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!"