Great hotels, food and shops make Kennebunk and Kennebunkport prime destinations for travelers

Kennebunk’s Grand Hotel offers superb service and is surrounded by wonderful shops, markets and restaurants.

George

I (of course) noticed (and grabbed) the small box of chocolates at the reception desk of the Grand Hotel, while the very friendly Patrick was checking us in. And another bag of goodies awaited in our room when we got to the second floor overlooking a charming street and the Kennebunk River.

But it was the next morning, when Linda opened the door to go downstairs to see what might be offered for breakfast, that I was really impressed. A bag of muffins and juice had already been delivered.

The very best inns pay attention to every detail of a customer’s comfort, from check-in to check-out and everything in between. And the Grand Hotel pays attention to the details.

This adventure began when Michelle Juralewicz of Marlo Marketing/Communications read our column one Thursday, and emailed me to ask if we would be interested in visiting any of the seven boutique hotels and several restaurants her Boston firm represented. One look at the list and a quick bit of research online got her a fast “you betcha!”

In addition to the Grand Hotel, Michelle scheduled us for a wonderful dinner at Ocean restaurant, which we told you about last week, and Sunday brunch at David’s KPT restaurant (within walking distance across the bridge into Kennebunkport).

Boutique hotels are usually small, customer-focused and elegant, more home than hotel. A first-floor art gallery provided a beautiful spot to sit and admire a stunning collection, focused on Maine outdoor scenes.

Here are a few things I loved about our room: the flat-screen TV attached to the wall that rotated so you could see it anyplace in the room, the two very comfy lounge chairs, the large desk overlooking the street and river and spinning pieces of art across the street, the huge very comfortable bed, lots of bureau space, extra-large bathroom with a luxurious shower and the large deck with table and chairs.

Unfortunately, on Sunday morning, my lower back (that had been getting progressively worse throughout the week) was very painful, so we postponed the visit to David’s KPT and headed home.

Federal Jack’s

If we had been able to stay longer, I would have found an excuse to get back to Federal Jack’s, just down the street from the Grand.

We visited Federal Jack’s in April of 2013, a destination that is popular with locals as well as tourists. The restaurant is on the second story above the brewery and Shipyard shop.

We spent a lot of time enjoying the river view and our beers. Mine was an unusual vanilla porter, the heavy scent and flavor of vanilla turning this into a brew Linda loved — meaning I had to share it. Ordinarily she hates dark beers. “You know what it tastes like?” she asked. “Beer and Bailey’s.”

Well, no wonder she liked it! Every time she grabbed my porter, I took a sip of her Goat Island Light. I never order a beer this light but it was surprisingly tasty.

Eventually, we ordered a couple of appetizers. I surprised myself again, favoring the Mediterranean sampler over the chicken wings. The wings were good. The sampler was very good — especially the roasted red pepper humus — something we now stock regularly in our fridge.

There were so many good choices of entrees that I had a hard time deciding, eventually going with the grilled crab and Havarti sandwich. Served on sourdough bread, it was chock full of crabmeat and the Havarti added a lot of flavor. Loved the coleslaw, too.

Linda choose a beef and bean chili that came in a small crock but was very hearty — and spicy. It was not for the faint of heart. But we loved it.

Linda

We stayed in one of the Grand Hotel’s “Grand Rooms” facing the street. The rooms here are beautifully decorated in shades of silver, saffron and cream. I had my sites on the large balcony as a prime breakfast spot, but an overnight rain left the furniture a bit too wet.

I usually judge a room by its bathroom, and this one was impressively big with marble floor tiles and a large, elegant shower. The Grand has made many efforts to be eco-friendly, including large refillable bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Their large super comfortable bed, with its luxurious linens and a pillow-top mattress, will help you sleep like a baby.

The hotel overlooks the bridge to Kennebunkport and the river, and it is an easy walk from our hotel to Lower Kennebunk Village. I’ve never had the opportunity to stroll about the town, so I enjoyed discovering its galleries, eateries and shops.

The moment I stepped out of the car in front of our hotel, I was enchanted and mesmerized by the wind art located across the street at Maine Art. Graceful copper sculptures, by artist Lyman Whitaker, gently twirled in the wind outside the gallery. He had treated the copper, turning it bluish on the inside edge of each art piece, making it much more subtle than if it were shiny copper. The amazing variety of designs is dazzling and all during our time at the hotel I found myself gazing out our windows at the “Wind Forest.” One of those pieces sure would look good in one of my gardens.

If you want to feel like a kid in a candy store visit The Candy Man across the bridge in Kennebunkport. You’ll find handmade chocolates, fudge, salt water taffy and penny candy that will bring back memories of your youth. This seems to be a destination for people out walking. Young and old relish in its decadence. I overheard two older men finishing their elegant dinner at Ocean decide to forgo dessert there in favor of a drive in town and a visit to the candy store. With incredible will power, I left the store empty-handed. It’s a decision I now regret.

I discovered Dock Square Clothiers on my way back to the hotel. Cute clothes in the window lured me in, and I found unbelievable bargains on summery separates at the back of the store.

The Gallery at the Grand (located at our hotel) held more stunning paintings by Maine artists. George loved the giant painting of birch trees but, at $14,000, he probably won’t be getting it.

H.P. Provisions is the village’s general store, deli and meeting place. It has grocery staples and snacks and a great selection of wines. I walked in Sunday morning in search of sandwiches for our trip home. I ordered an Italian sub to split with George. There were very generous portions of meats and vegetables making this such a hearty sub that we ate only half and saved the rest for when we got home! That was one superb sandwich and must explain why the cafe was full of people eating breakfast and lunch.

Before George’s bad back sent us homeward, we had planned a birding adventure at the nearby Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm. It’s a wonderful place to walk. But he couldn’t even stand!

When George hobbled downstairs at the Grand, with me hauling all the bags, Patrick grabbed our bags, took us out a “secret” back door and stepped out into a rain shower to load the bags in our car. Now that’s paying attention to your customer’s needs!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.