A great cafe and shop in Machias, Maine

Whole Life Natural Market Machias Maine

Just because Washington County, Maine is sparsely populated, doesn’t mean that you can’t find specialty items.   One such store is the fabulous Whole Life Natural Market and the tiny Saltwater Cafe located inside the store.

Located at 4 Colonial Way in downtown Machias, they are open six days per week (closed Sundays).  They carry most of the natural foods products that you may be familiar with at your local natural food store, but they also carry many, many local items (it’s my go-to place to purchase little local gifts for friends and family members).  They also have a table with lots of local resources and a lending library.  And… perhaps best of all… they have a good selection of local and organic wines.

The cafe is open for lunch and has sandwiches, soups and yummy desserts.  Follow their Facebook page – they post their menu daily.

Their web page – wholelifemarket.com

Their phone is – 207-255-8855

email – info@wholelifemarket.com

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Four reasons not to book your vacation rental through VRBO or AirBnB

Where in Maine
Once upon a time in Vacationland…

Susie had a killer vacation home in Machiasport, Maine.  Because she wanted to offset some bills,  Susie decided to make it available as a vacation rental.  Since she loved her home and area, she was excited that she could play ‘virtual tour guide and innkeeper’ to the guests who stayed in her home.   She paid upfront for an ad on a major online vacation rental listing site and happily answered questions about her home and many questions about the area from potential guests via phone and email.   When the guest was ready to book, she made payment arrangements, usually through a check or credit card payment.

Once upon a time, Bobby wanted to go on vacation in down east Maine.  He logged into a major online vacation rental site and clicked on the region – DownEast Maine.  He was given a list of about 200 properties in the area.  Bobby was able to narrow down with filters exactly what he was looking for —- and decided to choose Susie’s home in Machiasport.  He had some questions about Puffin Tours and possibly ordering a custom cake for his wife’s birthday.  He was able to contact Susie and she provided him with the information that he was asking for — phone numbers and websites of tour companies and local bakeries.  She also gave Bobby information on how to pay the deposit and he mailed her a check.

Today in Vacationland…

  Susie wants to offset some bills so she decides to make her wonderful vacation home available on an online vacation rental listing site (now known as an OTA for Online Travel Agency).  Instead of buying an ad outright, she must now agree to pay a commission on every reservation (at a much higher rate than she used to pay for her ad).   She must also agree that she will use only the OTA’s payment processing system for all reservations.

Bobby wants to take a vacation to down east Maine.  He logs onto an OTA and starts his search.  There are no regions in Maine and, in his first search attempt, he sees properties from Kennebunk to Houlton to Calais – thousands and thousands of them – vacation homes, rooms in people’s home, motel rooms and more. 

So he decides to input just one town into his search – Machiasport.  The results seem more manageable and he looks at a property and thinks it looks perfect.  As he plans his trip and dates, he notices something odd.  There is mention of a passport needed for Americans.  At closer look, he sees that the property he is interested in is not in Machiasport at all, but in New Brunswick, Canada! 

A closer look at his list of Machiasport rentals shows properties in Cutler, Addison and Blue Hill mixed in with Machiasport homes.  So now Bobby has to start his search again and take a close look at just where exactly the property is located. Now he knows that a search for a property in Machiasport does not necessarily actually show properties just in Machiasport.  But he perseveres. He comes across Susie’s listing which looks perfect.  But he has some questions about puffin tours and bakeries.  He looks for Susie’s contact info but there is no phone number and no email, but he can send a message through the OTA, which he does.

Susie is happy to answer Bobby’s questions.  She knows a fantastic tour company to visit the puffins and knows of an excellent bakery to bake the birthday cake.  But she doesn’t know Bobby’s phone number or email or even his last name.  She can only respond to his questions  through the OTA system.  So she takes the time to write about the fabulous things to do in the area and passes along the info that Bobby has asked for.

Bobby received the reply from Susie.  Unfortunately it looks like this… 

You can get more info about the company that provides puffin tours at their website:  XXXXXXXX.  The phone number to the bakery is XXXXXXX.

   

Unfortunately, the OTA system blocks out any and all identifying information.  So Susie is forced to try again, with a cryptic message –

If you do a google search for Robertson Sea Tours their website should pop up. The phone number to the bakery is 2 zero 7 five 5/5 ninety one o 6.

Susie feels awful because she knows presenting information in this manner is just lousy customer service but it’s the only way that she can get the info to the traveler.  Bobby decides to book her home.  He must pay the rent via credit card through the OTA and is very surprised when there is an additional $250 fee added to the total amount.  That, Susie, explains, is the service fee that the OTA tacks on to the traveler’s total.  Unfortunately, that pushes Bobby’s vacation over budget, so he must keep looking for a less expensive house.  (Overall, Bobby has spent about four hours on this rental search so far and still has no rental). 

So what can Bobby do to make his travel less frustrating?  

Book directly from an owner or small management or listing company!

 

Here are my four reasons to #bookdirect rather than through VRBO or AirBnB:

1) No Service Fees.    Did you know that all of the major online travel agencies add on a service fee to the traveler? 

airbnb service fee for vacation rentals vrbo service fee for vacation rentals tripadvisor service fee for vacation rentals

*fees and terms subject to change – check the individual sites for the most up-to-date information.

That’s a heck of a lot of lobster and ice cream you’re giving up in order to stay at your rental house.  And often, these fees are non-refundable if your plans change — even if the homeowner is willing to refund some of the rent, good luck getting that service fee back.  Instead of searching on the big sites, look to smaller regional sites who usually don’t charge extra traveler fees or try to find the owner directly.

 

renting a vacation rental

2) Communication between the guest and the owner.  Traditionally, sites like HomeAway and VRBO and others were a way to connect owners with travelers who wanted to rent.  It was an advertising platform — nothing more.  Today, on virtually all of the OTA’s, all phone numbers, emails, websites and all identifying information is masked and direct communication between owners and guests is impossible.

 

 

 

 

 

Where in Maine

3) Avoid Geographical nightmares.   At one time, vacation areas were broken up into popular regions.  Now, the geographic region has more to do with the secret algorithm of the OTA (reading between the lines — which homes and regions will bring them more money).  The actual home location may be in very small print on the listing and a potential traveler may be looking at a home miles from where he may actually want to be.  Again — look to regional sites to simplify your search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

seedy motel maine vacation rentals

4) Know that it’s really a home.    The newest change to the listing sites are the addition of hotels, motels and B&Bs and inns to all of the listing sites (in addition to advertising spare rooms in occupied homes on AirBnB).     Just to confuse your search more, there may be dozens of listings for motels and hotels on a site that claims to be “Vacation Homes By Owner”.  You may see a photo of a beautiful pool and think you’re going to stay in a luxury home.  Surprise!  You just booked a room at a chain motel. 

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The Best Spot For A Selfie in DownEast Maine

Maine Vacation Rental Cottage

 

Have you seen the giant blueberry in downeast Maine?  Giant blueberry?  Yup.

Wild Blueberry Land Gift Shop and Mini Golf is in Columbia Falls, Maine.

As you drive up Route 1 between Ellsworth and Machias, you suddenly come up a large blueberry, which is actually a bakery and gift shop for…. wait for it… all things blueberry, of course.

The first thing that will draw you into the store is the aroma wafting through the screen door.  The store sells blueberry pies and blueberry scones, always freshly baked.

Although it looks like a throwback to the tourist traps of the 1950’s, the giant fruit is much younger — built in 2001.  Besides the bakery, they also stock jams, jellies, honey, vinegar and other food items.   It’s your one-stop shopping for gifts, both food and the traditional t-shirts, magnets, coffee mugs, and other cool Maine-themed items.

The owners, “Farmer Dell and Chef Marie” Emerson, stress the difference between blueberries and WILD blueberries.  They describe wild blueberries as:

The Wild Blueberry is one of only three fruits native to North America. The other two are the cranberry and the wild grape. Wild Blueberries are grown on a two year cycle, harvesting every other year. These rare gems grow on the glacial soils that provide perfect conditions to prosper in this Northeast corridor of America.  In the fall we burn our fields to control the competition and prepare for the harvest in the following year.  This trick was taught to the settlers by the Native Americans, who held the Wild Blueberry in high esteem.  The Wild Blueberry has been proven to provide many health benefits, can be used to preserve meats and other foods, and is absolutely delicious. Maine has been blessed with this completely natural, wild, wonderful treasure.

Wild Blueberry Land is open seven days a week in summer and weekends in autumn.

Visit their website for nutritional tips like this one:

According to Talking “Superfoods” with Nutrition Expert Regan Jones “Wild Blueberries and other “superfoods” may help you lose weight, boost your mood, lower your cholesterol, and they’re real foods, not overly processed foods meant to mimic the nutrient that they’re promoting. Foods like eggs for protein, beans for fiber, sweet potato for vitamin A, salmon for omega-3s and of course, wild blueberries for antioxidants are the “superfoods” that people should be eating. Wild Blueberries are great cooked down into a sauce with a bit of water and balsamic vinegar as a topping over roasted pork.  They can also be used to make chia blueberry seed jam to spread on toast. Mix them into yogurt and granola or throw them into a smoothie. Some fruits are better if they are frozen. In the case of Wild Blueberries, since they’re picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, all the nutrients are locked in. Fresh may be picked at the right time but often loses nutrients during travel time and while sitting on store shelves. When choosing fresh, look for as local as possible.”

 

WILD BLUEBERRY LAND

1067 US HWY 1

COLUMBIA FALLS, ME 04623

(207) 483- BLUE (2583)

Farm number: (207) 483-3884

 

 

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Finding Unusual Antiques in DownEast Maine

Treasures and Trash Barn, Maine Vacation Rental

My very FAVORITE  antique store isn’t in downeast Maine at all.  It’s in Searsport, which is the mid-coast (Searsport, by the way, has several flea/antique outdoor markets during the warmer months.

Anyway.  It’s called Treasures and Trash Barn.  I actually never knew it even HAD  name until I started writing this — I always knew it as the barn with all of the sinks and beds out front across the street from the gas station.

Whatever kind of vintage part or accessory you are looking for, you’ll find it here.

Bathtubs, Sinks, old windows, ploughs, hinges, doorknobs, keys, telephones with varying degrees of rust can be found all over the property in varying degree of rust.  Try to make some time to look around because the yard and barn are filled to the rafters and you never know what treasure might be hiding behind, under or above something.

Treasures and Trash Barn is located at:

156 E. Maine Street (Rt 1)

Searsport, Maine 04974

207-548-2787 (calling before going is recommended in the off season)

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I Found Some Wonderful Artwork in DownEast Maine

Expressions Art Gallery

There is no doubt, Maine attracts artists of all kinds — painters, musicians, craftsmen.  One store that is a treasure of local art is Expressions Gallery, located right on the main street of Machias, Maine.  The Gallery and Studio have over 30 artists and craftspeople displaying and selling their work.

Shoppers can find hundreds of locally made treasures, from photographs of the beautiful local landscape, wool afghans from local sheep, to jewelry and pottery.

As a bonus, the gallery offers tons of special events that are open to the public (with reservations).  They hold learning to knit groups and the very popular ‘sip and paint’ nights.  Contact them to arrange a private group event.

Expressions Art Gallery Expressions Art Gallery

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Machias Bay Antiques and Fine Arts

antique maine dresser

Drive through the town of Machias on a sunny day and you with undoubtably see a collection of dining chairs, maybe a sea captain’s trunk and some moose antlers displayed on the small lawn outside of Machias Bay Antiques and Fine Arts.  Make a stop (park across the street and enjoy the falls, bridge and Bad Little Falls Park on the other side while you are at it).  Enjoy conversation with the owner, Ray, as you scout out unique treasures that have been hiding in Maine’s darkest attics and oldest homes. (And check out Ray’s beautiful original artwork!)

1 Water Street (PO Box 127, Machiasport 04655).

Open mid-May-Christmas,

Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-4:00; January – mid-May Friday-Saturday. Or by appointment any time.

Contact Ray Foster at 207-255-0686 (ref1205@gmail.com

 

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