The Travelin Maine(rs), George and Linda Smith of Mount Vernon, have spent their lifetimes enjoying all that Maine has to offer. Now they’ll tell you all about it — their favorite inns, restaurants, trips, activities, experiences, and travel books and websites — in their own personal style. They’ll be offering anecdotes, tips and all the details you need. So join them in exploring, experiencing and enjoying the great state of Maine.
Webster defines an inn as “a public house for the lodging and entertaining of travelers.” That definition is entirely insufficient for Bar Harbor’s Bluenose Inn.
Here’s how we’d define the Bluenose: an elegant public house of large luxurious rooms with stunning ocean views, with a first class hill-top restaurant serving the finest food, great entertainment — from indoor and outdoor pools, to the piano player in a very comfortable lounge — and heavenly spa treatments.
Or you could just define the Bluenose as the finest kind of vacation.
While we’ve avoided Bar Harbor for 30 years, fearful that it was too crowded and touristy, we had a major attitude adjustment on our recent weekend visit. Now, we can’t wait to go back!
As an admirer of any hotel run by Maine’s Lafayette family, I was still unprepared for our experience at the Bluenose.
The attention to detail and the comfort of guests is extraordinary — from thick towels to the manager’s handwritten welcome note to the shingled wastebaskets outside each building that match the building’s siding. A lot of thought has been given to this special place.
Every member of the staff is super-friendly. No one — including maintenance staff and housekeepers — passed us without a greeting and an opportunity for conversation if we wished. Jim Ash, the manager and co-owner, was responsible for turning Rockland’s Samoset Resort into a top-of-the-line destination, and we quickly discovered why. Jim’s middle name must be hospitality.
We appreciated the special chance to get to know Jim and his wife Diane on Friday night at the Looking Glass Restaurant when they joined us for dinner. The view is unbelievable, and Executive Chef Arturo Montes produces some of the finest food in the state.
Shortly after our arrival, on a tour of the facilities with Jim, we spotted a fellow in a chef’s apron outside the spa, harvesting herbs from a small garden. Sure enough, it was Montes. He and Lin engaged in a discussion of the herbs he was selecting for the evening’s dinners while I spoke with Jim about his deer problem.
Our dinner at the Looking Glass Restaurant changed my dining habits. Neither Lin nor I like oysters. But when Montes sent out Oyster’s Rockefeller, we were absolutely astonished. They were fantastic!
In addition to the oysters, I loved the Spicy Maine Crab Cakes so much I had them for dinner Friday night and for breakfast Saturday and Sunday as the base for Eggs Benedict.
For an entrée I had Halibut to Die For — well, that’s not what they called it but it was. Southwestern Grilled Fresh Halibut came with corn and black bean cilantro salsa over green chili polenta. It was perfectly cooked and very tasty.
I’d also ordered up a side dish of another entrée, the Lobster Mac & Cheese. Oh my gosh. In my LBL (Life Before Linda), my favorite dish was Mac & Cheese mixed with bits of grilled hotdogs. Well, lobster takes this to a whole new level, and this was not the cheese that comes in the Kraft box. MMMM great.
They offer a very clever tray of “mini $3 desserts,” small portions that are just right to finish a meal. I had a superb carrot cake.
Acadia National Park — George
We went, we saw, we conquered. Well, we missed the incoming tide so Thunder Hole was only whispering. We walked Sand Beach where the water was just above frigid. We checked out the gardens and birds. We enjoyed the ocean views. It’s a gorgeous park. You should go and see it.
But what really surprised us was Bar Harbor itself, a funky downtown with lots of good restaurants and shops. We especially liked the book store and some of the art and craft galleries. People were happy. This is what we want Maine to be — busy and prosperous.
There is more to do here than you could squeeze into a week. My favorite activity was the beer tasting at Bar Harbor Brewery’s downtown store. It led to a Brewery tour on our way home. And yes, we’ll tell you more about that later!
Our suite on the fourth floor of the Mizentop Building was enormous with all the amenities you could ask for: a beautifully decorated sitting room with comfortable seating, a gas fireplace and a large flat-screen TV offered a very inviting place to relax. The balcony with a breathtaking view of the ocean and Bar Harbor’s waterfront was a great place for our morning coffee.
But a stay at the Bluenose goes beyond the gorgeous room. The grounds are well cared for and immaculate. The hospitality is first class. Upon entering the room we found chilled champagne and an enticing fruit and cheese platter.
The restaurant’s view is breathtaking. And their staff is extremely attentive, yet very personable.
I don’t eat much seafood, yet I loved the Oysters Rockefeller. The corn salsa served atop the crab cakes was spicy and delicious, elevating that dish to a new level. My grilled Beef Tenderloin was perfectly cooked and I’m still thinking about the amazing Port Wine Sauce.
This is dining at a very high level (and not just because it’s on the hilltop). Prices for appetizers ranged from $9 to $15, and entrees from $19 to $36 (Seafood Medley), very reasonable for the quality of food and service.
And there’s one other thing that makes this restaurant unique. Even though it’s the very best fine dining, dress is casual, “anything but bathing suits,” said Jim.
We were lucky enough to stay two nights and both nights we enjoyed the piano playing of Bill Trowell of Mariaville in the Great Room. Bill is talented and took time to visit with every person in the room filled with comfortable couches and chairs.
The spa staff here is top notch. Anita gave me a pedicure and my very first manicure. My time with her flew by because she was so personable and easy to talk to. Her niece, Melissa, runs the spa and gave George a massage he described as “amazing.” Our therapeutic massages had our backs tip-top again!
In the elevator on Saturday morning, a guest from Kentucky, unsolicited, greeted us with a big grin and this statement, “This is a wonderful place. I made my reservation in January and I’m so glad I did!”
Well, as travel writers, we just can’t make this stuff up! And we agree!
Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.