PORTLAND, Maine — Finding holiday gifts for family members can be difficult, especially if you're looking for something personal. In a city that bears your family name, however, that task becomes a lot easier.
Laura Horsfall, whose maiden name is Portland, visited Portland, Maine for the first time this past weekend. The city, the weather, the activities, and the shopping did not disappoint.
Portland saw its highest November temperature on record on Saturday, reaching 75 degrees. The city's previous record for the warmest temperature in November was 74 degrees, set in 2020, 2003, 1987, and 1974.
“It was great. Well, the weather helped a lot, right? So we got a huge boost from that," Horsfall said. "[I] totally went in unexpected, had no thoughts or whatever about it. I mean, we loved it. I was saying to my friends, ‘We should go back for a girls’ weekend,’ because there was so much great shopping."
Her nickname in college was "Port," so naturally she had to go to The Porthole for lunch on Thursday. She stopped short of buying any "Old Port" merchandise, though.
"My husband wanted to get this sign that was like, 'Old Port,' and I'm like, 'I'm not getting that, I do not want that,'" she said with a smile and an eye-roll. "Maybe in a couple years. But he thought that was funny."
“It was very walkable ... It had all that history and that cute little historic downtown area. And it felt like a big city, but not really because you could still walk around, and so we really enjoyed doing that," Horsfall said. "So I felt like we got to see a couple neighborhoods, which was neat.
"And then walking from Commercial Street up through those beautiful houses all along the way up to [Congress Street] ... and then you’re kind of at the top of the hill and you could see the houses going back down the other side.”
Her father is one of six boys, so there are still a lot of Portlands in her extended family. While in Portland last weekend, she was able to buy some holiday gifts she likely couldn't get anywhere else.
"I have a lot of cousins and people with the name Portland. I don’t buy Christmas presents for all of them, but I did for my brothers. I got a throw pillow, and it’s, like, Portland with a heart," Horsfall said. "There were some cute ideas. I got some funny T-shirts. There was one [that said] ‘A Portland Classic.'"
Although she's from nearby Rochester, New York, and she now lives in the Boston area, traveling to Maine's most populated city was never really a priority.
"I’m not sure it even donned on me until I moved to Boston, and then I was like, ‘Oh, that’s so funny, there’s Portland,’ but never went," she explained. "Never went to visit, and once you got in the weeds of having a family and kids and youth sports on the weekends, [there was] a little less freedom to go do stuff on the weekends."
The idea for the long-overdue trip to southern Maine was born on a beach in Cape Cod.
“It didn’t come up that much until this summer when we were sitting on the beach and someone said, ‘Oh my gosh, Portland is a great city; we should all go.’ And then [our friend] Bill said, ‘Well, we’re actually going, do you wanna go?’ and that’s how it sort of came about.”
She said she's never met anyone with the last name Portland who wasn't a family member. Her father, based on his own genealogical research, believes the name was originally "Portlan" and then ancestors changed it to "Portland" when they came through Ellis Island. Those ancestors, she said, came from the Tyrol section of Austria, which now includes northern Italy.