The Atlantic Ocean off Bar Harbor, Maine, was 47 degrees, even at the end of August. My leg, submerged in the chill swirl, was almost numb, which was good since I had a sore knee and was desperately looking for relief. I was clinging to the edge of a “glacial erratic” — a two-ton boulder perched on the edge of the sea like a giant marble, waiting for a deft touch to send it shooting across the choppy blue water. Behind me. the elegant Balance Rock Inn (named in honor of the precarious pebble) watched every move like a vigilant mother.
Earlier, when I checked into Scottish railroad tycoon Alexander Maitland’s former summer cottage (circa 1903), the four-diamond, 14-room, three-suite “Bah Hahbah” grand dame welcomed me with loving arms. “We lay out cake and tea at 3 p.m. in the parlor,” said Inn Manager Sherry Gallant soothingly. Eyeing my swollen red joint (it had suddenly flared up that morning — payback for years of jogging on pavement), she lowered her voice. “The ice machine is around the corner. I’ll make sure there’s lots in your room.”
As gorgeous as my room was (Jacuzzi tub, sauna and working fireplace, down comforter, 310 thread-count sheets and adjustable Select Comfort Mattress), there was no way I was going to spend a glorious sunny afternoon inside. Hobbling to the Inn’s inviting veranda, I breathed in the salty, pine-scrubbed air, plopped myself down on a green wicker couch and gazed out at the twinkling waters of Frenchman’s Bay. Lobster buoys danced in the waves.
Bar Harbor is located on the northwest corner of Mt. Desert Island, a craggy crustacean claw-shaped rock, 44,000 acres of which is Acadia National Park. The park offers two-and-a-half hour bus tours for $25. There’s also biking, sea kayaking, whale watching, lobster boat tours and plenty of souvenir shopping on the town’s charming Main Street.
The activities were going to have to wait until my knee co-operated. Sipping hot lemon tea and savoring a slice of moist chocolate spice cake, I felt like a grand dame myself, come to Bar Harbor with the other wealthy, gilt-aged “rusticators” (families such as the Rockefellers and Pulitzers) to take the air and recover from some nebulous turn-of-the-last-century ailment.
“Saltwater cures everything,” Sherry said, appraising my now deflating knee. Right then I realized I was thankful to my angry appendage. Without it, I would never have felt the Atlantic’s revitalizing surge, or given myself license to loll away a languid, golden afternoon. There were worse places to be than the veranda of one of the country’s finest inns, surrounded by some of the country’s most spectacular sscenery. Go figure.