I'm not one for venturing far from home but I make an exception when it comes to Portland Maine. So for my birthday this year I set off to explore what the city has to offer and was able to knock a few things off my bucket list in the progress.

Jenne Holmes

I normally drive to Portland but decided to take the Downeaster train instead as I had never traveled on the train before and until December 31st they are offering travelers a buy one get a ticket free deal which makes for a very affordable round trip. My daughter and I set off from the Dover station on the 10.35am train and after an hour of comfortable travel we arrived at Portland's Transit center.

The downside of the transit center is it is located outside of Portland itself but we soon discovered there were plenty of buses that would take us downtown for the princely sum of $1.50 each.

We got dropped off outside the city library and began to make our way down to the Portland Science center. One of my favorite stops in Portland is a company called Holy Donuts and this visit was no exception. The companies donuts are made from real Maine mashed potatoes, yes, Maine mashed potatoes and while I do not profess to know the process they use, the end result is delicious.

A cran-razz doughnut and a cup of coffee later and we found our way to the Portland Science Center, which is located on a wharf. Be warned this is a newish building and does not look like your typical museum from the road.

This was the reason we had decided to visit Portland in the first place: the exhibit showing was called Body Worlds. After paying for our tickets we found ourselves wandering around the exhibit of human bodies in various poses. I should probably mention these were real human bodies that had been preserved after death by a process called plastination. The process which was developed by German, Gunther von Hagens and allows a body to be perfectly preserved and allow someone to look at the inner working of the human body in all its glorious and fascinating detail.

As we wandered around various body parts I found myself thinking about the fact that all of the systems that control the human body were allowing me to view an exhibit of body systems and yet I never really give a thought to how I can walk or breath. Body Worlds runs through to the end of the year and is well worth a visit as it's as educational as it is beautiful.

One of the things I love most about Portland is it's a walking city in every sense of the word. Almost everything you could ever want can be walked to and is located in the downtown area. Of course we are in the festive season and just wandering around for a few hours it was hard not to get some of that Christmas spirit.

There are plenty of specialty shops to explore including the Coastal Maine Popcorn Co, which offers over 200 flavors which range from the traditional favorites like olive oil and salt to the damn right strange, such as dark chocolate and bacon. After tasting a few, I decided o take home some orange and cranberry flavored popcorn before we set off to explore more.

Jenne Holmes

We wandered for a while a while before we stumbled on the Victorian Mansion, a period house that was decorated for the Christmas season. Set in what is obviously an historic district of the old city, the mansion stands alone. My love of history is well known and we decided to take the plunge and stump for a set of tickets.

The somewhat somber looking mansions exterior gives little indication of the beauty that can be found once you walk through the rather impressive front door. A huge hall with stairs that run over three floors and balconies with rooms off them, offer a Victorian enthusiast a glimpse into the time. Only two floors are currently open to the public much to the disappointment of my daughter who wanted to explore the tower at the very top of the building.

Next we wandered back into town down the brick covered sidewalks and by now it was dark and the city took on a new lease of life. I love Christmas lights and Potland's are were well worth the trip. There was something for everyone, which for me, pretty much sums up Portland. By now we were starving and by chance we ran into a couple of my daughters friends who were enjoying dinner in a farm fresh restaurant called Bgood .

The menu and concept is a simple one, pick a meat or non-meat burger and add whatever you want from the menu. Everything in the causal dinning restaurant was locally sourced and came straight from the farm and was delicious.

After dinner we said goodbye to her friends and walked back to the library enjoying the sights and sounds of both Christmas and Maine before catching a bus back to the Transit station, where we found found our train and an hour long, comfortable ride back to Dover. We were tired as when they say Portland is a walking city they;re not kidding, we put in over 15,000 steps that day but it was so worth it.

So there you have it, a day of adventures in Portland. Well worth the trip any time of the year but something special to experience at Christmas. You can find lots of more information on what's going on in Portland HERE.