This is what I wrote Wednesday morning

It’s been a long old wait, but looks as if they have finally released Camel.  It has been a relatively nerve-wracking experience (if you are me, Tim has been as cool as a cucumber, or some other kind of refrigerated substance).  Firstly they decided to X-ray the container, then they were not happy with that, so they had to look inside (seeing the happy message ‘don’t follow me, I’m lost too!’ on the wheel cover must have told them straight away they were dealing with British eccentrics with a weak sense of humour, not international criminals) and now 11 days later we hear they are letting her go.  All this has cost us nearly $1600. Yay!  Oh well, seeing as this week has cost us about $500 in car-hire fees, and a lot more in hotel bills, this will still be a lot cheaper than hiring long term, staying in hotels and eating out.  I can’t wait to get back in the tent and to hit the road.

In the mean time we have been exploring the local delights that attract so many tourists. We came across this little chap in the car park

Chipmunk

We went out to dinner at a local Japanese steak house, which was great fun and a real experience

14 Pablo

Our chef (Pablo, a great Japanese name) put on a real show

13 fun grill

but he didn’t have a clue what was in the sauce bottles that he used so liberally.

15 sauces

It was, however, delicious.

 Sunday was a grey and rainy day, but we braved the weather to go into Portland (seeing this on the way) (no, we were not tempted to help pay for the release of Camel).

2 kidney wanted

Click on picture, please.

We wanted to have a look round and visit the tall ships festival (the modern definition includes schooners and other old-fashioned rigged ships, I am surely getting educated on this trip.)  After paying $10 to park on a Sunday (all the free on-street parking having long gone) we stopped for lunch in a friendly looking local bar.

17 beer 2

The bar owner looked very happy with the weather, as the downpour drove people in off the streets.  We ate delicious clam chowder and lobster bruschetta and Tim had a small tasting session of the local craft beers (they do four 5 oz tasting glasses). 

16 beer

One was so hoppy, it puckered my mouth tight enough that I could barely open it.  The rest were not bad at all.  

I wondered if this is how alligators capture small children

18 crock icecream

And we did try the cheese, but what can I say….

15 really???

It is a long way to the UK!

The ships were lovely and we paid to be able to go on them.  There were long queues to see the best, but we were content to amble along with the everyone else, until the fire boat decided to whizz past creating such a wash that the ships all shifted in their moorings and the safety lines came astray.  We then had to wait over an hour while the first mate instructed the young and seemingly inexperienced volunteers to make all safe. The Picton Castle was worth the wait to have a closer look. 

4 Picton castle

How anybody knows which rope to pull on is beyond me. 

20 ropes

It amused us that hardly any of the volunteers knew where the main flag came from (she was registered in the Cook Islands and was based in Nova Scotia). 

7 sails up

There was also a wonderful replica of a Spanish galleon, which would have made a great set for Pirates of the Caribbean.

3 pirate ship

I loved these tug boats

5 tugs

We also enjoyed

17 shoe car

20 lobster car

Are you getting a clue as to what is the Maine obsession?

I was intrigued to see a bit of the Berlin wall

21 berlin wall

and I loved this Maine version of King Kong

6 king kong lobster

On Monday we went Whale watching.  We were warned to get there before 11 am so we could get the cheap parking at $10 a day, but, of course it was completely full.  It ended up costing us $40 in the pay and display car park and we had ages to hang around to wait for the trip.  It was well worth it; the weather was perfect, the sea bright blue and in a gentle mood and we saw loads of wild life. 

22 Light house

11 island view

There were three different types of seals, harbour porpoises, gannets (yeh!),

22 gannet

juvenile boobies (met a few of those in my time as a teacher), two sunfish (one really close)

8 sunfish

and, best of all, several minke whales. 

9 Minke

One swam right under our boat several times. (‘Hello, do you want to be my friend?’).  There were also ospreys

11 osprey

On the way back they waited until I had fully stowed my camera away and then took us really close to an osprey nest, where we could see the nearly mature chicks very clearly. What a day!  We also heard they the vehicle inspector had asked for our paperwork, which was a sign of progress.

On Tuesday we drove down the coast to the south of Maine, enjoying the views

26 misty view

24 fine house

28 river view

and trying to find somewhere to stop for lunch in Kennebunkport (great name), a very pretty local tourist trap.  We found a car park where they let us in, picking up a ticket on the way through the barrier, but there were no spaces and about eight cars driving round waiting to pounce on anywhere left empty.  Gridlock is great fun when you are getting REALLY hungry.  At least they didn’t charge us for the 10 minutes we were stuck there, before we gave up and made our escape.

29 pretty bank

33 bridge

30 no fireworks

I wondered about this sign and thought it might be sour grapes, as they made fireworks in the next town along.  It could be all those wooden houses, however.

As we were driving back to our hotel a fire engine blasted past with flashing lights and blaring sirens.  Tim quipped that he hoped he hadn’t left the air conditioner on in our room.  Imagine our shock when we drove into the car park and there was the fire engine. 

27 fire engine

Our room was safe (phew), but some poor girl was stuck in the elevator.  My mum thinks she did it on purpose, so she could meet up with some hunky guys in uniform.

Wednesday Afternoon:

It was not easy to get the money to our agent (almost $2000, including the expected fees for the agent and transfers this end).  They do not have the facility to use credit cards, I could not work out how to transfer money between banks internationally, I didn’t think a British cheque would work, so I hit on the idea of sending a money order- you can buy them from the Post Office.  Our debit cards would not work in the post office machines nor could we use credit cards.  We found ATMs at two different banks and managed, through using our various debit, credit and money cards to just about draw out sufficient funds, at which point they put a block on our cards. (gulp!).  The money orders are now being sent by guaranteed overnight delivery, so fingers crossed it will work.  We are still waiting to hear when Camel will turn up at the local depot……… (It had better be by Friday, as our hotel booking runs out then)

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