Our icy shell has started the process of dripping, melting, and sloughing away. Thanks to the short spurts of warmer weather, I can almost see over the snowbanks when I back out of my driveway, and the sidewalks are reappearing under heaps of snow that were just too much to bother moving. With spring peeking shyly around the doorjamb, it’s time to branch out into my favorite area of Portland: the Old Port.
Described on the city of Portland’s webpage as a “historic seacoast town with a working waterfront,” the Old Port might sound like a strip of decaying ‘historic’ buildings or just a smelly dock, but it’s not that at all. The historic part lies in the stoic brick buildings that line the main street and in the cobblestone streets themselves, winding along the waterfront with the air of leisurely exploration. It’s a setting where you can almost see tired sailors trekking up the hills, salt-drenched and wobbly on legs used to months at sea. As the docks bustle in the summertime, and the scent of each day’s catch permeates the air, it’s easy to be transported back in time. The keening gulls and rhythmic lap of waves is the only relaxant you really need after a day at work or a winter of tension.
However, there’s more to be found here than ingredients for an active imagination. The Old Port is bursting with absolutely phenomenal restaurants, large and small. Food of every type is available; Mexican, Italian, Thai, Indian, vegan, vegetarian. The Old Port offers shopping as well, with quiet shops tucked away on steep, connecting stone streets as well as lively places on the main road. Beyond shopping, the area also boasts a place called The Telling Room. Located up a flight or two of warm wood stairs, The Telling Room is a place for teenagers to go and write, either as part of an offered group or on their own, depending on the day. They offer a huge range of free programs, and if you’re looking for inspiration or instruction, that’s the place to go.
If those things weren’t enough, there’s also the Old Port festival. Every year on the second Sunday of June, the Old Port gets overrun by vendors of every kind; huge amounts of people; a wide range of activities; and of course, music. While I’ve never made it to this event, it’s definitely something that I’ve wanted to attend for a few years now. What could be better than great music, great atmosphere, and great people? It’s certainly the right way to get summer started.
The Old Port offers a great afternoon or a promising night. Even in the winter, or the beginning of spring, there’s life to be found underneath the layers of snow. Cafés, warm shops, and breaktaking views are never hard to find. This area is both the historic and modern heart of Maine, and as you wander the streets, feet feeling the curve of the stones, you’ll be able to feel the pulse that never goes out.