Sunday drive


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Eager to get out of the house this past weekend – with gorgeous, near-perfect fall weather – the decision was made to find a place we’d heard about several months ago. Not far from where I live, in fact just in the next town over, it supposedly featured some Victorian homes. “You should take a drive up there,” we were told in March, “It’s nice.” But with March weather and road conditions being what they were, we opted to wait for warmer months.

So we threw the cameras and a good map in the car and set off to find Roland Park. In my mind I had pictured something like Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, or Bayside in Maine. According to the map, the road to Roland Park went from rural to middle-of-nowhere, and dead-ended at a place called Dan Hole Pond. Over the years I’d heard what a beautiful lake this was: pristine, crystal clear water, very secluded, not easy to find. I’m still researching where its odd name may have come from.

It wasn’t long before the nice paved roads turned to dirt. We made a few wrong turns and ended up on one that announced that it was strictly private; very narrow with woods and big rocks all around, we kept going until we were sure we had made a wrong turn. Backtracking, we finally came across the pond – with the sunshine sparkling like diamonds on its surface – and we stopped to stretch our legs. It seemed we had Dan Hole Pond, high up in the Ossipee Mountains, all to ourselves.

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Now on the right track, we drove on (and up!) to find a tiny hamlet of old houses with sweeping views across the pond. In no way did this resemble the church camps I had pictured, though … these were BIG houses on large lots of land. We kept climbing, oohing and aahing at the houses and the scenery, and eventually we came across a spot that had views clear to Mount Washington. Many of the houses seemed empty and we walked into someone’s yard to get a photo. Surely they wouldn’t mind sharing that view!

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How in the world did anyone find this place, and why build these huge homes? They all seemed about the same vintage, and almost all of them looked updated and well-kept. The only sounds we could hear were the breeze and the birds; there were few signs of life anywhere. It seemed to be a place that was full of history, just below the surface, if only you took the time to look.

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So, later, I DID look. Roland Park, I read, is a community nearly forgotten for a century. It was officially born in 1894 when nine businessmen from Malden, Massachusetts, arrived on the noon train from Boston. Staying at a local inn, by the time they left they had fallen in love with the area and formed the Roland Park Land Company. (It’s believed that one of their wives named the area because it was “rolling.” That seems a stretch, but who knows.) In 1895 the first of the many “cottages” was built.

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The men of the Land Company laid out lots on 100 acres, and many of their friends came to visit and built summer homes. Eventually the colony boasted 26 houses; in just a few years the tax value of Roland Park increased 46 fold. Fire destroyed some cottages over the years, but many families have been here for generations. Summer life here was idyllic – hunting, fishing, hiking, boating and canoeing, croquet and tennis, picking washtubs full of blueberries. At the turn of the century the train trip from Boston to Center Ossipee took about four hours, and then the trip to Roland Park could take another two hours depending on the road conditions and the amount of baggage in the buckboard. (After reading this part I was a little embarrassed at our idea of being adventurous in an air-conditioned, Bluetooth-enabled, four-wheel-drive car.) The woods have taken over pastures and fields, but the beauty of this area remains. The strong sense of community balanced with a survivalist’s spirit still predominates.

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Photo Sep 14, 2 53 59 PM (Large)

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I suppose our finding Roland Park was nothing compared to those nine men from Massachusetts in 1894. At that point in time it must have seemed like the ends of the earth, and even today it is not easy to get to. We found another dirt road (with a sign warning that it was not maintained in the winter) and bumped along until we reached civilization again. Though the world has shrunk in the last hundred years, it’s good to know that places like this still exist – off the beaten path, a little wild, mostly unknown. Most people probably have never heard of Roland Park, and don’t care … and maybe that’s just the way they want it.

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Labor Day … the end of summer, beginning of the school year, kickoff to autumn, the long slide to winter …….

We can just stop there. We all know what’s coming.

So let’s forget all that, and instead spend a summer day in beautiful Kennebunkport, Maine. I know what you’re thinking: tourist trap. The Bush compound. An overabundance of tee-shirt shops.

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Yes, there is all that. But Kennebunkport has a long history, and while I won’t attempt to recount that here I will point out that the town came to be in 1653 under the name Cape Porpoise. Its inhabitants were driven off by the first Indian wars and returned to reorganize in 1718 under the name Arundel. In 1820 the name was changed to Kennebunkport, which was likely derived from an Indian word. In the early 1600s timber was harvested and a thriving shipbuilding industry grew; but as trade increased and larger ships became necessary the shallow Kennebunk River was unable to accommodate them. As in nearby Ogunquit, by the late 1800s tourists were coming via the railroad to enjoy seaside villages and the rest, as they say, is history.

The seaside communities known as “the Kennebunks” now include Arundel and Cape Porpoise, Maine.

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Lucky me, this town – and the Maine coast – is only a pretty hour’s drive from my house. If it were up to me, I’d be here once a week. Yes, in the summertime the crowds and traffic can be a nightmare – there is just one narrow road into town – but on this day we were blessed with surprisingly few other visitors. I found a parking place on one of the village streets, the perfect place to start to get to know K’port … right in the middle of all its glorious architecture.

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Colonial, Greek Revival, Federal … the grand homes here line the streets. I could spend hours here with my camera and never even make it to Dock Square. But we bypassed the photo ops and made our way to the charming center of town, giving in to the profusion of flowers, beachy décor, tourist whatnot and shops vying for our attention.

This is a wonderful place to wander. It isn’t big. Everything smells of salt air. There are pretty details around each corner. The sea glass jewelry was just begging me to fork over some dollars. At the end of the day all I bought was a lighthouse charm of sorts that will probably hang from a purse; it was six bucks. I’m a cheap date.

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Photo Jul 03, 12 26 03 PM (Large)

But you can spend lots of money here if you want to. There are gorgeous old inns, five-star restaurants, and handmade clothing and crafts. I remember years ago visiting here with my parents and I saw a pink sweater in a window calling my name. The tag on it said it was $200. My dad said he would buy it for me, but I couldn’t do it. Would I remember this moment so clearly if he had bought it for me? I don’t know. The gesture was enough. My mom found a bracelet that she loved with a price tag that stopped her, but later she regretted not buying it. I still look for the darn thing – or something similar – every time I get over here.

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Kennebunkport worked its magic on us and we drove home in the dark, with salt in our tangled hair and on our skin. I have a thing for anything sea-related, and my friend – who had never been to Maine – seemed happy enough with the experience. We’d visited a beach at Cape Porpoise and a French bakery in K’port, coffee and art galleries in Dock Square. I came home with photos and a six-dollar souvenir, and new memories with a good friend in a good town in a great little corner of Maine. Bring on the Autumn.

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Twelve thoughts

P1160660 (Large)“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”   [Ansel Adams]

P1150187 (Large)“The camera’s only job is to get out of the way of making photographs.”
[Ken Rockwell, Your Camera Does Not Matter]

P1010473 (Large)“The goal is not to change your subjects, but for the subject to change the photographer.”  [author unknown]

P1060902 (Large)“The photograph itself doesn’t interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality.”   [Henri Cartier-Bresson]

Photo Sep 22, 4 55 12 PM (Large)“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
[Ansel Adams]

P1080513 (Large)“Photography is all about secrets. The secrets we all have and will never tell.”
[Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper's Daughter] (I liked this book!)

P1010852 (Large)“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”   [Ansel Adams]

Smoky (Large)“I shutter to think how many people are underexposed and lacking depth in this field.”   [Rick Steves]

P1160105 (Large)“I think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it.”
[author unknown]

P1160107 (Large)“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.”   [Arnold Newman]

P1070007 (Large)“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”   [Elliott Erwitt]

P1160056_ (Large)“Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.”
[Peter Adams]

A walk in the woods

Photo Aug 20, 4 05 31 PM (Large)Though at first glance this may sound like a reference to the Bill Bryson book about hiking the Appalachian Trail (and if you haven’t read it, you should), it isn’t. I have never done a formal hike in my life, and while I’m pretty sure I have the stamina I do not have the footwear. That aside, a friend and I tackled a local hike today. Since I’m not quite sure what defines a “hike”, I choose to simply call this a walk in the woods.

Photo Aug 20, 3 48 41 PM__ (Large)It was a couple miles around this small pond. The afternoon was nearing 80 degrees, but under the trees it was cooler. The trail began in a wet area and continued on through pine, maple, beech and oak trees; we sidestepped the muddy areas and navigated mossy rocks along the path.

Anyone know what this strange little plant is?

Anyone know what this strange little plant is?

Emerging from the oak leaves and acorns is an Indian Pipe plant, which does not contain chlorophyll. It is a parasite and is not dependent on sunlight to grow.

Emerging from the oak leaves is an Indian Pipe plant, which does not contain chlorophyll. It is a parasite and is not dependent on sunlight to grow.

I had trouble with the multitasking – paying attention to the trail, marked by blue blazes on trees, and looking for the details along the way: strange little flowers and funguses, delicately patterned moss, mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and colors. The trail was alternately easy and challenging – in some places it went straight up, in others places it crossed small streams via stones. I kept forgetting to look for the blue blazes. Sometimes the trail opened up to the pond, which offered a mirror image with clouds reflected in the water. The only sounds you could hear were birds and the rustle of the breeze.

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Photo Aug 20, 3 55 36 PM (Large)Eventually the landscape changed and we came upon a beaver dam. Evidence of beaver activity was all around, and there was a small wooden bridge across the marsh (it bounced a bit when you walked across it, but still seemed sturdy enough…) We found blueberry bushes and watched an animal swimming across the pond – maybe a beaver but more likely a muskrat. The terrain was alternately open, pine-needle forest and thick undergrowth on both sides. None of it was difficult to navigate.

Beaver calling card!

Beaver calling card!

Photo Aug 20, 4 21 01 PM (Large)The terrain changed again on this side of the pond; we came upon an area that, compared to the rest of the walk, looked like an alien landscape. Glacial erratics – boulders to you and me – were deposited here centuries ago and still remain. Some were the size of cars! They were everywhere, spilling down the hill toward the water, and the trail meandered around and through them. (This IS the granite state, after all.) We even saw some pink granite, usually reserved for the Maine coast, and we wondered how many little critters found homes under the overhangs in the winter.

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Lichen decorating the sides of the boulders

Lichen decorating the sides of the boulders

The landscape changed again and the trail hugged the shore. We saw woodpeckers in the trees and crossed bridges made of flat stones. More mushrooms. Views of the pond with sparkles on the water that looked like stars. A tree that had fallen into the pond with its bare branches sticking up reminded me of ship carcasses I’d seen on the Maine coast. When we finally came to a small sandy beach, which was the end point of the hike, I was a little disappointed. I guess I wanted to keep discovering.

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Photo Aug 20, 5 19 12 PM (Large)So while this was nowhere near the caliber of the Appalachian Trail, it was a fine afternoon in a rural spot in New Hampshire. I think even Bill Bryson would approve.





House for sale

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I thought it might be fun to occasionally throw out into cyberspace some of the homes that are for sale in New Hampshire – from a more casual perspective (mine). Yes, I work in a real estate office but I am not licensed; I have no interest in these properties other than a general fascination with houses, especially old ones. It’s one of the reasons I thought working in real estate might be fun in the first place.

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This particular house, not far from my own, was built in 1798 and has been in the same family for generations. Once a stagecoach stop en route to the White Mountains, the house and tavern offered food, drink and lodging for overnight guests. A framed copy of an 1838 newspaper clipping in the front entry hall advertises transportation to these “stupendous curiosities of nature” from Tuftonboro; Peavey was the original owner and builder of this house. As for the standard real estate nitty-gritty, there is nearly 4000 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, five fireplaces, and a 30×36′ barn. It sits on just under two acres on a corner lot, and has recently undergone a structural restoration to the tune of $280,000. In other words, the house and barn are sound. The rest – the fun stuff – would be up to you.

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Oh, the possibilities that are here! Floorboards are at least 12″ wide and aren’t necessarily level; fireplaces are big enough to sit inside; doors and moldings are period; antiques look right at home here. It’s chock full of good New England crookedness – doorways go one way, ceilings go another. It’s doubtful that anything is square. Details include beautiful trim on the staircase, gunstock corners, and built-in cupboards. In the rear sitting room there is a parson’s cupboard: the parson in those days went from house to house, either because there was no church building or because the nearest one was too far for people to travel. The parson’s cupboard contained a Bible and perhaps a decanter of spirits to inspire him along his way. This particular cupboard still has its original paint (remember: 1798) and has some kind of list written on it in pencil. A conversation starter, for sure.

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The dining room has a huge fireplace and a beehive oven, once used as a sort of central heating system to the second floor. There are Indian shutters in a corner room, which helped regulate heat and cold at the windows. The kitchen has exposed ceiling beams, there is plenty of old hardware, and hey – I’d even keep the wallpaper. Classic New England, all of it.

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Photo Jul 18, 11 54 31 AM (Large)

Maybe the most interesting room of the house is the back sitting room – the one with the parson’s cupboard. The large paneled fireplace here faces an outside wall that has not been painted; it shows only splotchy color. In the corner you can clearly see where there used to be a grandfather clock pushed up against the wall, and someone simply painted around it. (I’d keep this, too!) Also – and this is my favorite feature – there is a ghost chair in the smoke chamber. Behind this fireplace there is a smoke chamber that was open to two other fireplaces, and a ladderback chair was placed here; it allowed a ghost to be quiet and not move about. Although the owner claims this house never had a ghost, she says that when the chimneys were rebuilt in 1950 they all stepped into the smoke chamber, saw the chair, left it in place, and never thought to take a picture.

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Photo Jul 18, 11 50 26 AM (Large)

It’s hard to imagine these houses in the times they were built – it’s so foreign to us now. By the same token, I’m sure the original builder never dreamed that someone in the year 2014 would be offering his house for sale. This is a beauty, and while it needs some work (some choppy rooms, bare-bones kitchen) it could be a showplace. If things were different I might consider it myself. Do you know anyone who might want a small piece of New Hampshire history? The asking price is $379,000. Just don’t disturb that ghost chair.

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Barn tour

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Madison County, Iowa has its bridges; but here in Madison, New Hampshire, they have barns – lots of them. Today the Friends of Madison Library sponsored a Barn Tour – I’ve had it marked on my calendar for months.

My reason to get excited about barns? Well, I’ve always liked them – as a kid we played in the hay and swung from ropes and sat in the loft looking out over our childhood kingdom. They also make great subjects for photography. But my main reason for going on the tour today was prompted by a comment left on one of my previous blog posts here.

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Awhile back I came across the bit of information that my favorite poet, e.e. cummings, lived in Madison. Since it is very near my house, I was thrilled – I had to go find it. I made the trip only to realize that it no longer is in the Cummings family and is privately owned. I could not bring myself to trespass on the Joy Farm Road, and was left wondering what the farm looked like.

So today – 2 years nearly to the day of that post – seven 18th- and 19th-century barns were open to the public … including Cummings’ Joy Farm. It was a self-guided tour, with NH Preservation Alliance on each site to answer questions. The day began at the Madison Library to pick up the tickets I’d ordered through the mail; also there was an art exhibit (featuring barns, of course) and bag lunches were available for purchase in case you wanted to picnic at the beach or in the library garden. (We did.) I was asked what kind of car I drove … ?? The reason for this was the fact that the road to Joy Farm is “primitive and steep” and maybe that fancy sports car might not make it. Luckily for me, I do not own a fancy sports car. My SUV would be just fine.

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Photo Jul 12, 1 19 41 PM (Large)

We followed the tour map and found the barns one by one. In this area it would be tough to throw a stick and not hit a barn; 150 years ago all these families in Madison lived on mostly self-sufficient farms. Some of the barns we saw were rugged and utilitarian; some still housed animals and some did not; and one had been converted to living space. One property owner did a demonstration of how thousands of pounds of hay were lifted into the loft of his barn … with a series of pulleys, iron grippers, and horses to do the pulling (today a couple of strong guys filled in for the horses). This loft could hold 300 tons of hay. Many of these barns were built with wooden pegs; the oldest, built c. 1795, was built on a loose fieldstone foundation and is as square and plumb today as the day it was built.

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We had our lunch on a bench in Kennett Park, next to a small beach on Silver Lake. There was no one else there. In the distance on the lake were a few kayakers and we knew that there were loon sanctuaries nearby. The water was so clear and shallow I had to wade in a bit. And I’d like to commend the person who made the chocolate chip cookies in that bag lunch!

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Photo Jul 12, 11 59 07 AM (Large)

The highlight of the day, though (for me, anyway) was Joy Farm. We had been warned about the road into the place and we were looking forward to a little adventure. It was indeed narrow, bumpy, and eventually little more than mown field. When finally we came to the clearing where the house and barn stood, all we could say was WOW. The driveway opened up to a gorgeous view of Mt. Chocorua and it was no wonder that Cummings loved it here. This farm was already a century old when his family bought it in 1898; he died here in 1962.


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A small display was set up behind the house, featuring some of Cummings’ original paintings, a few letters, and some old photos. The barn had a studio in the loft that was built so he could get away to a quiet place. Another getaway was the “gazebo,” a small building set at the edge of the woods; as we crossed the field to get to it we realized we were walking on blueberries and wild lilies. The gazebo, we were told, had not been built well and was slowly falling apart. That’s one of the things I liked about the Barn Tour: things are what they are.

e.e. was there in spirit, with a name tag on no less

e.e. was there in spirit, with a name tag on no less

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Bees? Trust me, we didn't go in the shed.

Bees? Trust me, we didn’t go in the shed.

At the end of the day I felt good about what I’d seen and heard – the stories, history and people of Madison. It made me love this area even more. One property owner told us that there was a female ghost in her house that she’d seen with her own eyes. One man told us about his grandfather’s livery stable, and another explained the workings of his barn as it was originally used. I, for one, am hoping that the Barn Tour is an annual event. And judging from the turnout I’m guessing that plenty of other people tonight feel the same way.

Well done, Madison!

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“when my soul – my self’s own self –
wasn’t wandering pasture & woodland,
its home was the barn. Savagely hand-hewn
timbers(held together,as nearly as I could
discover,by sheer love; with a wooden peg
now& again for luck)supported this dark big
coolish haven of enchantment.”
~ e.e. cummings, on Joy Farm

More information on the barn tour:



Beach day

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With out-of-town company this week, the focus was on showing off some of the beautiful New England towns within driving distance of my own. Yesterday, with temperatures in the 80s, clear skies and no humidity, we packed up and headed to Ogunquit, Maine.

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I had some serious reservations about this plan (even though it was my idea). In case you haven’t heard, the Maine coast is pretty popular in the summer. Route 1 can look like a parking lot. Parking is at a premium. And of course in addition to being a warm summer day, it was the Fourth of July weekend.

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But despite all this we went ahead with our plan. Ogunquit, which is an Abenaki Indian word meaning “beautiful place by the sea”, was originally a village within Wells, established in 1641. Fishing and shipbuilding thrived here, but the cove was unprotected and fishermen had to haul their boats ashore each night. In an effort to create a safe anchorage, they dug a channel to connect the cove with a river, and erosion further helped to widen the passage. The village, the tidewater basin and the 3+ miles of beach and sand dunes were eventually discovered by artists and it became a popular art colony and then a tourist area. The Ogunquit Art Colony was established in 1898 and over time hotels and inns were built to accommodate the summer crowds. Today it is alive with bright colors, vintage charm, flowers spilling out of containers, and the smell of the sea.

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The universe was on our side today. Although the traffic on Route 1 was bumper-to-bumper, it was moving. Or, crawling. We got what must have been the last parking spot in town, in one of the two town lots (even the attendant there told us “Ogunquit is full!”) We stopped for lunch at a café called The Wild Blueberry, just because my friend liked the name, and were seated immediately. There was live piano/cello music coming from the next room. She was taken with this town right away, pronouncing it Cute. I told her to just wait – by the end of the day she would be on Cute overload.

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Photo Jul 06, 3 06 45 PM (Large)My favorite part of Ogunquit is the Marginal Way, a mile-long footpath that meanders along the Atlantic shore. On this day, with the tide out, families had come to let their kids roam the sandy beaches and explore the rocks; we took off our shoes and waded into the cold water too. The Marginal Way, paved and mostly level, is edged with pink beach roses and bittersweet (not evident until fall), and punctuated by a small, purely decorative lighthouse midway along the path. We stopped at a little beach covered with smooth round blue-gray stones and searched for stones that were shaped like hearts.

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At the end of the Marginal Way lies tiny Perkins Cove. Here are a few restaurants, a handful of shingled shops, and a cove full of lobster boats. A little drawbridge allows for high-masted sailboats to pass, and for visitors to walk over to the other side. We walked the docks, visited the shops, breathed in all that good salt air, and got lemonade and onion rings on a waterside deck in the shade.

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By 7 pm we were tired – that good tired that comes from a day at the beach: salt-sticky skin, tangled hair, and definitely on Cute overload. But it’s all good. Even if that’s not what you’re looking for, finding Ogunquit is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s classic, simple, time-honored New England seaside goodness.

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