By all rights, I’m a New England transplant. Even after 10 years here, not a hint of “the accent,” still fuming over excise tax, and still not able to fathom the depth of the spirited Sox/Yankees rivalry. Parts of the area are still “vacation spots” to me. That said, one in particular is as beautiful as any place in America that I’ve been: Cape Cod.
First stop: Martha’s Vineyard. Remembering that I view this area from a tourist’s POV, I still found Martha’s Vineyard to be less than “all that.” We took the bus tour around the island, and the only thing I remember is “Spike Lee lives 500 yards or so behind that clump of trees.” Stars strike the shores of the Vineyard and Nantucket often, but they are left alone by the locals for the most part, and prefer it that way. I thought the quaintness would have an appeal, but I was disappointed. I was also not impressed with the tour guide’s Kennedy references and explanations, and they wouldn’t be either.
We then ventured back to the mainland to Falmouth to a nice lil place called The Red Horse Inn. I do love the bed-and-breakfast sans corporatization feel of The Cape. There’s Friendly’s and Hearth and Kettle, but it’s not riddled with fast-food chains and megastore malls like many other hot spots. I love the fact that this is juxtaposed against Metro Boston, the densest metropolis in the States.
One thing Midwesterners tend to ding New Englanders with is being less-than-friendly. This is not true of any place I’ve been in The Cape. When you encounter a Cape resident who has ventured northward, they usually will tell you they hate the flood of “tourists” from “the north” each summer weekend. But down there, they are a friendly, knowledgable and willing lot, and do much to make you feel welcome.
We took the Bass River cruise near Yarmouth, and all I can say is this: at the end of the cruise, I told the captain that we had taken the bus tour of The Vineyard and expected so much, then went on his cruise and expected so little, and our pretentiousness was wrong on both counts. This Bass River cruise was fascinating! If you want to smell the air of “the other half” who made their money the old fashioned way, it’s spread all over the Bass River in the form of multimillion dollar homes with fabulous facades, and that ever-present seaside warmth and charm. Every resident waves to the boat as it passes by with a smile. This reminded me of my youth in MI where I grew up on a canal in the rather upscale touristy town of Algonac, MI. The canals would freeze each winter, and had enough of a current to be swimmable in the summer. Albeit freshwater, I still grew up in a similar setting to the Dennis/Yarmouth area of Cape Cod, with it’s year-round dependence on the water. For a couple of hours, I was dreamy and careless again.
One other point for this trip was to outdo the Sandwich beaches that we turned our backs on last time we visited The Cape. We did so in style. On the recommendation of my boss, we headed to Chatham, and enjoyed a blustery warm crashing-wave afternoon on Harwich beach. Further on up into Chatham, you’re treated with filthy-rich quaintness unsurpassed in my travels thus far.
Visit the Cape if you haven’t. The best part of New England is this: the density is offset by the diversity. With the quaintness and rurality of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire played against the choking density of Boston proper, mixed with the established riches and beauty of the landscape of Cape Cod and the Islands, you can appreciate it on any given weekend, whether you suffer lovingly through residency in the Boston area or you just happen to meander away from Boston a smidgen.