Wednesday, January 29, 2014


 Map of the "Islands of New England" Tour courtesy of Collette

Cape Cod, the Proud Arm of Massachusetts
 (Photo courtesy Google Images)
On the final day of the tour we climbed aboard our big silver bus one last time for a leisurely drive through Cape Cod. The Cape is shaped eerily like an arm flexed into a muscle and  our hotel in Hyannis is about midway on the underside of the bicep. From there we took the 6 highway all the way up the arm into Provincetown located on the knuckles of the curled fist. Along the way, I could easily see why anyone would fall in love with Cape Cod.
(Melanie, our Tour Director, liked to say she was born and raised in the armpit of Cape Cod. Pretty nice for an armpit, I'd say!)

JFK's Memorial

A couple of days prior, we’d stopped to visit John F. Kennedy’s memorial on the Lewis Bay waterfront in Hyannis Port. It is an achingly beautiful place to have a memorial, overlooking a crystal bay filled with sailboats. I could imagine JFK’s spirit often visiting here knowing how much he loved Cape Cod and sailing. It’s fitting that the inscription under the presidential seal is this quote from a victory speech he made in Hyannis, “I believe it is important that this country sail and not sit still in the harbor.”

John F. Kennedy's Memorial in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts

Stony Brook Gristmill, circa 1751

 We would make many stops on our journey, but few would be as pretty as our first stop at the Gristmill. Like most of Cape Cod, it is enough that the beauty of the scene gives us a moment to appreciate life as it is lived and enjoyed in the moment.

Stony Brook Gristmill is one of the best preserved mills on the Cape.

Alice and Eugene
East Hampton Windmill circa 1808
 One of the best things about traveling with a collection of strangers is that they often turn into friends along the way, which happened with Alice and Eugene. Early on, I couldn’t help notice that they were an interesting couple: an older man accompanied by a younger woman, and an expectant one at that. Sweetly deferential to him, Alice helped Eugene with his luggage and whatever else he seemed to need. They obviously had a special bond. All of us were politely curious and eventually their story became known. Three months earlier, Eugene and his wife had planned and paid for this tour, but shortly before the trip began, she passed away. However, instead of cancelling the trip, Eugene and his daughter Alice decided to go together turning what could have been a sad time of missed memories into one they will both remember as a very special shared experience between father and daughter. We admired their courage to carry on, but most of all, the expression of love of a daughter for her dad touched us the most. Thank you, Eugene and Alice for allowing me to tell your story. You both will always be in our hearts.

The Kettle Ponds

An interesting geological phenomenon in Cape Cod is the “kettles”. Formed around 18,000 years ago after the last ice age, they are large round holes in the landscape caused by melting chunks of glaciers. We stopped at a one called Salt Pond, unique because it captures ocean water and actually has tides. What I found fascinating is that some of these kettles filled in with vegetable matter and became bogs which now grow some of the best cranberries in America. Who knew that we had giant glacier pot holes to thank for the the cranberry relish on our Thanksgiving tables!

  Salt Pond in the foreground and smaller kettles
 in the background (to the right of my head!)

Nauset Beach

Not far up the road, we stopped for a photo op at Nauset Beach and discovered that a whole lot of other people thought to do the same. Dodging bodies made it hard to take any good pictures, but I managed to take a few. We didn’t stay long. It was time for lunch in Provincetown and a very special excursion!


Provincetown, known to insiders as P-Town, is located on the knuckles of Cape Cod’s fist. It’s a unique town in many ways: unique in its culture as well as its wild white dunes. Apparently, the locals are very tolerant of alternative lifestyles and celebrations can get quite colorful. But from what I hear, it’s all the Pilgrims fault. The Mayflower landed here first in 1620 before ending up at Plymoth. About half of the passengers consisted of religious “Separatists” and the other half “Strangers”. It was here in P-Town that they made an agreement with each other called the Mayflower Compact that allowed for saints and sinners to co-exist in this new country and P-Town took them at their word. However to my eyes, it looked to be a regular beach town and beach towns always have their characters.

After lunch, I piled into one of Art’s Dune Tour SUV’s and set off to check out the dunes. Before leaving however, the excursion driver let out half of the air in the tires so our SUV wouldn’t bog down in the sand. After that came one of THE best rides in my memory. If you ever get to Provincetown, you absolutely must take one these tours. It will make your whole trip.

Cormorants hanging out at the beach.

All too soon, the tour was over.  Asked what I thought of the experience, I honestly said that this is one trip I could take every year. It was that fun.

If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air
Quaint little villages here and there
You're sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.

If you like the taste of a lobster stew
Served by a window with an ocean view
You're sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.

Winding roads that seem to beckon you
Miles of green beneath a sky of blue
Church bells chimin' on a Sunday morn
Remind you of the town where you were born

If you spend an evening you'll want to stay
Watching the moonlight on Cape Cod Bay
You're sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod

Watch the Video of the trip!

 Thanks Everybody!!

NEXT TIME: Exploring Colonial America

Saturday, January 25, 2014


 Islands of New England Tour, map courtesy of Collette

Nantucket, a former whaling port, is one of my all time favorite places to visit. It’s one of those feel good places: laid back, chock full of historic charm and small enough to be enjoyed in a day’s time. My spirits lift the minute I get off of the boat as if the ghosts of old grizzled mariners are welcoming me home.

An island 30 miles off shore from Cape Cod, it’s only an hour’s ride away on a first class luxury Nantucket ferry. Unlike the leisurely boat ride I took to Martha’s Vineyard, I elected to stay inside this time so that I wouldn’t arrive looking like Captain Ahab after a night chasing Moby Dick. Comfortably snug in the cabin, I relaxed back into my seat and enjoyed the sensation of the boat skim the waves as if they weren’t even there and watched great sprays of ocean water soaking the decks.

 Scenes of historic Nantucket Town

It had been 10 years since I had last been here and I had one mission in mind—to replace my stained and worn out Nantucket sweat shirt with a new one. As I searched from shop to shop, I noticed that the merchandise was not as posh as it had been. I missed that. This was one place I looked forward to splurging a bit on my souvenirs. I’d enjoyed the experience of browsing through upscale boutiques housed in historic store fronts, pausing occasionally to sit on a park bench on the ancient tree lined cobble stoned streets to watch the world go by.  Mildly disappointed that the long skinny arm of the slow economy had reached even into my beloved Nantucket, I finally found what I wanted and became proud owner of a new zip up jacket with NANTUCKET emblazoned across the front. Hopefully, this one will last until my next visit to the island.

My next favorite thing to do on the island, besides shop, is to roam the quiet residential streets and attempt to soak up its romantic past.  Nantucket has had settlers on it since the 17th century and the entire island has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The cobbled streets of downtown lead off into narrow carriage wide lanes lined with small grey cottages.  Clustered intimately together, they are separated by sweetly groomed gardens hemmed in by white picket fences. Since whaling was Nantucket’s main industry, the cottages were originally inhabited by sailors and ship captains. Now their modest appearances mask very wealthy interiors. It is a millionaires retreat while still retaining its unpretentious Quaker charm. And, I like nothing more than to peek into their gardens.

 The white walkway is made of crushed shells.

 “Putting on a Good Front”

One of the many charms of both Nantucket and Cape Cod are the weathered grey exteriors of the colonial cottages. Years ago, oil based paint was very expensive so the frugal residents painted only the fronts of their cedar homes allowing the sides to age into deeper and deeper shades of grey. Paint colors on the fronts are now restricted to grey, yellow, blue or brown, so forget it if you like purple.

Built to withstand the harsh winters and styled to blend in with the wild landscape, the Quaker distaste for adornment influenced their plain, no nonsense exteriors into three basic types: a half Cape has two multi-paned windows on one side of a door; a Three Quarter Cape has two windows on one side, a door and then one more window; a Full Cape has four windows separated by a door. However, once inside, the interiors are very similar. Cape Cod Houses 

From left to right, Half Cape, 3/4 Cape, and Full Cape. Notice the unpainted sides of the Full Cape.

We spent the rest of our time there touring the island which I had never seen before. The land is spacious and uncluttered with billboards or big box stores, retaining its untamed wild beauty. Pulling off the side of a rural road, we stopped to admire a Nantucket lighthouse.  I stood quietly for awhile feeling the cool breeze on my skin and memorized the vision of the brightly painted lighthouse silhouetted against a brilliant blue sky framed by waving golden sea grass and vowed to return again and again.

All too soon we had to leave Nantucket, but as if to compensate for the disappointment of leaving this relaxing haven, a lobster feed had been planned for us on a beach in Cape Cod. Of course I wore my new NANTUCKET jacket and begonia pink ball cap, and had two helpings of “chowdah” just to ease the pain!

 Kicking up a little sand on Cape Cod and the ring leader was our Tour Director Melanie! 
(That's her in the white top in the middle.)  Life ain't over 'til it's over. Just ask this bunch!

It had been a long day by the time we dragged ourselves onto the bus for the ride back to our hotel. Just as we settled into our seats, we heard our bus driver Josef’s booming voice over the loud speaker singing:

“Show me the way to go home.
I’m tired and I want to go to bed.
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it went right to my head.
Everywhere I roam
Over land or sea or foam
You can always hear me singing this song
Show me the way to go home!”

One by one we joined in until we sang along with him at the top of our lungs all the way home. It had been another great day.
Watch the Video of the trip!

Next time:  "You're sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod!"