Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Elsewheres: Wells, Maine

I had a very interesting conversation the other day. On our way back from Maine, my girlfriend and I were chatting about travel and all of the places we would like to visit someday (some days I really hate the word someday). A few minutes passed and a change of CD was in order. We popped in Prospekt’s March by Coldplay, and the first song, “Life in Technicolor ii,” was a rush of travel memory. Dublin, Cork, Athens, New York, and especially London flooded my head to its tinny tune. It’s the soundtrack of landing someplace new – a song that is the first step of an adventure. Hearing it again was like catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time (some songs will do that), but it also didn’t fit the moment.

In the best possible way, Wells, Maine, is the exact opposite of an exotic touchdown. Seeing Exit 19 is a homecoming. Second home, third home – however many homes you have – Wells is the next one. You know that phrase on the Maine license plate? “The way life should be.” It’s there for a reason.

consider a kind word or deed
Welcoming you to the town of Wells is arguably Route 1’s finest attraction, Congdon’s Donuts, a shop that has been family-owned since 1945. I’ve been going there for every year of my life. Every year. You’ll see Congdon’s pop up on Route 1 just across from Mile Road, and it represents everything about Wells that makes it a second home. It’s close to the beach, family oriented, busy, and homemade delicious.

An aside: Hand-dipped and freshly made, buttercrunch is undeniably the best doughnut offered. I have not tried a new doughnut at the shop since finding it, at least not without ordering one to go with it. You know, just in case. And in case you are still unconvinced or doubt how strenuously I recommend Congdon’s, you should know that a) I subscribe to their mailing list and b) I was sold on a hotel based on its proximity to the restaurant.


Phew, with the doughnuts done, we can talk about the stay. Just across the street from Congdon’s Donuts is the Garrison, the site of a battle from the French and Indian War and home to the aptly named Garrison Suites. In three words, it is friendly, clean, and affordable. The room was very nice (a mini fridge makes leftovers a possibility) and the service was exceptional.

One of the finer points about the beaches of southern Maine is that they all lie on Route 1, mere miles apart.  Within easy reach of Wells are Kennebunk, Ogunquit, Old Orchard, and more. Ogunquit, in particular, makes for a beautiful day. The beach gets crowded, and parking can be a hassle, but the town offers an awful lot. The beach has full facilities and life guards maintain watch until 5pm, making it a great spot for families. But what’s really great is when 5 o’clock somewhere become 5 o’clock right here.

Ogunquit is a haven of shops, bars, and restaurants. Among the shops you will find anything from the typical Lobster bumper sticker (emblazoned with the unrealistic pronunciation “stickah”) to the selection of distinctive, quirky works by local artisans. Among the bars, you’ll find outdoor pizza places and indoor piano clubs. And when it comes to restaurants, the town has it all. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in Ogunquit proper, stroll down the scenic Marginal Way to Perkins Cove – a photographer’s hot spot with even more restaurants and shops, and a launching pad for fishing, lobstering, and ocean tours.

Oh, I almost forgot. It’s 5 o’clock right here. Head to the new Cornerstone Pizza at Ogunquit’s center K-junction. Put your name on the wait list if you must, but feel free to head straight to the eat-in bar. Pleasingly decorated and pleasantly staffed, the bar has a great selection of drinks (mixed and tap) and offers the full menu. App recommendations for while you wait: gazpacho and Spanish meatballs. If you need to pick only one, get both.

Once your table’s ready, don’t forget that you can do half and half on your pizzas. Which means a half lobster, half pulled pork pizza is do-able. And supremely rewarding. And highly recommended. When you finish your night out, head home to Wells (remember, Wells is the second home you didn’t know you had) and enjoy a hard serve ice cream from the Scoop Deck.


Before you leave your vacation in Wells, make sure you’ve gotten everything out of the beach that you could. Did you walk to the jetty? Did you look for shells and crabs in the rocks? Did you lay out and relax? Did you eat lunch on the beach from Forbe’s Restaurant? Did you fly a kite? Did you actually go into the Atlantic Ocean? Did you get a sun burn from staying out way too long? (This last one is not actually recommended, by the way.)

When you have to leave, it’s absolutely okay to lament every mile that is taking you away. Just remember to make it a tradition and go back next year.

Til next time!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mustachioed Monuments Partie Cinq


Today I’ve been bandying about the internet, searching once more for mustaches that personify our Bostonian edifices. (Be forewarned, I have found a candidate for the Monopoly Man’s ‘stache, and am currently searching for the perfect pairing to Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy.) For this installment’s building, though, I have to conclude that nearly any mustache will do. First, however, some history:

Built in 1713 (I know, right?), Boston’s Old State House was the home of the British government in the colony.1 That makes this hotspot of the American Revolution a British building, at least originally. And the proof is in the pudding – take a look at the lion and unicorn (heralds of England and Scotland, respectively2) adorning the roof. On second thought, please don’t look at the animals in my drawing, as you may mistake the unicorn for a party-hat-wearing donkey and the lion for a faceless Chow Chow, neither of which is particularly regal (and neither of which was intentionally drawn that way).

On the Revolutionary side of things, the Old State House was the site of the Boston Massacre and where the Declaration of Independence was read aloud in Beantown. Post war, the building was successfully transformed from a British state house to an American one.3 In comparison, Boston’s old city hall is now a steak house – no war necessary.

Alright, back to the mustaches. Because the American War for Independence was one of the first showings of weakness in the British Empire (and, really, can’t an entire ocean of travel count as one?), and since the mustache has been categorically tied to Britain’s military success… wait, you mean to tell me you haven’t heard this?


Yes, the mustache played a pivotal role in the continued control that the British Empire effected over a full 25% of the globe.4 This article by Piers Brendon, author of The Decline and Fall of the British Empire (2010, Vintage), sets the scene. At its most distilled, Brendan explains that multiple cultural clashes ultimately led to mustaches becoming a mandatory element of the British military uniform. First, British troops noted the intimidating effects of the mustaches worn by French soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars. And, second, during its colonization of India, the British army found that its strictly regimented, clean-shaven appearance came off a bit too boy band-ish. By the 1860s, mustaches had become mandatory.4

Since, in this case, any mustache will do, the Old State House sports a bristly, untrimmed walrus mustache.

Til next time!

P.S. As noted in a previous post, Assassin’s Creed III (yes, a video game) has a lot to say about historic Beantown. The game features a witty database that includes the following pearl about the Old State House: 1798 saw the building’s redesign for the merchant class, “including a wine seller and a wig-maker, making it the colonial equivalent of a shopping mall, though one that mainly dealt in wine and wigs.”5


1. "The Old State House." Old State House. The Boston Society, n.d. Web. 19 July 2013. <>.
2. "The Lion and the Unicorn." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 July 2013. Web. 19 July 2013. <>.
3. "The Old State House." Old State House. The Boston Society, n.d. Web. 19 July 2013. <>.
4. Brendon, Piers. "How the Moustache Won an Empire." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 11 Oct. 2007. Web. 19 July 2013. <>.
5. Ubisoft Montreal. Assassin's Creed III. Ubisoft, 2012. Xbox 360.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mustachioed Monuments Part the Fourth

“I’m going to type every word I know. Rectangle! America! Megaphone! Monday!”1
--Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation
157 berkeley, meet ron swanson

It is no secret that I love the new building at 157 Berkeley Street, but I must also share with you another love of mine: Parks and Recreation. Or, as I like to refer to it, the funniest show on television.

This isn’t the only reason that the new building is sporting the manly mustache of Ron Swanson, though. It’s because each represents the values and outlook of the generations prior. 157 Berkeley is beautiful now because it wouldn’t have been out of place eighty years ago – kind of like your grandparents' brutal honesty. Kind of like Ron Swanson's brutal honesty.

In an architectural era of glass and asymmetry, 157 Berkeley is made of stone and patterned regularity. In the same way, Ron Swanson celebrates jazz music, inhuman amounts of bacon and eggs, and from-scratch craftsmanship in an age of autotune, lowered cholesterol, and particle board. 

All said, I think this might be the most fitting mustachioed monument yet.

Til next time!

1. Daniels, Greg, Michael Schur, and Harris Wittels. "Media Blitz." Parks and Recreation. NBC. WHDH-TV 7, Boston, MA, 17 Feb. 2011. Television.