Ba Ha Ba (Bar Harbour in Boston Accent!)

Trip Start Dec 26, 2012
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37
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Trip End Jan 15, 2013


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Where I stayed
Bar Harbour Regency
What I did
Acadia National Park, Mountain Island

Flag of United States  , Maine
Monday, July 22, 2013

We had an 8:30 leaving time the next morning. Most departure times were between 8-8:30 am, and breakfast varied as starting between 6:45-7:30am. I rarely got down before most others were already there! It was pretty intense in that sense. I usually like to sleep in at least once a week, but that wasn't going to happen on this tour, at least by design!





The journey this day was to take us to the nearby town of St Stephens, known as Canada's chocolate town. The Ganong family have a factory and a recently opened museum here. Ganongs is known for its claim to fame as being the first to produce a foil wrapped chocolate bar. (This happened because one of the brothers who founded the company used to go out fishing, and would put chocolate in his pocket, forgetting about it only to find a melted mess later on. He began wrapping them up, and the idea caught on, necessity is the mother of invention...!) The two original Ganong brothers originally opened a retail and grocery business in 1873, and initially sold sweets and chocolate as part of that. But to gain an edge on their competitors they began to specialise in certain things. Candy sealed their success, and longevity. They were the first to do a number of things, such as the heart shaped chocolate box, using cellophane wrapping they imported from France, developing and introducing Canada's first lollipop in 1895, the first 5 cent chocolate nut bar in North America in 1910, creating pink, cinnamon flavoured candies with bittersweet chocolate in the centre, known rather unappetizingly as chicken bones (!), using real fruit purée to make fruit snacks, and interestingly, they used Acadian heroine Evangeline as their symbol until 1978. Let's just say I'm pretty sure no one walked out of the door empty handed, and there was a scandalous amount of chocolate and sugar being consumed and shared on the bus shortly afterwards, with no one to tell us we were going to spoil our lunch!





We then crossed the US border at Calais, which the Americans pronounce as "callous", and not the more elegant French way. We all had to get off of the bus this time and walk into the facility to show our passports, while the officials went on and checked the bus, they trusted us going into Canada from America but not coming back! Perhaps they were concerned we had some wildlife stashed away somewhere, it certainly wouldn't have been a moose...




Lunch was in a small home style cafe famed for its delicious blueberry pie, in Mathias, an area of Maine known for its wild blueberries. Frank took us through the town centre of Augusta, which we'd basically bypassed on the way up, and we saw more beautiful historic buildings, including the domed capital building.





We had frequent glimpses of the lovely coastlines of Maine, as we continued travelling on towards Bar Harbour (pronounced Ba Ha Ba) in Maine accent! It's famed for its proximity to Acadia National Park, one of the most visited parks in America, and that wasn't hard to see why! Frank drove us through villages that in grander times were the haunt of the rich and richer, with houses that seemed more like mini mansions to our eyes. Bar Harbour and its surrounding areas became a huge draw for tourists and the social elite in the mid 1800's, popularized by artists and journalists. They would flock to the area each summer, even though accommodation and other facilities were very basic, staying with local farmers and fisherman in their simple cottages, and became known as "The Rusticators" by locals. By 1880 there were already 30 hotels competing for the tourists dollar. The huge houses the wealthier tourists eventually built inspired a new style, known as Cape Cod. I tried to get some photos but once again it was a bit hard when the bus was moving so fast.





The Arcadia National Park is to be found on a small island just off the coast of Maine, called Desert Park Island, however, it certainly does not resemble a desert. The first European records of the island were in 1604 by French explorer Samuel Champlain, who named it such when he saw the huge areas of bare sloping rock at the mountains summit.





This huge mountain is on one side of it, and we drove all the way to the top for incredible views in every direction. Lynda told us that she had never seen such perfect weather as we had that day, in that location. We could see all the way down to the small town of Bar Harbour, with boats, sailing ships and even a clipper in full sail dotting the bay. The park is one of the first established in America, and was due to the generous donation of thousands of acres of land from a visionary called George Dorr . It's the former haunt of millionaires such as Rockefeller, Morgan, Astor, Vanderbilt and Carnegie, whose families loved the quiet getaway from big city hustle and spent the summers there, building huge estates and mansions. That era of extravagance ended with a terrible fire in 1947 that raged for 10 days across the island, destroying many of these magnificent estates.




It was thanks to the power, influences and money of these social elite, however, that the preservation of the island has been set in place. Much of the credit goes to the ahead of his time conservationist George Dorr, who in 1901, formed a corporation that began buying huge areas of land for the preservation of use by the general public. He'd become concerned by the increasing development in and around Bar Harbour. By 1913 they had bought 6000 acres which Dorr then offered to the government. It wasn't until 1919 that President Wilson gave it full National Park status, the first one to be established east of the Mississippi River. Today the park consists of more than 47000 acres, including lakes, rivers, beautiful beaches and forests.




We had a lovely stay, even if it was only for one night, at the Bar Harbour Regency Hotel, right on the bay just a few km out of town. Our original group of 14 had our farewell dinner there, lobster again (steak for me and a few others for whom the novelty of shell cracking had worn off!) It was a fun, relaxed way to enjoy our final dinner together, the view out over the ocean was superb. It was easy to see why Barack Obama and his family had chosen to stay and holiday here. I wonder if the whole hotel had to be booked out to house all the protective service guys?!





Before dinner that night we had also driven all around the coastal drive, seeing more evidence of how the other half live. This included seeing several prominent American politicians houses, and that of former President George Bush senior. Apparently he and his wife spend most of their time here, rather than in Texas. A guardhouse, high fencing and an impressive looking black jet powered motorboat floating in the bay beside the house were the evidence that someone of status lived there. Apart from being huge, the house seemed singularly lacking in the New England charm and character I'd seen in just about every other house in the area, no matter what its size.





The final day was one of travelling back toward Boston, seeing our last glimpses of the beautiful Maine coastlines. Freeport was our stop for lunch, it's known as one of the first outlet towns in America, and as such was crawling with tourists bent on spending a lot of money on every designer name brand you can think of. I think a few of the guys were not too happy that we'd stopped there for lunch, and less so when Lynda suggested that we could choose to shop instead of have lunch, and buy something to eat on the bus, ha! A few of us just wanted to get out of the increasing heat, and retreated to the huge local retailer L.L Bean. I'm not a fan of big department stores generally, but this one had character and class, as well as a display of stuffed Canadian animals showing all those I'd seen so far, and many that I hadn't. I had to go to a department store to see Canadian animals, and they weren't even live ones....a bit embarrassing to admit that! Considering all the time I'd spent travelling in National Parks famed for them in the last 11 days...maybe when I get to the Rockies I'll have more success.





The final leg of our drive took us back into Boston. We dropped off 8 people at the Logan airport and the final six of our group were taken back to the hotel Omni Parker House in central Boston where it had all begun. So it was a series of goodbyes over several days, which was good in a way because you weren't trying to say goodbye to everyone at once, and not doing it properly.





The heat of Boston hit like the proverbial fan forced oven as I stepped off of the bus for the final time...it hadn't improved since I left, in fact, it was worse! I immediately began to regret that I'd been cheap on myself and booked accommodation sans air conditioning. No more 4 star hotels for me, it was going from princess treatment to the life of a peasant again. It sure was lovely to have your bags taken everywhere for you, luxurious bathrooms, delicious meals and warm and friendly company every day. I'm glad I had enjoyed it so much while it lasted.




Boston was beckoning to be further explored, and I intended to do just that.
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