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Friday, September 12, 2008

The Clean Feel of Bath, Maine


Article and Photo by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com


Bath, Maine, might not have the glitz and high-profile personality of nearby, famous coastal Maine towns, but what it does have is the authentic heart and soul of a lively, proud community.

What was meant to be a "stop along the way" for lunch turned into an instant love for this mid-coast Maine city that resembles the small towns of yesteryear we so happily grew up in. Other towns like this have crumbled and lost their downtown and overall community spirit, but Bath seemed to have kept growing while still keeping its personality intact -- the small city version of the "Little Engine That Could."

Sort of like a Mayberry RFD by the coast, Bath is laid back, and has a friendly, active downtown with people who say "hello" to you (and mean it) and stores that could only be in the center of a community -- not in the strip malls that obnoxiously permeate our urban and suburban world. For starters, there's the old-time feel of Reny's Department Store with just about virtually everything under the sun for sale at low prices, an independent drug store called Wilson's, Bath Books with over 15,000 used and new books, Stantons for footwear, and Sweet Delights for pastries and handmade sweets. Bath also features many antiques stores that add to the flavor of this quaint, little city that feels more like a small town. Additionally, one can get a taste of the Maine Maritime culture and heritage at the Maine Maritime Museum. We did not get to go, but hope to spend a few hours there next time to get a further appreciation of this remarkable New England culture.

We ate at a historic, little restaurant called J.R. Maxwell's, where I had the most delicious crab melt sandwich with Swiss cheese and a very impressive mixed greens salad with an unbelievably great vinaigrette dressing. What impressed me most about Maxwell's was something you don't get at most restaurants: a real sense of history. The building that houses Maxwell's was built in 1840 and was once an elegant hotel. You can see its storied past in the fine wood design and moldings, in the ancient brick, and the nooks and crannies of the building. Maxwell's is not your typical place for a meal, and that is why we enjoyed coming here so much -- it's a revelation to have historical ambiance and great food all under one roof.

Right on the Kennebec River, Bath is a wonderful coastal town, made for walking and exploring. You get the refreshing, coastal aroma in your senses, and the presence of long time industry passing by the massive Bath Iron Works, famous since 1884 for shipbuilding (Bath is known as the :City of Ships') and now a highly secure area with a mission to design, build and support complex surface combatants.

We'll return to Bath soon. We only stayed a few hours, but that immediate, positive impression the moment we entered Bath guarantees we'll be spending many more minutes in this wonderful, little city.
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