A New England Vacation for All Ages, Part II: Making Family History from Boston to Provincetow
Reprinted with permission from Westside Today/Beverly Hills 90210 Magazine
With so much to see and do in New England on a five-day family vacation, we had to narrow down our wish list of historic attractions, sites and fun family activities, but we knew we couldn’t’ depart New England without a visit to the Cape. So for the final two days of our trip off we took a ferry to the delightful historic fishing village of Provincetown.
Our timing for the 90-minute Fast Ferry journey via the Bay State Cruise Company (http://www.baystatecruisecompany.com) could have been better, as we hit rough water, and my son spent the better part of the trip with his head in a popcorn bucket relieving his sea sickness, but the rocky ride aside, our excursion to P’town was wondrous.
Our accommodates at the enchanting Land’s End Inn (www.landsendinn.com) at the West End of town. The historical property, acquired by owner Michael MacIntyre in 2001, is a Provincetown landmark, earning many prestigious accolades including Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston award for best hotel, bed & breakfast on Cape Cod.
An architecture buff, MacIntyre integrated modern comforts, such as top-of-the-line bedding, furnishings, artwork and of course air conditioning in the guestrooms, while preserving the heritage and history of the Inn.
Our cottage, the French Country Suite, featured its own private garden and patio where each morning we enjoyed the inn’s lavish continental breakfast, which included freshly squeezed orange juice; home-baked muffins and breads; specialty teas, coffee; fresh fruits & berries; cereals, yogurt and jams. From our patio or up on the deck outside the main house each evening we also enjoyed complimentary beverages throughout the day and a complimentary cheese tray, fine wines and beers offered each evening.
Though with so much to do in town, we spent little time lounging about at the inn, but for those moments of free time the inn offered plenty of indoor and outdoor guest common areas for reading, relaxation, romance or reflection. Upstairs in the main house guests could take in spectacular water views and sunsets from the inn’s solarium or its great room which featured a magnificent homey fireplace.
Though it first gained prominence as a fishing village, Provincetown is now better known for its quaint cottages; its boutique-lined main thoroughfare, Commercial Street; its laid-back and liberal residents — including a large gay and lesbian population; and a thriving arts community.
A particular favorite gallery we discovered was artist Johniene Gallery Voyeur (www.voy-art.com) at Ptown’s East End, at 444 Commercial Street. Papandreas’ pieces are large, dramatic portraits in which she excerpts details from classic paintings, such as the eyes of DaVinci’s Virgin of the Rocks or a pair of voluptuous lips from Caravaggio’s “The Musicians,” and then she renders the features with innuendo that she has divined from the original work.
Tucked away on gallery row and all along Commercial Street are unique finds that make P’town a hidden treasure, such as the tiny shop of novelties, the Marine Specialties Store (www.ptownarmynavy.com), a surplus store with everything from tacky tchatchkes to pennies-cheap imported-from-China kid’s toys that make the .99 Cent Store look like a poor relation.
For all the walking we did, I found the perfect shoes, which did double time as souvenirs of our trip. Massachusetts-made leather and eco-friendly Alder birch wood Cape Clogs (www.capeclogs.com) are genuine handmade Swedish clogs. They come in a huge assortment of patterns, including a floral print, Hydrangea, the signature flower of Cape Cod, and in solids, like brown nubuck. If you missed them at one of the boutiques in P’twon, you can pick them up on your way home at Boston Tops at Logan Airport.
After our shopping adventure, we were onto another adventure not to be missed in P’town, a sunset dune tour As Art’s Dune Tour’s (www.artsdunetours.com) fleet of Chevy Suburbans are geared for adults, if you are traveling with a pint-sized tourist, it’s recommended you bring your own car seat. We brought along the easy-traveling, ultra lightweight Cosco Scenera car seat ($59, Target), which tour owner Art exclaimed was “perfect for P’town” in hot pink. The car seat not only provided a secure ride for our three-year-old but also boosted him up to get a clear view for our off-road experience.
The guided sunset tour of the dunes took us through the heart of the National Historic District of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park where we saw the majestic dunes and “dune shacks” where famous artists and writers like Eugene O’Neill and Harry Kemp found inspraiton. We also passed the remains of the Peaked Hill Life Saving Station and learned how the brave “life savers” enacted their heroic efforts to save the lives of thousands from the doomed shipwrecks.
The climatic moment of the tour was the sunset, for which our trucks pulled over near the shore so tour goers could sit on beach blankets and watch the sun dip into the Atlantic, while enjoying wine and treats from picnic baskets they had brought along. A delicious way to end a day.
Meanwhile, back to civilization, as the sun goes down in Provincetown, it’s dinner time at the dozens of epicurean establishments along Commercial Street. Despite being told by one tourist informant that children are not welcome at the gourmet restaurants, we were pleasantly surprised to find a cup of Crayons on the table and a kids menu at the Waterford Inn, Cafe & Tavern (386 Commercial Street, www.thewaterfordinn.com).
We learned why this elegant establishment was so kid friendly when we met the proprietor Al Gordon, who approached with a smile and a high-five for our son, making it evident he was a family man. Gordon told us he had two children of his own, so he sympathized with parents who often feel children are not welcome at fine dining restaurants, so he strived to make the environment at Waterford Inn inviting for families while still providing the upscale atmosphere that the adult diners seek in a fine dining experience. He succeeded!
To fully appreciate the Waterford Inn experience, we ordered several of the house specialties. We started with the lobster sliders, mini lobster salad sandwiches served on home baked brioche minis with Asian slaw; and the Waterford wedge, a flavorful iceberg wedge topped with shitake mushrooms, sun dried cranberries and homemade bleu cheese dressing. We followed with the Asian tuna entree of sesame encrusted and seared rare tuna with orange soy reduction, wasabi mashed potatoes and steamed bok choy; and the filet au poive, a succulent tenderloin grilled with cracked pepper and served over goat demi glace with potatoes au gratin and asparagus. As we savored our dinner, our son nibbled from our plates and drew circles on the paper table cloth.
The next morning, as we packed for our early-morning trip back to Boston, we realized we would be leaving town before the stores opened, and we would not be able to return our stroller to the bike rental shop to get back our deposit. That’s when we were reminded of the quality, personal service you only get with a B&B like Land’s End Inn. When we explained our dilemma to owner Michael MacIntyre he assured us that he would take care of the stroller for us. It was the same level of above-and-beyond service we received throughout our stay, as when the front desk manager offered to laundry my son’s clothes after our messy ferry ride, which saved us from losing an afternoon in the Laundromat.
After a thankfully uneventful ferry ride back to Boston, we taxied to the airport and arrived a bit early for our flight. As a friendly farewell, the smiling desk agent at Virgin America gladly put us on an earlier flight out. Maybe we just got lucky, but it seemed that all the locals we encountered during our New England stay were always more than happy to help out visitors. Perhaps the gracious attitude of the folks of the region is an artifact of living in a place where the first Thanksgiving was hosted.
As we headed homeward, I wished that my son had been old enough to appreciate all the history of the area, as our trip could have been an American history immersion course for him. But of course all the history will still be there in years to come, and for sure, we will be back.