Hilton Garden Inn on Commercial Street. As I travel a lot I have numerous free "award" nights available from about four different hotel chains. We decided on the Hilton chain because there is a Hilton Garden Inn on Commercial Street right in the Old Port section and I belong to the Hilton HHonors program. So I burn't some award points (only 35,000) for one night (still got about 130,000 left). We checked in early and got a room on the 5th floor overlooking the harbor; normally I wouldn't think they would offer a "Rewards Stay" a waterfront view - however the hotel wasn't exactly packed with guests due to being just after Christmas. One concern we had prior to arrival was parking. However, Portland has lots of parking garages available within walking distance of this hotel. The hotel also has valet parking ($15.00 for parking plus tip for the valet); for ease we went with the valet parking. From our room window it was a pretty scene of the waterfront and Casco Bay with the snowflakes coming down; not a heavy storm but enough to add atmosphere. The hotel has a small pool, small fitness center, a lounge and bar, and a restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner. The two pictures of the Old Port waterfront were taken from our hotel window. (65 Commercial Street, 207-780-0780, Old Port Hilton Garden Inn)
Late Lunch. Upon arrival (we had an early check-in) we settled in, unpacked, and said "Let's eat". We went out for a walk to explore the area and soon came upon a small restaurant that looked inviting. It was called the "Farmer's Table". There were tables and a small bar; we chose the bar. My wife had butternut squash soup, half of a Rueban sandwich and hot chocolate. I had onion soup, half of a Rueban sandwich (the other half), and a Shipyard beer. Not a bad lunch - but a little pricy. The Farmer's Table has an upstairs as well which will afford quieter dining. (The Farmer's Table, 205 Commercial Street, Portland, ME 207-347-7479). The website for The Farmer's Table is: http://farmerstablemaine.com/. (CORRECTION: I have been informed by my wife who just read this post that the meal at the Farmer's Table was EXCELLENT!).
Walk-About. We walked around after our late lunch. It was quiet with a little snow falling. Fore Street was nice to look at with its old historic looking facades, cobblestone street, restaurants, bars, and shops. But soon we were back to the hotel to warm up and take a nap.
Dinner. We had dinner (a late one at 8:00 pm, at least late for us) at a place called Ri Ra. I had never heard of it. It is an Irish Pub / Restaurant. I looked it up online and it appears that it is a chain with ten other stores up and down the East coast. What looked to be a small Irish pub from the outside (street view) is in fact a large pub (downstairs) and very nice restaurant with a water view upstairs. My wife had a macaroni dish (very good) and I went with the lamb stew (delicious). The service was great (thanks Michelle) and atmosphere was very nice as well - given the fireplace and view of the harbor through the very expansive glass windows. Ri Ra was located just across the street from the Hilton Garden Inn - see the top picture - it is the two-story building.
Pub Scene. Afterwards we went downstairs to the Ri Ra pub. The entertainment started at 10:00 pm. Ri Ra (according to its website) has entertainment from many different bands throughout the week. This evening was a band called "High Beam". Not my cup of tea; but I was easily 20 years older than the rest of the crowd listening. After an hour my wife and I rolled our eyes and decided to walk off dinner.
A Late Evening Stroll. The night scene in the Old Port is great if you are in your 20s or 30s. Lots of places with live entertainment and even on a cold winter Saturday night the sidewalks were crowded with young folks going from bar to bar. It was the night after Christmas so the lights were still up. A nice place to be at. Next time we come we will have to visit the Comedy Connection or perhaps find a jazz club. But for now; back to the hotel so we can be in bed by midnight!
A Rainy and Windy Sunday Morning. We woke up to a rainy day. The wind was blowing and carrying the seagulls to and fro. We didn't see too much boat activity on the water. By this time all the sailboats are gone and anyone else isn't going out in bad whether unless they have to. The island ferry was still on schedule and they could be seen docking and departing right from our hotel window. We also saw the police boat and a few other utility type boats come and go on this cold Sunday morning.
Breakfast. We skipped the walk around the neigborhood. The wind was blowing and rain coming down. Instead we went with the buffet breakfast and had omlettes to order. Very good.
On the Road. It is time to pack up and go. Glad we went with the valet parking. The staff will bring the car around to the front door for us where it will be sheltered from the elements as we load up.
Return Trip. We had a wonderful time. We plan on coming back again for another Saturday night stay. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. If you want to learn more about Portland, Maine click on lodging, dining and recreation for Portland.