Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 2—A Little Warmer

Day 2 in Portland brought nicer weather wise. It was windy yesterday but not nearly as cold as the day before. The inn provides breakfast in the dining room, and so far it has been a treat. One morning we sat with a couple from Boston, and they gave us tips on what to see and do while we had roasted veggie fritattas. Yesterday, it was just the two of us, and we were served stuffed French toast. It was basically dessert for breakfast but very good dessert.

After that, we walked to the art district and toured the museum of art. The main building was designed by I. M. Pei (and partners) and looks like this. There was noisy construction going on in the lobby, so there was no fee to enter. I was expecting the American painters—Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer—but I did not expect to see Monet and Cassatt and Renoir. There were a few pieces by these and others, so every room was a surprise.

There was also an exhibit about exploring the arctic with photos of Admiral Peary and his wife along with maps of the Americas dating back to the 1500s.

And there were lots of portraits of your basic early New Englanders. This particular one caught my eye—aunt of the painter, the plate said, but I suspect it was more the uncle in drag.

And there was a gift shop. I nearly bought a finger puppet but decided against it.

And outside was this poor tortured soul made of wire and stone.

I'm sorry this isn't a more intelligent review of the museum, but I'm afraid I'm no art expert. After the museum, we walked down the street and had lunch at a Somali restaurant. I had goat and a great fried bread and the best chai tea ever. We stopped for coffee later and then relaxed at the inn for a while.

This part I'll call Day Two Part Two. We went back down town and had dinner at a great place that features local organic meat, although neither of us was in the mood for beef or pork. Then we went to the symphony and heard an amazing violin concerto—Beethoven—and the Portland Symphony. They were immaculate with such a unified string section and subtly. The second half of the concert was Tchaikovsky's Pathetique which was absolutely beautiful. It began with a melancholy tone, built to something hopeful, and then ended on such a somber note you almost hated to applaud and ruin the silence. I wouldn't have minded being allowed to sit quietly for a few minutes.

But here's an experience that really stands out for me. As we were turning the corner to go to the auditorium, I heard a street musician but couldn't see him. As we rounded the corner, I saw an older man, kind of scruffy, sitting on a stool and picking at a banjo, and he was singing while his friend stood by and hummed along. And can you guess what he was singing? I couldn't believe it—I'll Fly Away. If you read my post last week and the related editorial, you'll know why that would have made me stop in my tracks. I quietly sang a few lines with the old guy, threw a dollar in his banjo case and told him that my father used to play the banjo and sang that song quite often. He stopped playing, put his hand to his heart, and said "then it should happen again right here." And he finished the song. It was an amazing moment. And weird, wouldn't you say?

So, that's day two in Portland. Today is Boothbay and who knows what else.


PF said...

Oh my, the old man and the banjo story gave me goose bumps...when you said he was singing "I'll Fly Away"...well...wow!
Hi to #1 :)

Rich said...

So you're getting a good dose of Maine winter in Spring. Nothing beat New England weather.

Anonymous said...

Great day! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

MmeBenaut said...

I'm amazed at how much you can fit into a day Robyn! The art was interesting - lady in drag very funny - concert sounded wonderful and the last story also gave me goose bumps.

Sorry I've been missing for a few days but we've had visitors and I've been running around like a headless chook looking after them. Have a few minutes today to try to catch up.

dive said...

No art expert, Robyn?
You most certainly are!
Who was it - when walking around the Tate in London - suddenly pointed and yelled "That man's got no trousers on!" at the now infamous Elizabethan painting? You had noticed something I had missed on many visits. Hee hee.

The museum looks wonderful, though I think you do a disservice to the New England lady; a few decades of Puritanism - living in fear of fun and happiness - would make even the prettiest girl look dour and grumpy.

The symphony sounds a fabulous experience, though not as amazing as the lovely old busker bringing back those memories for you. How lovely.

I do enjoy your travelogues, Robyn.