September 2006 - Massachusetts - State # 21
Maybe because we were younger or maybe because our schedules allowed it, whatever the reason, we had the luxury of visiting Cape Cod and Boston for 8 days. Even with that amount of time we still only saw a fraction of what this area has to offer. (But, Guy did find a fence to photograph near the Cape Cod National Seashore.)
We flew Delta into Boston, rented a car and drove 2 hours to Chatham (say Chatt-um) where we found small-town America the way Norman Rockwell imagined it. Roses and dahlias climbing white picket fences in front of shingled Cape cottages, all within a stone's throw of the Atlantic Ocean. I believe this is Cape Cod's most picturesque town.
Our first full day on the Cape we headed to Provincetown. (Highly recommended by our good friends, Scott & Robin. And they should know - they visit every summer!) The weather was cool and we drove through fog and misting rain, which in our minds seemed exactly as it should be for autumn in Cape Cod.
Chatham is situated on the Lower Cape or "elbow of Cape Cod" and P-town (everyone says that) is the Outer Cape or thumb. As you drive US-6 up this curving peninsula you pass one historic New England village after another. On this particular Sunday morning we visited Orleans, Wellfleet and Truro. (You've probably eaten Wellfleet oysters.) Although we couldn't walk around, due to the rain, we saw the faithful going to services in several grand churches. And each one had a steeple with bells chiming the hour!
We arrived in P-town as the rain was tapering off and visited the Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum. If you were educated in the United States you know a little something about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. You might even know that only 51 Pilgrims of the original 102 sat down to share the first Thanksgiving dinner with the Wampanoags.
But we had to visit here to find out the Mayflower was several hundred miles off-course; they were headed for "Northern Virginia." On November 11, 1620 rough weather and high seas forced them to Cape Cod Bay and anchor at Provincetown. The captain declared this to be the final destination and refused to continue the journey. The Pilgrims found this part of Cape Cod unsatisfactory and on December 16, 1620 landed at Plymouth. Their loss...we loved P-town!
Anywhere you go in P-town the Pilgrim's Monument granite tower looms. To get to the top, you climb 60 gradual ramps interspersed with 116 steps and you are rewarded with a "gargoyle's view" of the coast (Atlantic Ocean to the east and Cape Cod Bay to the west) and on a clear day you can reportedly see Boston against a backdrop of the New Hampshire mountains. But as you can plainly see, this day was not a clear day.
We were in awe of the beautiful cottage gardens in this very walkable town. There are several dozen art galleries in town; be sure to stroll through the Berta Walker Gallery and the Julie Heller Gallery. But save your $$$ for shopping at Wa. This is a startlingly beautiful Zen garden of treasures for your home!
The next day we drove the Upper Cape or shoulder of the peninsula to Sandwich (the town, not the meal) specifically to visit Heritage Museum & Gardens. This is one of those rare museums that appeals to both adults and children. (See carousel photo above) The 76 beautifully landscaped acres were pure inspiration to me. And for Guy - a Shaker barn filled with gleaming antique automobiles.
The following day, we checked out of The Captain's House Inn and since we could not check in to our Boston hotel until 4:00, we decided to visit Salem (1626 - 4 years before Boston) and Marblehead. My friend, Lynn recommended The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and we could not resist visiting this town so near the Halloween season. Inside the Peabody, we were fascinated with an exhibit called Yin Yu Tang. A 200-year-old Chinese house, which was painstakingly taken apart brought to America and reassembled at the Peabody Essex Museum.
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a prosperous merchant surnamed Huang built a stately sixteen-bedroom house in China’s southeastern Huizhou region, calling his home Yin Yu Tang. Among the many literary interpretations of this name is the desire for the home to shelter generations of descendants. Yin Yu Tang was occupied by members of the Huang family for 8 generations until 1992.
After lunch, we strolled through Salem's historic district. This town is internationally famous for a 7-month episode in 1692. The witchcraft trials led to 20 deaths, centuries of notoriety, countless lessons on prejudice and innumerable bad puns. ("Stop by for a spell" - is a popular sign.) Every witch way you look there are references to their storied past with goofy souvenirs and opportunistic tourist traps. But go with a sense of humor and you will enjoy it!
Marblehead is the self-proclaimed "Yachting Capital of America." This seaside town has history, scenery, architecture and shopping! After shopping and a walk through "Old Town," down to the harbor, we returned to our rental car and started the expedition of 15 miles to Boston.
All of our friends (and a few strangers) warned us about driving in Boston. So, we planned to turn the car back over to Alamo as soon as we arrived. You know, we drive in Atlanta daily and Guy is an excellent, albeit an aggressive driver. Compared to Boston, Atlanta is like driving on the Test Trak Ride in Disneyworld! (The go-cart is on rails and goes 12 miles an hour.) And in Boston, red lights are just a suggestion. This will come into play later in my story.
We left Marblehead at 4:30 (took on the horrific traffic at rush hour) and arrived at The Eliot Hotel... 3 and a half hours later! NO JOKE! We never found the Alamo rental office near Harvard, so we paid the hotel valet to park it and stepped into the hotel restaurant an hour late for our reservation. Thank goodness for the innovative cocktail menu at Clio!
Next time we'll visit this wonderful city -
widely considered to be the "most European" or traditional of American cities...