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Portland, Maine

Text by: Julia Knapp

It is my great fortune to work in a capacity that allows me to travel 10 months out of the year. I consider myself somewhat of a "roadie." Touring from town to town every few days, I've seen more of this country in the past two years than most people will in their lifetime. It's not always easy, but it is a life I love. The anticipation of looking over a tour schedule to see what beloved cities I'll be returning to or what new towns await exploration is a feeling that fuels my soul. This is how I was lead to discover a surprising little gem in the far Northern East Coast: Portland, Maine.
© Julia Knapp

When first encountering this city on a tour schedule, I assumed it to be Portland, Oregon, a place I know and love very well. But then I thought, "What a very out of the way stop to fall between Burlington, Vermont and Northampton, Massachusetts." As I looked closer I noticed it was Portland, Maine not Portland, Oregon and felt the pang of excitement I always get when I know I'll be going someplace new. It was early February when I first experienced Portland, and thus windy and cold, but I bundled up, grabbed my camera, and made time for a "treasure walk," as I've come to call these routine excursions out and about in each new town. I wasn't quite expecting to find such an artistically diverse, progressive, and bustling little city.

As I wandered up and down Congress Street and Cumberland Avenue, I was surprised to find two art institutes, as well as many small, art galleries lining the streets. I stepped into a few, partly to take a break from the chilly air, but mostly to absorb the beauty and creativity alive along those streets. I spoke with one local, gallery owner who told me about the "art walk," a free event on the first Friday of every month during which all the galleries and museums open their doors for the public to come and have a look. I was impressed by the emphasis this community put into their artistic scene, one that could rival that of many cities much larger than this quaint, little town.

© Julia Knapp

On the corner of Congress and High street, I became increasingly intrigued with the architecture of one brick building with semi-circular arches lining the top. As I was in town for multiple days I found myself photographing it from many angles and different times of the day. I loved how the sunlight came streaming through one of the arches and cast a glowing crest on the sidewalk before me. Upon further exploration, I discovered this to be the Portland Museum of Art. Another surprising gem within a gem housing 17,000 different works of art ranging from glass and ceramics to surrealism and impressionism, fittingly located in the heart of this art-loving community.

My excursion next led me to the Old Port area of town, home to cute and kitschy souvenir shops and amazing restaurants. It was down here I was first introduced to a "Lobster Roll". Never before had I heard of this scrumptious treat, but I was in Maine, after all, and one must try lobster while here. On local referrals, I went to Portland Lobster Company and found lying before me a yummy, buttery roll packed with fresh lobster meat, drizzled with more butter and lemon. My mouth waters even now as I write about this beautiful masterpiece, art in its own right!

© Julia Knapp

I know someday soon I will once again see the now familiar Portland, Maine listed on a tour schedule, and though it won't be a new town to explore, there is still much to discover. Like the beautiful lighthouses that line the jagged coast of Maine, a coastline, which if driven would equal the length of a drive across the whole United States, or so says a native Mainers. Or the beautiful forests and mountains so close by. I also hear it is home to famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow whose home is an historic landmark right downtown. I will return to Portland, maybe just for a day or two (hopefully a Summer day!), and I enthusiastically anticipate the many more gems and treasures that await me there.