Falling in love is all about fateful timing: being in the right place at the right time.
Like most native New Englanders, I suspect, I’ve always enjoyed visiting Kennebunkport in the summer. (Warm days and fresh lobster on the Maine coast — how can you not swoon?) But as anyone in a relationship can tell you, it’s during life’s little storms – not under its fair skies – when love really reveals itself. Kennebunkport was walloped with a winter storm this Valentine’s Day, while me and my other-half were celebrating with an off-season weekend getaway. It could have been a disaster — but as fate would have it, it was just what we needed: a reason to slow down and soak in the sweet charm of a quintessential New England resort town. The place has a lot of heart.
If you haven’t bothered to visit Kennebunkport in its quieter season, now’s a good time. (In fact, during the weekend of Friday, March 13, the town is hosting a series of “Valentine’s Do-Over” promotions and events. More on that momentarily.) Kennebunkport in the off-season is quiet — very quiet. That’s part of the appeal, of course, though we didn’t expect it would be entering such serious hibernation mode when we checked in to the Kennebunkport Inn on Friday, February 13. As unluckiness would have it, a major winter storm – predicted to dump about two feet of snow amid hurricane-strength winds – was swiftly moving in, scheduled to hit Saturday night. The inn was ready to receive overnight lovebirds: a sparkling red “Valentine’s” tree (more tasteful than it sounds) glowed in the parlor, and a stack of souvenir pins reading “Love KPT” awaited at check-in. But several guests had already cancelled their stay, said the front desk clerk as she processed our arrival; hopefully, she added, we won’t lose power.
The good news was: if there was a place to be snowed in – it was here. The Kennebunkport Inn is part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, a portfolio of properties with distinct identities but a common, contemporary sheen that runs throughout. The Kennebunkport Inn is housed in a stately, rambling structure built in the 1890s but recently renovated. Our room – 214, perhaps not coincidentally for a Valentine’s getaway – had a casual elegance, as though Ralph Lauren had signed on board for an HGTV-aired interiors makeover show.
A vibrant palette of reds, white and blues made it a warm and welcoming space to nest after a filling dinner at One Dock, the inn’s restaurant and lounge housed in what feels like an ample living room. We dug in to contemporary American plates of mussels, bourbon-glazed pork belly and red wine-braised short ribs as a fireplace flickered to one side and a pianist tickled ivories to the other. After fighting Friday evening traffic out of Boston, this is just the right way to unwind.
Winter might be overstaying its welcome, but at least that allows for extended opportunity to enjoy some of New England’s snow-filled fun — and the Kennebunkport Inn can help guests make arrangements for everything from snowshoeing to sleigh rides. With a blizzard about to bear down, we weren’t in the position to take advantage. But there’s plenty to do and see even while keeping it low-key, from ducking into adorable art galleries and shops that line Dock Square (check out Minka and Abacus in particular for art, fashion accessories and gifts) to taking a sip from the area’s craft brew scene: upstairs from the Kennebunkport Brewing Company is Federal Jack’s, a casual neighborhood eatery for grabbing topnotch chowder and clam rolls alongside a pint of suds. Afterwards we took a quick drive to neighboring Kennebunk for treatments at The Spa at River’s Edge. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a spa snob, but I indulge often enough to offer strong context — and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my facial was one of the best I’ve had, period, in or outside of Boston’s higher-end Back Bay spots. (And at a predictably lower price point too, even if you add on the extra eye treatment. You should, by the way.)
By the time we slipped out of our robes and back into street clothes, the storm was starting to pick up the pace. So it was back to the Inn for a quick sip of bubbly before our dinner reservations at David’s KPT, the sleek, modern American at sibling property The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, just across the Dock Square.
The three-minute trudge through swirling snowflakes was just long enough for a laugh before battening down in the window-lined riverside dining room that bustled with cocktailing couples (younger, compared to some of the other restaurants) for the standout meal of the weekend. The New England-inspired fare included a tender filet mignon with a perfect cauliflower-parmesan mash, skewers of citrus- and truffle-inflected shrimp and scallops, and plenty of fresh oysters from the raw bar. Outside the window, inches accumulated on a docked ship; it looked like something phantom Arctic pirates might hijack. But inside we were warm, rosy from wine and five years of Valentine’s Days. We hadn’t been counting on this interfering snowstorm, but in a world of constant digital connection – buzzing phones, rapidly refilling email inboxes – we were suddenly grateful for Mother Nature imposing upon us a moment to stop, slow down, and appreciate what was right in front of us. The timing was just right, and I found myself in love with Kennebunkport in a whole new way.
Visit DestinationKennebunkport.com to check out winter packages and special rates. Try to make it up for the “Valentine’s Do-Over” weekend on March 13-14, which also coincides with Maine Restaurant Week.
After years of practicing the theory that one winter day is like the next, I’m on to the reality that it’s not true.
One day it’s dry but really, really cold. The next day it’s cold with 2-feet of snow. A day later the snow melts and there’s 6 inches of slush off each curb. Then four days later it’s 45 degrees and raining. That’s why we all need more that one pair of winter boots.
The following are do and don’t categories of boot wear.
Knock yourself out in this category because there are a ton of boots available everywhere you go – from over-the-knee, to knee high, to mid calf and bootie style. If you wear a boot like a shoe, you need several pairs of everyday boots, at least one pair with a heel.
DEEP SNOW & COLD
Ugg’s – they finally make a decent snow boot
All too ugly you say? Just try them. You’ll want to wear them every day.
Pajar – Cute but not all are fully waterproof and often only come in full sizes.
COLD & SLUSHY
La Canadienne – trust the Canadians to get a cold weather boot right, oh and the Italians aren’t half bad either.
Frye – who can wear these? Love the way they look, hate the way they feel.
Hunters: At your own risk.
La Canadienne or Aquitalia: Trust anything lined that’s waterproof.
Hunters: A lot of people swear by these boots for heavy rain and slushy snow. Me, I swear at them. They aren’t warm and they have no give, making them impossible to pull on and off, plus you can feel the water through the boot.
And that’s my tutorial. Boot-Up.
Sonny and Cher broke up. Then Donnie and Marie went off the air. That’s when I knew the world wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I was alone. I was adrift among boring people who were not a little bit country, nor were they a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. They didn’t have long, black, sleek hair and narrow waists and tiny slits for belly buttons. It was a sad world. I wasn’t with raconteurs who could playfully banter back and forth. The world I was in moved slowly and lacked rhythm and sludged along like a broken worm.
I was eight. I knew I needed excitement. I knew that there was more out there than puffy cheese bake and my sister’s hand-me-downs. It was right there on the part TV/ part table: sitting right under Grandma Barbara’s ceramic Christmas tree was a cathode ray window to a life bursting with possibility and sequins and feathered hair.
I lay my head back on my Wonder Woman pillowcase and pulled my blue and white striped blanket that my great-grandma Ellen had knitted for me up to my chin. She was 95. The oldest person I ever knew. She said that if she ever went blind and couldn’t knit, she’d rather die. I thought that was a fair thing to say because it was clear that she loved to knit. She had knitted blankets for all of my nine brothers and sisters. Eventually, she did go blind and she did die.
I stared up to the plaster ceiling – the one with the swirls and points that looks like frosting. I thought, “How do I get out of here?” I looked at my pink record player spinning unevenly and the needle doing its best on a warped surface as it played the soundtrack from “Bambi.” It was about the twelfth time I’d played it. I didn’t particularly like it, but it was the only record I had. It was the day after Christmas. I had opened the “Bambi” record just as my older sister, Sue, was opening her “Grease” album. I thought that was a really stupid thing for my Mom to do. I liked “Grease,” too. I just wasn’t allowed to see the movie because it was too racy. “Bambi” was for babies. Sue told me all about the movie anyway and the pictures on the album told the story. There was this proper looking pretty girl in bobby socks and saddle shoes who transformed into a sexy, leather-wearing, wild-haired bombshell. I didn’t get it. Killing Bambi’s mother was ok? The mere thought of it put a giant lump in my throat that I couldn’t swallow past.
So, after Sonny and Cher and Donny and Marie, I guess the record was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew I had to run away. But how? Even though Br’er Bear told Br’er Rabbit, “You can’t run away from trouble.” I knew I needed to get the hell out of dodge.
This place, where I had to pick up after myself, where my sister got better presents under the tree, where my brothers were getting too strong to wrestle and where life was drab and dull and you could get in trouble for just sticking your finger in the peanut butter jar, was clearly not for me. Everyone else was downstairs playing with their new toys.
I could hear my brother riding his Big Wheel down the hall and “Bambi” was not doing a good job drowning out “Grease.” My sister had it blaring on the stereo in the living room and she was practicing her ballet recital to “Summer Nights.” The smell of the pot roast wafted up the stairs and into my room.
I thought about things that would be practical to take. A couple of bathing suits, my favorite Barbie, my piggy bank. I had been saving up for this day. The piggy bank was going to be a problem because it was really heavy and about the size of a football. My brothers had claimed I stole a lot of the coins from their room but I didn’t consider it stealing when my life was at stake and my future hung on a teetering see saw in the balance.
No one even noticed when I tip-toed down the stairs, carefully skipping the step that made a loud creak. I hated hats and mittens. They just made me itch. I did have my sister’s hand-me-down plaid coat with a hood and her hand-me-down Barbie rubber boots. I closed the door quietly just as my brother, wearing a Daniel Boone hat with the raccoon tail came roaring down the hall on his Big Wheel.
“Why do you want to run away?” My mom had spotted me out the kitchen window. I hadn’t planned my exit strategy that well. I should have used the back door. She approached me in the yard just at the edge of the woods; because I wasn’t “running away”, I was just walking away. Her moo moo was see-through and her arms had goose bumps since she had only draped one of the many afghan blankets across her shoulders. Her rabbit slippers barely covered her feet.
She eased herself down on the bench to the picnic table. She moved like she was pregnant even though she wasn’t. My younger brother was five.
Words couldn’t form so I just shrugged my shoulders to my ears. “Are you upset?” I could see she was mocking me. “Are you not happy here?” I stared at her but there were so many problems I didn’t know where to start. “Well,” she said, “What did you pack? Can I see?” I handed over my fairy princess suitcase. She unclicked the latches and the hinges splayed open on the frozen front lawn revealing the satin pink fabric inside and my important belongings. She started to smile but caught herself because she knew she was this close to losing her ninth child to the unknown. “There’s not much in here to stay warm at night.” She was right. I had actually meant to grab my Black Beauty sleeping bag but forgot. “And, what about food?” I glanced at my piggy bank. “Oh, that was smart.” I nodded. “But maybe you should get some food from the pantry in case you’re walking a long time before you get to a store.” She rose from the bench and I got a faint hint of her sweet mom smell as she moved. I followed her into the house. “Maybe we should make those Christmas cookies we never got around to making.” She held the door for me. “You could take them with you.” My Mom’s tone was fun. Even excited. I knew that cookies weren’t practical for running away and a box of cereal would be better but I was actually hungry. I could almost taste the cookie dough. “I will run away another time,” I thought.
I have a confession: I owe my first glimpse of the northern lights to my terrible smoking habit. Pacing around in blast-freezer conditions, I was puffing away on my after-dinner cigarette (my face and hands progressing from cold, through stinging, to completely numb) when I happened to glance to the skies. There it was. A faint beam of eerie green light snaked overhead, curling and intensifying, then slowly unfurling into a delicate, shimmering curtain. As I watched, a second swathe of rosy pink light began to materialise. I was mesmerised. Eventually I snapped out of my trance and burst into the restaurant to share the news. A stampede for the door ensued.
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Gather ‘round ladies and gents!
I spy with my little eye a bit of snow in the forecast for this weekend. Actually more like snow, sleet, rain, winter mix, etc. Now take a look in your closet. What are you planning on wearing? Those canvas shoes? Yeah right! The snow boots that have followed you since your mom gave them to you in high school and will probably out live you in the impending apocalypse? Ugh.
While the frightful weather keeps you shacked up and snuggled on the couch watching styleboston, we want to have you all bundled up for when you finally have to shovel… or make the trek out of the house to replenish your supply of Bailey’s for warm beverages.
SO, we’re giving away 15 pairs of Teva boots for men and women fit to kick some Nor’easter booty this winter!
On FRIDAY, we’ll post a question on our Facebook and Twitter that only those who watch the show Saturday @ 11:35PM on CH. 4 or Sunday at 10:00AM on CH. 38 will know the answer to! You have until noon on Sunday to submit your answer right HERE
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