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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.