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November 21, 2009

Take a fantasy shopping trip

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Regular readers know I'm not much of a shopper.

Therefore, I feel a bit out of the loop as friends talk about Black Friday, that day after Thanksgiving that has become the biggest retail bonanza of the year in America.

So I began to ponder some of the special shopping places I've encountered in my years of travel writing, especially those that rank as destinations in themselves. And I put together my ultimate fantasy shopping trip. Should one have money to burn, I suppose these could be linked onto a single itinerary. Each, however, has enough to anchor a full vacation.

GIANT BOOT

I can't imagine a better place to begin than at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine. Long a destination point for outdoor devotees, Bean offers not only gift potential but an opportunity to fill any gaps one might have in travel equipment and clothing.

The company emanated from the determination of Leon Leonwood Bean (1872-1967) to make a better hunting boot. His key invention in 1911 — the addition of laced leather upper components atop rubber work boots to make the Maine Hunting Shoe — has never lost its popularity.

Freeport has grown up. Whereas once Bean's comprised the only show in town, now all sorts of outlet stores fill the city. L.L. Bean itself has grown into a complex of three separate huge buildings, including the Bike, Boat, and Ski Store, and another devoted to hunting and fishing.

Fortunately, the flagship store proves as satisfying as always. It's easily identified by the giant Bean Boot out front, built to celebrate the firm's 90th birthday in 2002.

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