George

Our summer began early, in April, with a visit to southeast Arizona and Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, where temperatures were in the 90s. Soon after returning home, we made our annual birding pilgrimage to Monhegan.

Since beginning this column five and a half years ago, Linda and I have fallen in love with Maine’s islands. Highlights of our summer this year were visits to Peaks Island, Swan’s Island and Frenchboro, on Long Island, for its lobster festival.

Lubec is always a summer destination, and our June visit to stay at West Quoddy Station, where the old coast guard station has been renovated into a great place to stay, followed by a few days at Island Chalet on Campobello Island, was wonderful.

Our June visit to Bradford Camps, an awesome sporting camp in the North Woods, was a first for Linda, and I’m sure it will be an annual trip now. From the comfortable historic cabins to the great food and hospitality, this is a special experience — even if you don’t hunt and fish.

We also got a chance to return to a couple of great restaurants we wrote about years ago: Vittles, in Pittsfield; and 18 Below, in Waterville. We are lucky to have so many great restaurants in central Maine.

And we made our first trip to a place we’ll be able to recommend for special celebrations and getaways: Nonantum Resort, in Kennebunkport. Our top-floor room, with one wall of windows looking out at the river and another looking toward the ocean, was spectacular — as was our dining experience.

Before making our summer travel column plans, we carefully set aside time at our camp on the edge of Baxter State Park, sometimes with our kids and grandkids, and getting “upta camp” is always special.

You can easily access columns about all of these summer highlights on my website, georgesmithmaine.com. In the Best of Maine section, select a town and you’ll get all the columns we’ve written about places there.

Our summers always end with a weeklong stay at Lubec Bay Cottage (www.lubecbaycottge.com), just a quarter-mile from where my mom grew up. The nearby sandbar is the best place to see migrating shore birds in the state.

There is one favorite summer experience that doesn’t end on Labor Day: ice cream cones at Fielder’s Choice in Manchester. Fortunately, I pass by Fielder’s Choice (OK, I have to swing slightly off my normal route) en route to and from Augusta.

Linda

It was really nice to begin our summer in April. While it wasn’t in Maine, our summer celebration of travel found warm weather and lots of first-time sightings of bird for us when we visited Arizona.

We started our Maine summer early with a trip to Monhegan Island and a three-day stay at the Shining Sails. It was a special treat to be able to stay longer than we had before (thanks to my retirement from teaching), and in doing so, we discovered many great trails that were new to us. It is a quiet island with lots of birds arriving daily in May.

I really enjoyed our first adventures in Ogunquit, back in May. We now know why the Marginal Way walk is so popular. The views are breathtaking. The stay at the Meadowmere, nature trails at Laudholm farm and the Rachel Carson Preserve were also great. But I think the most memorable meal of my summer was our dining experience at Bintliff’s Restaurant. My dinner of proscuitto-wrapped asparagus and tornados of beef Diane is still a standout in my memory.

We had a couple of wonderful discoveries of new eating places this summer, too. Our disappointment in not being able to try Vasquez Mexican Takeout last August has been forgotten now that we have visited twice this summer. What a find for authentic Mexican food, and to find it in Milbridge made it all the more special. On our last visit I had a tamale and a gordita unlike any I’d ever tried. And its green salsa has created a craving I am trying to fill by preserving my own this year.

Another great discovery was the Kel-Mat Cafe in Skowhegan. If you are looking for a great lunch place, this is it. Special sandwiches and wraps of an amazing variety await.

We ended our summer right back where we started it, in Lubec. At West Quoddy Lighthouse, we met a couple from Tennessee who told us, “We wish we’d planned to stay here longer.” And as we parted, they said, “We’re sure we’ll be back.” We are sure we’ll be back, too.

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