‘Let’s just pretend Kennbunkport didn’t happen’, I thought to myself as we finally saw signs for Kennebunk and I knew my first ever self-drive in the United States neared its first stop. I had only found out three days prior that I was going on this trip at all – it is the nature of my job working in the travel industry that sometimes opportunities to travel come up at very short notice. Not wanting to turn down a trip, I had accepted, and it wasn’t until I picked up my (enormous) hire car that it dawned on me I was going to be driving across New England with a colleague I had never met before for two weeks.
I had been warned that driving in Boston was a nightmare, but I was little prepared for the actual f***ing nightmare that it is! I am used to a little city car in England, and this ‘old wagon’ – as it became affectionately known – was not agreeing with me. We stopped in Salem which is 30 minutes outside of Boston to regroup and relax before getting back on the road, this should have been a simple 90-minute drive but our lovely satnav decided to take us the (un)scenic route through toll bridges and occasionally small towns – without WiFi we persevered on, our sense of humour keeping us sane.
Finally at 5pm we checked into our hotel room and I collapsed on my bed wondering why on earth I accepted a trip that involved so much self-drive. (around two hours per day). After feeling sorry for myself for the best part of an hour I thought it best if I at least explore, and as soon as I stepped outside my hotel I was greeted with a beautiful seaside town.
With pretty architecture – wooden slat houses of all shades, some of them sitting on stilts above glistening water – serving as everything from ice cream shops, coffee shops and locally owned art galleries. I stopped in one and was greeted by a friendly local who proudly showed me her hand-made ceramics and assured me this was just the town to relax me after stressful drive, she was also the second person to tell me that day that I was mad for driving in Boston. She told me to take a walk down Ocean Avenue straight to the beach.
I bought myself a tub of mint chocolate ice cream and strolled down past the immaculately kept art galleries, boutique shops and sea food restaurants, as I got further down I passed enormous colourful houses with pristine lawns which stood prominently on the hills above the roadside. I went into one handmade clothing shop and heard the familiar sounds of Ziggy Marley’s ‘Love is my religion’ playing the lyrics of which I have tattooed to my rib cage and instantly felt more relaxed.
After 15 minutes or so of beautiful architecture I reached a pebbled and sandy beach at the bottom of Ocean Avenue which looked perfect in the contour of the soft evening sun. I sat and watched couples in beach chairs and families throwing balls in the sea for their wet eager dogs to go and bring back.
It didn’t take me long to realise the woman in the gallery was right; if anywhere could chill me out after today it was Kennebunkport, I am just sad we don’t have longer here.