So yesterday morning my group of five travelers (ranging in age from 21 to 83) woke themselves up at the ridiculously early hour of 3:30am (12:30am West Coast time if you are counting) to catch a 6:15am flight out of Portland. We normally wouldn’t try to leave that early going East coast to West coast but we were trying to make a wedding on the West coast after seeing the play my daughter directed on the East coast the night before. Tough scheduling.
We had a non-eventful trip to the airport and then Gate. Very pleasant actually; no traffic from Freeport to Portland, easy car-rental return, easy Premier check-in line (thank you United) and TSA-Pre security. We like the choices for breakfast at PWM (Portland International Jetway): great breakfast bagel sandwiches at The Great American Bagel and Starbucks (I think there is also a Burger King for those so inclined). Am I the only person who eats low carb except on long air travel days because I just have to self-soothe on those days…).
We boarded the plane in a timely manner, and then the captain’s voice: “We have to power down the plane to re-set something.”. I exchanged a worry glance with our 21-year old traveler. Again “we have to power down again.”. It didn’t work and the mechanics were called. We sat for quite some time (I think 2 hours) and knew we were missing our connection at ORD (Chicago). I checked my United app and saw that as we sat our chance of making the wedding (2pm at Rough and Ready California) had slipped away, as were our chances of making it back to California the same day at all (we needed 5 seats). I got on the phone on eternal hold to the United Premier desk to try to see what we could do, just as the announcement that we had do de-plane came over the loudspeaker.
Turned out that the earliest they could get a replacement plane to the airport was 1:45pm (over 7 hours after the originally scheduled departure) and our only possible choice for making connections put us home practically 24 hours after we woke up. Exhausted, this seemed like a bad idea.
Turned out no one HAD to be home on Monday (no classes or in-office work) so we made the group decision to come home the next day. We decided to stay in downtown Portland instead of at the airport so we could at least enjoy it; I was able to quickly make reservations through my Marriott app for rooms at the Courtyard Marriott Portland Waterfront which is a favorite Portland hotel of mine; within walking distance of most of downtown Portland. Rooms here were very reasonable; $107 for a King or Queen room and $127 for King room with big couch and views overlooking Portland Harbor.
We had our luggage brought back up and went to the hotel. Our only major difficulty was of course no rooms were ready when we arrived. There is a huge lobby with couches and tables and internet and Starbucks coffee so we hung out there until we could badger the poor gentleman at reception to give us a room for our 83 year old who was reduced to snoring on one of their lobby couches. We walked around Portland also and found (as usual) some fantastic stores including Vervacious, where some amazing local flavored balsamic vinegars, spices and salts were purchased and sent for Christmas presents.
Once we got all our room (around 1:30; thank you so much to Courtyard Marriott for getting them ready as soon as possible) we took much-needed naps. Grammie Travelholic (our 83 year old) had not yet had a lobster dinner, so we took her to the Old Port Tavern that was walking distance and had a very nice (and very good) $17 lobster dinner special. Very casual pub that we enjoyed very well; they also have micro-brews. After dinner, we followed the recommendation of a Courtyard reception employee and found ourselves at The Bar of Chocolate, which was down a lovely pedestrian-only cobblestoned street with historic brick buildings on both sides. We don’t have many brick buildings in California so we all loved this street.
The Bar of Chocolate is now our favorite place for deserts and after-dinner drinks (really, drinks any time) in Portland. A small martini/wine bar/desert place, deserts we sampled included a rich chocolate and peanut butter cake, a dark chocolate torte, carrot cake (Mr. Travelholic’s favorite). and a German Chocolate Cake with Coconut. The deserts all came with a side of homemade whipped cream. As for me, I don’t drink very often but when I do I really love me a Martini, and I’d never had a chocolate Martini before. Well. Let me just say that the chocolate Martini was very delicious and the antidote to a very hectic and stressful travel day (as were the deserts).
Before we left, we noticed some beautiful Absinthe spoons on the wall of the Bar. The bartender (and I think perhaps owner?) of The Bar of Chocolate answered our questions on how you drink Absinthe and also its convoluted history of legality and illegality. The spoons on the wall are done by local artisans in Portland, and the Bar has an absinthe event each February.
So, we had a horrible travel day filled with disappointment, but then by making the best of it, an absolutely lovely bonus travel day in Portland, Maine. So my new travel motto is: When travel gives you lemons, make Chocolate Martinis.