Impressed with the renovated Holiday Inn by the Bay, pleased to discover a new favorite at the Good Theater — and ecstatic to finally find the hot chilies we’ve been looking for — a recent weekend in Portland was, as always, a lot of fun. It’s tough not to be drawn to Maine’s big city when you’re looking for the best in lodging, entertainment, food and shopping. Our February visit hit all those notes and more.


The view from our suite on the seventh floor of the Holiday Inn By the Bay was amazing. As I watched the traffic cross the bridge to South Portland, I put the puzzle pieces of some our travel visits together. I could see the ferry coming over from Peak’s Island, where the Inn on Peaks was the subject of our very first column.

I could see the Old Port below us, and the waterfront spot where Harvest on The Harbor was held. Portland is a great city and I love spending time there!

The room itself had a work area and a comfortable sitting area. An incredibly comfortable bed held the most thoughtful idea ever — pillow choices with a removable label for those who want to choose soft or firm. I confess to being a picky pillow person, and most hotels offer only fat pillows that look amazing but put my neck out of whack by morning.

A charming basket of Maine’s finest products (what a nice idea!) was quickly delivered by Luda, the receptionist who had just checked us in. Due to that basket, I am now a big fan of Wicked Good Coffee (Brunswick) and Eli’s blueberry soda (Shipyard).

We enjoyed a great breakfast at their restaurant the next morning. My skillet scramble came with homefries and was not only delicious, but proved to be big enough to enjoy again for lunch at school the next day.

LeRoux Kitchen

When George suggested we visit my favorite cooking store in Portland, The LeRoux Kitchen, he didn’t have to ask twice. This is my kind of store — small, but offering an astounding variety of items. I needed new utensils to use with non-stick pans. Within 10 minutes I had chosen a handful of colorful gadgets in all sorts of shapes and sizes (note from George — she spent $50!).

If you need any kind of odd cooking ingredient, you’re apt to find it here. They also have quite a selection of dishes and pans, and you can fill bottles with your choices of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. They even have a tempting array of chocolates — buy one or fill a box.

La Bodega Latina Market 

We’ve been searching for a variety of dried chili peppers ever since George got Aaron Sanchez’s cookbook for us last fall. The book includes recipes for master sauces or spice blends which can be used in many different recipes. I was ready to jump in and try some, but was met with a stumbling block: You can’t find many varieties of dried chilies at the supermarket.

We decided to look for a small ethnic store while in Portland. We found La Bodega Latina — a wonderful source of Latin ingredients, and indeed they had some dried chilies. The friendly man working there told us a shipment of more chilies was due in that afternoon. We’d return the next day we said.  Am I glad I did! I have never seen so many types of chilies, and never heard of several kinds I spotted! A good-sized bag was half the price charged at the supermarket. This will be my go-to place for chilies now.


I regret that we missed the Good Theater’s first 10 seasons. Located in the historic and beautiful St. Lawrence Church, now an Arts and Community Center on Munjoy Hill, Brian Allen and Steve Underwood present high-quality professional theater in an intimate and comfortable theater. The afternoon we enjoyed the play “Next Fall,” it looked like we were the only first-timers, as people all around us were waving and visiting.

Here are a couple things you need to know. Arrive early! We got there 20 minutes before the play started and would have had a hard time finding seats together except a friendly couple was willing to move to the left to open up two seats for us. We ended up in the third row center, practically on the stage.

Parking is limited to side streets but we had no trouble finding a spot close to the theater. However, upon exiting the theater we took the wrong side street and decided our car had been stolen until we figured this out. City slickers we’re not!

Brian is a friendly host and his enthusiasm had the audience laughing as he welcomed everyone and made announcements.

Linda and I were amazed at some of the plays that have been presented here, many as Maine or world premieres. The current play is “Little Me,” a musical that is sure to entertain, but I’ve already got my eyes on the a 2013 “multi media extravaganza” called “Underwaterguy,” written and performed by Stephen Underwood. Stephen says he’ll take the audience free-diving beneath the waters of Maine and beyond. I’m in!

Single tickets are astonishingly inexpensive, just $15 to $25, and the four-show season tickets priced from $55 to $90 are less than you’d pay for a single play in Boston or New York. It’s really amazing that we Mainers can enjoy professional theater at these prices.

Holiday Inn by the Bay

We’ve come to expect the best in accommodations and service from the hotels owned by Bangor’s Lafayette Family, but we were really astonished when we entered our room at the Holiday Inn by the Bay. All the rooms have been completely renovated since the inn was purchased by the Lafayettes in May of 2009, as well as the bar and many meeting rooms. They’ll be renovating the exhibit hall and pre-function area this spring and summer, completing the inn’s makeover.

It’s been quite a few years since we stayed at this hotel — and our last visit was not pleasant. But when we stepped into Room 700 a few weeks ago, my first comment was, “Wow!”

The view was extraordinary, with huge windows all across the back wall overlooking the Old Port and waterfront. And the room was elegant.

Having just visited the Shipyard store a few blocks away, we popped a few of our favorite brews in the fridge, set our laptops on the desk and settled in for what turned out to be a wonderful weekend.

The receptionist, Luda, provided friendly advice throughout our stay — and agreed with us that Hot Suppa, where we had dined that evening, is an exceptional restaurant. She and her family eat there regularly.

The inn is perfectly located within easy walking distance of the Old Port’s fine restaurants and shops and just five minutes from the Portland Museum of Art, where we spent a few hours on Saturday morning.

Many share our high rating of Lafayette Hotels. The hotel’s General Manager, Peter Daigle (a Fort Kent native) will be recognized in May with the top Hospitality Award from the Maine Tourism Association.

Since we started this column in January of 2010, we’ve visited four of Lafayette’s Maine hotels and inns (including the Senator in Augusta), and always had a great experience.


Good Theater
PHONE: 885-5883
ADDRESS: 76 Congress St. (Munjoy Hill — east end) in the St. Lawrence Church Arts and Community Center
WHAT’S PLAYING: Now presenting the musical “Little Me.”

Holiday Inn by the Bay
ADDRESS: 88 Spring St. (next to Cumberland County Civic Center)
PHONE: 775-2311 or 1-800-345-5050 for reservations

La Bodega Latina

ADDRESS: 883 Congress St.  (west end)
PHONE: 761-6661

LeRoux Kitchen
ADDRESS: 161 Commercial St. (in the Old Port)
PHONE: 553-7665

Visit George’s website: for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.


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