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Thursday, June 2, 2011


 Lea Wait, author of the Agatha-nominated Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, also write acclaimed historical novels for young people set in Maine. Today she stops by as our guest travel blogger to tell us a bit about Winslow Homer’s Maine coast. Read more about Lea and her books at her website.  -- AP  

Maine Coast by Winslow Homer, 1894

Winslow Homer's Maine Coast

I haven’t taken any polls, but as a long-time Mainer, I’ll take an educated guess that the top two mental pictures that people have of the Maine coast when they purchase an airline ticket for Portland, or head Down East along route 95 are a) white surf crashing on rocks and b) red lobsters, hot from the fire and ready to crack and eat. (Lighthouses, puffins, handmade crafts, antiques, art galleries, farmers’ markets, gourmet restaurants … they’re on the list, too.  But nothing beats surf and lobsters!)

If you’re thinking of heading Down East I can’t add anything to your lobster experience except to advise you to 1) beware of any restaurant that adds anything but a trace of butter or mayonnaise to a lobster roll (which should always be toasted,) 2) never eat a lobster more than a couple of hours out of the water, and 3) try to go to an old fashioned lobster bake. Nothing like lobster, clams, corn, potatoes, onions, and eggs baked in seaweed to make you feel like a real Mainer.

But – surf! On that subject I have advice. Whether you fly or drive, you’ll be close to a place most people miss. The place where those classic images of Maine surf that you’re imagining right now originated. 

Winslow Homer, the greatest American artist of the nineteenth century, lived in Prouts Neck, Maine, from 1883 until his death in 1910, and painted surf that still captures our imagination. You may even know that.

But - here’s the part you might not know. You can go to see Homer’s surf.

I know, because I’ve done it.  There aren’t any signs, so, print out this page, and listen well!

Take route one south from Portland to Scarborough, and then follow signs east to Prouts Neck. When you get close to the ocean you’ll see the Black Point Inn on your left. Drive into their parking lot, and park in the back. Then go into the Inn. (Eat there if you’re hungry – it’s a wonderful inn, and has a wonderful restaurant. The Black Point is the only one left of the grand inns which were common on the Point in Homer’s time.)

Someone at the front desk will give you a map of the point, showing the “cliff walk,” and where Winslow Homer’s home/studio (one building) is.  It’s not open to the public now, but will be in 2012, if restoration work is on schedule. 

Taking the 1.5 mile cliff walk is a bit of an adventure.  Make sure you’re wearing sneakers, and be prepared for a bit of a hike. But also be prepared for beautiful scenery, breakers, small hidden beaches – and the scenes that Winslow himself saw and painted over a hundred years ago.

And if you can’t make it to Maine, check out the book I wrote after going there myself.

Shadows of a Down East Summer: An Antique Print Mystery. Part of it is the diary kept by one of the young Maine women who posed for Homer in 1890. What happened that summer, the secrets the women kept, the lies they told, changed their families forever.  Now one of their descendants has been murdered … And Maggie Summer, an antique print dealer today, must find out which family myths are true before someone she cares about becomes the next victim.

Reading it is almost as good as a trip to Maine.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Lea, and giving us a little taste of Maine. -- AP

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