Down East 2013 ©
Monica Kissane’s goal was simple: She wanted to work from home. Her husband, Rock Nadeau, wanted a career that would place him in the center of a community. They wanted to work together.
Nadeau suggested they buy a diner, to which his wife replied, “I don’t look like Flo.”
And so began the great bed & breakfast search that would eventually lead the Vermont couple — both former computer techies — to Freeport, one of the most popular shopping destinations in Maine.
“This allows him to do the breakfast thing — greasy spoons, slinging hash,” Kissane said cheerily after nearly five years here. “And for me, I don’t have to commute.”
Mornings you’ll find Nadeau flipping his world-famous blueberry pancakes in the kitchen of the White Cedar Inn Bed & Breakfast — a rambling white farmhouse on Main Street. Kissane, who likes to rise a little later, is in charge of making beds. Both clean. To prepare for the dramatic change in occupation, the couple enrolled in inn-keeping classes and chatted with innkeepers online. But finding the perfect inn proved harder.
“We started in Vermont because we thought we should do it in a place we know, but it just didn’t work out,” Kissane explained. It was the same with properties they visited in New Hampshire and New York, where the couple has family. Nothing fit.
“Finally,” she said, “it came down to, ‘We have to stop looking and get real jobs that pay.’”
So, Kissane and Nadeau transformed their search for the perfect inn into the search for the perfect place to live. The answer turned out to be Maine, which the couple had enjoyed during vacations here. On a lark, Kissane went to her computer and typed in the words “Maine B&Bs for sale.”
A picture of the White Cedar Inn, which had been in business for sixteen years, popped up.
“Would you look at one more place?” Kissane pleaded with her husband.
“Do you have pictures?” he asked.
She showed him the web site.
“Wow, that actually looks nice,” he admitted.
Soon after driving up, they made an offer. It was one of the few places they’d visited that actually looked the way it was advertised. One motel they’d seen previously, advertised that it had been completely renovated. Only once the couple checked it out, they discovered it only one room had been redone—the one in the picture.
Ironically, neither Kissane nor Nadeau realized that moving to Freeport meant living in one of the busiest shopping destinations in Maine. Sure, they’d seen the outlets and the L.L. Bean flagship store, but the magnitude of the mayhem eluded them until a couple weeks after they’d arrived. Kissane realized most their guests were coming solely to shop—hitting one side of the street on one day, the opposite on the other, and making returns on day three.
“I’m not a shopper,” Kissane said. “I didn’t really think about it. Yes, there is shopping here, but there is so much else. We are centrally located, so you could drive an hour from here and be in a totally different climate. I could give you directions to fifteen different lighthouses within two hours. You can take a day trip to Camden or Owl’s Head. Everything’s close.”
In addition to cleaning rooms and doing laundry, Kissane is determined to tell people how to have a good time—especially when it comes to dinning. “People will come in and say, ‘Where do we have dinner?’”
“Is this your first day in Maine or your last?” Kissane asks, explaining, “First day, everyone is going to eat lobster until they are green. Last day, the last thing they want is lobster.”
Once that’s settled, Kissane confidently sends them to any number of nearby places.
“Yes, there is shopping here, but,” she added satisfactorily, “that shopping also brought in really good restaurants.”
“I’m the breakfast place,” Kissane said. But for folks not staying at the inn—or for people who like to get on the road early—she suggests The Sunrise Café, 476 Route 1, 207-865-6115, which serves a hearty breakfast from 6 am including homemade buttermilk biscuits.
A favorite lunch spot is The Corsican Restaurant, a converted carriage repair shop at 9 Mechanic St., 207-865-9421, which makes its own dill bread, wheat rolls, and pizza dough. Kissane recommends the Chicken Pesto Pizza, which she says is the best in town. Although, if it’s your first day in Maine—or you’re just in the mood—lobster pizza is also on the menu in addition to lobster rolls, clam chowder, and an extensive pasta menu.
For dinner, Kissane and Nadeau often frequent the Jameson Tavern, 115 Main St., 207-865-4196, which is as historic as it is friendly, Kissane said, giving an example, “I go through the door and the bartender yells at me, ‘We’ve got your favorite wine back in stock.’” Two decades after it first opened in 1801, the restaurant garnered a place in state history when a handful of Massachusetts state commissioners met in an upper room and signed the document declaring Maine’s independence.
While shopping is always an option, Kissane and Nadeau—along with their golden retriever, Bre, spend most their free time outdoors. Few people realize just how many great spots Freeport has, she said.
“We hike here year round,” said Kissane, suggesting Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, 426 Wolfe’s Neck Road, 207-624-6080, just five minutes from the busy outlets. With 233 acres on the rocky edge of Casco Bay, the park is a favorite for walking, cross-country skiing, and snow shoeing (rentals are available at L.L. Bean). Additional trails are available at nearby Winslow Park, at the end of Staples Point Road, 207-865-9052, and at the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary, off Upper Mast Landing Road, 207-781-2330.
Or sharpen your ice skates and head to the newly opened Leon Gorman Park, at the end of School Street (parking is behind the Hilton Garden Inn), where you can enjoy a warming hut, fire pit, lights, and an outdoor pond kept free of snow thanks to a gift from L.L. Bean to celebrate the retailer’s 95th birthday.
In addition, Kissane frequently recommends the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery School, which offers guided excursions in everything from cross-country skiing and snow shoeing to family adventure trips and outdoor leadership training. Locations vary, but a list of classes is available by calling 1-888-552-3261.
For three enjoyably snug hours on the water, Kissane recommends the Casco Bay Lines Mailboat Run, 56 Commercial St., in Portland, 207-774-7871.
“That has got to be the number one thing we tell people to go and do, and they come back and say, ‘Unbelievable,’” she said.
For $13.50, you can sit in a heated cabin with large windows while cruising the icy harbor in comfort to the strains of a narrated tour. Winter, the boat departs at 10 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. daily.
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