Maine Medical Center in Portland is undoubtedly one of the finest hospitals in Northern New England. US News & World Report ranked Maine Med as a high performer in heart care and orthopedics among other specialties.

After spending some time visiting the Maine Med campus that has been in Portland for nearly 150 years, I learned 3 things about the hospital that I found both amusing and surprising.

1. When parking in the garage, the ground floor is the top floor

Google Street View

It goes against everything your brain has been taught, but it all has to do with how Maine Medical Center's free parking garage was built. When you park, you take the elevator to get to the hospital, but it's on the 8th floor, with Emergency on the 7th floor. That's because the first floor of the parking garage is on Congress Street while the hospital itself is up the hill on Bramhall Street. So to enter the ground level of the hospital you go up in the elevator. Once you get past this brain twisting bit of travel, it's easy to get in and out.

Parking is free for patients and visitors, but the garage does fill up and when it does people can get creative in finding spaces. I found a car parked right in a corner of the garage that I honestly couldn't figure out how they got there.

2. The elevators have mood swings

While you're riding the elevators in the garage, the woman who announces which direction the elevator is headed sounds either very happy or very sad depending on which way she's going. "Going up" sounds happy. "Going down" sounds sad. Listen for yourself.

3. The cafeteria food is really good and cheap

There was a time when the cafeteria at a hospital wasn't thought of as the best option to grab a bite to eat, but Maine Medical Center has changed all that. Their Impressions Cafe has a full salad bar and stations offering everything from pizza and sandwiches to home cooked meals like shepherd's pie, meatloaf, and spaghetti and meatballs. And it's good! My meals for the few days that I visited were not only delicious, but never cost more than $6 which included an entree, vegetable, fountain drink and dessert. Try finding that anywhere else in Portland. I've heard people say they go here to eat even when they aren't visiting someone.

Going to visit someone at the hospital can be stressful for anyone, but Maine Med sure makes the experience easier and maybe even a little fun.