Montreal Jazz: Biggest and Best

Club Métropolis – © F. Ménard-Aubin

Club Métropolis – © F. Ménard-Aubin

World-Class Rendezvous

Lucky me: I’m heading for the 36th edition of the world’s largest jazz festival, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Celebrating a passion for music for over three decades, North America’s French-speaking metropolis annually welcomes fans to 10 days of jazz-centric celebration — June 26-July 5 — where humble music fans like me can rub shoulders with aficionados of the genre in its purest form.

We’ve experienced performances by luminaries as diverse as Leonard Cohen, Wynton Marsalis, the B-52s, Stevie Wonder, Madeleine Peyroux, Woody Allen, Jamie Cullum and many more. This year I am looking forward to Patricia Barber, Wayne Shorter, and somebody named Pokey LaFarge.

jamie_cullum_enThe Jazz Festival hosts 30 countries, 3,000 musicians and entertainers, 1,000 concerts and activities—two-thirds of them free – in 15 concert halls and on eight outdoor stages, welcoming more than two million visitors to the city, noon to midnight. And it all happens on a beautiful urban “place” in the heart of Montreal’s downtown core — a green, safe, car-free zone. There’s no doubt – c’est magnifique!

09-DSCN5478Taverne-F_cheese-Portugal-MontrealWhile Jazz Fest takes over the downtown Quartier des Spectacles, diverse restaurants and dining opportunities abound on the sprawling festival site — everything from haute-cuisine to gourmet sandwiches and open-air food trucks. Stroll to Chinatown for dim sum, or hike to the Plateau for the best bagels and smoked meat sandwiches in North America. Don’t miss Old Montreal, with its quaint, open-front bistros and old-world ambiance. My personal favorite is Le Club Chasse et Pêche; ask for a garden table.

Sarah-B-Absinthe-Bar-to-Visit-The-Green-FairyMontreal nightlife features unabashed, prolonged bar-hopping and no shortage of watering holes. Dance the night away at clubs onsite or in Old Montreal. Conduct a personal pub crawl through the city’s abundant wine bars and microbreweries, like Benelux on Sherbrooke, Cheval Blanc on Ontario St., Brutopia on Crescent St., L’amere a Boire and Le Saint Bock on Saint-Denis, and Les Soeurs Grises in the Old Port. Or try a magical, mystical sip of absinthe at the Bar Sarah B., named for the divine Sarah Bernhardt, at the lovely and historic Hotel Intercontinental.

33-DSCN563711-DSCN5492This year we’ve rented an upscale apartment five-minutes from Place des Arts. I trust Montreal’s sprawling open-air markets — Atwater and Jean Talon — will supply more than enough colorful, fresh produce, crusty breads, local duck and fine wines for residents, musicians and jazz fans to sip, savor and explore.

So join me on Planet Jazz in my favorite North American city for the biggest and best of Montreal’s year-round festivals. As the late, great B.B. King said, “It’s the best in the world.” •

BB_King2_enwayne_shorter_en

Writing

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Art & Passion: Paris 2015

Renoma dogAvant Garde by Accident

Renoma pieceLongchampCrossing the Rue Longchamp after visiting Pâtisserie des Rêves, I stumble onto Renoma and a new fascination is born.

Maurice Renoma transformed French menswear in the 1960s. Unfettered and original, he used sensual fabrics, bold color and sculptural designs that contour the body — remember his fab unisex suits? In the 90s, Renoma developed a passion for photography and began a second career as modographe, creating provocative black-and-white images with cinematic charm. Now Renoma is designing furniture — look out world.

Louis, Louis

Vuitton ext. III20100414201035!MatissedanceYou’ll find art, art, and more art at the Louis Vuitton Foundation on the edge of the historic green space that is the Bois de Boulogne. Since 1853, the enormous Bois has delighted Parisians with horse paths, gardens and ponds. With the addition of  Frank Gehry’s swooping free-form museum, it is a treat for both eye and spirit. We experience the current exhibition, Keys to a Passion, with works by Bacon, Bonnard, Brancusi, Dix, Delaunay, Giacometti, Hodler, Kandinsky, Léger, Malevich, Matisse, Mondrian, Monet, Munch, Nolde, Picabia, Picasso, Rothko, Schjerfbeck and Severini — a veritable who’s who, each represented by a small group or single work. We are thoroughly engaged and delighted. July 6 brings the next installation of Keys, don’t miss it.

Musee d’Orsay

Front of d'Orsay LibbyOn the left bank of the Seine sits the former Beaux-Arts railway station that is now the Musée d’Orsay. A short rive gauche stroll from our beloved St. Michel neighborhood, the d’Orsay houses the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world — Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

Looking down into d'Orsay IIParis Musee D'Orsay Vincent van Gogh 1890 Portrait of Dr. GachetThe d’Orsay always takes my breath away. A brief bomb scare gives me a moment in the grand hall to compose myself. Picasso’s Femme en Vert stuns me, as does Cézanne’s Woman with a Coffeepot. Room 10 is devoted to disturbing and mesmerizing scenes of Bohemian Paris — this is where Picasso’s powerful Absinthe Drinker hangs alongside Toulouse-Lautrec’s scenes of dance halls and brothels. Raboteurs by Caillebotte, below, is a d’Orsay favorite, the workmen muscled and sweaty, the light glorious.

Floor Sandersthe-absinthe-drinker-1901-1.jpg!BlogLa Dolce Vita

As a true Italophile, I am drawn to the d’Orsay’s special exhibition, Dolce Vita, showcasing Italian design from 1900-1940. Che buono.

Dolce Vita d'OrsayNapoleon ParisAu Moderne

At Musée d’Art Moderne, the quirky permanent collection includes an exhibition in-the-round of Raul Dufy, a sprawling but sparse Matisse room, and several free-range surprises like the irreverent La Battaille de Waterl’eau. Best of all, this bright and sassy waterfront musée is free.

Art Makes Me Hungry

Olives Chez Janou big bowlChez JanouSo we head to our favorite bistro in Le Marais, Chez Janou, where we enjoy a fine meal of warm goat cheese in tomato, grilled fish, an amazing bit of duck and of course several helpings from the magic olive bowl. We declare Janou our private club and pinky-swear to return. And we will.

PompidouArt Is Everywhere

From museum-art to to street-art to flower-art to food-art:                                                        You never know what you will see in Paris. •

Torso d'OrsaySidewalk art

 

 

 

 

Peonies in Bloom Paris

 

 

 

 

Escargot

 

 

picasso_femmeenvert1944_l

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shake It Up Baby: Paris 2015

RachelPont Neuf

I am crossing the oldest bridge in Paris, pinching myself, heading for my daughter’s flat on Rue de L’Hirondelle. By “flat” I mean two burners and a giant window, c’est tout – think Madeline without pink roses. I’m hopelessly bourgeois but think it’s all terribly romantic. I climb the ancient, grooved wooden stairway to apt. 2-B, hoist my bags inside and stub my toe on the skinny, cast-iron ladder to her sleeping loft. Welcome to Paris.

Bon Appetit

My first taste in this city is an artichoke, beautifArtichokeul. The second taste is, of course, cheese – a pungent blue, a heady truffle, and velvety Brie. Followed by a memorable bite of braised rabbit with sweet roasted fennel. Baguette. Crispy duck with potatoes roasted in duckfat, and a crisp white table wine, mon dieu, wildly simple.

Fromage blanc with raspberryOf course formule lunches (what we used to call prix fixe) are the main event each day, with robust and tasty fare enjoyed indoors or out, for hours. Head for the Marais and the lovely garden at L’Ebouillante, where 15€ buys robust soup, salad, and fromage blanc with raspberries. Linger. Check out the floor-to-ceiling posters. Have a coffee. And please don’t feed the birds.

RimbaudDessert First

Framboise pastry RêveIf you’re feeling decadent, head for Pâtisserie des Rêves for delicate mille-feuille treats like legendary hazelnut-cream Paris-Brest, “the best in Paris.” My personal fave: Tarte Framboise, perfect.

logoOr head for Maison Pradier for a swoon-worthy chocolate éclair.  How do they do it?  Who cares. Just eat one. Or two.

Reve pastriesMaybe I’m Amazed

Beatles and Eiffel TowerSurprise! We have tickets to Paul McCartney’s “Out There” concert at the Stade de France, Paris. I experienced the coup de foudre of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964 along with 73 million other people – my first taste of “fab” and color TV that remains stubbornly and dreamily black and white.

Still a sloe-eyed babe at 72, McCartney is dazzling and slightly formal in white shirt and Beatle boots (he still rocks the boots). He opens the set with a pounding Eight Days A Week. We scream, we twist and shout.

My favorite bit of Maccaphemera is a quirky version of Temporary Secretary. 42 songs and three hours later, he concludes with two encores and a sentimental version of The End. Definitely worth the 50-year wait. •

Macca fist pump good one Libby

78947445Next Up, Part Deux: All You Need Is Art

 

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La Primavera

Lake view IIAperol Spritz at Hotel BelvedereHappy Hour

It’s late afternoon here in Argegno. I sip an Aperol spritz; my daughter Rachel sips Campari. It’s an honor to introduce millennial mini-me to the fine Italian custom (always in English) of Happy Hour at Hotel Villa Belvedere. We enjoy the glorious lakeside primavera through floor-to-ceiling windows, and admire the shelves of Martini & Rossi, Aperol, Campari and mysterious Fernet Branca behind the sleek hotel bar.

Classic Spritz Cocktail                                                                                           3 oz. prosecco
1½ oz. Aperol or Campari
1½ oz. soda water
Orange slice to garnish
Combine prosecco, liqueur and soda water in a tall glass filled with ice; garnish with orange – Rachel prefers a blood orange.

Campari 1Prices often rise during happy hour. This is understandable. Here in Argegno, the vast sea of complimentary aperitivi at Cafè Colombo includes panini, chunks of Parmigiano, ribbons of pink prosciutto, puffy pizzette and warm squares of polenta. At Pensavo Meglio, they deliver a similar assortment on a plate. At Bar Motta, it’s olives or my weakness, potato chips. The happy hour crowd spills into the Piazza Roma. No one is in a hurry. A proper Italian happy hour often stretches into evening.

Boating to Bellagio

Janie GelatoBelieve it or not, it can get a little boring sitting around eating and drinking. Our group, which has grown from 3 to 10 over the last few days, decides to take a day-boat to Bellagio, the “Pearl of the Lake.” With indoor and outdoor seating, views are spectacular. The lake is a necklace of small jewels, towns with stone bell towers, grand villas and tranquil gardens. A day-ticket allows you to visit as many as you’d like. Of course, we disembark at Bellagio, utterly beautiful once you escape the touristy center.  We pass Cadenabbia, Varenna, Tremezzo and Lenno, and admire glorious Villa del Balbianello with its panoramic terraced gardens, bellissimo.

Tessa AhoyOur magical mystery tour has made us us sleepy. Back on the boat, tucked along the wall, we doze. Our viaggio ends in Menaggio at Bar Constantin, a central restaurant crowded with locals. I adore the verde pizza with spinach, topped with fresh arugula. Meatier pizzas include a tasty “speck” pie. Share a pitcher or two of the heavy red wine, “it feels like a Seder,” says Rachel. Bar Constantin closes around 2:00 each afternoon for la pausa (the time of day when Italian businesses shut down), so don’t be late.

Menaggio Seder IIEaster mass in ComoOne Rainy Day

Fog and drizzle provide an opening for a urban exploration of historic Como center. Some of us attend a very crowded Easter mass, redolent of incense, that makes me a little teary. We stroll the fashion-forward centro and admire styles from Armani and Missoni. We hit the renaissance Palazzo Giovio, now an archaeological museum, chock full of local antiquities, historical artifacts, and surprising kitchy paintings.

DSCN4211Pines and Palms

Pines and Palms IIRachel observes that the ideal climate features both pine and palm trees. We agree. Lake Como has an abundance of pines and palms, plus flowering plants, fragrant herbs, warm breezes and sunshine. And it is several miserable-weather weeks ahead of our home in snowy northern New England. Is it Maine? I confess I can barely remember.

At midday we sprawl like lizards in the sun on our stone patio amid fragrant rosemary. Mid-afternoon, we chat over glasses of Vermentino at Pensavo Meglio. Later, we enjoy a passeggiata, or evening stroll, and return to our pebbled courtyard with the little terracotta fire pit high on Via Schignano. Life is good.

Via Schignano

Felice Compleanno

Maggie & Mark IIOne of us is celebrating a decade-birthday, I will not say who. This is maggiore. We decide to celebrate at a charming nearby restaurant, La P’Osteria, a beloved riverside spot that served as Argegno’s post office in the 1800s. Rustic starters of salumi are wonderful — don’t miss the polenta sticks.

P'Osteria

Rachel in Argegno

Regional specialties include lake fish, duck, meaty agnolotti and tagliatelle pastas. I especially enjoy an unconventional broccoli and bottarga dish. Yes, dried fish eggs. Delicious. Our thoughtful friend Barrie Webb creates an authentic, not-too-sweet Tiramisu for the occasion. Rachel adds a crazy candle that resembles a roadside flare, and it’s a sparkling celebration.

Our languid lakeside spell has been a tranquil vacanza da poesia, a poetic holiday. Arrivederci, Argegno

Birthday Tira Misu from Barrie WebbTiramisu                                                                                                                   6 large egg yolks, at room temperature                                                             1/4 cup sugar                                                                                                            1/2 cup dark rum, divided
1- 1/2 cups brewed espresso, divided
16 to 17 oz. mascarpone cheese
30 Italian ladyfingers, or savoiardi
Grated bittersweet chocolate
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer whisk attachment on high for about 5 minutes until thick and light yellow. Lower the speed and add 1/4 cup rum, 1/4 cup espresso, the mascarpone cheese and whisk until smooth.
Combine the remaining 1/4 cup rum and 1- 1/4 cups espresso in a shallow bowl. Lightly dip one side of each ladyfinger in the espresso/rum mix and line the bottom of a 9 by 12 by 2-inch dish with them. Pour half the espresso cream mixture evenly on top. Dip one side of the remaining ladyfingers in the espresso/rum, and place them in a second layer in the dish. Pour the rest of the espresso cream over the top. Smooth surface and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Mm.
Sports fans at P'osteria

Badgers fans at La P’Osteria

 

 

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Tempo Dulu

tugu-tempo-duluAfter an interminable Maine winter, my husband and I need a relaxing trip within a few hours drive. When we hear that Camden Harbour Inn is having a pop-up preview of their new Southeast Asian restaurant, Tempo Dulu, we jump at the chance.

Raymond & OscarInnkeepers Oscar Verest and Raymond Brunyanszky have at last expanded to Portland with their purchase of The Danforth. The handsome couple met in Indonesia and have named the inn’s restaurant Tempo Dulu, which loosely translates to “olden days,” a flavorful homage to their early romance. Best of all, they have placed multi-talented chef Lawrence Klang is at the helm — brilliant.

Succulent

We arrive as guests are settling in for cocktails. Barman Mac McGaw is the devilish mastermind behind the popular Mainehattan cocktail, flavored with both Maine maple syrup and lavender essence from Glendarragh Farms — local sourcing at its best. I know sommelier Micah Wells is doing the wine pairings, so I hold back. A little.

Scallop CHIAmid twinkling votive candles and red roses, we’re served a Weskeag oyster with mignonette — a first succulent bite of pure ocean. Smoked trout with papaya follows for a robust local taste with an exotic finish. A perfectly seared Maine diver scallop with beet, jalapeno, pineapple, fermented soybean, and seaweed is a stand-out, and the beautiful Balinese duck with a lemongrass Sambal and chewy yellow rice is rich and satisfyingly sticky. All courses feature delicate, distinctive and unexpected flavors of Southeast Asia paired with the robust essence of Maine.

I look forward to having Chef Klang in my neck of the woods, and to more of this exquisite, surprisingly light and unfussy fare. Proximity rules.

Posh and Private

Signature roses CHIOver the years, Oscar and Raymond have transformed the Camden Harbour Inn into a cosmopolitan boutique hotel, recently named one of the World’s Best Hotels in Travel & Leisure, along with AAA Four Diamonds and coveted Relais & Chateau status. Each distinctive room has stunning views of blue ocean, craggy islands and evergreens from wraparound porches and large windows.

This tranquil oasis of comfort and perfection rocks the concept of personal service. During our first visit, my white dinner napkin was replaced with black to match my dress.  Astonishing.  To quote myself, “The service at both inn and restaurant goes beyond impeccable to almost clairvoyant.”

I am confident that they will achieve the same level of elegance and supreme comfort here in Portland at The Danforth.

camden-harbour-inn-suriname-suite.jpg.1920x807_defaultSumptuous

Chef Klang CHIWe first met executive chef Lawrence Klang at Camden Harbour Inn in 2008. His sumptuous dinner was the highlight of our stay. Featuring both Maine ingredients and local wines, Klang’s distinctive lobster preparations earned him the 2008 Maine Lobster Chef People’s Choice award, as well as accolades from the James Beard Foundation. Since leaving the inn in 2010, he has continued to hone his astonishing culinary skills at hotel restaurants in Thailand and Indonesia.

Most Important Meal of the Day

Matilda celebrates the inn’s “perfectly poached eggs!”

Don’t skip breakfast. Each morning, guests are offered a generous, European-style breakfast. The sideboard is laden with cheeses, yogurt, croissants and fruit. Lobster Benedict is as velvety and unctuous as you’d imagine. I love the Open Faced Breakfast Sandwich, a gooey preparation of house-made bread topped with spinach, mushrooms, fried egg and magic sauce. Go ahead, lick the plate.

My jazzy favorite at CHI

 

 

 

 

 

 

Win-Win

Oscar and Raymond possess a winning combination: a superb sense of design, color and style, and a reverence for romance. Their welcome is as warm and genuine as their smiles. The Camden showplace is my ultimate go-to for deeply restorative R&R — highly recommended. Spring specials make it more accessible to year-round Mainers.

I know their transformation of The Danforth will create a sophisticated and stylish oasis here in Portland … perhaps a bit more “uptown.” And Tempo Dulu will bring us Southeast Asian fine dining, a long-awaited and welcome addition to our vibrant restaurant scene. •

The Danforth

The Danforth – Portland, Maine

 

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La Dolce Vita on the High Seas

Positano view

View of Positano

I may have to turn in my indie traveler badge. I have spent the last week contemplating a cruise. Yes, a cruise.

Let’s Go

With several feet of dirty snow on the ground, I’m yearning for some intense Mediterranean sun, lazy touring, swimming, and maybe even a bit of yoga. What I don’t want is packing and unpacking, cooking and cleaning, or finding a new restaurant every evening.

A savvy friend surprises me by suggesting a cruise. “The beauty of a cruise is that all your needs are taken care of,” she says, “so you can concentrate on relaxing and honing your ‘far niente’ skills.” Hm.

cer2_1397059301I imagine the sun-soaked cliffs of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. Meandering to the picturesque fishing village of Positano for brightly painted majolica. Exploring the friendly seaside village of Amalfi. Grazing the upscale boutiques of Capri. Savoring limoncello on Ischia, Italy’s most romantic island.

Port of Call

Think about it. You visit your favorite places, and unpack only once. Of course, you’ll spend some time at sea, but you’ll be en route to several beautiful Italian ports of call — what could be easier?

Italian immersions are available through different cruising companies who specialize in travelers doing their own thing “in most ports,” which appeals to indie travelers like me. They suggest doing some research beforehand, and kindly remind passengers that shuttles and guides are there to help.

Thomson in BrindisiFlourish

Best of all, healthy cruising is no longer an oxymoron. Salads, sushi, grilled vegetables, and poached salmon are now standard guilt-free fare. Along with decadent treats and the legendary ship’s buffets.

Healthful amenities include massage, spa treatments, sauna, and yoga — four personal faves. Swimming pools and whirlpools beckon, whether you’re into laps, dog paddle or a lazy float. Some offer poolside movie screenings by day, or from a comfy chaise and cozy blanket at night.

Stroll or stride the promenade deck for uninterrupted stretches of walking or jogging space with incredible Mediterranean views. Or bust a move on the dance floor. Learn a smooth tango or foxtrot from the dance professionals who are often on board.

Tasting & Touring

iStock_000000886907MediumNeapolitan pizzaSpend a gritty and magical day in Naples, the essence of southern Italy, where Vespas weave and sputter through winding streets and hanging laundry flutters between ancient buildings. Grab a slice of incomparable pizza and explore ornate palaces, cathedrals and monasteries — the authentic essence of the centro. Don’t miss the world-class archeological museum, whose stunning collection includes treasures from Pompeii and Herculaneum, frozen in time by the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius. And don’t be afraid to push yourself. Remember that a comfortable ship’s cabin awaits.

Refresh & Recharge

After a day of touring, have a swim, massage or spa treatment. Enjoy complimentary cabin toiletries, from high-end spa products to basic whitening toothpaste. You don’t have to worry about what’s not in your Dopp kit. While you’ve been touring, your cabin will have been cleaned, towels freshened and bed made.

Amore

The sight of a red sun dropping into the Mediterranean is one of the most beautiful in the world.  Stand at the railing and savor the romantic recharge of a fiery sunset on the ocean.  Love is still in the air with fine wines, creative cuisine, and a nightly decadent dessert. If you’re a night owl, you’ll find intriguing nightlife within walking distance of your cabin — including theater, comedy, music and a hopping bar-scene.

As you begin to yawn, you will find that your bed is smooth and turned down for a great night’s rest. Now that’s a vacation!  •

View of Florence, Italy

View of Florence, Italy

Posted in Art and Culture, Cruise, Italian Travel, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment

Sustainable Urbanism By Design

Cumberland5Originally published © the Portland Press Herald 2012, photos by Derek Davis

Intrepid homesteaders ascend Portland’s Munjoy Hill reviving once-neglected neighborhoods with creative housing concepts.

Sometimes it’s co-housing. Sometimes it’s a condominium.  It’s often collaborative living, but doesn’t quite conform to that definition. And it’s not an “intentional community,” a term that Portland architect Dick Reed would eschew as too precious, anyway.

Separate But Equal

When Dick Reed and his wife, Gunnel Larsdotter, decided it was time to consolidate their Peaks Island summer place, in-town home and architectural offices, their journey took them to Cumberland Avenue on Munjoy Hill.  Part of the quest was a parking spot for their beloved yellow motorcycle.

Yellow Motorcycle REEDReed’s friend Chris Roberts was seeking a site for an art studio, workshop and garden with his wife, Mere. Reed describes the goal as “do-it-yourself condo – you preselect the company and make your own rules.”

When Mere and Gunnel found a hidden green space with antique brick wall behind the run-down urban property, the “secret garden,” they declared the site perfect.  With their enthusiastic stamp of approval, the two couples purchased the property together.

Original cinderblock walls from 1945 are recycled from the building’s humble origins as a cement one-story garage. “I like the cinder block,” says Reed. “I was told it was made right here on Munjoy Hill.”

Original cinderblock walls from 1945 are recycled from the building’s humble origins as a cement one-story garage. “I like the cinder block,” says Reed. “I was told it was made right here on Munjoy Hill.”

The families appreciated the urban setting midway up Munjoy Hill, a working-class neighborhood of modest homes, apartments and tenements. The Hill’s legendary rough and gritty reputation persisted until gentrification began its relentless creep up the Eastern Prom in the 1980s and 1990s.

Reed rebuilt the existing five-bay cinderblock garage into a three-story residential space with office and guest quarters.  Chris and Mere rebuilt the former “carriage house” as an artist studio with living space overlooking the garden. The Reed home has ground floor entry, studio-office, guest quarters and garage. It opens onto a beautiful brick-walled courtyard with elegant Asian-style garden – an urban oasis.

Urban Tree House

Cumberland2The soaring, multidimensional space has salvaged walls of original cinderblock from the former garage, echoing the structure’s original use. On the exterior, the home is a warm shade of salmon, nearly identical to the historic Portland Observatory, combined with slate shingles in soft gray-green.

Inside, abundant windows give an open, loft-like feel.  The Reeds’ living/working space is a soaring 2,200 square feet, with open living room, dining room, and small but very efficient European kitchen, much of which was sourced at IKEA. Upstairs, their 3rd floor bedroom feels like an urban treehouse. Bath, laundry and exercise spaces flow seamlessly. The stairway features graceful wooden hand-rails for safety – smooth and round – each with a hand-finished ball at the end. Low lights illuminate the steps at night for safety.

Cumberland6Sweat Equity

Reed installed the glowing floors of recycled bleacher-seats himself, a Herculean effort. Reed’s DIY sensibility and elbow grease created both room in the budget and a feeling of accomplishment — the best combination of savvy, sweat equity and sustainability.

The couples incorporated sustainable building concepts like highly insulated SIP panels to minimize heat loss, LED lighting, and recycled flooring and original cinder block in the garage. The couples future plans include a green roof.

The views from the home are enviable — the soaring triple-decker has dramatic vistas on three sides. The Reeds enjoy the Munjoy Hill Observatory from the living room, plus twinkling lights of Back Cove from the lofty 3rd floor bedroom.  On clear days, they have a stellar view of Mt. Washington.  “It’s beautiful up here at night,” Gunnel says.

Although they laugh at being in their “Golden Years,” the Reeds have thoughtfully installed a residential elevator to enjoy the vertical life they have created.  I’m impressed — this romantic couple has done some serious forward-thinking. “Two couples together make it work — we couldn’t have done it on our own.”

Downsizing Up

Waterville_1The Reeds are not alone in seeking alternative forms of sustainable urbanism. Others on the Hill are making similar choices.

Developer Peter Bass and two architects, David Lloyd of Archetype and Jenny Scheu of Redhouse Architects, plus builder John Ryan of Wright-Ryan Construction, teamed up to build a three-unit on a vacant lot at on Waterville Street in the East End. “We can do this — we can downsize to a single story,” said Jenny Scheu, who with her husband John Ryan, downsized-up on the top floor.

David Lloyd by LibbyArchitect David Lloyd, left, and his wife Nancy Adams took the ground floor, and Peter Bass and his wife, artist Lin Lisberger, took the second. Now the “Waterville Triad” occupies three stacked modern condo units. “We knew it was a group that was fun and good humored. Everybody was on the same page. None of us wanted fancy place, we wanted the building  to be practical – not an ‘Architectural Statement.’”

Good Neighbors

With architects, developer and builder in the mix, the building was an obvious “go.”  Scheu says the vacant urban property was love at first sight. “I love the way the Hill falls away, overlooking the city. We love to watch the boats in the harbor coming and going.”

This accomplished, cooperative design-build group has common sense to spare. After careful consideration, a condo-model seemed the best way to go. The trio drew up documents and scheduled an annual condo meeting. Common spaces include hallways that also function as informal art galleries.  There is an elevator, and below, a handy multi-car garage. Outdoor common gardens are left up to artists Adams and Lisberger.

Waterville_4“The design process was a nice balance,” says Scheu.“shaping the overall vision of what the space would be – a lot of back and forth.”

Part of the goal was protecting the environment. The result is a tight building with thoughtful insulation and smart details that minimize heat loss, like triple glazed widows. “Wright Ryan gets the credit for knowing that these details don’t have to be too expensive,” said Scheu.  The Waterville Triad also walks the walk – literally. “We love being able to walk everywhere,” and there are 12 bicycles in the basement. “Our heating bill is less than our cable bill – by quite a bit!”says Scheu. “It feels great to have a lighter footprint. It’s resoundingly pleasant for all of us.”

Waterville_PanMulti-Generational Homesteading

Housing costs, a struggling economy and aging parents have inspired some urban homesteaders to join forces across generations. Studies show the number of multi-generational households has recently risen dramatically. Some urban homesteaders find that creating separate-but-equal multigenerational households under the same roof can both bring rewards and create new bonds.

Pam and Peter Macomber on share their building on St Lawrence St. with Pam’s mother. With separate apartments in the same building, there is both privacy and closeness. “It’s a delicate balance with Mom’s space on the first floor and our space on the second and third – but we all make it work. Boundaries!” says Pam.

Co-housing with an aging parent can have unexpected benefits. “Mom always knew we were looking out for her best interests,” says Pam, “now I she really believes it. She even offers to dog-sit!”

Portland Maine Rooftops

The upscale renovation features all new windows, decks, private parking and a residential elevator. A small outdoor green space admits light, but with nothing to mow. “Maybe a few potted plants.” says Pam. “We want Mom to be able to come and go, and not struggle with stairs, snow or parking. She has nice views and no fuss.”

Upstairs, the Macombers enjoy private panoramic views of Portland Harbor from two levels, with lots of glass and multiple decks facing the water. “We loved our home in Deering, but this is a lot more convenient to our work and downtown,” says Peter.

“And a lot more fun,” says Pam.

Walk The Walk

Walkability is key to sustainable urbanism, and a major factor in all the couples’ housing choices. You will see Peter Macomber rollerblading along Fore Street; Lisberger and Bass dog-walking on the Eastern Prom; and run into Scheu at Rosemont Market. The Reeds enjoy walking to films and exhibitions at Portland Museum of Art.  It’s a chorus: “From here, we can walk anywhere – we love it!”

Something wondrous is happening as urban homesteaders create old-fashioned communities using sustainable building concepts, upcycling, and contemporary design ideas, one unpolished gem at a time.  •

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