Few people know Portland as well as Joe Loughlin, 58, who spent 28 years on its police force and still patrols the Old Port neighborhood with P.T., his boxer.
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"On one hand you have this relaxed urban environment, with all kinds of cultural and art opportunities, but you're just a short drive from everything that makes Maine such a great, outdoorsy place," he says. "In five minutes you can be driving across the bridge to Mackworth Island. The ocean beaches and Casco Bay are right here. There are terrific lakes, too — I'm less than 20 miles from Sebago Lake, which is like a mini Lake Tahoe."
You won't find much in the way of cute here — Portland has proudly preserved its working waterfront.
On Commercial Street you can watch fishermen, loaded down with their catch from the Gulf of Maine, pull into piers and unload some of the world's freshest seafood at discount prices. Lobsters are the famous favorite, but you'll find haddock, salmon, cod, mussels and peekytoe crab, too.
For the area's many devoted foodies, Portland's working-class demeanor masks gourmet deals: The city's restaurant scene is both constantly changing and gaining national recognition. Not long ago Bon Appétit named Portland "the Foodiest Small Town in America."
Says Loughlin: "You get a lot here. Portland is diverse, it's fun, it's evolving — and it's easy to escape when you need to. It's a bargain."