Travel: Eye to the Maine Chance; Erica Davies Has Always Wanted to See New England. Especially since She Saw Michael Caine in the Cider House Rules. Oh, All Right, off You Go Then

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Byline: Erica Davies/Edited by IAIN MAYHEW

THINK of Maine and it's likely that images of lobsters and lighthouses will spring to mind.

Of course, there's plenty of both, but there's a lot more to Maine than its legendary seafood.

And given its immense size - it's the largest of all six New England states - working out what to see and do can be a little daunting.

New England is one part of the USA I've always wanted to visit. Its spectacular coastline, inland forests, lakes and small-town settlements have been the locations for films like What Lies Beneath, Hannibal, The Perfect Storm, There's Something About Mary, Message In A Bottle and The Cider House Rules.

Several of New England's states lay claim to the latter. The apple orchard scenes were shot at Scott Farm in Vermont where the Wagner family, who still own the farm, gave John Irving - author of the novel on which the film is based - his first job.

But the majority of The Cider House Rules was filmed in and around Maine and this was the perfect excuse to travel around and see the places where the movie was shot.

It's set in 20th century New England, where Oscar-winner Michael Caine runs the local orphanage with his wife.

When their eldest charge, played by Tobey Maguire, decides to leave and see something of life, his adventures take him out of the rural backwaters and into the real world.

MAINE'S green fields, legendary fall colours and the famous coastline are a cinematographer's dream and it's no surprise the movie won Oscars.

Our journey started in Boston, Massachusetts, where we flew from Heathrow. After the eight-hour flight we picked up our car and hit Route One up to Portland, Maine.

Although there's an airport in Bangor, North Maine, we flew to Boston so we could drive northwards and see a little of the Massachusetts coastline - something I'd strongly recommend.

And so to Portland. It may be the largest city in Maine - with an eclectic art district, its own symphony orchestra and a major museum - but it only has 64,000 residents.

It's clean, safe and probably a lot of fun in the summer. We visited in the middle of January when many of the seasonal shops were closed and it lay beneath 4ft of snow.

But don't let that put you off. Jutting out into the beautiful Casco Bay and surrounded by water on three sides, the city was home to film director John Ford and earlier, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who called it "the jewel of the sea".

The Portland Museum of Art holds 19th and 20th century European masters and American art inspired by the city, while the Portland Public Market sells fabulous foods which we washed down with the obligatory coffee.

One of the most beautiful locations in the Greater Portland and Casco Bay area is the Portland Head Light, originally built in 1828 to George Washington's specifications.

It was also the setting for the 1998 film Snow Falling On Cedars. The script called for a snow blizzard but the crew got more than they bargained for with 1998's infamous ice-storm.

It's a bleak location, standing proudly at the Casco Bay entrance, but it's well worth a visit.

Portland is an unusual mix with its artistic heritage, the docks and lobster-fishing and whale-watching industry.

We spent our time there wandering around the Old Port before venturing to Southern Portland's Maine Mall, home to the big department stores Macy's and JCPenney.

Continuing northwards, we stopped off at Freeport. This was the site of the signing of agreements separating Maine from Massachusetts in 1820 and is now home to 100 designer stores including the famous L.L.Bean, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Driving in Maine is not at all intimidating. The roads are seemingly idiot-proof with large signs telling you where to go at almost every step. …