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This weekend: Gettin' snappy at the Maine Lobster Festival

By JD Rinne
October 3, 2012
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Kelly Woods/Courtesy Maine Lobster Festival

Rockland, Maine, really knows how to throw a party. In January, it was the Pies on Parade event, in celebration of National Pie Day. This weekend, the town is putting on the 62nd annual Maine Lobster Festival.

These people are not afraid of butter.

The Lobster Festival, a five-day event packed with traditional festival activities like food booths and live music, really tears through its namesake crustacean—in 2008, more than 20,000 pounds of lobster were prepared in a cooker on the shore (apparently a show in itself).

Also indulge in the Lobster Crate Race, where participants run over partially submerged lobster crates in the chilly waters of the harbor. The new record—4,501 crates—was set just last year.

There's also a seafood cooking contest, an art fair, a marine tent with live lobster and other sea specimens, a 10K run, a huge parade with floats, a children's activity area, and tours of the U.S. Coastal Guard station. See the full schedule.

The festival officially kicks off tomorrow with free admission all day; tickets are regularly $8 per person ($2 for kids). At the food tents, a huge lobster dinner will set you back $15, but it doesn't get much fresher than "cooked on the shore." Parking and shuttles to the festival area are free and plentiful.

If boats are more your style, check out the 7th Annual Boat Builders Festival (with live pirate raid!) in Boothbay Harbor, Maine—about 45 miles southwest of Rockland.

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Great Paris 'hoods: The Canal Saint-Martin

Back in the day (the early 1800s) the Canal Saint-Martin was dug for the express purpose of relieving dysentery. How romantic! Connecting two big rivers—the Ourcq and the Seine—the canal provided fresh water and freight by boat. Two hundred years later, its primary purpose is pure leisure. Winding gracefully through the 10th arrondissement from a point near République, the "open" portion of the Canal (some parts are underground) is perpetually lined with picnic baskets. Parisians of all ages, and an increasing number of visitors, come here to sip rosé, stroll hand in hand along the water's edge, and reenact the stone-skipping scene from Amélie. They also come here to shop. The west side of the canal has become a destination in recent years, with fashionistas flocking to The Kooples (32 rue Beaurepaire), Médicine Douce (10 rue Marseille), Antoine et Lili (95 quai de Valmy) and Stella Cadente (93 quai de Valmy) and Agnès B (13 rue Marseille for women, and 1 rue Dieu for men). I also love the design bookstore Artazart (83 quai de Valmy) for glossy coffee-table tomes and a range of Moleskin notebooks. After shopping, it's nice to kick back with a drink at hipster central Chez Prune (36 rue Beaurepaire). This café is a neighborhood institution, along with its rival across the water, Le Jemmapes (82 quai de Jemmapes). The latter specializes in Belgian beer, sold in takeaway cups for sipping along the water. When appetite strikes, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful options near the canal. My absolute favorite, which is open only for lunch, is the Cantine de Quentin (52 rue Bichat, 011-33/1-42-01-40-32). They offer a two-course menu on weekdays for €14 ($19.50), with updated classics like smoked duck breast with carmelized apple. Another haunt is Le Verre Volé. This shoebox-sized bar à vins specializes in natural wine and serves a small but delicious selection of charcuterie, cheese, and hot dishes. They're always packed, so be sure to reserve (67 rue Lancry, 011-33/1-48-03-17-34). If you're ready to take a break from French food, Maria Luisa and Pink Flamingo both make great pizza, with the latter delivering by bike anywhere along the canal. For delicious and cheap Cambodian, the locals line up nightly at 8:00 p.m. to give their name at Le Cambodge. They then head to wait by the water's edge until the restaurant calls with a ready table. Brand-new on the scene is Rosalito (52 rue René Boulanger, 011-33/1-77-35-92-11), a tapas bar from the same owner as (foodie fave) Da Rosa. Small plates range from €2–9 ($2.80–$12.50), with homemade sangria for €5 ($7). And finally, as I wrote about in my earlier blog post "Paris Bakery Buzz", no trip to the canal is complete without a stop at Du Pain et des Idées. Christophe Vasseur was named the city's best boulanger and sells his wares at a beautifully restored hundred year-old bakery. Try the chausson à la pomme fraîche—it's unlike any apple turnover you've ever had (34 rue Yves Toudic). EARLIER Great Paris 'hoods: Around the rue de Belleville More from our Affordable Paris series

Inspiration

Paris bakery buzz: Du Pain et des Idees

A few steps from the Canal Saint-Martin, the handsome hundred year-old bakery Du Pain et des Idées has been revived by the passion of Christophe Vasseur. A late-blooming baker, Vasseur hung up his corporate suit at age 30 and dedicated himself to becoming the best in the city. His wish came true—after only six years in business, Vasseur was recognized by the gourmet magazine Gault & Millaut as the city's best baker "Meilleur Boulanger de Paris." The menu Vasseur insists on time-consuming methods and fresh ingredients. His chausson à la pomme fraîche is simply bursting with juicy apples and unlike any turnover you've ever had. Pair it with a pain chocolat banane, and grab a sack of niflettes (puff pastry tartlets filled with pastry cream, photo here) for the road. These little pastry squares are dotted with orange scented cream and perfect for nibbling along the banks of the nearby Canal Saint-Martin. For something savory, try one of the mini-pavés—small breads stuffed with combinations like spinach-chèvre or tomato-feta. His wildly popular pain des amis (friendship bread) makes me want to move to the neighborhood. Light but chewy, with a nutty fragrance and deliciously charred bottom—it's one of the best I've ever tried. The bill Most pastries, like the chausson and the pain chocolat cost around €1.80 ($2.50). A sack of ten niflettes is €3.30 ($4.60). A 250 gram hunk of the outstanding pain des amis is €2 ($2.80). The mini-pavés are only €1.30 ($1.80)—grab two of these plus a pastry and you've got a sweet little lunch for under €5. The buzz Who doesn't love this place? Pastry chef and author David Lebovitz has raved about the whole grain loaf. French magazine L'Express wrote that Vasseur makes "one of the best chaussons in the city." And three-star chef Alain Passard told the (London) Times last year that the pain des amis is "the best he had ever eaten." TimeOut Paris named it as a "Critic's Choice" and cooed about the artisanal croissants. The coordinates 34 rue Yves Toudic, 10th arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-40-44-52. Métros Jacques Bonsergent, République. Closed Saturday and Sunday, dupainetdesidees.com.

Inspiration

Russia's Hermitage opens a "wing" in Amsterdam

As you walk through the new Hermitage Amsterdam, you may feel a bit underdressed for the occasion. Luckily nobody will be staring at you because the elaborate ceremonial court dresses and uniforms that engulf the room are all worn by mannequins. It's part of the opening exhibition "At the Russian Court: Palace and Protocol in the 19th-Century." The current exhibit shows off extravagant artifacts from the lives of six tsars, from Paul I to Nicholas II. A few noteworthy items to check out: the famous Romanov throne, jewelry pieces by Fabergé, and the last tsarina's grand piano. Open since June 20, the Hermitage Amsterdam has become the hottest attraction in the capital of the Netherlands. About 100,000 visitors have passed through it already. [CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the original version had the incorrect opening date. We regret the mistake.] The museum has a deal with the Russian government to produce exhibitions together with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, though it is not owned by Russia. It currently holds more than 1,800 objects on loan from Russia. It's housed in the Amstelhof building, which had previously been an elderly care facility for 324 years. The museum gives visitors a glimpse of St. Petersburg and the surrounding countryside via paintings, watercolors, drawings, photographs, and films. One of the highlights is an astonishing 15-foot-long panorama of the city as seen from the Peter and Paul Fortress on the North bank of the River Neva. During the current exhibition, you'll find mannequins dressed in magnificent uniforms and elegant dresses. Remarkably, even the colors of the dresses were governed by a strict protocol set by the tsar Nicholas I himself, a museum representative told Budget Travel. Also check out the clever re-creation of a nineteenth-century ball, which includes revolving round display cases with music and projection images from the film "Russian Ark," shot in the Hermitage St. Petersburg. The exhibit lasts until January 31, 2010. A tip: Weekdays are better for visiting to beat the crowds. Another tip: If you're more keen to see masterworks, it might be worth waiting to poke around the museum after March 6, 2010, when the "Origins of Modern Art. Braque, Matisse and Picasso" exhibit debuts. —David Cumming Amstel 51, Amsterdam, open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 pm, Wednesdays to 8 pm and closed on January 1 and December 25, 011-31-20 530 87 51, hermitage.nl, admission is €15 for adults. Anyone under 16 years of age gets in free. Word to the wise: Admission is free if you have the I amsterdam Card, which also gets you free public transportation, admission to dozens of other museums and offers discounts on restaurants. MORE ABOUT THE EXHIBIT ON THE WEB Jaunted, Gadling, and intheknowtraveler. REAL DEALS Holland & Belgium Cruise, 9 Nights, From $1,322 Per Person

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