Charming New England, part 2: Cape Cod
Part 2 of our journey through New England takes us to Cape Cod. The beaches of this peninsula are among the most beautiful Massachusetts has to offer
Text: Christine von Pahlen
Painters and millionaires, surfers and writers, ornithologists and Hollywood stars come here as holiday guests, some return as summer house owners, some stay forever. Where else is there a world by the sea like Edward Hopper's painting? A patchwork of pristine beaches, meadows and forests, a handful of houses between carefully trimmed hedges and lawns. Hopper and his wife Jo, also a painter, lived in Truro, a small town near Provincetown, from 1930 until his death in 1967. Only recently, the Highland House Museum dedicated a room to him in which pictures showing the town are juxtaposed with the original locations. Cape Cod is now a popular weekend destination for Bostoners and is increasingly visited by foreign tourists who combine a trip to Boston with a few days on the long, often deserted beaches Cape Cod is known for. The 110 km long and in some places only two km wide, hook-shaped peninsula owes its name to the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, who called it that because of the many schools of cod off its coast. Their oldest settlement, the Sandwich, founded by Quakers in 1639, is a naturally grown parkland landscape, into which some pretty white houses duck down. Almost as before, Main Street, divided by flowerbeds, is home to the local bank, post office, bakery and a tiny garden restaurant with delicatessen sales behind old facades. Thornton W. Burgess, the spiritual father of "Peter Rabbit", grew up in Sandwich and had a summer house there all his life. So did travel writer Paul Theroux, who spends his winters in Hawaii and his summers in Sandwich. While he likes to wear a colorful Hawaii shirt on Oahu, he practices the understatement look typical for Cape Cod with beige shorts and white golf shirts loosely worn over them. This is how the Kennedy clan dressed when they posed for holiday photos in their summer residence in Hyannis Port. The John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis is also dedicated to the family, especially the president. During his tenure he also created the National Seashore Park, a 65 kilometer stretch of coastline between the holiday resort of Chatham and Provincetown on the northern tip of the peninsula. A place steeped in history: it was here that the English pilgrim fathers anchored the "Mayflower" in 1620. Today this area is mainly used for leisure and is a popular place for surfing, rowing, cycling and hiking.
First stop in Cape Cod: PROVINCETOWN
Anyone who, together with other tourists, moves forward in dense rows over Commercial Street, which runs parallel to the sea, on a summer weekend can hardly imagine that this little town has the reputation of being a picturesque, eccentric colony of artists. But Provincetown is completely different on a Monday or Thursday in May or September: then, the jetty that extends far into the sea, where the ships crowd together in summer, is only animated by the screeching of the seabirds and the rolling of the surf; then, on the terraces of the small fishing pubs, only a few strangers doze in the sun, while a few boats rocking in the wind serve as models for local painters. Similar to the Côte d'Azur many of them succumbed to the magic light. Like Charles W. Hawthorne, who founded the Cape Cod School of Art here in 1899. Among the writers who regularly spent their summers in Provincetown were Sinclair Lewis, Tennessee Williams, and Norman Mailer, who once said of the city, "It is the last democratic city in America. Here they're all absolutely the same." He immortalized them several times in literature, including in his detective novel "Hard Men Don't Dance". Since the end of the 1970s, P-Town has been known, as insiders say, as a meeting place for the homosexual community of the East Coast, which shows itself here according to the motto "See and be seen". In the port restaurants and traditional fish restaurants, you'll find the chicest fast food in the world: the so-called lobster rolls - outwardly like a hot dog, but filled with lobster instead of Viennese sausages. Other culinary classics are corn-on-the-cop buttered corn cobs and clam chowder, a mussel soup thickened with corn and potatoes. The "Cape Codder" is the most popular long drink of the summer: pour over five ice cubes in a bulbous glass with 6 cl vodka and 15 cl cranberry juice, squeeze a quarter of a lime over it and put a slice into the glass.
THE FINEST ENJOYMENT: ACCOMMODATION AND GOURMET TIPS FOR PROVINCETOWN
Salt House Inn
15 room Bed & Breakfast in the centre. Owners are two young creatives from New York who have furnished it with lots of wood and free-standing bathtubs in modern design. In addition: the best breakfast in town, served in the enchanting garden when the weather is fine. Double room starting at 135 Euros, salthouseinn.com
The most beautiful place in the casual self-service restaurant is the small, wind-protected patio with sea views. 225 Commercial Street, Tel. 508 487 38 00
Second Stop in Cape cod: MARTHA’S VINEYARD
In contrast to the open-mindedness of the smaller sister island Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard off the south coast of Cape Cod in the Atlantic is experienced as a rather closed society. Prominent permanent guests such as Tommy Hilfiger, Mia Farrow, and Sharon Stone appreciate the fact that they can mingle with the island's population completely unharmed. The crème de la crème of the East Coast society floats in private jets, day visitors and summer guests take the ferry from Woods Hole on the coast to Vineyard Haven, the crossing takes 45 minutes. Seen from the sea, the landscape is untamed, with houses along the coast hiding in dense gardens and so far apart that it is easy to get out of the way, even if the number of people living on the island rises from 15,000 to 100,000 in summer. The island hit the headlines when Steven Spielberg made it the location for his 1974 film "The White Shark" and when John F. Kennedy Jr. landed on Aquinnah in July 1999, where his mother Jackie Onassis's estate was located, crashed into the sea with his plane and tragically died with his wife Caroline Bessette and his sister-in-law. Since then, there have been no significant events, and the island itself has hardly changed. At the crossroads of the narrow, winding streets there is still not a single traffic light, one successfully resists McDonalds, shopping malls and cheap fashion chains. Like every year, in Edgartown, the biggest place that used to be the center of whaling, the historical facades of the houses are painted white. The colorful cottages in the village of Oak Bluffs also date back to the time when the Methodists used to camp here. Some of the romantic gingerbread cottages are now run as Bed & Breakfasts. And in some of the six communities alcohol is still forbidden. This does not mean that there is no celebration here: Martha's Vineyard is the second wedding stronghold in the USA after Las Vegas. And those who belong to the Inner Circle do so in one of the elitist members-only clubs. Noblesse oblige.
High class addresses: Where to have a good time on Martha's Vineyard
The Charlotte Inn, Edgartown
Ship antiques, canopy beds, flowered couches in 19 very different rooms - the old captain's house on South Summer Street fulfills every beautiful cliché of an exclusive island hideaway. External guests are also welcome at the fine-dining restaurant "The Terrace". Double room starting at 320 Euros, relaischateaux.com
State Road, West Tisbury
Farm-to-table or freshly caught fish are the motto. In August 2010 the Obamas dined here by candlelight. 688 State Road, Tel. 508 693 85 82
Third stop in CApe Cod: NANTUCKET
INSIDER KNOWLEDGE: THE HOTSPOTS ON THE SMALL ISLAND OF NANTUCKET
In the historic centre of Nantucket, not far from the Whaling Museum. The former captain's house has room for 20 guests. Chef Marcus Gleadow-Ware gets his lobsters from Maine, meat and chicken from surrounding farms. The cocktails are also legendary! Double room starting at 155 Euros, greydonhouse.com
The 19th century manor house is situated directly on the sea and has its own fleet of boats. The restaurant "Topper's" is known for its lobster and crab cakes and excellent service. Tennis court, cricket lawn and beach front spa. Double room starting at 280 Euros, wauwinet.com