Friday, September 04, 2015

Anatomy of a Hotel Bill

We've been on the road a fair amount this year going on vacation, visiting the parents to celebrate milestone birthdays (theirs, not ours, we're still 29 and holding!), going to a wedding. We've seen it all now in regard to fees and service charges levied by hotels, airlines and restaurants. 

It's been in the news a lot lately, too. Famous restaurants with $310 'tasting' menus tacking on an additional 20% 'service charge' that went nowhere near the pockets of the actual servers who waited on the guests. (Now, it is noted, the extra fee tacked onto the bill is called an operational charge. What?)

And our favorite airline, Jet Blue, has now instituted a baggage fee. (Let's hope they lowered the price of the ticket then.)

So now we come to my favorite set of add on charges - hotel fees. Hopping back on the bandwagon, the $2.4 billion/year bandwagon, hotels are now set to charge extra for selecting a room near the elevator, away from the elevator, near the pool, away from the pool, on a top floor, on the ground floor. Yes, you can now pay extra just skip the line at the front desk. So, if everyone skips that line, you know the line is going to be somewhere else and you just PAID to stand in it! (BTW, worst time to check in in Vegas? 11 PM. No lines at 2 PM.)

You've seen these fees, right? You find that perfect deal at a hotel, lower rates than anyone else around. The pictures look great - swimming pool, festive drinks, there's even what looks like a guest pantry in one photo stocked with anything you might want for a late night nibble!

You happily plug in all of your info online, or you wait in a phone queue for fifteen minutes delighted you're getting such a sweet deal. Then comes the final tally, which you may be hit with at check-in after a 7 hour flight!

  • Room charge: $159/night
  • Resort fee: $19.99/day
  • Parking fee: $10/day
  • Breakfast: $15/person

What happened to your deal? (Even if your room started off much lower, don't you feel just a little nickel and dimed when you see the bill? You were going to spend that extra $44.99 on the slot machines! You were gonna make it all back so your vacation was free!)

My daughter asked what the resort fee covered. WiFi in the lobby (no access in the rooms), a 'free' newspaper, swimming pool (closed in January when we were there). That's what we paid the extra $19.99/day for - WiFi in the lobby. We never found the place where they hid the free newspapers.

We don't like surprises anymore than you do. That's why here we include everything. (Except the tax, and we do have to collect it!) Your room price covers:

  • WiFi access so you can work or goof off when and where you like - in your jammies at 2 AM if you choose! On the front porch. In an Adirondack chair out on the lawn. In a comfy chair in your room.
  • All the coffee, tea and juice you want with your freshly prepared breakfast. Maybe Maine blueberry pancakes, maybe our crowd favorite Tuscan eggs. Table service with no tipping or 'operational charge' added on.
  • Parking.
  • Concierge services to help you plan your day or find the best place for lobster roll. (And we do know where that is.)
  • A coffee and tea bar with snacks that you can help yourself to at any time. 
  • Feeling peckish at 5 AM? Pop down to the guest pantry and help yourself to a bowl of cereal or a granola bar and watch the sun come up.
It's all included. So, pick up the phone and give us a call. We won't hit you with random fees. The price you see is the price you get. Plus tax. Gotta pay the taxman.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Goat Cheese and Chocolate Puff Pastry

Goat cheese and chocolate puffs

Searching through the photo files I came across this beauty and realized I never posted the recipe! Let's rectify that situation right now.

Ingredients: (makes 8)

4 oz goat cheese
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 pkg of puff pastry (2 sheets)
2 oz chocolate, chopped (dark or semi sweet; for milk chocolate don't add sugar)
1 beaten egg for washing pastry
1 tbsp kosher salt (chunky salt, not table salt)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If puff pastry is frozen, let sit for 20 minutes unwrapped before trying to unroll.

In a small bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients.

Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface. Cut into 8 squares. Divide the cheese mixture evenly into the center of the 8 squares. Top with chopped chocolate. 

Fold one corner (A) of the pastry almost to the opposite corner (B). Brush top with egg wash. Fold (B)corner over top. Your pastry should be long and open at the ends. Brush whole pastry with egg wash and sprinkle a little coarse salt on top. Place pastries on parchment paper covered baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm or cooled.

Alternative: use cream cheese instead of goat cheese. Add nuts or dried cherries.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Find It Used in Freeport!

So, last week I decided to check out all the cool places in Freeport to find the antique, unique and off the beaten path kinds of fun stuff you love to bring home from a vacation. And, it doesn't hurt that you're supporting local small businesses, artists and crafters. All of the businesses, and one non profit, mentioned below are owned and operated by local folks with a passion for what they do.

Without further ado - Freeport's Antiques and Uniques: (click the pin to show the detail or click the list link at the far left on the map)

A cool map of secondhand, used, antique and unique shops in Freeport, Maine.

The map above is laid out to start at White Cedar Inn. All of the pins have the address of the business and distance from here. Total distance from A to J? 4 miles. Easy peasy. 

Starting at J and working back, we have Pillars Antiques. 125A US Rt 1 Freeport, Maine 207-869-5164 At the Big Indian.

A remarkable collection of indoor and outdoor furnishings and decorative arts. Laid out in 'rooms' so you can get a sense of how everything will look. Lots of little nooks and crannies. Go ahead, poke around!

You can also stop here for lunch at the Old World Deli or dinner at Conundrum. (Caveat - Google maps, and possibly some GPS units think this address is in South Freeport, it is not.)

Pillars Antiques
Who doesn't need a mask to hang on the wall?

Pillars Antiques
Wonderful summer furnishings for your porch

Next stop is I - Two Brothers Books. 176 US Rt 1 Freeport, Maine 207-865-9524 

I have avoided stopping in here for 11 years. Why? I'm a book hound. I figured if I ever went in I'd never come out. As it is, I went in just for you, dear reader. (Ha! Do you really believe that?) Of course, I found books I knew they would have and that I should just have picked up years ago. Namely, some copies of books by Donald MacMillan and his wife, Miriam. Not to mention the miles of books I didn't stop to admire. Although, I was particularly taken with the novel (ha, ha) use of old closets for various book genres. I have to check out the postcard collection next time. I love framing the old scenes of Freeport and hanging them in the guest rooms here.

If you're a book fiend, plan a few hours in here, it goes on for miles. As a good old used bookstore should.

Two Brothers Books
The shelves go on forever.

Onward to H - Maine Wicked Goods Mercantile. 304 US Rt 1 Freeport, Maine 207-869-5251 

This is your Freeport home for all things Moxie. That's what I thought going in. Little did I know they also have a large collection of Chart jewelry, Lobstering Is An Art note cards, and Buoy Bob's Buoy Bats along with their ever-expanding collection of oddities, antiques and uniques. 

Need an antique hooked rug? Carved shore bird for the mantel? A set of juice glasses and pitcher with camels painted on them? This is the place for you! And don't forget to pick up the Moxie while you're here.

Maine Wicked Goods Mercantile
Hooked rugs galore.

Maine Wicked Goods Mercantile
Wicked good 'aht'.

Maine Wicked Goods Mercantile
Chart jewelry - a lovely gift for the person who's far away from Maine.

Next up is G - Freeport Emporium 291 US Rt 1 Freeport, Maine (Google maps also thinks this location is in South Freeport, it is not.)

Housed in exactly the kind of old barn you know has the sweetest finds, Freeport Emporium has 2 floors of everything you might think you want in an antiques, uniques and flea market type setting. Including some uniquely repurposed skis, gas cylinders and more.

Had I not been on a quest to get to each of these different stores in under an hour, I could have poked around in here for the full hour and then some! It's always fun to see how creative people can take something useless (beat up stereo cabinet) and turn it into something funky and functional (drinks trolley).

Things move quickly here, so don't dither! You see it, you like it, you buy it.

(Side trip - about 30 feet - stop in at Shard Pottery down the driveway to the right.)

Freeport Emporium
Even the layout is inviting.

Freeport Emporium
You know you need that tres 90's wedding dress!

Freeport Emporium
School of fish? Yeah, they have that.

Moving on is F - Great Stuff! 475 US Rt 1 Freeport, Maine 207-865-1000

Great Stuff! is a consignment store where you'll find lots of interesting newer pieces and refurbished older furnishings. Most items are in their original condition although, again, crafty folks have converted some kind-of-blah pieces into fun decor.

Getting a little peckish after your hours of traversing all these neat second hand stores? Pop into the Sunrise Cafe for lunch. Or, across the street at Cindy's for lobster or clam roll. You're also close to Maine Beer and Buck's BBQ. (More on drinking your way through Freeport in another blog.)

Nearby is E - Sweet Repeats Children's Clothing Consignment. 554 US Rt 1 Freeport, Maine 207-869-5179

Full disclosure, I've not stopped in here. Yet. There are no little ones growing out of clothes every month here. However, I've heard good things from guests who've happened on the shop while poking around in Cuddledown or popping into Buck's for a brew. It makes no sense to pay full price for little kid's clothing when you know, you just know, they are going to have messy fun in that cute little $88 Lilly Pulitzer overall set two minutes after you let them out of the house!

Getting closer to the inn is D - Annie's Book Stop 18 Independence Dr Freeport, Maine 207-865-3406

This is my go to used bookstore for reading material for my book group. It's close enough that I can go out for a walk and accomplish several things at once: exercise, poking around in a book store and carting home some new favs. You can also trade in books here.

Next up is C - Freeport Community Thrift Shop 53 Depot St Freeport, Maine 207-865-3985

The small thrift shop filled with clothing right at the entrance is only the beginning. Downstairs is where they store the big pieces like furniture, lamps, art work and dishware. Don't forget to check out the senior's little section at the top of the stairs. I've gotten some cool (new) Maine tote bags there!

Almost home now, B - New Beginnings Consignment Boutique 27 Bow St Freeport, Maine 207-865-7078

Adult clothing, shoes, jewelry and more. Follow them on Facebook! They'll let you know when a big consignment has come in, like a couple of years ago when they got bags of cashmere and wool sweaters just in time for fall. I scored a funky Woolrich sweater with sheep on it.

OK, now we're headed back to the inn with tons of fun and funky Maine gifts for friends and family. Oh, what's that you say, you bought it all for yourself? Not to worry, there's always tomorrow.

Many of these stores do not have websites, but quite a few have Facebook pages. Look them up and follow them online for insider tips on new items in stock! Be sure to say White Cedar Inn sent you when you wander into one of these eclectic shops!

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main Street Freeport, Maine 04032

Did I miss something? Let me know!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Devil's Back Trail - Harpswell, Maine

Devil's Back Trail Harpswell Maine
Devil's Back Trailhead Marker
We're always looking for new places to hike in all seasons. We hit the Devil's Back Trail in May while on a loop around Harpswell. I can't say how many times we've driven past here and never noticed it. It's kind of embarrassing! There is the close-to-the-road sign above and there is a nicely sized parking area right across the road. Hard to miss. And yet I have, many times.

The trails meander around through pine woods and along the coast. There are a few spots where the trails cross and definite markers that you've reached the end of the town property. We didn't have time to walk the whole trail, so we'll leave it to you to find the places we missed. Bring along a picnic lunch and enjoy it on the small beaches or large rocks along the coast.

Download a trail map here.

Here are a few photos from our day on the trail:

Devil's Back Trail Harpswell Maine
Along the trail - rope hand holds

Horseshoe crab

Long Cove Orr's Island Harpswell Maine
Lobster boats on Long Cove

'Rocks' on the trail

Lester's Bench Long Cove Orr's Island Maine
Lester's Bench looking out at Long Cove
To get to Devil's Back Trail from White Cedar Inn:

Go north on Rt 1 (in front of the house) to the exit for Cooks Corners - Bailey Island. At the stop light go straight. Stay on Rt 24 across Great Island to Orr's Island. As you come around a long, left curve you'll see the bridge to Orr's Island. The parking area is on the left after a couple of side roads/driveways. There are boulders demarcating the parking from the road. Across the street is the trail.

You could spend a whole day traversing the islands, meandering down side roads to the towns at the end of the peninsulas.

Combine this with a trip the Giant's Stairs,Bowdoin College Coastal Studies Trail and a stop at Land's End for some fudge! And don't miss the many lobster pounds and restaurants along the way.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pemaquid Peninsula Day Trip

Pemaquid Point Light
Pemaquid Point Light
The Pemaquid Point loop drive from Newcastle to Bristol to New Harbor to Waldoboro is a truly scenic drive at any time of year. Pemaquid Point Light is open in the summer so you can go right up into the light (weather permitting).

Starting out early in the morning is the best way to take in most of the sights. There will always be something you missed that needs another day to see!

Here are some highlights you can enjoy on your day trip to Pemaquid Peninsula:

Pemaquid Harbor
Pemaquid Harbor

Fort William Henry
Fort William Henry

New Harbor lobster boats
New Harbor lobster boats

lobster roll at Shaw's on the harbor
Lobster roll at Shaw's on the harbor
Artist at work

Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve
Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve

Hauling the lobsters
Atlantic white sided dolphins Muscongus Bay
Dolphins in Muscongus Bay
Franklin Island light
Franklin Island Light from Hardy Boat

puffin with fish
Puffin bringing home the (bacon) fish

puffins Eastern Egg Rock
Quiet refuge on Upper Round Pound Rd

Picnic at Muscongus Bay Lobster

Old Rock Schoolhouse
Old Rock Schoolhouse
So, how do you go about following this route and seeing these sites? Route 1 North from White Cedar Inn to Newcastle. Take Rt 129 across the bridge to Damariscotta. (Stop at Reny's - A Maine Adventure) Follow Rt 129 to Rt 130 to Fort William Henry. Leaving the fort, continue to the end of Rt 130 to find Pemaquid Pt lighthouse.  (If it's a hot day, look for the Bristol Swimming Hole for a dip in the cold, moving water.)

From there, head back along Rt 130 to the Pemaquid Loop then to Rt 32 (New Harbor). From May to August you can take Hardy Boat Cruises to Eastern Egg Rock to see the puffins. Stop at Shaw's for lobster roll!

Continue on Rt 32 just past the dock to the Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve. (Parking is along the side of the road.)

Just off Rt 32 is Upper Round Pond Rd, a scenic drive, that will take you to the Old Rock Schoolhouse. Back down Upper Round Pond Rd to Rt 32 again, take a left and head to Muscongus Bay Lobster and Round Pond Lobster Co-op. (Stop in at the Granite Hall Store in Round Pond for ice cream!) The Co-op does steamed lobster. Muscongus Bay Lobster does all kinds of lobster plus fried foods.

Stuffed with lobster, continue on Rt 32 to Waldoboro, then head south on Rt 1 and back to the inn. Still hungry? Pull back off Rt 1 in Newcastle and go to the Newcastle Publick House.

Ask us for map to plan your trip!

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pond Island Light

Pond Island Light
Pond Island Light

Pond Island Light
Pond Island Light

Pond Island Light
Pond Island Light
Pond Island Light is on a small bit of rock in the Kennebec River. It is easily visible from Fort Popham, Popham Beach and Fort Baldwin.

You can also take a lighthouse cruise out of the Maine Maritime Museum for a closer look at the lighthouses along the river and out to Seguin Light.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Franklin Island Lighthouse

Franklin Island Lighthouse
Franklin Island Lighthouse
Located in the Muscongus Bay, the Franklin Island Lighthouse is easily visible from the deck of the Hardy Boat Cruise's trip to Eastern Egg Rock to see the puffins. The island is part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Access to the island is difficult.  Some islands are closed to foot traffic from April through August to allow seabirds to nest.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032