Gate to old Mexico By Bob Klempa...

MY BEST SHOT

May 28, 2000

MY BEST SHOT

Gate to old Mexico

By Bob Klempa, Millersville

Campeche is a 40-square-block city on Mexico's Gulf coast surrounded by walls originally built to defend against marauding pirates targeting Spanish settlements. Entering through the Sea Gate, you see that the city is alive with color and accented by cobblestone streets. The building facades are decorative with a myriad of bright colors.

A MEMORABLE PLACE

A second home in Maine

By Niki Harris

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I never dreamed that life would change when my husband and I set out to drive our 1983 RV to Maine last August. We planned to join friends camping on Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park, but the RV made it only as far as Exit 4 on the Jersey Turnpike. We left the RV in a garage for repairs, rented a car, called a motel in Bar Harbor and got back on the road. For one week, the beauty of Maine helped us forget the ailing engine in New Jersey.

Every morning we woke to the sun glistening on Frenchman's Bay. Typical tourists, we hiked the trails of Mount Desert Island, stopping for nature talks given by the park rangers. Luckily, we had binoculars to spot the peregrine falcons nesting on Cadillac Mountain and ospreys and puffins playing in their native habitats.

Lunchtime usually found us on a picnic at Echo Lake, on a carriage trail or sitting on a rock above the pounding ocean. One afternoon, friends took us to Jordan Pond, where we spent several hours eating popovers and clam rolls and enjoying the view of the mountains and quiet lakes.

Our Maine dinners included homemade New England chowder, fried clams and fresh lobsters, topped off with blueberry pie and ice cream.

Small fishing villages such as Stonington and Seal Cove were exactly what we had expected. Like the pictures in our guidebooks, there were lobstermen bringing in the day's catch, and quaint shops and art galleries lining the harbors. One day we sailed to Whale Park, and the mighty humpback whales entertained us with their antics.

The week flew by too quickly, and we became homesick for Maine even before we left its rocky coast.

On our last day, we persuaded our friends to explore renting a cottage for next summer. Off we went, with maps and cell phone, to check out rentals along the nearby rivers and lakes in search of next summer's perfect vacation spot. Somewhere along the way, our operative word changed from rent to buy, and we began to look for "for sale" signs.

It was nearly sunset when we discovered the Union River in Ellsworth and the post-and-beam house overlooking the water. After the owner showed us through it, we knew we had to have it: the gardens, the woods, the views of the river, the wraparound deck, the paneled beams, everything.

By 5 p.m. the next day, we signed the papers to buy "Cedar Lodge."

We have returned to our home in Maine three times since August, and we love it more in each season. We are becoming "Mainers" -- even talking with a slight "down-east" accent. It's a long way from Ellicott City to Ellsworth, but when the fiery sunset over Union River casts its shadows across our second home, we know it was worth the trip.

Niki Harris lives in Ellicott City.

JUST BACK FROM ...

Disney World, Fla.

Ilene Gold, Baltimore

"The highlight of our trip was our dinner at an authentic Japanese restaurant in Epcot. The children loved watching our chef prepare the food in front of us. After dinner, there was a magnificent parade with 20-foot-tall puppets. We watched the fireworks and light show from the restaurant steps."

Denali National Park, Alaska

Jennifer Werry Stewart, Bel Air

"My husband and I honeymooned in Alaska and spent three days here. Fall colors were at their peak. Swaths of red blueberry bushes and yellow willow trees were tossed across the landscape. It felt like we were in an impressionist painting. On the way to our lodge, we saw moose, caribou, bears and a wolf that trotted in front of our bus for 2 miles."

LET US HEAR FROM YOU

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your memories, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

Give us your recommendations of places to visit. Where are you just back from? Tell us where you've recently visited and what tips you can pass along about your trip to other readers. Or tell us about your favorite destinations. Our current question: If you could have a second home, where would it be and why? Please answer in 50 words or less.

In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150)

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