All posts by mthilagaratnam@gmail.com

Boston, MA (13-15 August)

Our last stop on our trip into Massachusetts is the great city of Boston, the state’s capital.  We don’t have much time, and too much to do and see. And so forced to be ruthless in how we spend our 2 full days, we decide on the Boston Common and the Boston Children’s Museum, with a quick pop-in to Cheers Beacon Hill (formerly the Bull & Finch), a walk around Faneuil Hall and up and down Newbury Street,

The husband decided on luxury, so we are very comfortably ensconced at the Copley Plaza hotel. (Thanks Shyam, for being the trailblazer!)

Opulent
Opulent

It’s the kind of hotel that has real Chagall, Picasso and Matisses, hanging nonchalantly on the walls.

The real deal
The real deal

On our way to the Common we walk up Boylston Street, to lunch at the Parish restaurant, which came highly recommended by a lovely porter at the Copley. The food was amazing, as was this watermelon beer I had. IMG_1872

 

 

 

 

Coming out of a satisfying lunch, we walk further up Boylston and come across these fluttering in the wind, outside a church. Immediately reminded that the finish line in the 2013 Boston marathon was on this very street, where those horrific bombs went off.

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Prayers. Corner of Boylston St, which is happily, back in business.

The Boston Common is a big green lung in the centre of the city. The brainchild of Frederick Law Olmsted back in 1634, this public park is the oldest in the US. It is just beautiful, peaceful and reviving, with a little lake in the middle occupied by ducks and swans. We spent a long and happy time there.

So green
So green
Checking out the birds
Checking out the birds

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Revenge of the Ugly Duckling
Revenge of the Ugly Duckling

 

Making off with more blooms. A budding kleptomaniac?
Making off with more blooms. A budding kleptomaniac?
Coming in for the hug
Coming in for the hug
My darling monkeys
My darling monkeys

Coming out of the Common on Beacon Street, we cross the road to the Bull & Finch pub, which was the building used in the long-standing series Cheers.  We pop in for a quick look at that famous bar where Sam, Woody, Diane, Frasier, Rebecca became names everyone knew.

Beacon St, up the road from the Cheers pub
Beacon St, up the road from the Cheers pub

On our walk down Newbury Street, Juno spotted these:

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Dyed, stuffed and bejeweled foxes. Newbury St, Boston

Newbury St needs its own dedicated visit, to do its brilliant shops justice. Since I didn’t have time, I sensibly limited myself to longing looks aka window-shopping.

The Boston Children’s Museum is an excellent way to spend a day, if you have children, that is.

Boston Children's Museum
Boston Children’s Museum

It’s got a wide range of activities catering to different age groups, and while Jude was occupied, I took Juno around elsewhere, and she had loads of fun.

Dancing with Lights
Dancing with Lights
Messing with oobleck
Messing with oobleck
Alphabet time
Alphabet time
"Why, hello there."
“Why, fancy meeting you here.”

 

Wow!
Wow!
Now THAT is a dollhouse
Now THAT is a dollhouse
Small entomologist at work
Small entomologist at work

There was a cake-making activity at work in a lovely art room.

Artist at work
Artist at work
Ta-da!
Ta-da!

 

Inviting space
Inviting space
Liked how the cake layers echo the brickwork
Liked how the cake layers echo the brickwork

And some other things that caught my eye… always happy amidst art.

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cool chair
cool chair

 

I'd have that in my house
I’d have that in my house

Meantime Jude was climbing up this slightly scary looking thing.

"Over here, mom!"
“Over here, mom!”
Working up a sweat
Working up a sweat
Science at work
Science at work

But this disco-lit floor, that required avoidance of moving ights and competition was what he played on the most, having to be literally dragged away just before closing time.

Jump!
Jump!
"One more round please!!!"
“One more round please!!!”

We walk over to Faneuil Hall, famed for being the site of famous political speeches, and a thriving marketplace. Jude gets sidetracked by some people who are letting kids play on some new DS thing for free.

Dinner everywhere is packed and we end up at this bizarre place called Dick’s Last Resort  – the name should have warned us, though we cotton on pretty quickly: the raison d’être is for the waitstaff to ridicule and yell at you, and for the hapless customer to be bibbed and paper-crowned, with personal inscriptions. We got a waiter who was actually quite nice to us for some reason, especially to the kids, but I saw some people cluelessly walk in and then quickly out, after a waiter/waitress said something sarcastic/rude and literally threw their menus onto the table. It was pretty hilarious I have to say.

So, Boston in a whirlwind two days. We simply must go back.

 

 

 

 

Martha’s Vineyard, 12.8.13

So, let’s play Martha’s Vineyard associations. Boston Brahmins, private beaches, lavish homes and wild house parties, presidential retreats, Edward Kennedy’s debacle on nearby Chappaquiddick…the obvious cliches.

But Michael Knox Beran argues in his intriguing book The Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End of American Aristocracy (2001), that the whole idea of Martha’s Vineyard as the decadent playground of the rich is a relatively recent phenomenon.  This paragraph from the opening chapter of the book explains:

Islands like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are extraordinarily illuminating guides to the social history of Protestant New England. This history is nowhere more evident than in the evolution of the islands’ architecture; […] to see how the harsh and unforgiving life of the early settlers gave way to the more opulent civilization of the great sea captains and rich merchants who succeeded them. More opulent, but hardly less severe. The old Federal houses of Edgartown and Nantucket, for all their elegance of design and splendor of proportion, retain still the memory of the austere God-fearing men who built them, men who in the midst of wealth deplored the corruption of their souls, and who in the apogee of prosperity looked into their Bibles to ponder the lesson of Job. In time, however, the gloomy introspection of old New England gave way to the masques and revels of its foppish descendants, and a once-formidable race of Brahmins degenerated into a supine tribe of mere preppies. The Kennedys had the misfortune to infiltrate the old Protestant aristocracy at the height of its decadence. They came too late, and mastered its customs too well.

So, it is with no small curiosity that we board the Island Queen ferry from Falmouth that will take us to Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.  There are lots of cyclists ahead of us, waiting to board the ferry – Martha’s Vineyard is supposed to be great to explore on a bike. (Although Trip Advisor reviewers have warned serious caution, as once off the bike paths, cyclists have to share the roads with motored vehicles.)

One other reason for excitement – the Obamas are holidaying on the Vineyard!! I am certain we’ll bump into them.

Sign in a window, Oak Bluffs
Sign in a window, Edgartown

Off the ferry and first impressions of Oak Bluffs strangely do not impress, Despite its own press, the town looks a bit shabby and worn around the edges, especially in comparison with Chatham. The heavy drizzle doesn’t help. So we decide to hop into a private taxi to take us east to Edgartown, the other major town (and that of the posh Federal houses) of Martha’s Vineyard.

An oldish man who calls himself “Spider” is at the wheel and appears to be very knowledgeable about the island.  I couldn’t unfortunately hear most of his stories as I was sitting at the back of the van with the kids. I did see him pointing out a place along the way where some kids were going to jump into the ocean as per a scene from the movie Jaws – Edgartown stood in for the fictitious town Amity of the movie. He also tells us the Obamas are staying at Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s house up in the tiny town of Chilmark and how the First Family had gone to Oak Bluffs the day before for a meal at the President’s favorite restaurant! His stories made entertaining listening and actually weren’t that far off the mark.

Some later googling told me this: Obama DID stay at Chilmark, just not at Ted Danson’s house. The President instead rented the Chilmark home of a friend, David Schulte, a Chicago-based corporate restructuring specialist who reportedly donated $2,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign.

According to the Vineyard Gazette, “the 5,000-square-foot, contemporary-style home sits on 9 1/2 acres overlooking Chilmark Pond and the Atlantic Ocean,The private master suite has a den, porch, outdoor shower, his and her bathrooms and access to a gym. An open floor plan provides views of the ocean and pond from the living and dining rooms and the kitchen. The home also has a small basketball court.”

This sounds lovely but is still a comedown from where the Obamas stayed in 2009. According to the Boston Globe, home then was  “the Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, a 28-acre estate owned by William and Mollie Van Devender, both donors to Republicans. The property includes a swimming pool, access to a private beach, even a place to whack golf balls.” (Looks like lending your private beach home to the President trumps politics. )

Unfortunately – for the Obamas – that house was sold.

We would have heard more of Spider’s stories if we’d taken him up on his offer to take us around to the four other, smaller, villages on Martha’s Vineyard, which he said had the best beaches, but as we declined, we were dropped off at The Seafood Shanty, one of the best places for lunch with a view, he said.

Entrance to The Seafood Shanty
Entrance to The Seafood Shanty
Menu at The Seafood Shanty, Edgartown
Menu at The Seafood Shanty, Edgartown

 

 A bit of the view outside
A bit of the view outside

Since it was cold out, we sat indoors. The view would be pretty good in the summer I reckon. Not to sound like a prat, but this place boasts one of the BEST WATERFRONT VIEWS on Martha’s Vineyard, and even the pictures of the view at its best, on its website, aren’t really all that. The sea view is too flat and featureless in my humble opinion.

Anyway, the place was packed. the food was decent, the seafood fresh. After lunch we wandered around Edgartown a bit  – it is indeed a manicured and well-kept town.

St Elizabeth's Church, Edgartown
St Elizabeth’s Church, Edgartown

 

Once home to a prosperous mariner?
Once home to a prosperous mariner?

Juno picked some flowers illegally.IMG_1714

We saw a giant pagoda tree, brought from China nearly 200 years old and believed to be the largest in America, down a side street.

That's a pagoda tree??
That’s a pagoda tree??
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The legend

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Ari and I had a less than stellar shopping experience in one of the stores there, whose staff seemed not to notice our presence, though they managed to see some other shoppers clearly.

Lousy service at this shop in Edgartown
Lousy service at this shop in Edgartown

Then it was back to Oak Bluffs for a quick look-around.

Oak Bluffs
Oak Bluffs

 

Environmentally friendly but strange
Environmentally friendly but strange

Still no sign of POTUS or FLOTUS. We then had coffee at a really poky and badly serviced (self-service but with a totally bo chap cashier) coffee joint (that unbelievably boasted Ted Danson’s custom). I took ONE picture that was what I had imagined Martha’s Vineyard would look like, in part. It’s very modest:

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It strikes me that “modest” wouldn’t be an inaccurate way to describe our visit to Martha’s Vineyard. Not being a descendant, foppish or otherwise, of a great sea captain or rich merchant, or a friend of the Kennedys or Obamas, our experience of the fabled lifestyle on the island is in the muted colours of the passing tourist. Of surface impressions and public exteriors; and through stories many-times-removed from their source.

Maybe we should have let Spider show us, even from a distance, some of the resplendent homes on far-flung corners of the island.

Then we walked back to the ferry point for our 50 minute ride back to Falmouth and THAT dinner. (See the Falmouth entry.)

Waiting for the ferry
Waiting for the ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Provincetown, 10.8.13

While on Cape Cod, a visit to colorful, tiny Provincetown, with its larger than life reputation, is of course a must. We make the drive from Chatham, passing the famed sand dunes of the Cape on the way.

A glimpse of the famed sand dunes enroute to Provincetown
A glimpse of the famed sand dunes in Eastham,  enroute to Provincetown

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The town is literally colorful, with many friendly rainbow flags a-flutter and crazy-coloured buildings.

Rainbow flags for diversity and inclusiveness
Rainbow flags for diversity and inclusiveness
Colourful Provincetown
Colourful Provincetown

It’s also metaphorically alight, with people in drag, lots of gay people walking hand-in-hand (many more gay people than straight people, so much so, we were out of place – loved that reversal!) and just a happy, party vibe.

"Cher"
“Cher”

 

A mermaid's land transport
A mermaid’s land transport

Our main purpose – I find out –  is to hop on a boat and go in search of whales, though to be honest, I just want to go window-shopping in this quaint town with its terrific art galleries and restaurants. No luck this time.

Just your regular street-side classical musicians
Just your regular street-side musicians

 

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We get on the Dolphin VIII, and I’m already nervous, being of that unfortunate group who get really, really seasick. It is a blazing hot day, and everyone (else) is in high spirits, hoping to spot some whales.

The Dolphin VIII
The Dolphin VIII

My biggest mistake, in retrospect, is thinking I could manage a Bloody Caesar while on board.  A Bloody Caesar is basically a Bloody Mary made with Clamato, which is a blend of tomato juice and clam broth. It’s actually really yummy, but perhaps not for one with a predilection to seasickness.

After about an hour on the fast-moving boat, with no land in sight, I start to feel sick. And that sick feeling just expands and expands until I am completely and utterly miserable, and truly DYING to get off the boat.

We see dolphins and 3 whales – from a distance, a great distance – but not so far that we can’t see the blow, which is what happens when whales rise to the surface to breathe and basically expel air and snot from the tops of their heads.

See them? See them?
See them? See them?
IMG_1604
Look for the blow people.

It was still pretty astounding, seeing these huge creatures – or imagining their hugeness below the surface – out in their natural habitat. We saw a glimpse of their graceful majesty as they flipped their massive tails up and over, on their way down to the depths again.

Poor Juno slept through it all, after getting super excited at the previous false sightings which led to the entire boat careening to one side or the other, whale-watchers’ cameras at the ready.

The first false sighting.
The first false sighting.

Jude and Sherman went up and down between decks, blithely un-sick and enjoying themselves. Ari sat serenely, reading her book. Reading!!

Non-seasick people
Non-seasick people

But, if you ask me, I will tell you it was not worth it, not when you are green in the face in spite of stoically standing out by the railing in the hot sun with the cold, cold wind in your face, in an attempt to shake of the nausea. But that’s just my version, you totally should go if you get the chance. Also, I did get lots of great pictures.

The sea, the sea.
The sea, the sea.
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Jude, serenely cogitating

IMG_1620 IMG_1635

 

Back on land, blessed land (in fact I discovered that the moment I SAW land from that wretched boat, my nausea subsided) and we walk around, noticing this interesting piece on the beach:

Paying homage to Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson?
Paying homage to Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson?
I can once more be charmed by that deceptive blue calm.
Perfect spot for a kite shop.
Perfect spot for a kite shop.

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We start looking for a place to eat. Almost everywhere is booked up, Provincetown is really popular.

Twisted - how my insides were feeling
Twisted – how my insides were feeling

 

No seats at The Squealing Pig
No seats at The Squealing Pig

We finally find a spot called the Karoo Kafe, 338 Commercial St, and despite the tiny interior, the need to line up to pay and the sheer number of people in there, the food, served on no-nonsense disposable plates, is surprisingly really good. The food is described as African and Middle Eastern, and includes intriguingly-named things like bobotie, pap and chakalaka. The Peri-peri chicken wings gets a big thumbs up – it was worth another line up for a second helping! And the malva pudding (a South African dessert) was so good too, it reminded me of an Indian dessert whose name escapes me now…

We meander back to our car, pausing to pop into an art gallery here, listen to a street-side singer there…sad to leave fabulous Provincetown all-too-quickly.

 

Plymouth, August 13, 2013

We decide to stop at Plymouth on our way to Boston from  Cape Cod. The huge historical significance of Plymouth, where the first English settlers arrived in 1620 aboard the Mayflower and set up their colony in the New World, is something not lost on anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of American history.

Plymouth Port
Plymouth port

The Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock and the first Thanksgiving feast they celebrated a year after arriving in the New World, to give thanks for their bountiful harvest (thanks Squanto!) are not alien concepts even in faraway Singapore. Indeed the story is kept alive by way of an increasing number (it would seem) who celebrate the festival in late October complete with turkey, trimmings and thanksgiving gatherings.

The drizzle clears up by the time we drive into Plymouth port and park our rental. The port itself is beautiful and serene, gleaming in the afternoon light and leading me to wonder why the Pilgrims didn’t set off for the New World in as nice weather, instead of the bitterly cold winter’s day they landed in Plymouth some 400 years ago.

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By all accounts the people on board the Mayfllower had a terrible journey, wracked by huge waves and bitter cold from the outside and cramped conditions, food shortages and illnesses from within. Half of the 102 passengers and 50 crew would die in that first winter alone.

A reproduction of the Mayflower is bobbing in the port, looking a little plain without billowing sails and masts on its rigging. A notice tells us the boat is in need of refurbishment and to please donate to this cause.

First glimpse of the Mayflower
First glimpse of the Mayflower
What she used to look like
What she used to look like
The Mayflower, sans sails

Jude and Sherman go onto the Mayflower for a paid tour while Ari, Juno and I wander around the dock. (I am unwilling to get on another boat after Provincetown.)

Juno and the Mayflower
Juno and the Mayflower

We go take a look at the famous Plymouth Rock, supposedly the first thing the Pilgrims stepped on when they got off the boat in the New World.

This way to Plymouth Rock
This way to Plymouth Rock

A man dressed like an olden days person (pilgrim?) is leaning against the rock’s protective railing, looking thoroughly bored with his job of explaining this piece of history. He says the whole story hinges on the 1741 testimony of a very old man who actually knew first-hand some of the Pilgrims and claims they told him  what happened.  And that the actual rock, whittled down to this smallish stone, was in fact fifteen feet long in the beginning. When I ask in disbelief whether the whole legend of the rock hinges on one man’s story, I can tell I’ve tread on some stockinged toes and they weren’t very happy. “There is no reason to believe he was lying,” he says coldly. I guess this is one part of American folklore that you just don’t mess with.

Underwhelming
Underwhelming

Coming out of a little store with some very sweet Plymouth fudge, we meet a couple who excitedly tells us they saw the Obamas on the pier at Martha’s Vineyard, waiting to board a ferry to the mainland, on that very same afternoon we had been there, just a few hours earlier. I am really taken by their story – they are, like me, obviously Obamaphiles – but later, on the news, it seems that the Obamas are still on Martha’s Vineyard, holidaying.  Bah.

Climbing trees in Plymouth I
Climbing trees in Plymouth I
Climbing trees in Plymouth
Climbing trees in Plymouth II

Small history lesson over, we make our way to find lunch, and find very few establishments open, and so settle on T-Bones Roadhouse somewhere on the Main Street. It’s a little bit scary in T-Bones. (It comes with neon-bright signage, the symbol of a cowboy riding a bucking pig, various decapitated and mounted  wildlife and game machines where you get to shoot the target with a realistic toy rifle.) I idly googled it and found that a few years ago, some T-Bone regulars got together and attempted to smash the Guinness World Record for the largest open-faced sandwich. They did it. Their sandwich weighed 2539 pounds, obliterating the old record of 1652 lbs.

Or maybe T-Bones is unnerving because it’s just a few stops down from Plimoth Bay Outfitters. That’ s a euphemistic name for a gun shop. I was really too nervous to take any pictures at T-Bones as some of the people at the bar looked like they frequented Plimoth Bay Outfitters.

Though their sweet margaritas were good I have to say.

Hyannis, 11.8.13

Hyannis is the Cape’s unofficial capital and our trip to Cape Cod coincides with the area’s largest cultural event, the open-air concert Pops by the Sea, held at the Hyannis village green.  The Pops refer to the famous Boston Pops Orchestra.

The 2-hour concert starts at 5 pm but gates open at 1. I for one, ignorant of the event’s significance, wonder what’s with the kiasu-ness, given the village-y feel of the Cape. Well, joke on me, Once we were past the security checks (yes, there were security checks) and on the grounds of the green, we could barely find space to sit on the ground, let alone find a seat. There were FIFTEEN THOUSAND PEOPLE  attending.

Of course every other person was well prepared, carrying little camp chairs, foldable tables, proper ground rugs, bottles of wine, elegant hors d’ouevres (!), books, magazines, newspapers and playing cards to while away the wait. You can excuse me for being a little grumpy for ending up on some tree roots (for the elevation, the better half says optimistically), right at the back somewhere near the portaloos. sitting on my brand new rain jacket.

OK, maybe it wasn't that bad.
OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad.

What’s more, the spaces on a bench that a very friendly Puerto Rican volunteer offered us (with an unblocked view), quickly   became a rancorous symbol of not-nice behavior, when another volunteer unceremoniously dumped my things on the ground and growled that those were HER seats and I wasn’t allowed to do that. It was doubly annoying when she turned and hoofed off before I could properly express my indignation. How rude! Back to the elevated tree roots it was.

The pre-concert entertainment was rather poor, to be honest. Some ladies asked Jude and Juno to come and make some simple crafts, but the directions given by the inexperienced and very young volunteers were so vague, Jude made rather a mess out of his project while Juno was bemused by her strange invention of beads on pipe cleaners (that she played no part in making anyway).

Decided to take a walk along Main Street and get a breather before the concert, so pushing a drowsy Juno along, I walked back past the adjacent JFK museum (which is said to hold a lovely collection of photos of his time in Cape Cod. Sadly I didn’t make it in before it closed. I know I have deeply failed you, Shyam) and found a tiny shop selling Cape-y things, including a lovely yellow Chevy which caught J’s eye.

Barefoot, in rolled-up cuffs. Outside the JFK Museum.
Barefoot, in rolled-up cuffs. Outside the JFK Museum.

A few feet down and across the road I struck gold with an awesome second-hand bookshop. Tim’s Used Books, 386 Main St, just slows your heart down when you walk in. It’s big and old and just perfect.

Tim's Used Books
Tim’s Used Books

What’s even better is, Juno decided to fall asleep, leaving me to browse to my heart’s content.

A perfect moment - baby asleep and an awesome 2nd hand bookshop!
A perfect moment – baby asleep and an awesome 2nd hand bookshop!

I got a bunch of kids books (not all of which were in great condition – one was really badly torn, I don’t know how I missed that), old Spiderman comics for Jude and a worn, red, D.H. Lawrence hardcover for myself, all for next to nothing. But mainly the shop with its eclectic and vast range of books restored my faith in the world and revived my flagging spirits.

Great range.
Great range.

(I googled and found this: “Tim’s Used Books is a large store that attracts all kinds of clientele, from poets to musicians. It offers the typical cozy atmosphere of a used bookstore with a sophisticated edge. The owner, who previously worked as a concert promoter for a few rock bands around Boston, promises a fun, artsy environment with the best prices. Shoppers often boast that they find things here they’ve been searching for for years!”)

The Pops didn’t disappoint. Juno danced and enjoyed herself, spreading joy and goodwill to a small pocket of people around her. Blythe Danner (looking incredible at 70) showed up as celebrity guest conductor, was charming about forgetting her baton, and read out excerpts of JFK’s famous speeches including his Inaugural Address in 1961. Fitting tribute in a  village so close to the famed Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport and also a reminder that it has been 50 years since his assassination.

 

 

 

A memorable dinner in Falmouth, 12.8.2013

Leaving Martha’s Vineyard behind, with no sighting of the Obamas under our belts, we take the ferry back to Falmouth, on the Cape.

The Island Queen, but no sign of American royalty.
The Island Queen, but no sign of American royalty.

The kind man at the Chatham Wayside Inn had recommended a place for dinner,  La Cucina Sul Mare, an Italian ristorante on 237 Main St, Falmouth.

Of course, being foolish and not learning any lessons from anything, we fail to make reservations and the ristorante is full, with many people – like us – trying to get in at the last moment.

The children and I walk around a little green that has headstones of American soldiers from Cape Cod who died  in WW2, while my sister-in-law goes off to try her luck.

In memory of those lives lost in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium
In memory of those lives lost in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium

 

There's just something about the very young and something old...
There’s just something about the very young and something old…

 

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Playing while waiting...
Playing while waiting…

This is when I shall tell you a secret to getting into busy restaurants without a reservation. You have to be a really, really nice person. Be politely persuasive. Exhibit empathy and civility.  Set yourself well apart from the rest of the madding crowd who is being rude and insistent. It all adds up and goes a long, long way: Ari got us a table, AHEAD OF PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE BEFORE US. The harried hostess told her it was because she was so polite. So there, now you know.

It was so, so worth it, getting into La Cucina Sul Mare. The seafood was the best we’d had on the Cape. (And we’d had a lot.)

Ari, our hero.
Ari, our hero.

The zuppa di pesce is TO DIE FOR. La Cucina’s version of this fish soup comes with generous amounts of crab, lobster, scallops, clams,  and various other magical sea creatures who died for our very appreciative benefit. Seriously. It was dream-inducing. I even get pangs at this very moment as I recall those amazing seafoody flavors…

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Glorious fish soup
The rapini with prawns was pretty amazing too.
The rapini with prawns was pretty amazing too.

To Cape Cod, August 8, 2013

For our first biggish foray outside Canada, we choose Cape Cod, even though autumn can be rainy and perhaps not the best time to enjoy the famed beaches. On the plus side, no summer crowds. Even so, we had quite a time booking accommodation – the Cape is a popular destination year-round.

So, leaving Cambridge, MA behind, we drive our hired car over the Sagamore Bridge that spans the Cape Canal, and into Cape Cod country.

Sagamore Bridge
Sagamore Bridge

There are many little townships you can stay on in the cape, or across by ferry on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. But based on what we could find – NO accommodation at Martha’s Vineyard for the dates we were traveling, (or indeed at many other Cape towns) we make Chatham our base, and stay at The Wayside Inn, 512 Main Street.

This way to Chatham, population 6 thousand something.
This way to Chatham, population 6 thousand something.

I have to say, growing up on a diet of Famous Five and their assorted adventures, plus the murky associations of “fallen/being left by the wayside,” the name “Wayside Inn” did not immediately appeal to me. It sounded like a surly couple might run it, and dislike small noisy children running about their poky establishment that smelt like fish. Also, I had had my heart set on staying on Martha’s Vineyard and not the Cape. Most happily, I was completely and utterly wrong on both counts.

Walking up to our room at The Wayside Inn.
Walking up to our room at The Wayside Inn.

The Wayside Inn is simply charming, with bright, clean, large, comfy rooms and a terrific restaurant on the premises – the popular Wild Goose Tavern.

Nice large beds
Nice large beds
The WIld Goose Tavern's lemon meringue pie scored high on our extensive taste test of said pies.
The WIld Goose Tavern’s lemon meringue pie scored high on our extensive taste test of said pies
See how happy everyone is?
See how happy everyone is?

We poked our noses into quite a few other inns on our walks around town and found ours to be the best in terms of location – on one end of Main Street – and “feel” – by which I just mean my own instincts about a place upon first stepping into it.

Chatham itself, which is one of the older towns on the Cape, was really pretty too, probably the prettiest beach town of all we visited in the Cape – AND, surprisingly, prettier than what we saw of Martha’s Vineyard too.

 A "bit" of Americana on our walk
A “bit” of Americana on our walk
Alluring path to somewhere.
Alluring path to somewhere.
Picturesque
Picturesque

It has good restaurants (including some terrific made-to-order, takeout sandwich places) and shops selling art, souvenirs, beach paraphernalia, clothes and books, dotting the main street. (They’re all one main street towns here.)

Great, fresh seafood to be had
Great, fresh seafood to be had

 

Inside a cute shop run by handicapped folk
Inside a cute shop run by handicapped folk
Got his drawing mojo back in Chatham, Main Street.
S got his drawing mojo back on Chatham Main St.

Jude and I even managed to slip out to watch Planes at the tiny movie theatre on Main St. Entertaining movie but too derived from the terrific Cars methinks.IMG_1508

 

 

 

 

 

 

The vibe seemed just right in Chatham, a nice mix of old-fashioned gentility and modern comforts, and not kitschy at all. So, it was all good.

'Tis still a fishing community here.
Well ok, there was some kitsch.

Of course, we couldn’t let a bit of rain prevent us from setting foot on a Cape Cod beach. So, on our last day in Chatham, togged out in raincoats, we walk along the beach. The kids, Sherman and Ari actually walk IN the freezing sea. Me, I’m happy collecting shells – shell fragments rather – until someone says there’s lightning in the sky, let’s clear off. But is IS magical, the beach on the Cape. Something unconcerned, unpretentious about it. No pictures I’m afraid, owing to the rain.

Imagine
Imagine

Today

2 years ago, today
2 years ago, today
1 year ago, today
1 year ago, today

And today, the full, bright moon shining like a flat disc on a surprisingly mild winter’s night in Toronto, my baby appears to be weaned. With no fuss or tears, only needing my hand on her to help her drift off to sleep, this long goodbye seems in retrospect to’ve been one of my better decisions.

2 years and 8 months. Tonight I feel thrilled, set free, heartbroken, slightly panicked. That unique bond is no more. 🙁

She on the other hand is snoring ever so gently on my pillow. Ah, what a journey.

 A couple of months ago
A couple of months ago

Cambridge, MA, August 6, 2013

Our first sojourn into the United States is to the home of Harvard U, enroute to Cape Cod, before rounding the ten-day trip off in Boston. I’m thinking Kennedys, clam chowder, magical Martha’s vineyard, marathon bombs…yes, the usual cliches – some of which had to be revised by trip’s end.

Move over clam chowder, it's truffled mac n'cheese with lobster chunks!
Move over clam chowder, it’s truffled mac n’cheese with lobster chunks!

I highly recommend staying at the Sheraton Commander (thanks for telling us about it Ren and Brendan!) as it is just a few minutes’ walk to the centre of the village.

Sheraton Commander room
Sheraton Commander room

 

Comes complete with  coffee maker, Starbucks coffee and takeaway lidded cups
Comes complete with coffee maker, Starbucks coffee and takeaway lidded cups

Harvard is where Sherman did his Masters in landscape architecture, and it’s nice to wander around looking at his old graduate design school, the “coop,” (it’s the uni co-op but pronounced like the chicken variety) and where he stayed and regularly ate and went drinking with his best friends.

"I used to live here!"
“I used to live here!”

 

IMG_1338
Inside the functionalist Graduate School of Design

Much to his surprise, the beautiful, beautiful Harry Widener library still has his name on record and accepted his old card, so Jude didn’t have to worry too much!

Oh nooooo!!!
Oh nooooo!!!

I took a few illegal snaps, couldn’t help myself, it was so gorgeous.

Showing the munchkins the inside of an incredible library
Showing the munchkins the inside of an incredible library

 

How to concentrate amidst such beauty?
How to concentrate amidst such beauty?

Sherman’s old barber shop was still in business so we popped by for a quick trim.

old-fashioned barbering
old-fashioned barbering

 

Posing, far from the danger of any shears.
Posing, far from the danger of any shears.

Cambridge is a lovely walkable village, dotted with redbrick university buildings and eclectic bookshops – including one dedicated to Curious George – and cool clothes stores and good restaurants – a typical though I suppose above-average, university town.

Boston ivy
Boston ivy
All things Curious George
All things Curious George

JFK Park is a pretty spot, especially with the setting sun casting its long rays over the green. There was a bunch of people doing strange things – climbing on each other, pushing, pulling, rolling …it is something called “Contact Improvisation”, says a fit-looking woman who pulls up next to us on her bike, as she prepares to join them…something about transferring body weight between partners? Who knows really. In another corner of the park are two guys heating up some kind of equipment – hash? Again, who knows.

Contact Improvisation
Contact Improvisation

 

Sun setting on the Charles River
Sun setting on the Charles River

I absolutely have to give a shout-out to two places we ate at – both  Zagat-recommended – Sandrine’s Bistro and Lê’s, a Vietnamese restaurant that does dreamy phos.

Sandrini's Bistro
Sandrine’s Bistro
IMG_1317
The look says it all.

 

She awoke to a huge array of coloring paraphernalia and a story book! Now that's service.
She awoke to a huge array of coloring paraphernalia and a story book! Now that’s service.

Our friend Carol’s thoughtful gift of a US Zagat guide certainly came in helpful – wherever we saw the Zagat sticker, we knew most likely, quality food awaited.

The fabulous Le's at Harvard Square
The fabulous Le’s at Harvard Square

great pho and REAL soy milk!
great pho and REAL soy milk!