KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine-- We've been pampered by a string of famous chefs at Kennebunkport's Art and Food Festival. We've sampled a good number of the world's finest wines. We've been to numerous art shows featuring Maine's most distinguished painters and sculptors. We've listened to top local musicians.
But to fully enjoy this wonderful festival -- or any part of it (it runs non-stop for eight days) -- you need one more thing: a memorable place to stay.
And we found it.
The Cape Arundel Inn & Resort calls itself a B&B, but do you know another B&B that offers complimentary champagne on ice in the reception area every afternoon of the week?
That's not the only thing that comes free of charge at the Arundel. Guests also get complimentary morning yoga instruction; complimentary beach chairs, towels and parking permits for nearby Kennebunk Beach; guest privileges at a nearby heated hotel pool; complimentary bicycles, including one with an automatic gearshift for cruising up and down the hills along the coastal road; bathrobes in every room; complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day and night; complimentary kayaks and rowboats at Kennebunkport Marina. Many of the rooms, our included, have gas-fired fireplaces.
Oh, and by the way, its rooms have a dramatic view of an ex-U.S. President's front lawn. That would be President George Herbert Walker Bush, whose beautiful summer compound is just up the street.
Speaking of views, none can beat those of the Atlantic Ocean that crashes in frothy white waves against the craggy black rocks directly in front of the Arundel's front porch, an expansive deck filled with cushioned wicker chairs and love-seats for reading and Wi-Fi-ing and just soaking in the sights throughout the day.
The historic boutique hotel was built in 1895 and is the only oceanfront inn in Kennebunkport offering a 180-degree view of the sea. Seven of the 14 rooms have balconies overlooking the water.
Cape Arundel calls itself a B&B, but its breakfast is not the usual hard roll and coffee. Even before you order from the menu, a homemade blueberry puff pastry -- sprinkled with powdered sugar -- materializes at your place compliments of the chef. Then comes a parade of scones with homemade jams, homemade granola with fresh yogurt, omelets, delicate pancakes, French toast, eggs of any kind and fresh cut-up fruits.
Complimentary coffee and tea are at your beck and call throughout the day and the champagne, chilled in the large ice bucket, comes out in the reception area at noon.
Of course there are high-definition flat-screen TV's and DVD's for in-room entertainment, and Wi-Fi throughout the inn --although Assistant General Manager Angela Murphy, who checked us in, warned that our Internet connection might be occasionally "scrambled" by the security shenanigans surrounding the nearby former First Famly. (Our laptop computers worked fine, even though our room's window seemed so close to the Bush mansion across a small bay that we felt like shouting "Come on over for a drink, Pres!")
The 41st President's 90th birthday is this week, and the whole multi-generational family gathered there for the celebration. Sitting next door on the rocky coast, my husband and I could celebrate the grand event with two of our former Presidents (and who knows, perhaps a future one).
It was difficult to pull ourselves away from the Arundel's porch to attend the final few events of the Kennebunkport Food and Wine Festival, which continued the orgy of eating and drinking at a huge tapas-tasting lunch where more than 25 chefs offered the flavors of six different regions: Italy, Greece, France, South America, Asia and the USA. Example: a tasty little sauerbraten hand pie with German potato salad and whole grain mustard vinaigrette from James Plunkett and Pamela Fitzpatrick Plunkett of Little Bigs Bakery.
If you didn't receive enough nourishment here you could waddle right up the street to the Captain Lord Mansion for "Brews and Tunes" in the open air, with food trucks, a selection of beers and live music all afternoon, right up until the reception at the final art show began at the Maine Art Gallery. It featured 36 original works of art from 12 Maine artists that had been whittled down by a panel from 72 initial entrees.
The Grand Finale of the Festival took place at David's, a high-end restaurant in the center of this historic old town. Tables positioned alongside the floor-to-ceiling windows opened up so that revelers could enjoy the view of the Kennebunk River from the wraparound deck. As usual, there were signature cocktails and food stations everywhere, and waiters constantly brought yummy tidbits right to our table as we watched a paddle boarder maneuver her way around the yachts and the lobster boats.
We met Monique and Guy Aubry of Nashua, New Hampshire, whose two children had given their parents a gift of attendance at this glorious weekend. We agreed with their assessment: "We loved it"