Monday, March 19, 2012

Bar Harbor Maine in the Fall is a Used Book and Rare Book Lovers Dream

On our fall vacation last year in Bar Harbor, Maine, we had the chance to play golf, drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain (twice) and enjoy the beauty and majesty of Acadia Park, including Thunder Hole. We hadn’t been there in over 10 years, and while many things were the same, others were different. The last time we visited we stayed at one of the historic inns downtown. This time we opted for a more luxurious resort hotel with all the extra features. Either way can be an ideal choice for visiting Bar Harbor.

One of the days was a bit overcast and some showers were predicted so we made it our “shopping” day. We always expect one day on vacation to be a chance to run through the various quaint shops or nearby outlet malls to find some bargains. I managed to weave one of my One-Day-Bookstore-Tours into the shopping day. Some of the bookstores were places I have visited on previous visits, and delightfully, there were some new stops as well. It’s my experience that a vacation in New England is always enhanced by seeking out the unusual rural book shop.

This book store tour took me to Sherman’s Books, the Mystery Cove Book Shop, and the Big Chicken Barn Books. I had planned to stop in at Mr. Paperback, but even though we drove by it, our “shopping” day diverted me from a visit there. Unfortunately, they closed this month after operating in Ellsworth for over 30 years.

Sherman’s Books is at 56 Main Street, right in the heart of downtown Bar Harbor. During our week there I must have walked past it a dozen times and stepped inside four or five times. I know I bought books at least twice there that week. On my official One-Day-Bookstore-Tour day I concentrated on the discount book island. It’s amazing what you can find. It ranged from cook books to children’s books to local author photo books.

The Sherman’s Books and Stationary chain has three other locations: Boothbay Harbor, Camden and Freeport, Maine. I’ve been to all of them and each has its own quirky look and charm that you hope to find in locally owned shops in vacation destination cities and towns. At the Bar Harbor store, the collection of discounted children’s books was amazing. Finding something for the kids to read while they are on vacation is always important. It’s great in the evenings or for the car ride home. It’s also an economical keepsake of the vacation for the kids. Instead of a candy bar shaped like a Moose, a book is a much better purchase.

My second stop of the bookstore tour was at the Mystery Cove Book Shop about three miles up the road in Hulls Cove. Today, the shop goes by the name, Bar Harbor Book Shop. For me the “mystery” was how anyone could find this place. At the time of my visit there was no Internet address listing. Today, their website shows the address as 1 Dewey St, “500 feet up Crooked Road.” The GPS was able to get me to Dewey Street, so the “mystery” was solved. But, after all that effort, it sure was a relief to find a charming used book store that I could have shopped in for an hour. I made off with a carton filled with books, but I left a lot on the table this day. I will definitely be back to this shop.

Just a bit out of town in Ellsworth, Maine, the Big Chicken Barn Book Shop loomed large on the side of the road. And I do mean large. It is really unbelievable. Today, with modern plumbing installed, the barn offers convenient, comfortable indoor facilities. That makes the extended time you will spend here a lot more enjoyable. You need time when visiting here because the place is enormous. The upstairs is lined with aisles of books to meet all your reading requirements. The biographies and Americana sections were filled with books. I relieved the owners of a few of them so they could put more books up on the shelves for others. I’m courteous that way. The pricing was fair, so it was easy to load up on biographies, history, political commentary, and at least one novel for my wife.