They must have been joking. Movoto real estate blog’s 10 best places to live in Maine hardly even penetrated the real Maine, with nine of the 10 best places in Cumberland and York counties. It’s been many years since real Mainers considered anyplace in Cumberland and York counties to actually be in Maine.

Sure they have lots of good-paying jobs, tons of shopping malls, super restaurants and short commuter times. These were included in Movoto’s criteria. We sometimes enjoy visiting these places. But live there — No way!

And other Movoto criteria makes me wonder if these folks have any idea what the real Maine is like. They claim, for example, that the top 10 have better weather. Apparently these folks don’t like snow. They also rated these cities and towns highly for low crime rates. Really, do you feel safer in Portland?

For the record, Movoto’s 10 best places to live in Maine, starting with No. 1: South Portland, Scarborough, Brunswick, Cumberland, Topsham, Freeport, Portland, Hampden, Kennebunk and Westbrook. I’m thinking they got Hampden mixed up with Camden, which usually makes these top 10 lists.

“Now, hold your horses (or maybe moose… mooses?),” said Movoto, “before getting upset that your hometown isn’t on the list. It still could have scored very well.” And they directed us to their entire list of places, to find out how our town or city fared.

It is here where I really understood how these folks went so far wrong. To even be considered, the town or city had to have more than 5,000 people. That certainly leaves out all the best places in Maine. Perhaps we should be thankful, because most of us don’t really want more people moving to our town.

But I was inspired by Movoto to create my own criteria for the best places to live in Maine:

• Less than 2,500 residents.

• Friendly and helpful neighbors who live far enough away that you can’t see their houses.

• A nice group of summer residents who generously support the community and then head south for the winter.

• Lots of lakes, ponds, streams and brooks, plus forests and farmland available for outdoor recreation, including fiddleheading, mushrooming, hunting, fishing, birding.

• A café with good food and friendly staff and customers — where no one complains if you spend all day there.

• A country store where, if they don’t have it, you don’t need it.

• Four seasons, with plenty of snow for outdoor fun.

• Stunningly beautiful scenery.

• An awesome library, great volunteer fire department, and community/arts center.

• Active churches, with a food bank and other assistance available for those in need.

• A terrific elementary school.

OK, I’ve just described my town of Mount Vernon. I hope, for your sake, your town is like mine. And just for fun, I’ve decided to create my own list of the 10 best places to live in Maine. Here they are, in no particular order.

Mount Vernon. Enough said.

• Lubec. Love its library, ocean, lighthouse, beaches, birds, mackerel fishing, hikes, restaurants, art galleries and book stores, Monica’s chocolates, goose tongue greens and closeness with its Canadian neighbor, Campobello Island. Toss in Eastport, too, a 10-minute ride in the water taxi, with more good restaurants and Raye’s mustard factory.

• A grouping of western Maine towns including Waterford, Norway, Bridgton, Fryeburg and Brownfield. Love the Stone Mountain Arts Center, inns, restaurants, good book stores, stunning scenery, lakes and rivers, conservation lands, and closeness to the White Mountains and North Conway. I am sure I don’t need to tell you what is there.

• Aroostook County. Yup. Love all of it.

• Farmington and its surrounding small towns. Love the Stone Hearth Café and book store, the old rail station in Phillips (now a concert hall), Calzolaio restaurant in Wilton, amazing art shows at the University of Maine in Farmington, the gateway to Sugarloaf and the Carrabassett Valley.

• Rangeley. Love the huge amount of conservation land, amazing fishing, sporting camps, Fly Fishing Museum and moose.

My apologies to all the small towns I’ve loved before. You are still on my list. I just want to keep you a secret.

And here’s the bottom line. We recognize that southern Maine is more prosperous, with better job markets, lower unemployment and lots of shopping opportunities. But ask the folks who live there where their favorite places are in Maine, and you might just be surprised to find they are not in Cumberland and York counties.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.