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A TANK AWAY: Lewiston and Auburn, Maine

In sister cities, it’s double the fun

The area known as L/A shares a river, history, and vibrant communities

By Hilary Nangle
Globe Correspondent / February 29, 2012
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The Androscoggin River flows between downtown Lewiston, Maine’s second-largest city, and Auburn, and while each is distinct, they’re locally known as L/A. Textile and shoe mills, powered by Great Falls, drew French Canadians here in the 19th century. Those mills are now being rehabbed to house new restaurants, shops, and even a museum. Franco-American culture remains strong, but Somali refugees are adding their own vibe. Boxing fans know Lewiston as the site of the controversial heavyweight title fight between Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali in 1965.

STAY

The Ware Street Inn (52 Ware St., Lewiston, 877-783-8171, www.warestreetinn.com, $120-$235, including breakfast) is in a residential neighborhood adjacent to Bates College. The Queen Anne-style Penley House Bed & Breakfast (233 Main St., Auburn, 888-786-4850, www.penleyhouse.com, $90-$110), located in Auburn’s Historic District, is an easy walk from downtown attractions. The riverfront Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch (14 Great Falls Plaza, Auburn, 207-784-4433, www.hiltongardeninn.com, rooms from $110), with indoor pool, fitness center, restaurant, puts all of L/A within footsteps.

DINE

For breakfast, pop into Rolly’s Diner (87 Mill St., Auburn, 207-753-0171, rollysdiner.com, $3-$8), where the crepes earn raves. Auburn Library Cafe (49 Spring St., Auburn, 207-784-2300, $4-$9) serves all-day breakfast and lunch fare, with menu items named for New England authors. Boxing fans shouldn’t miss nearby Graziano’s Casa Mia (Route 196, Lisbon, 207-353-4335, www.grazianoscasamia.com, lunch entrees $8-$13), an old-time red sauce palace with a mind-boggling display of sporting memorabilia. Seafood is the specialty at Fish Bones American Grill (70 Lincoln St., Lewiston, 207-333-3663, www.fishbonesag.com, $12-$28), housed in a renovated mill. Fuel (49 Lisbon St., Lewiston, 207-333-3835, fuelmaine.com, $19-$26), a country French-inspired bistro and wine bar in Lyceum Hall, also serves lighter fare ($10-$12) in the lounge. Its sister restaurant Marché (40 Lisbon St., 207-333-3836, www.marchemaine.com, $7.50-$9) serves lunch. DaVinci’s Eatery (150 Mill St., Lewiston, 207-782-2088, davinciseatery.com, $10-$20) is tops for pasta and brick-oven pizza. The Somali specialties at Three One Café (259 Lisbon St., Lewiston, 207-376-4800, $5-$10) include roast goat, mango chicken, and sambusas. She Doesn’t Like Guthries (115 Middle St., Lewiston, 207-376-3344, www.guthriesplace.com, $6-$10) pairs healthful fare including veggie, vegan, and wheat-free options with eclectic art and live music.

DURING THE DAY

Bates College Museum of Art (75 Russell St., 207-786-6259, www.bates.edu, free) emphasizes works on paper, especially by Maine artists including Lewiston-born Modernist Marsden Hartley. Museum L-A (35 Canal St., Lewiston, 207-333-3881, museumla.org, $5), located in the Bates Mill complex downtown, tells the stories of L/A’s immigrant communities and documents the region’s textile-, brick-, and shoe-manufacturing industries. Orphan Annie’s (96 Court St., Auburn, 207-782-0638) is a must-shop for fans of vintage goods. Tour and taste at Baxter Brewing Co. (130 Mill St., Lewiston, 207-333-6769, www.baxterbrewing.com). Download a self-guided tour of Lewiston (www.ci.lewiston.me.us/index.aspx?nid=421), and enjoy a walk about. Most distinctive of L/A’s churches is the Gothic Revival Saints Peter and Paul Basilica (27 Bartlett St., corner of Bartlett and Ash streets, Lewiston, 207-777-1200, www.saintspeterandpaul.us), which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and noted for a rose window modeled after the one at Chartres Cathedral. Hike, ski, or snowshoe the trails of 372-acre Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary (Montello St., Lewiston, 207-782-5238, www.stantonbirdclub.org/thorncrg.htm, free). Don’t be deceived by the size of Lost Valley (200 Lost Valley Road, Auburn, 207-784-1561, www.lostvalleyski.com). The vest-pocket ski area has produced four Olympians. Tickets begin at $16-$21 for two hours, night skiing is offered, and snowmaking ensures it remains open until mid-March.

AFTER DARK

Bates College (207-786-6255, www.bates.edu/events) presents concerts, lectures, exhibits, sporting events, and other activities. The Franco-American Heritage Center (46 Cedar St., Lewiston, 207-783-1585, www.francoamericanheritage.org), a performing arts center housed in St. Mary’s Church, often hosts symphonic, chamber, and choral music concerts, dance programs, and other events. L/A Arts (221 Lisbon St., Lewiston, 207-782-7228 or 800-639-2919, www.laarts.org) brings films, concerts, family events, and other cultural activities to the area. The Public Theatre (31 Maple St., Lewiston, 207-782-3200, www.thepublictheatre.org) stages professional productions at affordable prices; tickets $18.

Hilary Nangle can be reached through her website, www.MaineTravelMaven.com.

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