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The Best 2002
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FOR PLAY: The swings on York Street, the best budget love in town.

Best Pulp Friction

Ever try writing a seductive email? It just doesn’t work. You feel like some kind of demented cyber stalker. But craft your words of woo on some nice grainy paper, and you’re instantly on par with Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love (ah, Gwyneth, you’re so hot in that moustache). But you’ve got to remember the nice grainy part. Nobody wants to go out with an admirer who can’t do better than college-ruled, blue-lined notebook paper.

Luckily, there’s the ridiculously, but somehow endearingly, named Papier Gourmet. They’ve got paper to make your head spin — ask to see the stuff in the back, it’s covered in pheromones and guaranteed to get you laid (okay, totally just kidding, but wouldn’t that be cool?)

ûnd once you’ve won your lover over, the folks at Gourmet will become your best friends. Need engagement party/wedding/shower/Christmas-party invites? They’ve got something for every tradition-mandated occasion. Really, they’ve got books and books and books of possibilities, enough to make certain people’s eyes glaze over while their significant others are floating two inches off the floor in gold-leaf-lined, Black Chancery, heavy-stock heaven.

Plus, paper is the traditional first anniversary present, dontcha know. While Papier Gourmet doesn’t sell paper lingerie, there’s a good bet you can find something there that will at least keep you in good marital graces (just make sure you get those new initials right).


Papier Gourmet, 26 Free St., Portland, (207) 871-9722.

Best Tech Support

Ah, romance. Not only can it be fleeting, but expensive as hell, too. We’re not breaking news here, but have you tried doing dinner and a movie lately? Maybe Ricetta’s and then some comedic romance at Falmouth Hoyts? That will run you at least $50 (less if you don’t get a buzz) for the meal and $16 for the movie (assuming you don’t get $5 popcorns or $5 “small” beverages). How’s a couple supposed to get off the ground and their pay respective rents at the same time?

Well, the Southern Maine Technical Center’s culinary arts program is there for you. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, their dining room is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for gourmet (in training) meals for the ultra-cheap cost of just $7.50 each, plus tip (no booze, though). What could be more romantic than taking the day off for the object of your affections, bringing said object for a fine meal whipped up by Portland’s chefs-to-be, and then taking a hand-in-hand stroll around SMTC’s beautiful campus?

You can amble out to Spring Point lighthouse, throw rocks in the ocean, gaze into one another’s eyes, and pretend you’re in some cheesy movie (Message in a Bottle comes to mind, as it was filmed here — gay guys can fight over who gets to be kissing Kevin Costner).

And the best part: If your date thinks you’re cheap for going this route, you know they’re not worth the effort anyway.


Southern Maine Technical Center Dining Room, Spring Point, South Portland, call (207) 767-9612 for reservations.

Best Celestial Bodies

It’s hard to say why stargazing is such a romantic thing. Maybe it has something to do with the endless quality of the night sky, spiraling out beyond what we can even imagine. Yet here we are, mere motes of dust in an infinite world. Staring out at those never-ending cosmos can make you feel pretty close to the person you’re standing next to.

Unfortunately, winter nights don’t make for very good outdoor dates — unless your idea of romance involves a golf course, a flask of peppermint schnapps, and a plastic sled. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until spring to get deep with your date. The Southworth Planetarium at the University of Maine offers astronomy shows every Friday and Saturday night, and, for those morning-after kind of dates, a Sunday matinee.

The schedule rotates monthly and includes such topics as “Images of the Infinite” (deep-space shots from the Hubble Telescope), “In Search of New Worlds” (an exploration of recently-discovered star systems in our own galaxy), and “Fires in the Sky” (the birth and death of stars). There are two Friday shows (7 and 8:30 p.m.), two Saturday shows (3 and 7 p.m.), and a Sunday show (3 p.m.).

If real science is too heavy for you, there’s always the musical laser shows. Set to the prerequisite Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Doors, Garth Brooks (well, of course!) et al, the chilled-out goodness starts every Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Bring your own munchies.

Southworth Planetarium, 96 Falmouth St., Portland, (207) 780-4249.

Best Low-Rent Romance

Unfortunately, many of our city’s public parks are none too savory: Congress Square, though in a nice central location, is a swamp of bum barf and pigeon poop; Courthouse Park, though it boasts a fountain, is home to a gypsy-like encampment of revelers with gravelly voices; and Pickle Park (aka Deering Oaks) is action packed, but hardly romantic. So, once you’ve purchased two PBRs and a pack of smokes, gotten your brown paper bag in hand, where to go? The gazebo on the Eastern Promenade is often populated with other budget lovers, and the park on North Street, fabulous for sunsets, is home to a bunch of feral children who’ll ask for a swig of your beers. The Western Promenade is nice, too, but, ya know, who hasn’t been there already? The “no cruising” ordinance which allows the cops to patrol the moral life of Portland’s citizens makes it tough to drink in peace.

A suggestion: some of the sweetest spots where you can hang out for free are the overlooked playgrounds dotting the city, as long as you maintain some semblance of good conduct. The sweetest of all is on York Street, just up from Popeye’s Ice House, where you can sit, swing, and look out over the Fore River as it curves in around the south side of Portland. Big trees frame the view, and if you go high enough, you can see the marinas on the opposite shore, tugs working alongside oil tankers, and cars whooshing over the bridge, their lights streaking out across the sky. (Should things get too pastoral, you can always shoot hoops with the feral children in the basketball court set behind the playground, or step on over to Popeye’s.)


York St. is right near the old Million Dollar Bridge. You can’t miss the playground.


Best Bridal Shop: Andrea’s Bridal

Best Flower Shop: Jordan’s Floral

Best Place for a Quickie at Lunch: Eastern Prom

Best Place to Score: Pavilion

Best Place to Wine and Dine: Fore Street

Best Proposal Site: Eastern Prom

Best Place for a Romantic Stroll: Portland Head Light

Best Place for a Romantic Weekend: Bar Harbor

Best Sexy Gifts Store: Condom Sense

Best Tuxedo Shop: Strictly Formal

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