To the lighthouse and beyond in Portland, Maine

Portland Head Light

If you asked most people to free associate with the term Maine, the word lighthouse would likely be a popular response. And, they wouldn’t be wrong. In the vicinity of Portland, Maine’s largest city, you can visit six of these luminous wonders, including the Portland Head Light. The Head Light, which was built at the direction of George Washington and completed in 1791, could perhaps serve as the illustration next to the dictionary definition of lighthouse.

All images © Miki Jourdan.

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Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park
Portland Head Light from Fort Williams Park

And yet, as my wife and I found during a recent visit, Portland has so much more to offer. Here are some highlights:

The People

On Saturday mornings, Portlanders meet in Deering Oaks Park for the Farmers Market, which also attracts local performers. It is a perfect way to get a literal and figurative taste for Portland culture.

Bawlmer Slim, a transplant from Charm City, serves up blues standards like Greasy Greens on his harmonica. A Maine resident since 1984, he still roots for the Baltimore Orioles on game day.

Bawlmer Slim
Bawlmer Slim

Slim Sign

Ava played Simon & Garfunkel on the harp.


Ava's Fingers

Sean works at a produce stand, but still seems uncomfortable with the exchange of legal tender for goods and services. When I pointed out that the farmers market is capitalism with a small C, he laughed and said, “Well, a man’s gotta eat!”


Ahmad plays the rhythm bones. His are made of rose wood, but he says that some are made of actual bone. The bone ones sound different from the wooden ones.


The Memory Merchant’s sign read, “For Sale: Memories, New & Used. Vivid- $4, Clear – $3, Hazy – $2.” I paid for something hazy. He put a paint-splattered piece of paper into his vintage Underwood and typed with two fingers. “One of your earliest memories is of a bird not small,” he typed. “You remember it being near you. You remember it flying over you, looking you in the eyes and feeling the faintest breath of air.”

Memory Merchant
The Memory Merchant

For Sale Memories      Hazy Memory

Portland Museum of Art

The PMA offers a lovely collection of works from Europe and America, with a special emphasis on the art of Maine. “Seven,” a new sculpture from Robert Indiana (best known in DC for AMOR), stands outside the front entryway.

Seven by Robert Indiana

When taken in black and white, the PMA’s entrance hall comes across as misleadingly moody…

Someone to Watch Over Me
PMA Entrance Hall

Sights Around Town

The Time and Temperature Building was erected in 1924 and, true to its name, features an electronic billboard with updates on time and temperature. In recent years, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein have sponsored the sign, so you’ll also see messages like “Call Joe” or “Hart Cats” (Bornstein is apparently a big fan of the felines) displayed.

Time and Temperature Building
Time and Temperature Building

Founded in 1829, the Western Cemetery was originally intended for the “poor and indigent.”

Western Cemetery

Day Trip up the Coast

One day, we took Maine’s Historic Route 1 up the coast. It is nicknamed the Coastal Route, though the ocean was seldom in view on our journey. Still, there were frequent reminders of Maine’s relationship with water along the way.

Gone Fishing
Fishing Along the Coastal Route
Bridge Along Coastal Route
Bridge Along the Coastal Route

The competition for the title of best lobster roll is fierce, but Red’s Eats in Wiscasset is always among the finalists.

Reds Eats
Red’s Eats

We finally reached the coast in Rockland, Maine.


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