Brunswick + Topsham in 48 Hours

At the edge of the Androscoggin River, Brunswick weaves together its history—a former mill town and the site of a redeveloped naval air base—with its growing magnetism as a destination for lovers of food, the outdoors, and great shopping.

Friday 

5:00 p.m. @ The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern

After I check in at the hotel, located next to the Brunwick Station, I lie down in the king-size bed. Decorated in dark browns and beiges, the suite features a kitchen, living area, and master bath, and a basket of chocolate-covered fruit from Edible Arrangements is waiting for me on the counter. I’ve never stayed in a hotel room by myself before, and in all this solitude I take the time to relax and prepare for the busy weekend ahead in my hometown.

5:45 p.m. @ Ebenezer’s Brewpub

My dad, stepmom, and grandpa pick me up at the hotel, and we drive to Ebenezer’s on Pleasant Street. At the pub’s Brunswick location, Lively Brewing Company creates a rotating list of beers on-site, the blue-lit brew room visible through the windows in the main dining area.

7:15 p.m. @ El Camino Cantina

As we wait at the bar for a table (El Camino doesn’t take reservations), the bartender pours me a passion fruit margarita with a dash of jalapeno. The restaurant is flooded with fuchsia light from multicolored lamps. Only slightly hungry, my family orders a chorizo quesadilla to split, but I’m more courageous, ordering first a plate of salt cod fritters and then the pupusas, thick corn tortillas stuffed with sweet potatoes and green chiles.

9:30 p.m. @ The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern

My dad drops me off at the hotel, and everyone comes in for one last drink. Soon I’m ready to get back into that king-size bed.

Saturday

8:30 a.m. @ Union Street Bakery and Cake Shop

Union Street is exactly how a bakery should be: bright and airy, with friendly service and everything from baked goods to soups and sandwiches. I buy a Wicked Joe’s dark roast coffee and a slice of pecan-encrusted coffee cake, and although it’s early in the morning, I can’t resist the melted chocolate and cranberry cookies either.

9:30 a.m. @ The Brunswick Winter Market

At Fort Andross, the Brunswick Winter Market is already busy; a man plays guitar for a group of shy children, and it’s difficult to navigate the crowded rows of shoppers without running into someone. While I don’t cook very often, the fresh fruits and vegetables from local producers and vendors like Applewald Farm and Six River Farm might inspire me to start.

10:30 a.m. @ Heather Perry Jewelry

Heather Perry gives me a tour of her studio and shop at Fort Andross, and she shows me a series of temporary tattoos that are modeled after royal jewels. I love the tattoos: a piece of art that has lasted for generations, transformed into an ephemeral stamp that stains the skin and then fades away. Perry also introduces me to Jared DeSimio, a clothing designer who operates out of the office across the hall, altering and remaking vintage garments.

11:30 a.m. @ The Waterfront Flea Market 

Still at Fort Andross, I head downstairs and peruse the antiques and trinkets at the weekend flea market. VinylJunky provides the music, and Jimmy Cliff ’s voice follows me down the aisles. At Cabot Mill Antiques, I admire the diverse artwork and the selection of antique clocks.

1:00 p.m. @ Scarlet Begonias 

My dad meets me at Scarlet’s, a Brunswick community staple for lovers of creamy pastas and pizzas loaded with garlic. Together we order the Must for Gus, a cheesy bread topped with roasted garlic cloves, and the pizza special, a thick- crusted pie decked out with sausage balls the size of my fist.

2:00 p.m. @ Bowdoin College Museum of Art 

The collection at this free museum includes more than 20,000 objects. Some of my favorite pieces belong to a special photography exhibition that features images that address nationalism and masculinity by Adi Nes, an Israeli photographer with Iranian roots, who recently spoke at the college.

 3:00 p.m. @ Downtown 

On Maine Street, my dad and I start down near the mill at Bayview Gallery, where I fall for a Marieluise Hutchinson painting of a stark red farmhouse. At Fiore, we test olive oils and balsamic vinegars, including a spicy chipotle oil, and we check out the knickknacks at Hatch on Maine. At Gulf of Maine Books I peruse the chapbooks, searching for a new Maine poet to read, while owner Gary Lawless chats with customers from behind the counter. My dad and I look for interesting Maine cooking ingredients at Local Market, which shares the same space as Wyler’s, where I battle
with my penchant for cozy sweaters and aromatherapy sprays. Before leaving Maine Street, we peek into the windows at Keith Field Goldsmith, its playful winter display featuring a dusting of artificial snow and a classic wooden sled.

6:00 p.m. @ Enoteca Athena 

My dad heads home, and my mom joins me for a glass of wine at Enoteca Athena. Seated at the bar, I order a smoky white, the Rocho by Lucarelli, and we share the htipiti spread, whipped feta and red peppers, along with the buffalo cauliflower bites.

7:30 p.m. @ Frontier

It’s busy at Frontier, as it is on most Saturday nights. After waiting for a few minutes for a table at the Fort Andross restaurant, I choose the steak and creamy risotto, topped with blue cheese and walnuts, and I don’t regret it.

Sunday

9:30 a.m. @ The Kopper Kettle

My five- year-old sister, Charlotte, and I eat breakfast at the Kopper Kettle in Topsham. A big fan of greasy breakfasts, I’ve come here before, so I already know to order a “scrambler,” formerly called a “skillet,” a mash of sliced potatoes and toppings (mine included cheese, broccoli, and sausage), and apple cinnamon toast on the side.

12:00 p.m. @ Topsham Indoor Arena 

At the former roller skating rink in Topsham, now a multi-sport facility that can be rented, my nine-year-old brother, Logan, is having a birthday party, and I refrain from the delivery pizza because I’m saving room for lunch.

2:00 p.m. @ Blueberries Food and Drink

My friend’s mom recommends a new cafe near Bowdoin Mill in Topsham. I order one of the specials, the Happyface Breakfast Taco, which comes with sweet potatoes, cilantro, guacamole, fried egg, and cheddar cheese, and another Wicked Joe’s coffee.

3:00 p.m. @ Cathance River Nature Preserve

When I can’t find my metal L.L.Bean snowshoes in my dad’s garage, I borrow his wooden ones, made years ago by my aunt’s father, Gil Gilpatrick, who was a Maine guide. They’re beautiful, but they don’t secure me much on the icy downhill terrain at the Cathance River Nature Preserve. Located on the Highland Green campus in Topsham, the site offers 235 acres of trails and conservation land and an onsite ecology center. I slide down beside the river for an hour or so, and then it’s time to leave Brunswick, not for good, of course, but just for the weekend. I’ll be back to see my family again within the week.