if you’re stumped.  This is not and I MEAN NOT Blockbuster gentle readers!

So I’ll be lazy today and give you a review that I found on Videoport.  Only because I swear this dude Adam got into my head and wrote what I felt… Verbatim.

“Videoport is the best video store ever, period. A fantastic selection as mentioned including the Criterion collection, Foreign films, and Incredibly Strange! Every day you are eligible for a free movie rental. If you buy a movie from them you get a free rental credit. If you put $20 on your account they give you $5 free credit, put $30 on there and they will give you $10 free credit! Come on!


The folks that work there are great. They are have given me lots of background on movies I never would have known otherwise, helped me avoid wasting my time watching movies that just suck, and turned me on to films I probably would have never found otherwise. They will create lists of movies I should watch and remind me. They are the real-life Geniuses that Apple modeled their iTunes feature by the same name after.

Oh and its a local business, so your money is staying in town!”


151 Middle St  Portland, ME 04101-4391
(207) 773-1999
Open 10 – 11pm daily (can you think of any other place that has these freaking hours?? Nutz!)

Let’s walk across the hall from Videoport now!

Bull Moose Music

“If music be the food of love, play on. ”  William Shakespeare


I love this store!  It fondly reminds me of the old time, small music stores back in the 70’s & 80’s.  Great staff, great selection, great vibe.

If you are looking for some coolio new music, DVD’s or video games, this is your spot!

Rustic Overtones playing Bull Moose

Feeling a bit parched and hungry??  Yeah!!!

Let’s go to one of my favorite watering holes in P-town.  Ri Ra’s!

Ri Ra’s

“Few things are more pleasant than a village graced with a good church, a good priest and a good pub.”
  John Hillaby


There are really only a few, and I do mean a few authentic pubs left.  I have to say Ri-Ra’s has brought a bit of Ireland across the pond, to Portland.

I’ve never had a bad meal there and they truly know how to pour a perfect pint of Guinness.  So that is an epic win for me!

Their boxty …er “Potato Cakes”… are nothing short of divine… perfectly crisp, drizzled with balsamic, finished with green onions and sour cream.  OMG!

Mussels cooked in a whiskey garlic butter…. Come on!
Gimme a shot of Jameson with mine and I’m a happy lass!

Haddock with chips… Wicked!

Beef with Guinness Stew…. HUGE flavor!

Just make sure to order their chips with curry, just because you should.  Wow, these are something I can only hope to replicate in my lifetime!


It bears mentioning that during lunch you can only dine downstairs in the pub area and the water view is minimal (but the food of course awesome!).  At night you go upstairs and the view is OUTSTANDING!  In the summer months they open the large sliding windows to a gorgeous view of the harbor.

Do not.  I mean DO NOT let anyone fool you into going to DiMillos (the floating boat) restaurant. Ri-Ra’s is far, far better.

How do you find this amazing joint?  Walk straight through the Old Port toward the water and follow Commercial Street (that is the ONLY street that follows the waterfront of Portland) to the left.  Keep walking until you see the parking garage at the end of the road.

By the by…

There is a wicked GOOD pizza place behind Ri-Ra’s called Flatbread.   If you’re not wanting Irish food.  Definitely try them out!


72 Commercial Street
Portland, ME 04101
Phone: 207.761.4446

So if you go to Maine, you gotta bring home the lobstah! Where do you go???

Harbor Fish Market

“Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says ‘Chicken of the Sea.’ ”  Jessica Simpson


I must admit, I’m fond of the waterfront.  It holds my heart so tightly and will probably never release it.  That is okay with me.

I grew up on the waterfront of Portland.  I spent my summer days at the beach and spent a  lot of nights walking the shores.  It’s as much of a part of me as breathing.  Nobody truly understands it, unless they had it too.

When I was a young lass of around 16 or so I got one of my first real jobs on the waterfront working at Harbor Fish Market and to this day, it remains one of the BEST jobs I’ve ever had.  It soars above my interior design work which I have done for about 25 years and pretty much any other employment I’ve had.

It was a smelly, cold, wet, hard job.  But it was the most amazing thing I’ve done.  Truly.

They were some of the most honest, hard working bunch of folks, I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

So needless to say, I would be remiss if I did not mention the most awesome, the most amazing, the most… MOST gorgeous fish market in Portland, Maine.  Harbor Fish Market on Custom House Wharf.


The folks who work at Harbor Fish are real Downeasters.  So if you’re looking for a true New England experience, go there and have them ship you home some beautiful lobsters, steamers and mussels.  They’ll take care of you…wicked good!

9 Custom House Wharf
Portland, Maine

Retail Store Hours
Monday – Saturday
8:30 am – 5:30 pm
Sundays 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Closed Most Major Holidays.

Lastly, I have to make notable mention of something close to my heart that you cannot miss… Especially on Sunday!

Brian Boru

The last great high king of Ireland.


Portland is filled with Irish and Scottish folks and I’m one of them!

I love a good pint of the black stuff or a double Jameson neat.   What I love even more is a good Irish session to go with that Jameson!

The problem with most Irish pubs is you go in there to hear good traditional Irish music and hear… well…
pop wank!

If I wanted to hear Beyoncé‘ I can sit in my car, thankyouverymuch!

Brian Boru has remains true to its roots.  Every Sunday afternoon they offer  traditional Irish sessions from 3-6 pm.  You can go in with the kids (it’s a pub… as in Public House, so kids are allowed before 6pm), grab some food and hopefully a place to sit your Irish a$$ and enjoy some great, great music.


It gets full fast!

Get there early to get a place to sit or you’ll be enjoying the Celtic music on foot.  Not as enjoyable, especially with kids!

These folks are 100% legit!

They show up with their Bodhráns, fiddles, Uilleann pipes and voices for a serious impromptu session every week and it’s nothing short of amazing to watch!  Good craic!

Look for the bright red building in the Old Port near the waterfront.

Oh, by the way…
Back in my previous life as an interior designer….
I assisted those boys with their color choice.  Hence, the iconic fire engine RED exterior.  I’m just sayin’.

Happy trails!

Stay tuned for next weeks post Portland, Maine ~ Enter Through the Back Door – The West End.

For Now: Check out Part I ~ Portland Maine ~ Enter Through the Back Door – The Arts District


A Day On the Bay~ A Trip to Peaks Island, Maine

A Day On the Bay- A Trip to Peaks Island

Last summer I had the pleasure of joining my friend from California on a trip across the water via Casco Bay Lines ferry to Peaks Island. I had not been to the island for about twenty years and had never had the opportunity to look around. It’s amazing to me how a wonderful little vintage gem of a place could be so close to such a highly urban area like Portland. Peaks Island is just fantastic and a perfect get-away for locals and tourists alike.

Peaks Island is a family friendly island with plenty to see and do for old home enthusiasts, history buffs and nature lovers. Traditional coastal Maine cottages line the streets, many of which have been lovingly restored to their original ornate Victorian styling.

When you arrive at Peaks there is a beautiful little café directly to the left as you come off the ferry. It offers wonderful locally roasted java from Portland’s favorite, Coffee By Design. They also have freshly baked pastries, delicious croissants, soups and sandwiches. A delightful little garden is adjacent to the café where you can sit and sip your coffee or tea amongst gorgeous flowers.

If you did not bring your bike over on the ferry ($6.00 fee per bike) your next stop should be at the bike rental shop, which opens around ten a.m., give or take. Brad’s Recycled Bicycle Shop, located at 115 Island Ave, (207) 766-5631, where you can rent bikes by the hour or by the day. Yes, they accept credit cards. Get there early for the best selection. They do run out quickly. The cost is somewhere around $10.00 for three hours- plenty of time to cruise around the island. If you have children, do not fear; they also have children’s bikes, helmets and tandem bikes. During off-season I found it to be self-service where you leave your information and payment in a box and help yourself to the three dozen or so bikes that they had out in the yard. Bikes seem to be the easiest way to travel around this very low-keyed island. There are very few cars on the island but do keep an eye out for the occasional driver.

It’s easy to cover the island in a fairly short amount of time on bikes even with children and it’s always an interesting time. A few of the wonderful finds we came across while exploring were the stone garden, Peaks Island honey and the private cottage art studio painted with glorious life sized flowers.

The stone garden is breathtaking. It’s a huge portion of rocky beach covered in various stone formations crafted by the previous visitors to the island. I highly recommend taking some time to build your own sculpture and watch others build theirs. It’s a beautiful and ever-changing gallery of stone. Amazing!

If you can find your way to Trefethen Avenue, located close to the ferry dock and Brad’s Bikes, you’ll no doubt come across the studio of Margaret Richards, painter and crafter of delightful pansy jewelry. The home has become an outdoor canvas for the resident artist, with the foundation painted in colorful array of flowers. It’s magical!

Not far from the studio at the end of Island Avenue we came across a quaint roadside table of honey made on the island at the Peaks Island Honey Company.

Totally self serve with an “on your honor” mason jar. Honor, isn’t that a beautiful thing? For just $4.00 you can bring home a bit of the island. I dare you to keep your fingers out of the jar on the ride home! I will mention that I’ve been told by a helpful gent that the makers of this fine honey are seasonal residents, so you’ll have to be sure to grab plenty of it in-season!

All around Peaks Island residents are a fantastic array of warm folks who all are very kind to its visitors. In my experience, they are inviting and peaceful and are more than happy to make your acquaintance and welcome you to their little island. While riding along the roads I found all of the drivers to be most courteous for those of us who don’t bike daily and may get a little off kilter every so often and the older folks seem to really love children. We did not pass one single resident who did not greet us as we went by. The island residents seemed to have tapped into a truly good life and it shows.

A great and traditional way to finish up your trip is a glass of wine and tapas at Joan’s Landing. The staff at Joan’s Landing are all so friendly and don’t mind when their guests loose track of time watching the sun set over Casco Bay. Save some time at the end of your trip for this storybook ending to your perfect day.

Safe travels to you,
Octavia’s Vintage

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