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Checking In

An inn for getting you out and about in Bar Harbor

A host of ideas for savoring some coastal Maine

Email|Print| Text size + By Linda K. Wertheimer
Globe Staff / July 31, 2005

BAR HARBOR, Maine -- You don't go to the Holland Inn for rooms with frilly curtains, doll collections, and Queen Anne chairs, though the accommodations are appealing.

You don't go for stuff-you-to-the-gills breakfasts, though the meals are ample, scrumptious, and upon request, tailored to your diet.

Nor do you go to sit on a deck and gaze at the sea or hills of nearby Acadia National Park, though it takes just minutes to stroll a few blocks to a sandbar at low tide and glimpse Cadillac Mountain.

You go there mostly to savor the cooking and hospitality of Evin Hulbert, co-owner of the bed-and-breakfast, who doubles as your chef and daily trip planner.

Evin, 37, and her husband, Tom, 43, opened the inn in 1997. Evin, who formerly managed restaurants, and Tom, who previously worked in construction, gutted the inside of the 1895 house, created five bedrooms, and dubbed it the Holland Inn. An old farmhouse, the white inn's architecture is plain, though its front yard, landscaped by Evin, is beautiful in its simplicity. Petunias in rock settings rest on each side of the walk to the front door. Holly bushes grow under the breakfast room window, which overlooks Holland Avenue.

I stayed here first in 1999 and vowed to return because of the Hulberts' down-to-earth brand of hospitality and the inn's convenience to Acadia National Park and downtown Bar Harbor. Six years ago, both Hulberts and their son Simon lived in the inn and were around at breakfast time. On my return visit a few weeks ago, Evin made breakfast and chatted with guests, while two hired helpers did most of the serving. Tom watched Simon, now 8, and Benjamin, 3, in the Hulberts' home next to the inn.

Our room was on the second floor of the Quietside Cottage, an early-20th-century house behind the main inn. A gravel path from the parking lot leads to Quietside, which the Hulberts opened in 2002 with four guest rooms. On the way to the cottage door, Evin has planted a cutting garden, with purple clematis weaving around a trellis and hovering above red, yellow, and lavender flowers. A wooden bench, perfect for reading, faces the garden. Though across from a laundry, next to a hardware store, and off a main street, the inn is surprisingly tranquil.

The bedrooms, in the main house and in Quietside, resemble cute guest rooms you lovingly decorate for friends and family. The Hulberts named each room after hikes and mountains on Mount Desert Island, including Precipice, Beehive, and Bubbles.

Our room was Ship Harbor, the name of an easy jaunt around an inlet. A stuffed toy moose rested on a king-sized slat bed covered with a mix of dark and baby-blue bedding. Its soothing yellow walls decorated with paintings and sketches of ships and sailboats, Ship Harbor is neither tacky nor fancy. One of the inn's larger rooms, it had a couch, an easy chair, and a twin bed to accompany the king. The contemporary bathroom, stocked with thick forest green towels, had black and white tiles, a metal toothbrush stand, and metal towel racks.

The view from our room was so-so, looking onto the fence and driveway of the owners' home. We weren't in Bar Harbor, however, to stare out a window.

Our first morning there, we went to the main house for breakfast. The front sitting room had overstuffed off-white couches, a fireplace, a sketch of Bar Harbor on the wall, that day's newspapers, a dining guide, and booklets about area attractions. Next door was a casual dining room with wall-to-wall windows and tables set for two, each with a full carafe of orange juice. The main wall decoration was a map of the town and Acadia, a prop for Evin's daily excursion tips.

Evin, a slim and rarely stationary hostess, paused in front of the breakfast room and announced the morning's menu with a smile and gusto. Cinnamon-baked French toast on whole wheat Italian bread with nuts, but with sugar on top, not in it, she said. Sides are rosemary scrambled eggs and sausage. She reminded us that she would cook according to personal preference, including using skim milk instead of whole.

''Creative, but not pretentious," my friend declared of the food presentation. Sausage slices circled three-fourths of the plate, and a fruit salad with parsley filled in the border. The two slices of French toast were soft and melt-in-your-mouth sweet.

Rain pelted the house. Evin, coffee mug in hand, sat down after breakfast and gave us ideas for the day. One couple wanted to hike 1,530-foot-high Cadillac Mountain, foggy even on many dry days. Evin suggested a safer alternative, a flat oceanside path at Acadia. To the rest of us, she recommended an art exhibit at a local museum, an arts and crafts festival, and a jazz festival.

The quality of the hospitality and the food never wavered during our three-night stay. I requested tea and honey the first day, and each morning thereafter, it appeared by my plate. Food on other mornings included a granola baked peach, lemon raisin pancakes, and an edible nasturtium.

Evin found time daily to talk to guests individually or collectively about activities. A common refrain: Try the free Island Explorer bus, which carts passengers around the park and the town, rather than pollute the air with exhaust fumes from your car. The bus, she said, also has bike racks.

She and Tom have hiked extensively in Acadia and have canoed as well. Tell them your hiking experience, and they'll name a suitable trail and a highlight, perhaps a spot where you can see sailboats on Frenchman's Bay. The Holland Inn mantra was the same on my second visit as it was on my first: Enjoy the cozy guest rooms, but don't stay inside too long.

Contact Linda Wertheimer at wertheimer@globe.com.

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