EASTPORT, Maine - Up here in Washington County, between the Canadian border and the Bay of Fundy, a traveler faces the contrasts of a spectacular landscape against a depressed economy, welcome solitude against scarce amenities like restaurants, shops, theaters, comfortable lodgings.
So I was elated to discover Weston House, an elegant bed-and-breakfast graciously run by Jett and John Peterson.
Eastport encompasses all of Moose Island, 10 hilly square miles that jut out into Passamaquoddy Bay in the northeastern corner of the state. In fact, it's the easternmost city in the United States and also Maine's smallest city, with a population just over 1,500. Locals like to say that it's "a city where you'd never expect to find a city," because it seems so remote.
The Petersons were raised in Virginia. Before coming to Eastport, they lived mainly in the Southwest, where he worked for the US Forest Service and she taught high school English and helped collect child support payments from delinquent dads. Neither had set foot in Maine until 1984, when, on a whim, they came looking to buy an inn.
They had a fondness for New England and always enjoyed entertaining. From the moment they saw Weston House, "it spoke to us," says Jett. Somehow, she knew that running a B&B would be "just my cup of tea." They opened it as an inn in 1985.
It's a large, Federal-style building with light, spacious rooms and nearly an acre of flowery gardens, a few blocks from the city center. It was built in 1810 as the residence of Jonathan Weston, a Harvard-educated lawyer who, among other things, helped draw the boundary between the United States and Canada. His circle of friends included naturalist John James Audubon, who frequently stayed here in a room that overlooks the bay.
This room (now $90 a night) is decorated with copies of prints of birds Audubon identified and drew. Weston's descendants also gave the Petersons a copy of Audubon's voluminous "Birds of America," which sits in a common parlor.
The Audubon room is one of three rooms at the inn, all tastefully appointed with lots of antiques, Oriental rugs, and crafts made by local artisans. Rates include a full breakfast and afternoon tea, sherry, or port.
We chose a $95 room with a bay view and a cozy fireplace. The Petersons were kind and welcoming when we arrived several hours early, seeking refuge from a blizzard that stymied our plans for exploring the area. A companion summarized our stay as "solace in the storm."
What was striking about Jett Peterson was how correctly and tactfully she anticipated our needs, without being obtrusive. When the power went out while my friend was taking a shower, she managed to get him a flashlight without compromising his modesty or her dignity. She kept us well supplied with logs for our fire. And before our departure the next morning, our 78-year-old hostess was out shoveling snow and ice from the driveway where we had parked.
Jett also is a fine cook. Breakfast consisted of French toast with Grand Marnier, plus sausage or bacon and a slice of melon. Other favorites include ricotta pancakes with apricot liqueur sauce; omelets with fresh asparagus, prosciutto, and Parmesan; and eggs Benedict with mock orange hollandaise sauce. (Bon Appétit asked for the recipe.)
In better weather, we were informed, there is lots to do in Eastport. The city has a small artists' colony with galleries and craft shops. A trail up Shackford Head offers panoramic views, and schooners ply the bay on whale-watching cruises. Eastport also houses the only remaining stone-ground mustard mill in the country, with tours available.
The downside of a stay in Eastport is the lack of good restaurants. But with advance notice, Jett will cook dinner for private parties, at $35-$45 per person for a five-course meal, BYOB. It may be the best deal in town.
Judith Gaines, a freelance writer in Maine, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.