Published on Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Letter from North America

When POTUS, the most powerful man in the United States of America took a family vacation at Bar Harbor, Maine it was in some ways what most families this time of year are doing. Sort of ordinary, in fact. Ho-hum.

Of course, nothing’s entirely ordinary when the First Family takes a trip.

US President Barak Obama (POTUS: code-name from the Secret Service, a long standing tradition) must have been thinking what other families worry about: ‘Gee, I sure hope this trip isn’t another disaster.’ White House reporters say that’s been a pattern for the president, his wife and their two children during virtually all of their vacations.

Only one example of the travel hex was the family’s Memorial Day trip to Chicago, when the BP oil spill erupted into the national consciousness.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said of the recent Maine trip that the first family “played some tennis and hung out at the pool.” Obama stopped at the Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream Shop in downtown Bar Harbor, as a small crowd gathered. The president bought a coconut flavored ice cream cone. A single scoop for $2.50, plain cone.

“Later in the afternoon, the Obamas were driven to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the east coast, where they gazed out over Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay and Somes Sound,” said the AP.

The family also spent about an hour skipping rocks and playing with their dog, “Bo,” a six-pound Portugese Water Dog. A few other families were hiking, many with their dogs, and the family stopped to say hi along the way.

Of course, most visitors don’t visit the Bar Harbor Club as the Obamas did (where they apparently played tennis on one of the clay courts there).

The Bar Harbor Club was once a private playground for the town’s wealthiest summer residents such as Joseph Pulitzer and John D. Rockefeller Jr., and other movers and shakers of the day.

The spa is open to the general public but there is membership charge for the full facility. An application on the web site says membership costs US$1,825 for a “married couple.”

When I asked a PR friend, Jaclyn Sisbaro what less famous families find to do there in the summer, she answered:

“There is a wonderful and exciting blend of activities as varied as the terrain such as whale watching, kayaking, hiking, biking, nature cruising, fishing, museums, galleries, nightly entertainment, music, theatre, shopping, and more.”

Visitors can take a scenic flight of Acadia aboard a Cessna 172 aircraft with a pilot, who will point out sights you can only see from above. Sights seen are Bar Harbor, coastal lighthouses, Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain, and others. Custom tailored packages are also available.

“Sail and power boat rentals are very popular. Sailing lessons can also be taken,” she said.
Fishing really heats up in May through August (no mention of cold January’s here, for obvious reasons), she added. And spring fed lakes produces some of the best trophy bass fishing available anywhere.

Other things to do here include the Lulu Lobster Boat Ride, the National Park Sea Kayak Tour and the Atlantic Brewing Company (for the whole family since they serve root beer in the 19th century home and farm house). One other notation here: the beer served is as authentic as what you will find in other primary sources, such as Dublin’s Guinness factory where I celebrated a birthday (forget the age) a while ago.

Sisbaro could not resist plugging a client: CheapOstay is offering “affordable prices for people looking to visit a place with a long history and beautiful scenery.” Meaning Maine, of course, and not Dublin, though the same words are applicable.

CheapOstay has rooms from US$170 per night (at the Bal Harbor Bluenose Inn close to Arcadia National Park).

The presidential family’s trip was not without controversy. There were complaints (Republicans, mostly) that taking a vacation while the tourist-dependent Gulf Coast beaches are fighting off oil slicks was not a proper move.

With the family blanketed by the Secret Service, some residents and tourists also felt inconvenienced. “This is the worst day of my life,” complained a Maine youngster to his traveling father, which is obviously an exaggeration.

Of course, everyone who’s had more than one family vacation knows things never go perfectly -- even for the first family.

By David Wilkening

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